Eight artists, eight points of view
Every year as Wilton Library’s art chairman, Ed MacEwen, hangs the Summer Show, which features entries by residents and people closely connected to Wilton, there are a few artists who particularly catch his eye.
He writes their names down on a list.
Because Summer Show entries are limited to two pieces per artist, “you don’t really get a look at what an artist does in some quantity,” he told The Bulletin in explaining how the library’s latest show came about. From that list he picked out a group that represents a variety of media and subject matter.
This group has become the Eclectic Eight, the newest exhibition at Wilton Library, which will open with a public reception on Friday, April 6, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The featured artists are Erik Kaeyer, Sean Keating, Katya Lebrija, Hadley Seymore, Day Shields, Bronislava Slagle, and Chengxin Sun, as well as MacEwen.
“It’s great to do, because it’s a revelation,” MacEwen said. “Each will show eight or nine pieces, so you really get a good look. You really get to see the breadth of work. It’s very good for artists and for patrons.”
The Bulletin, which is the exhibition’s media sponsor, caught up with a few of the artists.
Bronislava Slagle said she was “absolutely flabbergasted” to be asked to be in the show. While she has been in large group shows, she said, “this is kind of big for me and it’s an honor to be asked.”
A native of Czechoslovakia, she has always been interested in painting and drawing. She had to put it on hold to earn a living when she moved to New York, but when she became a mother she dipped her toe back in. While she was encouraging her young daughter in the arts, her husband was encouraging her, she said.
“I resisted, but then I kind of gave up on resistance,” she said with a laugh. She began painting in earnest about a dozen years ago after viewing an exhibition of works by Gerhard Richter. Even though she considers him a master, Slagle said, she doesn’t want to be influenced by outside forces. “I want it to come from my mind — what my feelings are and what my thoughts are,” she said.
Painting is not her only passion. She is also an expert knitter and she teaches the craft on her own YouTube channel, where she has 50,000 followers. She gave a lot of thought to combining painting and knitting.
“I absolutely love abstract art and shapes,” she said, adding that another hero is Spanish surrealist Joan Miró. The result was “combining really weird shapes of Miró-ish style with Gerhard Richter smudges. … I wanted to have nature seep through it … I wanted to blend the knitting into it. … I would really like to combine the abstract paint with the abstract knit.” The results will be on the library’s gallery walls.
Retired attorney Day Shields is so connected to his artwork he refuses to use a brush. Hence his enthusiasm for working with pastels.
“I don’t like having the brush between me and the picture,” he said. “I love pastels because I always thought it was the easiest of mediums. You can’t cover mistakes like oils — it’s fairly tolerant of redoing once or twice — but I love the colors.”
A law career with a Wall Street firm didn’t allow much time for artistic expression, so painting, he said, “is something I picked up when I retired about eight years ago. I had it with practicing law and decided to spend the rest of my time doing things I really enjoy and am fairly good at.” Two other avocations are cooking and fishing. While he has produced paintings from fishing trips, he is not putting any of those in this show.
What he is putting in are paintings of animals. “I love doing wildlife,” he said, and four of the works he plans to put in are based on images he took during a photo safari in Kenya. Two are of lions and one, which he was trying to finish up in time for the show, is of three giraffes “whose necks are intertwined at dawn with a purple haze.”
He will also put in five pictures of Connecticut scenes.
Shields has taken classes with Tom Brenner at Silvermine School of Art and with Dmitri Wright, who offers workshops at Weir Farm. Despite living near the national historic site, Shields said, he’d never really been there until taking the workshops, but now he plans to do a series of Wilton paintings.
Since she is just at the beginning of her art career, Hadley Seymore was excited to receive what was a most unexpected invitation. It arrived just as she returned recently from studying at the Vienna Academy of Visionary Arts. She has lived in Wilton on and off since she was 7 and said, “I’m very happy to have the chance to participate in an exhibition in my hometown.”
She, too, enjoys animals as artistic subjects and said that when she was young, her big influences were Japanese animation and comics. She got interested in fantasy art and illustration in middle school because she wanted to create her own world.
“Which is more where my work is going,” she said. “Animals keep coming in. My work is tied up in representing nature and animals and combining them with the human element as well.”
She will have seven pictures in the show, and “all have an animal theme or theme of transformation,” she said.
Ed MacEwen said he decided to “quietly enter the show” with a series of new works he has done.
“I always painted watercolors, and as for subject matter, have done all kinds of things, landscapes and seascapes. For some reason I got interested in clothing,” he said.
Not that he’s painted shirts or garments, but “it’s finding designs in the way folds happen, how lines change,” he said. “There’s one in particular that was a Hermes scarf but it was all in folds. I found it to be so abstract and different from anything I’ve ever done.”
MacEwen, who travels frequently, said he found that if he executes smaller paintings he can fit them in a suitcase. He took the best nine of a dozen to frame and put in the show.
The exhibition runs through Friday, April 27. Most of the more than 70 works will be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the library. Information: www.wiltonlibrary.org or call 203-762-6334.