Leah Wong was such a promising young painter that she was granted admission into the prestigious China Academy of Fine Arts-as the only female in the oil painting department. "I was pretty lucky," she said. Later, she met her American husband while he studied in China, and immigrated here without knowing English. The abstract experience inspired her art. "What is real to you is not necessarily real to me. What is real to me is not necessarily real to you," she said. "I thought, 'That's so interesting.' " Her once-realistic work morphed into a combination of representational and abstract. Now fluent in English, Wong, 49-who earned her master's degree in fine arts at Ohio University-teaches at the Columbus College of Art & Design and sells her work at Sherrie Gallerie (most goes for $400 to $7,000). She is proud of the reinvention of both her artwork and herself. "I'm multi-layered," she said. "I'm very happy with who I am."

My greatest passion: Making things
My biggest annoyance: Nagging. I hate people who nag me.
The thing that makes me laugh hardest: I laugh a lot!
Sometimes my imagination just goes crazy.
I most admire: My mom. She is one of very few women in
her field. She was the head of a factory for many years,
and is very tough. She's very open-minded to accept who you are.
My favorite place to be is: On the beach, watching people.
When I want to truly treat myself, I: Come to my studio
and don't worry about anything.
My ideal day: Warm, sunny. Not rushed, just productive.
The last thing that made me smile: My husband

Hobby: Gardening
Band: The Beatles
Restaurant: Akai Hana (on Old Henderson Rd.)
City: Paris comes first. Shanghai's good. And New York's not bad.
Sound: Birds in the morning