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Alumni News

Connecting Through Art

A woman in high heels and a skirt, whose eyes are out of the photo frame, reclines in a red chair and puts on lipstick with one hand. She is looking into a small cosmetic mirror in her other hand.
“In Her Reflection,” acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 40″

When art does a good job, . . . it makes the world less lonely,” says Leslie Whyte Graff (BS ’96, MS ’01). “It makes it more meaningful.” The Massachusetts artist’s paintings transform many of the facets of her life—as an educator, a specialist who helps kids dealing with grief and trauma, a woman, and a mother—into questions, tensions, and connections.

A headshot of Leslie Gradd against a fun painted floral backdrop.
Leslie Graff. Photo by Palmer Graff.

Many of her generation-spanning images depict women performing domestic tasks. Society today “sees domestic work as something to be avoided, and so people become unhappy—not because the tasks are inherently unmeaningful, but because we hear the message, ‘You shouldn’t like this,’” she notes. “If we connect ourselves to our tasks rather than removing ourselves from them and see that work more holistically, they can become powerful tasks, affirming and defining.”

A painting of a pink, frosted cake on a cake stand. A cut-out piece is reflected in the metallic lid of the cake stand.
How It Looked in the Reflection (Best Birthday Cake with Buttercream), acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 36″

Graff’s work is very intentional. “I want people to feel deeper connection and feel understood,” she says. “We all have this need to be known, to know that somebody else experiences what we go through and knows what we know or appreciates what it is to be us.”

See more of Graff’s work at

The painting depicts a birds-eye view of a a boy in red swim trunks, reclining on a polka-dotted inner-tube in a pool.
On the Surface, acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 40″
A painting of a woman in a white, 50's-style dress, a yellow apron, and heels. She stands in front of a counter with her hand on her hip. There are three large red canisters and a metal mixing bowl on the counter in front of her. Her head is out of the frame.
“She Was About to Mix Things Up,” acrylic on canvas, 40″ x 30″