Cynthia Fleury | Capture, Create, Inspire
In the age of widely accessible digital imagery, it’s easy to take the intricacies of skilled photography for granted. For photographic artist Cynthia Fleury, taking a digital shot is just the beginning of a long and careful process. Her passion for turning raw photographs into elegant images has developed over a lifetime of artistic exploration.
Fleury was born near Detroit and grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. From her backyard, she would often watch the magnificent sunsets over Lake Michigan. She also went on frequent outings to the beaches in Grand Haven and Holland. “I loved to feel the warm sand in my toes and view the beauty of the sandy beaches and the beautiful dark green pines contrasted with the clean white sand,” she says. “I also loved the structures of the piers, lighthouses, docks, and boats that have been inspirations to me for my work.”
She remembers spending much of her childhood with a pencil in hand, drawing her surroundings and copying photographs from magazines. At 12 years old she won first place at the Grand Rapids Youth Talent Exhibit for a drawing of an elf. Thrilled with her success, Fleury considered becoming an artist, but her family encouraged her to work toward a more traditional career path like home economics.
In a sense (not really) following her family’s advice, Fleury studied chemistry at Michigan State University. While working as a receptionist at the dorm where she lived, she met her husband, Joe. They married a week after their graduation and moved to Wisconsin, where Fleury put her degree in chemistry to use in the medical research field while taking night school art classes. Eventually, she realized that medical research wasn’t the right permanent career for her and went back to school, pursuing an MBA in finance as she and her husband started a family.
Swallowed up in her new professional and family responsibilities, Fleury “put down her brush” for a few years. However, as her daughter became involved in figure skating, Fleury channeled her artistic vision into designing and creating costumes for practices, shows, and competitions.
She also began taking photos at her daughter’s skating events, sparking an interest in photography. As she started to explore this new art form, her experience in chemistry helped her set up her first darkroom. She went on to study photography at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She also had the opportunity to study with a number of professional photographic artists, including Theresa Airey, John Shaw, George Lepp, Wolfgang Koehler, and Dan Burkholder, along with taking workshops through the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
Since retiring from her full-time career in finance in 2012, Fleury has been focusing on further developing her unique work, inspired by “landscapes all over the world, sunrises and sunsets, floral, beautiful man-made structures like bridges, buildings, and other interesting objects.” Her extensive travels have provided her with plentiful subject matter.
In her years of study and experience in photography, Fleury has developed a deep appreciation for the true artistry involved and always strives for the highest quality possible in her work. “I have never used the ‘push button’ approach that gives photography a fake, ‘Photoshopped’ look and feel,” she says. “I have always used various layering techniques and blending with textures and filters to digitally paint it in the right portions and places in the image.” Through her work, she hopes to help viewers gain appreciation for this often under-respected medium.
Fleury is always experimenting with new processes and materials. Discussing her most recent work, she says, “Currently I am doing images that are printed on transparent vellum and that are gilded with either 24kt gold, sterling silver, copper, platinum or palladium leaf. I am also experimenting with color infrared photography combining various portions of the visible light spectrum with the infrared spectrum giving a beautiful look and feel to images.”
Over the years, Fleury’s art has won a number of awards, including the prestigious Amelia Peabody Award and Award of Excellence in printmaking, photography and digital art from the National Association of Women Artists. She has also been featured in shows at venues around the country, including Artistry Minnesota, Photoplace Gallery Vermont, Viridian Artists NYC, and Soho Photo Gallery NYC. She belongs to several art centers in the Twin Cities and is a member of the National Association of Women Artists New York, Professional Women Photographers New York, Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado, Texas Photographic Society, and a number of other organizations across the country.
Describing one of Fleury’s pieces, Mary Abby, art critic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said, “Cynthia Fleury of Eden Prairie turns a decaying boat into a Whistlerian symphony of gold and pink.” Fleury’s work has been praised for its “dreamy” quality, and her precious metal leaf images have been described as elegant, luscious, beautiful, and resembling a daguerreotype print.
When she is not enwrapped in the process of turning her digital photographs into artistic images, Fleury enjoys traveling, Pilates, yoga, part-time accounting/finance work, and spending time with her family.
Fleury’s work invites viewers to change their perceptions both of photography and of the world around them. She feels it is her mission as an artist “to use my creativity and passion for new experimental work to potentially influence photography and art,” she says. “I also want to convey the beauty of the wonderful world around us to my viewers. If I do that alone, I am successful as an artist.”