Artists open season at Lockwood Mathews
NORWALK — There are pros and cons to hosting a juried exhibition of art work.
“Juried exhibitions carry an element of surprise. You don’t know if you’ll have enough works to display,” said Susan Gilgore, executive director of the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, where the new exhibition, “Historic Grounds & Modern Gardens,” was recently hung in the billboard room. “But they’re also very fun, because they’re open to whomever. It’s a way for artists to show their work at a different venue.”
Luckily in this case, the submissions were many. The exhibition, which opened Thursday and will run through June 23, asked regional artists to submit selected interpretations of the theme. Thirty-four artists from across the state and New York submitted artworks and just 18 were selected in a broad range of styles — impressionist, modernist, and abstract, among them — and medium — including water color, oil paint, acrylic and pastel.
“I’m excited that we got so many different styles,” said Gail Ingis, a curator who has long worked with the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum who served as juror on the show. Ingis, an artist herself, admitted that she stepped into the role with some hard opinions about how a garden or historic ground should be represented and, in calling for submissions, tried to articulate a criteria to the artists.
“It’s very interesting, because not everybody absolutely did exactly what I told them to,” Ingis said. “But the painting nevertheless, it sung. The artists were successful in expressing what they thought a garden was.”
The painters whose work will be shown represent a wide range in age and experience. Some are established artists with decades of experience. Others are emerging artists, for whom this may be the first or second exhibition of their work.
Maya Santangelo, who has two paintings in the show, has traveled all over the world as a mural painter. She’s painted large scale images at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, and in hotels in Japan.
But two of the more interesting places she found herself were close to her native San Diego, while working as a commissioned artist for the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Through her employer, the actress Laura Dern, and then the actor Dennis Quaid, saw Santangelo’s work and contracted her to create murals in the bedrooms of their respective children.
“In Laura Dern’s son’s room I painted little decorative designs around the fireplace and Indian-style patterns on the stairs,” Santangelo remembered. “I painted Dennis Quaid’s son’s bedroom to look like a jungle. I completely covered every single wall to look like a jungle.”
Since she moved to Norwalk, she’s worked a freelance muralist and also accepts commissions for smaller scale paintings, though she doesn’t consider herself primarily a landscape painter. Both of her accepted works are based on landscapes she saw on trips with her son. One was to Weir Farm in Wilton, the other to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami.
“I just happened to have two paintings that happened to fit the bill for historic places,” Santangelo said.
Anthony Santomauro, of Fairfield, is a career artist and a retired physician with a strong presence in local artists groups.
He’s a member of the Easton Arts Council, the Fairfield County Arts Association, the Westport Arts Center, the Artist Collective of Westport and the Art/Place of Fairfield. Most impressively, Santomauro is a member of the prestigious Salmagundi Club in New York City, a fine arts center with only roughly 900 members, many of whose work is known worldwide.
He’s also colorblind and, thus, is not normally inclined to work to depict multicolored landscapes, opting instead to create monochromatic depictions mainly of humans and animals. His inability to perceive colors makes the acceptance of his paintings, of a fountain on the grounds of the Royal Palace of Casserta, in Italy, all the more impressive.
“I was very honored that I was accepted. I am not a typical landscape artist, because I’m colorblind, it’s hard to be a landscape artist if you’re colorblind,” Santomauro explained. “You don’t have the same views and delicacies of palette that many of the landscape artists do have. It’s a different palette altogether.”
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