'Home' is where the art is: Arts center showcases 'Home Sweet Home'

The classic 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" ends with Dorothy Gale from Kansas saying one of the most recognizable cinematic lines of all time: "There's no place like home."

But where is home? Is it where you hang your hat or where the heart is?

More than 200 artists explored their concepts of home, from a physical place to an abstract emotion, and 47 artistic interpretations of the theme "Home Sweet Home" were selected for an exhibit of the same name at the Westport Arts Center. The exhibit runs through Nov. 10 and includes paintings, photographs, sculpture, mixed media and two videos.

At the opening reception Friday evening, Helen Klisser During, the arts center's director of visual arts, called the gallery at 51 Riverside Ave. the town's cultural home for a big family of artists. She encouraged the hundreds of people who attended the opening to purchase the art to support the artists. "It's an expensive neighborhood," she said.

During said each of the 47 works of art provides an "authentic sentiment" about home; each one articulated and rendered in a different way.

Jennifer Gross of New Haven, the lone juror for Home Sweet Home, said the Home Sweet Home exhibit represents many interpretations of home among them "longing, recollecting or envisioning for us a place full of opportunity and safety." Gross, the chief curator and deputy director of curatorial affairs for the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, said the work ranges from the witty to the beautiful to the conceptually challenging.

Some -- like Westport artist Karen Silver Bloom's mixed-media, "No Place like Home" -- offers the warm and fuzzy feeling of home. Others -- like "Say, What Are the Lascauxs Up to Now?" by Tammy Winser of Westport -- represent the comforts of home. Winser's display has two slippers sitting on a small carpet. Her piece had some people feeling as if they were curled up in bed or by a fireplace with a good book, while others got a chuckle from it.

"I've got that exhibit at my house," one man said. "But mine's better. I have three pairs of slippers."

"Some of the work takes on the darker side, that longing (for home) unfulfilled," Gross said.

One of the works that fit into the darker category was Fairfield artist Timothy Pyle's digital print "Storm." His photograph depicts a Milford house that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy nearly a year ago.

As people walked through the gallery viewing each piece, During hoped that they were inspired to think about the theme, and they did. Julia Anderson of Norwalk said, "Home, to me, is more a feeling of peace and calm." She said she was most drawn to an oil painting by Stamford artist Rachel Lussier titled "Interior Landscapes."

"It's just beautiful. It's the abstract representation of home," Anderson said.

"For me, home means sharing. It's a place where you share openly with people you love," said Jeanine Esposito of Westport. For Esposito's husband, Frederick Chiu, home is "a place to regroup and get energy."

Lisa and Bob Hurwitz of Weston both zeroed in on the work of artist Susan Breen of Bridgeport, who created "Inside (Poetics of Space)" by filling the interior silhouette of a house with thick brush strokes of vibrant oil paint colors. Lisa said her idea of home is "a place where I'm completely comfortable with people I want to be with."

For Westport photographer Pamela Zaremba, who has a piece in the show, home is simply "memories."

WAC Executive Director Peter Van Heerden said, "Home is a feeling you get deep in your stomach; when everything else falls away and you feel like yourself."

The concept of home is difficult for During because she said she feels divided between two homes: her native New Zealand, where most of her family is, and the community of Westport, a place she said she loves, "where I love to work and where people are so supportive. It's a wonderful community." Ultimately, During said, home to her equals "people."

If one walks counter clock-wise to view the exhibit, Westport artist Nell Waters Bernegger's digital print is the last in the gallery and probably sums up home best with its simple words: "The best things in life aren't things."

Home Sweet Home continues at the Westport Arts Center through Nov. 10. For more information, call the center at 203-222-7070 or visit http://www.westportartscenter.org