While growing up in Barbours, Lena Yeagle loved being outdoors. She played in the woods around her house, went swimming in the summer and sled riding in the winter. Countless hours were spent outside making little villages with sticks in the dirt. Nature was her playground.
As an artist, that love of nature and its many faces resonates within her creations.
There's a surreal, yet whimsical feel to Yeagle's art, though by her own admittance her creations also are sometimes dark - yet not foreboding.
"I did this angler fish, it's really scary looking, but everyone seems to love it - 'he's a popular guy'," Yeagle said. "My work can be dark but most don't find it threatening. I turn it into something people can relate to or find a sense of humor in and personally, I find a beauty in them."
At this month's Grey Art Gallery "Water" show, Yeagle's art is featured alongside works from national and local art luminaries such as Luke Yocum, Todd Lim, Liz Parrish and Dana Marie. That's not bad company to be in for her first official gallery showing. Staying true to the "Water" motif of the show, she submitted works with an aquatic theme, displaying them in a way that turns her section of the Grey into a mini aquarium. Paper mache fish hanging from the ceiling appear to be swimming around a limbed coral. She imbues each fish with its own personality. The scrolling paper fins of her "Zebra Fish" is accentuated with its gold hue and colored stripes giving it a regal appearance as it hovers above the metal riveted and wire-teethed "Lead Fish."
Yeagle's foray into fish art started with, of all things, an onion. One day she was peeling an onion and thought the peels looked like fish scales.
"I had a little background with paper mache in high school and thought it was neat to make a fish with scales made out of onion peels," she said. "My mom owns the original. Now I use all kinds of mixed media but I focus on recycled and found materials - including newspaper, wire, wood and paper."
The environmentally passionate artist eventually would like all of her things to be made of found art.
Her use of found objects can be seen at the Grey show in "Spotted Coral Fish" and "The Big Seahorse." Examples of this are an old button used for an eye on the latter and a coronet consisting of what appears to be leaf stems on the former. On both works she also creatively uses old pieces of wire and extends them out like thin bones.
Although this is her first appearance in a gallery, Yeagle has shown quite a bit of art during First Friday downtown. She's shown marionettes, paintings and did a show about genetically modified food. She likes having a theme, a message and her art to have a function. An example of this is the popular jellyfish lamp she sold on the opening night of the show.
In addition to art, Yeagle is an accomplished cellist. There is a melancholy call, a hint of gloom heard in the notes, as bow hits string but according to her, "it seems to work with whoever I'm playing with, it doesn't bog things down, I like to add flair to anyone's creation, give it a different flavor."
Although Yeagle's visual arts are conceptual or idea-driven, her music is more instinctual.
"To me it (music) comes easier in what I feel and hear, but I'm not as good technically in music as I am at art," Yeagle said.
In the mid-2000s, when she hooked up with Alex Callenberger in Black Marble, it was her first involvement with a band.
The group was together for four years. It was an experience that really opened up her confidence as a performer.
"I remember the first gig I played with Alex, feeling like I was going pass out on just a two-line violin solo," she said. "But performing live was new to me at the time. Being in Black Marble was a learning experience and my blooming stage as a musician."
After Black Marble ended, Yeagle moved from the stage to the flat track, lacing up her skates as a Susquehanna Valley Derby Vixen.
"What I like about roller derby is that it gathers all types of women interested in slapping on gear," Yeagle said. "I'm close to my mom but being in the derby is like having an extended family. I was an only child growing up, so it's a great friend support system and it's like having a lot of sisters," said Yeagle a.k.a. Fay-tal Attacktion out on the track.
Yeagle's future is filled with more exciting projects like her newest musical one - the band Ten Cent Days. Its genesis was an impromptu gig with Caleb Banas at the downtown Farmer's Market.
"I'd been working on these darker-themed folk songs," Banas said. "Lena and I started playing them together, something clicked and it was like, 'yeah, this could go somewhere.' "
In addition to Banas and Yeagle, the band consists of Ian Fink on bass, drummer Jason Shuman and Mathias Lovemotor on melodic. The quintet is working on material full of acoustic melodies and organic sounds that Yeagle said, "has a slight Damien Rice vibe."
Like a fish swimming several streams, Yeagle exists in many different environments. Her favorite, though, is being in downtown Williamsport.
"I love going to Wegman's at 2 a.m.," she said. "I love it here, it is a close circle of community I'm in, I love the people who care about this city, working to make it a place where we and others want to be."
As for her fish art, she'd like that to be seen in aquariums.
"I want to get my fish art because aquariums are connected to organizations trying to make a difference with oceans," she said. "I'd like to donate proceeds of my art to help those groups trying to clean up our seas and educate people on its importance. It would be great to be part of that in some way."
Yeagle's aquatic-themed art will be on display as part of the Grey Art Gallery's "Water" show through Aug. 31.