by Helen Martin
Leda and her husband Mike own a dairy farm on the southern outskirts of Helensville and a runoff farm at the northern end. While farm work occupies some of her time, Leda is also an artist, widely exhibiting and selling her work, while at the same time keeping up her dedicated fitness regime.
Born Leda Sosa in Santa Rosa, Argentina, she had a childhood very different from her counterparts in New Zealand. The government was run by the military, the economy was unstable, and children were brought up to not question the status quo. Leda, whose mother also loves to paint, did well at school. At first,she studied physics at university inBuenos Aires, then switched to study for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture, print-making, ceramics and painting when she realised it was more important to pursue the subject she loved. In her painting she experimented with water colours, pastels and oils and on graduation she taught for a time. Her life changed when she met Kiwi MikeDaniel, who had gone to Argentina as adeer catcher, and eventually she emigrated to New Zealand with him.
Coming to a new, unknown country was challenging. “I was petrified because I couldn’t speak much English and I found it hard for the first five years,” says Leda. “At first we first lived on the dairy farm where Mike grew up in Tauranga and I learned the language through reading a lot and being around people I met. Everyone was so welcoming, so it became easier. Then we bought a hilly, rundown farm in Kaitaia, and because I’d had little to do with animals I had to learn about farming from scratch, along with being a mother to our first two children, Carmen and Flynn.”
The decision to live in a less isolated spot led to Mike finding the beautiful Helensville land they have now farmed for 18 years. Leda was in Argentina at the time and seeing a rainbow above the farm the first time she visited was a sign to her it was destined to be the family’s home. A third child, Santiago, was born after their move there. Leda says she loves living in Helensville because it offers the best of both worlds, a rural life in a small, friendly community and proximity to city amenities like art galleries and theatres.
As well as enjoying the lifestyle farming offers – looking after calves and pet sheep, growing fruit and vegetables, keeping hens – for the past 13 years Leda, who competed in athletics at national level in Argentina, has trained hard at the local gym, using her fitness as a springboard for other activities like cross-fit and running. “I started competing again in my early 40s, doing several 10km runs and half marathons” she says. “I’m a little bit OCD and I love the challenge of doing something physically hard. I’ve competed in mud runs with a local friend, Haley Gray, and last year as the team Chicks with Kicks we came first in a mud run at Matakana.It was really, really hardand it was freezing cold, but I love the challenge of conquering something. Training taught me – you just do one more step and never give up. I don’t believe in doing anything extreme, I just want to be fit and healthy as part of my routine. That’s what I want to do as I grow old, train at the gym and paint.”
Moving to New Zealand, and especiallyto Helensville, has also been very positive for Leda’s painting. Flying in for the first time she was blown away by the colours of the land beneath the plane. “Right away, it changed my painting,” she says. “I used to paint mainly in pastel colours, but after coming here I found the scenery so bright and sharp that it transformed my perception and therefore my art.” For many years she was a ‘kitchen table’ artist, seeing it more as a hobby, painting for her own enjoyment as well as contributing to community projects like creating backdrops for Helensville Primary School productions. Art is much more of a focus for Leda now. Last year she sold 20 paintings, a record for her and recently, through her website, she has made her first international sale. She has a studio, a website, awards, and a long list of exhibitions and sales to her name. “My art is changing all the time,” she says. “I’ve done portraits and landscapes, now I’m more interested in doing abstract artbecause it gives me a lot of freedom. I like to experiment with different techniques and play with colour, collage, added objects and gold leaf. In the last few years I’ve done a lot of research into resin art and abstract art. I’ve been painting in acrylic and using layers of resin as a finish to get depth. Each painting can take several weeks to finish, so I work on several at the same time. Lately,as well as painting on canvas I’ve been using a lot of recycled objects like trays,old frames, screens, tables and mirrors. I really enjoy the feeling of giving an old object new life.”
As testimony to her growing profile, Leda was invitedto take part in a charity exhibition/auction celebrating the Year of the Rooster (2017) and the Year of the Dog (2018), with proceeds this year going to the Starship Foundation. “I found this project very rewarding, because as a mother I know how important the services provided by Starship are,” she says. Her greatest pleasure as an artist is when a painting sells. “I don’t paint just to make money, I do it for pleasure and I love it when someone appreciates it enough to purchase my art and give it a new home.”
You can see Leda’s work on Facebook at Leda Daniel Art and her website http://www.ledadaniel.com/
by Helen Martin