The Norwalk High School senior placed in the top 300 of 3,000 state submissions for the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition.
When asked about the honor, Duplaga said humbly — but with an ever-present smile — it means she’s “one of the best in Ohio — even with the liberal arts schools that just focus on art.”
The daughter of Norwalk resident Tawnya Hardwick and Dane Duplaga, of Lagrange, Leah Duplaga is a state winner for her mixed media sculpture titled “Fantasy is not just a dream.” She said she wanted to use different colors and textures as well various aspects — such as the eggs contrasting with the man-made materials.
“It was a vision,” Duplaga said about what inspired her sculpture. “I’m huge into ’Game of Thrones.’ … I really enjoy fantasy — fantasy books, the unreal.”
Duplaga is pleased with final result.
“I loved it. It was everything I imagined. I put everything I loved into it,” she said.
The artist hopes her creation portrays that anything is possible.
“I love her drive and determination. She works really hard,” NHS art teacher Rachel Hipp said.
“She is so technical on working on (her art) and getting it finished in a timely fashion. She has great ideas and has a great work ethic,” Hipp added.
Hipp and art teacher Tracy VanBuskirk agree Duplaga is a versatile artist.
“She works well in 2-D and 3-D; I think she prefers 3-D,” Hipp said. “She draws as well as she sculpts.”
VanBuskirk was equally complimentary of Duplaga.
“Leah works hard constantly. She’s dedicated to what she does. She always finishes a project even if it doesn’t go the way she wanted,” the teacher said.
“She recognizes the areas in which she struggles and she either figures out how to fix it or searches for another solution,” VanBuskirk added.
“I think overall doing 3-D (work) is her strong suit. She’s really detailed with her drawing. That is perfect for her because if you don’t have an attention to detail in biomedical illustration, you won’t make it,” she said.
Duplaga has been accepted into the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Art, where she will work toward a degree in biomedical illustration.
“You focus just on art (there). They have the best teachers possible. You work one-on-one (so) you get to know your teachers very well. I think it’s one of the best art schools in the U.S.,” she said.
When asked why she wants to do biomedical illustration, the teenager’s face lit up. Biomedical illustrations are detailed drawings used in anatomy courses.
“I love science. I especially love anatomy,” Duplaga said.
Her longtime fascination with how bodies work started when she had one of her kidneys removed when she was 6 months old.
“We knew before I was born that I had an defective kidney. Instead of taking the chance of it being cancerous, we had it removed,” she said.
Duplaga plans on attending medical school and eventually work in the field of veterinary science.