As the daughter of an air force pilot, and later a career as a professional dancer in the New York City Ballet, Cate Leach was always used to movement, both personally and professionally.

So it's no surprise that as a painter, her works of art "suggest great space, possibility, and drama," to use her words.

The Darien artist's life has mellowed since her busy days in the 1980s, but she has been busy showing her colorful works of art that she has been producing in her Stamford art studio overlooking downtown and the up-and-coming Harbor Point neighborhood.

"When I came to Darien, I decided to follow my interest [in painting] that I always had," she said. "I now had the luxury of time."

An old pair of ballerina shoes and a couple of black and white photos of her dancing hint at her former life. Her military father had the family living all across the U.S. and Canada, but it was when she was 16 that she came to New York on a scholarship to the School of American Ballet.

Two years later in 1970, she was invited to join the famed New York City Ballet under the tutelage of the legendary George Balanchine. At only 18, she found herself immersed in a demanding life of all-day rehearsals and performances at night. She traveled all over Europe, even to Russia in the height of the Cold War to dance at the Kremlin in Moscow.

"It was very exciting," she said. The state department gave us a talking to about how we can behave and who we can talk to."

Her life on the road gave her lots of opportunities to soak in the culture of foreign countries, and she said she took every chance she could to visit museums. It was on these side excursions that she developed a love for the visual arts and paintings.

It was 1982 when she met her New York City portfolio manager husband, Bill, and in 1985, after 15 years of dancing in the ballet, she moved to Darien to begin a family and a new life. Today, she has 3 daughters and spends her days painting with her golden lab Teddy at her side.

"I come from a very demanding life -- ballet is all consuming," she said. "It still continues to feed me and it gives back. I love painting now -- it's what I do."

She said she has always been a nature lover, and her acrylic and oil abstract paintings exude a theme of movement in nature. The piece "Dark Rain," has hints of layers of black, brown, and umber, which she says reflects her love of sailing.

"I like to be on the water, and I also love a big storm," she said.

Another painting, titled "River," takes its inspiration from a day of canoeing on the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania, where she said she witnessed a woman fall out of the boat and almost drown in the current. Her painting contains several layers of blues and browns that depict the chaotic current one would find in a torrent of whitewater.

"It reminds me of the respect you have to have for nature," she said.

Many of her paintings also contain references to math, especially geometric figures and numbers.

"I'm not sure where I get the fixation on numbers, but I do," she said. "An odd number can be a play on words meaning odd numbers or a strange thing."

Her painting "Ternary" is based on the power of 3, and contains 3 panels of circles, random geometrical shapes, and what she calls "gestural drawings."

Her paintings have been getting lots of showings in the Fairfield County area. From July until September she was one of four artists showcased at Rockwell Art Galleries in New Canaan. Her work is currently featured in a show titled "Otherworld New Paintings" at ArtPlace Gallery on Unqowa Road in Fairfield.