Choosing her colors on the canvas of life


There comes a time when Toll Gate senior Haley Moen is compelled to paint. She said she needs to do it to feel complete, to be removed from all that she is involved in at school.

It didn’t start that way when she took her first lesson at Nancy Steven Art Gallery and School of Art in East Greenwich. She was 11 and the work she produced was OK for a beginner. She hadn’t yet started to see images in her mind, the way she did when she did one of two works that both won gold key awards in the 2013 Rhode Island Art Educators Association Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Moen’s portfolio was selected for the Governor Chafee citation for Best of Show, which was presented last weekend in ceremonies in Newport.

Unfortunately, Moen didn’t have any of her paintings with her when she came into the Beacon offices Tuesday. Carrying anything but the crutches braced under each arm would have been difficult. She swung her fractured leg forward in an amazingly fast gait then stopped, removed the crutches and balanced before sitting. It’s an injury that has sidelined Moen from another of her passions – running.

Moen describes one of the winning paintings as a picture of shadows and reflections. The shadow is hers, as are the reflections caught in glass. The work was done in oil and required layering to capture the effect she envisioned.

She likes working in oil. She says it’s easy to change, although that advantage is offset by how long it takes to dry. Moen loves color and detail. She describes her work as full of color, even areas without direct light, where reds, blues and yellow meld into shadows.

Nancy Scelsa of the gallery, who has been working with Moen since she started, says Moen is adept working in multiple mediums. It’s one of the reasons she believes Moen’s portfolio was selected for the top state award.

“It’s hard to get students focused,” Scelsa says.

That was never a problem with Moen.

Long after a class ended, Nancy and her husband Anthony would discover Moen still at work.

“We’ll leave and tell her to turn off the light and lock the door,” said Nancy. Anthony said he’s been impressed by Moen’s dedication and ability.

“Well-rounded,” are words the Scelsas use to describe their student.

Life is a palette that Moen said she intends to sample before making any career decisions.

“I’m enthusiastic about life,” she said.

Moen is looking at small liberal arts colleges and universities. Her definition of “small” includes Brown, the University of Pennsylvania and Bates. She aims to learn “how to analyze things, instead of knowing exactly what I want to do.”

Yet she feels the arts will always be an important part of her life. Both her parents have a passion for the arts. Her mother paints and her father is a potter.

She calls Nancy her mentor.

“She is always so supportive,” she said.

Moen credits Nancy with nurturing her love to paint. The studio is a place where she escapes from the rest of the world and immerses herself in her work. “It is really meditative.”

She finds she can’t do that at school, although she made art part of her senior project. She and others worked on an educational mural that is now part of the shark tank at Save the Bay.

“I’m really competitive in school,” she confides, and the studio provides some relief.

Moen is one of Toll Gate’s top cross country and indoor and outdoor runners, but she shines when it comes to the national scholastic arts competition held May 31 in New York City.

The Scelsas believe Moen has a good chance of having her work accepted.

Moen hopes for more than that. That’s the way she looks at life.


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