The Hillsdale-based artist Lauren Ennist won the prize for "best in show" at the 48th annual Art in the Park show in Van Saun Park last weekend.
Ennist works with oil paints and mostly makes portraits because she enjoys making a connection with the subject by observing how they present themselves to the world and what they do, even if it's just a stranger she took a photo of.
"Whenever I paint a still life or a landscape, I feel like someone is missing," Ennist said.
Ennist took art lessons as a child and continued painting through college and beyond, but gave it up to work in fabric design when she had children. 20 years later, her kids moved out and she got back to painting. The interim gave her time to develop a clearer vision of the work she wanted to create.
In her portraits, Ennist presents the subject without adding any agenda of her own to make a statement. The people appear unposed in the midst of ordinary activity.
This has provided a challenge for Ennist as she tries to move on to the next stage of notoriety as an artist. She has already won many awards in juried shows like Art in the Park, and now wants to get into some galleries, but many curators have a specific concept in mind when they look for work to fill galleries.
Ennist specifically avoids making a statement in her paintings.
"When I look at a person, I just look at that person," Ennist said. "Their personality fills the space."
To see more of Layren Ennist's paintings, check out her website.