Westport's Old Mill provides natural setting for art work
Most professional artists routinely exhibit their work in galleries, at museums and in art shows.
Westporter Clark Hanford had never shown his art publicly except in the window of his clothing store in the Notting Hill section of London, where he studied art 16 years, and that was to enhance his fashion displays, not to showcase his own work. His sculptures of celebrity likenesses got noticed, and by some notable people who became collectors -- Paul McCartney, Elton John, Frank Sinatra and Demi Moore.
The painter and sculptor's most recent creative coup came together Saturday in the form of an ingenious art show that transformed his backyard into an outdoor gallery. Hanford invited several other artists to exhibit their work along side his and in the very setting that inspired them. He lives on Old Mill Road. Other than a tangle of power lines that he refers to as "spaghetti junction," his property offers scenic views of Old Mill Beach and Compo Mill Cove.
"I've painted my whole life, but I've never done an art show. I'm doing the first one in my own backyard. It's at a public beach. It's a beach where people live. The whole world goes by here," Hanford said. "There's a lot of subject here. It used to be a working mill in the 1700s and 1800s, then there's the wildlife and the houses. It's an interesting place," he said.
Hanford's themed art show featured about 50 works that captured the peaceful setting on canvas and in sculptural materials: his own work and that of Janet Iffland, Cornelia Gaines Olsen, Anne D. Van Duyn, Matthew Levine, Judy Katz, Bobbi Elke Mullen and J. Hunter Capella.
here were watercolors, oils and acrylics of local landscapes and seascapes, a flock of egrets, storm clouds over the cove, a sailboat against a backdrop of a vermillion sunset. The work was done in various styles, ranging from realism to impressionism to abstract.
"I've never done anything like this before, shown at someone's house, but this is a great idea, a great venue for artists to be able to show their work," said Iffland, who lives in Torrington but often comes to Westport to paint. "I enjoy the beauty of the area and the colors of the water and the sand," she said.
"You can't duplicate this charm. It's not just the water. It's the actual paintings, the camaraderie of the neighborhood. I love it," said Suzanne Dache, who lives nearby. Dache said the art work on display included "beautiful beach scenes, the beauty of local nature and some of the homes." The art work was perched on Hanford's hand-made easels throughout the yard, it was set on the steps of his porch, and displayed on the porch itself. Capella's sculpture, titled "Motherhood," depicted a duck, its feathers represented by oyster shells, protecting its empty nest. The two part sculpture was positioned on pedestals of varying heights.
"I saw a mother duck in the cove and she wasn't going to let anyone near that nest. She sat on it for a long, long time," Capella said.
Mindy and John Bays of Westport were among dozens of people who came to admire the work, many of whom purchased pieces to display in their homes and offices. "It's terrific. There should be more of it. It makes you feel more at home. It's interesting to have artists share their work," Mindy Bays said.
John Bays appreciated the local theme to the art work. "I think it's appropriate and it's local artists as opposed to what was downtown with artists that do the circuit. It's home-grown artists and home town themes," he said.
Capella said Hanford's idea was wonderful.
"I think he should do it every year. This was such a success," he said.