Wilton artists have their say

The walls of Wilton Library will be Wilton-centric when the first art show of 2017 opens with a free reception on Friday evening, Jan. 6, from 6 to 7:30.

That’s because all of the artists showing in the Art Times Six Art Exhibition either live or work in town: Janel Cassara, Art Gerstein, Susan Kurnit, Lenore Sillery, Russell Sillery, and Cindy Sinor.

The show has been in the works since Ed MacEwen, the library’s art chairman, saw their work in the library’s Summer Show and invited them to participate in a joint show.

“I’ve been doing this for the last few years because I know for sure the Wilton Summer Show is only for Wilton artists, and because of the library and the town, I like to expose the artists in Wilton as much as I can,” MacEwen told The Bulletin.

“After the show has been up in the summer I walk around and pick out half a dozen artists I think are not only good but also compatible with each other,” he added, “so I’m consciously trying to build a show. What I like about doing it this way, it gives the artist a chance to show more than one or two pieces.”

This time, each artist will show eight or 10 pieces so visitors to the library can get a better sense of their work.

“These people are serious artists, and talented, and should get some representation they ordinarily wouldn’t get,” MacEwen said.

The artists

Janel Cassara grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and attended Iowa State University, where she earned a degree in apparel design/patternmaking and a bachelor’s degree in fine arts — painting, drawing and printmaking. In studying master artists, she was most drawn to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Wassily Kandinsky and Salvador Dali.

Her painting eventually took a back seat to a career in finance. Now retired, she finds time to paint as well as volunteer with Minks to Sinks, the Turnover Shop and Wilton Children’s Theater.

Art Gerstein’s contribution to the exhibition is his photography, a skill he has honed since his early days as an assistant to photojournalist Lucien Aigner. When photography went digital in the 90s he embraced it, producing pieces on paper, canvas and aluminum.

His latest work combines aspects of Impressionism and animal portraiture. The exhibition includes animal portraits taken at the Norwalk Aquarium, where he served three years as artist in residence, the Sanibel Island Preserve in Florida, and the Galapagos Islands.

Working as a fashion editor at Seventeen magazine taught Susan Kurnit a lot about composition and light. She got into painting through a continuing education class, choosing wildlife images from National Geographic magazine. A second career found her as a secondary school history teacher, but she is now semi-retired and has parlayed her early experiences into a pet portraits business. Her love for animals, she says, was the inspiration for her new venture.

Animals are also a favorite subject for Cindy Sinor, who draws people as well. She is a former marketing and public relations professional, and her medium of choice is colored pencils, which she said allows her to “express the beauty in the details — the subtleties that often go unnoticed.”

Sinor has donated artwork in support of such local organizations as PAWS, Animals in Distress, and the Wilton Food Bank.

Lenore and Russell Sillery are the first husband and wife MacEwen has recruited for a show. Retired from their advertising agency where they worked together for 28 years, they are now devoting themselves to their passion, which is painting.

His interest is figures and landscapes in oils and mixed media. Her focus has been on portraits in colored pencil, but she is now starting to paint in oils as well.

Creating a show

While their work is very different, the 60 or so pieces contributed by the artists will make a cohesive show, MacEwen said.

One important aspect is the size each artist works in. “They’re not overly large, so no one stands out more than the other,” he said.

Hanging the show is a challenge. He does not hang each artist’s pieces together, so he must find a way to make them work together.

“I never really know what I’m going to get,” he said of each artist’s submissions, since he’s seen only two of their pieces.

“When I hang the show, the worst thing you can do is put something next to a painting that is jarring, either in color or subject matter, so when I’m hanging it I’m thinking about the total look of the wall,” he said.

To do that, he lays the pieces on the floor and moves them around before hanging them with three helpers.

“This show will take most of the day to hang,” he said, adding that putting up all the labels and prices also takes time. Some shows, like the Summer Show, take two days.

For years he did it all himself. “It’s a labor of love,” he said, adding that before the library’s expansion it was a much smaller and more casual affair. But now, he is very grateful for the assistance he receives from his helpers.

MacEwen said he has a list of about 50 artists from all over who would like to show at the library.

“I’m out looking all the time for interesting artists,” he said, adding that “it’s personal, others might do it differently.”

The exhibition will run through Friday, Jan. 27. A majority of the works will be available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the library.

Information: 203-762-6334 or www.wiltonlibrary.org.