Summer art show is hometown affair

With changing exhibitions showcasing artists from near and far all year long, summer is the season for Wilton artists to shine. Wilton Library’s 71st Annual Wilton Artists Summer Show opened Friday, July 10, with a reception that drew scores of visitors and many of the 60 artists who submitted more than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Among them was relative newcomer Jan Fenton, who moved to Wilton two years ago after selling her home in New Canaan. She submitted two paintings: The Traveler and Generations.
“Painting is my salvation in many ways,” she said on Friday. “I’ve always been scribbling, doing stuff since I was a kid. It’s like exercise for your brain.”

It also offers a certain comfort. Moving from her big house, which had an art studio, to a small apartment was difficult, she said. But when her daughter put one of her paintings on the apartment’s wall, “it felt like home.”
Fenton works mostly with acrylics, but also in mixed media because she likes collages.
“I did a whole series that were spirits in the woods. I had two of them in the show last year,” she said. “I would like to get more in touch with that part of my life.”

Until recently she worked as an art therapist, so she understands the value of art in personal exploration. While she was talking to The Bulletin Friday evening a friend came by and complimented her work, saying it indicated “a deep thinker.”
The Traveler, an image of a woman walking along a rocky landscape, is painted with the planet Earth suspended over an exotic backdrop. Two birds fly past the woman.
“It’s about being free to travel and the beautiful world around us,” she said.
Generations is about generations and identity, she said. The painting is a collection of faces, many of whom appear to be twins. Two of the subjects are Asian.
“I have four grandchildren from South Korea,” she said. “I don’t know if that has something to do with it or not.”
The paintings in the show range from portraits to landscapes, seascapes, abstracts and still lifes, but there are collages and sculpted pieces as well.
In the latter category are two works by Erasmo Signore, who is showing two clay pieces, Tabitha and Summer’s Days.
Sculpture is a relatively new medium for Signore, who studies with Janis Mauro at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan. Previously he worked for many years as a painter. No stranger to shows at Wilton Library, Signore has exhibited in the summer show as well as 12 x 6 — A Showcase of Six Wilton Artists in 2013.
Signore said he has loved art since he was a boy, but never had time to indulge his passion because he had to help his family in his native Italy. But eventually things went his way.
“The good Lord helped me so much … I fulfilled my dream when taking classes. I started at age 50!” said Signore, who moved here from Norwalk in 1987.

Collage work

Two of the works getting a lot of attention at the reception were colorful pieces by Katharine Catlin Smith.
“I call them two-dimensional collage work,” she said of Anna: A Color Story, and Balboa.
Smith, who studied textile design at the Parsons School of Design, said she has always been attracted to color.
A visit to Balboa Park in San Diego, which she described as “beyond stunning” with its ponds with lily pads, was the inspiration for the similarly named collage. The second piece was inspired by a painting that hung in her parents’ home.

“The painting was bars of color,” she said. “It’s been in my head many years. I was always attracted by the jewel tones.”
Both pieces were executed by her cutting and shaping decorative paper, a process that evolved from her playing with color, pattern and texture.
“This is a brand new thing for me,” she said. “I’ve always been attracted to the paper … and fascinated by the process, not necessarily the finished product.”
Balboa features a “pond” of decorative paper, populated by tiny koi, turtles and lily pads all cut and folded from numerous pieces of patterned paper. Smith said she wears special glasses when doing the delicate work.
“When I was in art school, they told me my hand was very tight and was there anything I could do about that,” she recalled with a laugh. When asked how long each piece takes to complete she said, “a lifetime” over weekends for many months.
An assistant teacher at a Montessori School, Smith was surrounded by art throughout her life. Her father was an art historian, and so there was art all over her home. In addition to attending Parsons, she studied art history in college and in Italy.
“All this knowledge has led to this,” she said. “I hope it evolves further.”
The summer show, which extends throughout the library, will be on display through Aug. 13. A majority of the works are available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the library.
Information: 203-762-3950 or