From paintings to whimsical figures, art show celebrates creativity's endurance
Published 5:25 pm, Sunday, September 16, 2012
It was a blue sky, fluffy-white-cloud kind of summer morning when it came time to call upon the two artists whose work will soon be on display at the Rowayton Arts Center.
The sunny backdrop proved an apt parallel for the bright and creative energy evidenced by Trudy Gilbert and Edith McClean, lifetime members of the center, who are the focus of "Ageless Art," which runs through Sunday, Sept. 30.
The women, who are both in their 90s, are consistent award-winners, having shown their work for many years at the center and elsewhere in the area.
For this show, Gilbert is exhibiting a batch of her papier-mache figures, which more commonly make an appearance at the center's holiday gift show, and McClean is displaying her paintings.
"I've always made craftwork," said Gilbert during an interview at her Norwalk home, looking toward several boxes that contained her figurines. But, she has been a painter, as well, often teaming her love of nature with the images that appear under her brush.
"I mainly painted animals and birds," she said, noting that she was very active with the Audubon organization for many years. Indeed, she said she became an avid birder, inspiring some of the pieces that made their way to coworkers at Norwalk Hospital, where she worked for 31 years.
The theme has continued with her figurines, which feature pigs, dogs, cats and mice dressed in handmade outfits, often reflecting pithy sayings such as "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff."
Gilbert, who moved to the United States from England in her teens, initially lived in Westchester County, N.Y. Early on, she pursued her interest in art, working with a marionette maker in White Plains, N.Y., and later finding opportunities in New York City.
"When I first went to New York, I had all kinds of jobs," she said, but cited her tenure with famed puppeteer Tony Sarg as influential in her development as an artist. "He showed you how to paint the faces and make the clothes. You had to do it correctly."
It is the kind of attention to detail one sees in her current work.
"I'm so happy to have been given this gift and been allowed to share it with people," Gilbert said.
McClean expressed the same kind of gratitude, after welcoming a visitor into her Rowayton home.
"It's something you can enjoy all your life," she said of her art and art in general. "It also keeps your brain active. You really could compare painting to a puzzle. You have to keep solving problems as you go. You have to be flexible."
McClean is showing about 20 paintings. Flowers are a common theme. "I like their shapes," she said.
McClean said she has long enjoyed going to the center for the camaraderie it engenders and the courses that enable her to hone her art. She said it can be easy to forget how much time passes when she is working on a painting.
"I can't believe how many hours go by," she said.
McClean said she first got involved with the center nearly 40 years ago, when she moved with her family to Rowayton.
She said she is looking forward to the show and hopes visitors will enjoy it, too.
"We'll have a nice mix," she said.
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Rowayton Arts Center, Portside Gallery, 145 Rowayton Ave., Rowayton. "Ageless Art" runs through Sunday, Sept. 30. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Saturday 12 to 5 p.m.; Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. Closed Mondays. 203-866-2744, www.rowaytonartscenter.org.