Home-grown art stars in latest show

Jeannette Ross photos
Some people create works of art for pleasure, some for profit. But at least four who have works of art entered in the 72nd annual Wilton Artists’ Summer Show have found their forays into art to be therapeutic, both emotionally and physically.

The show opened with a reception on July 8 at Wilton Library, when the community got an official look at 110 works of art and seven sculptures. The show continues through Aug. 25. Many of the works on display are for sale, with a portion of the sale price benefiting Wilton Library.

The significance of Fred Wernig’s Tree on a Rock goes far beyond its value as a sculpture. It marks his recovery from a stroke he suffered just about a year ago. The stroke left his left hand completely limp. Wernig is left-handed.

“My wife said I had to learn to use my hand again,” he said at the reception. Wernig had made the sculptures before, and took up the work once again. The tree is made of electrical wire stripped down to the copper. He joined the tree to the base and enhanced it with driftwood, shells and other embellishments.

“The driftwood is from the Pacific Ocean,” he pointed out, “and the rock is from Florida.” Since his stroke, Wernig, who is a member of the Wilton Kiwanis Club, said he has been able to complete two of the sculptures as he showed off the recovered dexterity of his left arm and hand.

Joining Wernig at the show was his friend and fellow Kiwanian Robert Tortolla who had two paintings in the show. Tortolla is a retired certified public accountant who paints “as an avocation” and said he usually enters two paintings a year.

Both of this year’s paintings are of animals — a dog and a bird — which is unusual, Tortolla said, because he generally paints landscapes and seascapes. The dog was commissioned by a family member.

Prior to entering the field of accounting, Tortolla went to art school and has always sketched.

“This is therapy for me,” he said, pointing out the creativity of painting in opposition to working with numbers.

Jane Antoinette Tallman views painting as a means to “forget about the problems of the Earth.”

She also has two paintings in the show, Sweet Sixteen and Kiss. Painted with pastels and acrylics, Sweet Sixteen was completed 10 years ago.

“I was growing as a person, burgeoning forth of life,” she explained, adding that one of her friends liked it. She thought if that were the case, perhaps a parent would like it for their child.

Although she comes from a family of artists, Tallman is self-taught.

“I love painting,” she said. “It takes me into my own world.” She laughed as she explained “I have a whole room full of paintings.”

No stranger to exhibitions, Tallman said she had a show at Ridgefield Library where she sold four paintings.

Her other entry in the show is Kiss, which she described as “Picasso-esque.”

Louise Shea has been painting for nearly 50 years, and that is saying a lot since she started at age 52. The 100-year-old resident of Ogden House has one painting in the show, The River Seine, and it is placed over the fireplace in the Virginia Adams Reading Room.

Shea painted it after she came home from Paris last year. She made the trip with two of her sons, Jim and Peter, for Mother’s Day.

“I had a marvelous time,” she said at the reception. “It was the best vacation I ever had.”

One of her favorite memories of the trip was a visit to Notre Dame, which is the subject of the painting along the banks of the Seine.

“I had never been to Paris but I always wanted to go,” said Shea, who in the last “10 to 20 years” has also been to Maui and Italy.

Although she had sketched on and off her whole life, Shea really got into painting when her husband died, but she had stopped before her trip. “It was wonderful to get back to it,” she said.

In her younger years, Shea had a gallery on the Cape. “Art is my thing,” she said. “I know nothing else.”