New library show gets ‘fired up’

There won’t be any flames but there will be a lot of energy on the walls at Wilton Library when the exhibition Artists of Firing Circuits Studios opens with a reception on Friday, Nov. 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the community.

The show will feature more than 80 works by 18 artists who call the Norwalk studio their creative home.

The show was organized by Norwalker Mark Schiff, who also spends a fair amount of time in Wilton, he said. Schiff had met the library’s art chairman, Ed MacEwen, when he participated in a past exhibition. Schiff invited MacEwen to the studio’s annual open house. MacEwen attended and was impressed with the quality of the work.

He asked Schiff if any of the artists would be interested in a group show at the library. “Within half an hour, I had nine people willing to do it,” Schiff told media sponsor The Bulletin last week as he sat among paintings waiting to be hung at the library.

The studio, in a renovated factory, is home to about 30 artists from across Fairfield County and the atmosphere is collegial, Schiff said. Individual studios are interspersed throughout large galleries and artists may close their doors to work alone or leave them open to invite conversation. “We all share our expertise and knowledge,” he said.

Schiff’s studio faces east and because he’s an early riser, “I feel the energy coming from the sun,” he said. “The studios are made to express your energy, to express your passion.”

A dentist by profession, Schiff got into art by accident in 1996. He was on a bicycling trip in California when he visited the studio of the artist Barbara Nechis. He watched her work in watercolor and “fell in love with it.”

At home, he took a continuing education course and then went to Silvermine School of Art. A painting he submitted in a show won an award and that was all the positive reinforcement he needed to keep going. His work may be viewed at

Fellow artists

“All the artists [in this show] are top-quality,” Schiff said. “They are experienced and have been in many, many shows.”

As he was talking, Mary Manning of Darien, who has exhibited throughout Connecticut and in Hong Kong, stopped by to deliver her pieces. She works with textiles, buying old linens, pillowcases, sheets and the like at flea markets and tag sales. She dyes them with substances like coffee, tea, rust, and India ink.

“I tear them up and put them on paper or wood panel and make something,” she said.

Her background is in graphics, so texture and design are very important to her, she said. For what she is showing in this exhibition, she limited her palette to white, beige and black.

“I find when I limit my palette to similar colors, I have more fun creating,” she said. “Choices slow me down.” With limited colors she can focus on texture and design thus “feel I’m really being creative. I like solving problems. By limiting the choices, it’s easier to solve the problem.”

This color scheme is a departure for her, Manning said, adding she usually uses “happy” colors. “But you can’t sing the same song your whole life.”

“That’s typical of the artists at Firing Circuits,” Schiff said. As an example he mentioned an artist who always focused on painting chairs. “All of a sudden, something rose up inside her and she produced a work …” different than anything she’d done. “I told her, ‘you broke a barrier.’”

Picking up on that, Manning expressed her preference for abstract art. “You see something different every time you look at it,” she said.

“As a unit, we tend to give each other energy,” Schiff said.

“I’ve had five studios,” Manning recounted, “and this is the most energetic and supportive.”

“The collective energy is awesome,” Schiff said. “It helps bring all the artists up.”

The studio is housed in what was an abandoned factory built in the early 1900s. First the site of the Connecticut Lace Works, it was later home to Firing Circuits, an electrical components firm. That business is gone, too, but its name remains on the building and so, when the top two floors were converted to the studio 12 years ago, the artist colony adopted it.

Joining Schiff and Manning in the Wilton Library show are: Brian Walker of Wilton; Jeanine Esposito and Claudia Mengel of Westport; Andrea Farina, Cecilia Moy Fradet, Mindy Green, Elisa Keogh, Cate Leach, Susan Leggitt, Valerie Rovins, Nancy C. Woodward, and Marc Zaref of Norwalk; Mari Gyorgyey of Stamford; Pam Lindberg and Karen Vogel of Darien; and Ridgefielder Rachel Volpone.

Their submissions range from oils and watercolors to mixed media and sculpture. Most will be available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the library. They will be on view through Dec. 26. The library, at 137 Old Ridgefield Road, is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

For information, call 203-762-6334 or visit