Art — Nita Leger Casey
Nita Leger Casey
By Michelle Saturley
From Europe to New England Nita Leger Casey brings a touch of France to NH
It’s Wednesday morning, and Nita Leger Casey is discussing new pieces of art with the other members of the Breakfast Club, a group of local artists who meet at Borders Bookstore in Nashua. Casey holds up a painting from Marilene Sawaf, a Nashua painter and friend.
“It’s wonderful,” she says. “I love the colors.”
And Casey should know: she’s an internationally known painter and teacher, whose work has appeared in numerous galleries and on greeting cards all over the world. Originally from France, she began drawing at the tender age of 3, and later attended the esteemed …ecole des Beaux Arts at a young age — the youngest student to enroll at the time.
“In France, you have to take a test to go on to secondary school,” Casey said. “My parents encouraged me to take the fine arts test while I was still in high school. They were always very supportive.”
While living in Paris, Casey met an American soldier.
“We got married, and then I spent the next 20 years following him around the globe, raising our children,” she said. “I liked being a military wife. Travel suited me. I got to spend time in Germany, Italy — all over.”
It was during her time in Germany that Casey began considering making a career of art. She started teaching, giving lessons in portraiture, watercolor and oil painting. She felt especially drawn to watercolors, particularly when painting scenes en plein air (painting outdoors). Since then, painting and teaching have become her full-time job. Today, she and her husband of 39 years have settled just over the border in Pepperell, Mass.
“I have a studio and teaching gallery right in my home. I call it the Gingerbread Art Gallery,” she said. “I mount shows of my work, my friends’ and students’ works.”
Living in Massachusetts, it might seem logical that Casey would establish herself in the Boston area art scene. Instead, she prefers traveling north to the Nashua and Manchester areas and northern Maine. She’s been in solo shows at the Franco American Centre in Manchester and the Sharon Art Center in Peterborough, and is currently the featured artist at Nashua’s newest gallery, the Maison de l’Art. She’s a member of the Nashua Area Artists Association, the Upcountry Artists in Maine and the Sharon Art Center in Peterborough.
“My husband and I have a home in Kingfield, Maine, right near Sugarloaf,” Casey said. “I love to drive around up there and look at the scenery. The beauty is all around me.” She says she has been known to make an impromptu U-turn while driving, in order to get a better look at an old Victorian home or a garden scene.
With her artist credentials and awards in a row, Casey says she now spends more time marketing herself than painting.
“People ask me if I have a day job,” she says. “But trying to make a living as an artist is a full-ime job all to itself. I’m constantly on the phone, or on the computer, making connections, looking for new galleries that are a fit for my work.”
One gig that has given her international notoriety is her greeting card design. Casey is the three-time winner of the annual Christmas Card Contest sponsored by the presidential retreat at Camp David. Her work was on the cover of the Camp David Christmas card, sent all over the world.
“I recently got an e-mail from a woman in Afghanistan who had seen the card and wanted to know more about my work, “ she said. “That was exciting. I sent her some digital images to keep.”
When she’s not marketing herself or painting, Casey can be found encouraging other artists, whether through teaching or sharing networking contacts.
“What I like about the Nashua area is that all the artists are very friendly. We’re like a family,” she said. “It reminds me of France in that respect. We don’t compete with one another, and when one of us has a success, it’s like a victory for all of us.”
She also spends time with her children and grandchildren.
“I do an art camp for the grandchildren in the summer,” she said. “We draw and paint together. Some of them are pretty good already.”
For 2005, Casey hopes to put in a little more time painting than she did in 2004.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the business end of art,” she said. “But I would like to spend more time creating new pieces. I’m already looking forward to returning to Maine. It replenishes my creativity. Once spring comes, I’m hoping to be back outside, painting.”
The watercolors of Nita Leger Casey are on display at the Maison de l’Art gallery, located at 57 Pearl Street in Nashua. A reception for the artist is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13, 6-8 p.m. For more information, call 879-9888. To see more of Casey’s work, go to www.brilor.com/casey.
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH