‘Beautiful’ Sunnyside inspires a colorful canvas


Saturday, 6/25/2016 4:07pm

Amidst the densely displayed art show on the gallery walls of Tarrytown’s Warner Library for the month of July is a summery rendition of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, purple wisteria draping its façade. Over the main reception desk at the library entrance is an even grander, more colorful scene: a large canvas giddily depicts women with parasols on the lawn, textural butterflies, and at its center, that idyllic cottage along the Hudson.

The Senior Art Workshop responsible for these works, free and open to all area seniors, has been meeting weekly at Tarrytown’s Neighborhood House for about the last 15 years, and under the direction of artist Chris Blatt for about half of those. At the gallery reception in early July, the excitement and pride among this group was palpable.

Joan Lynn Padian (right) is the artist behind both the standalone Sunnyside and the one at the center of the larger work. Padian, an art major in college, said she found work illustrating home repair books and “doing a lot of buildings.”

The Irvington resident gushed over our local treasure. “I love his house, his books. I love that place,” Padian said of Sunnyside. With acrylic, oil and, lately, testing the waters of watercolor, she often paints various local landmark buildings, postcard-size versions of which are sold at Bella’s gift shop in Tarrytown.

Blatt immediately gravitated to Sunnyside for the subject of this project, because “I think it’s beautiful.” Over the course of three months, about ten individuals painted the scene from her photographs of the site and the stuff of their imaginations, assigned targeted tasks best suited to their skills.

Paul Aiello worked 43 years in the floral industry, and now gravitates to rendering bold shapes and vibrant landscape-inspired scenes that “come easily from setting up weddings” in 3-D with various materials. To the mural, Aiello contributed the canvas butterflies, painted the river in the background, and added a few trees.

Mike Fiore said the project was mostly done by the time he came along, but this retired ob-gyn tended to many of the little details, pointing out the people in the lower left. His art exploration started with pottery, then printmaking, until he learned about painting and drawing at a community college, techniques further refined at these workshops. “Chris [Blatt] introduced me to watercolor, pencil, charcoal.”

Blatt somehow manages to educate and inspire a very varied group from all backgrounds and levels of ability and in every imaginable medium. Last year’s annual library show featured everything from delicate portraits to a six-foot paper mâché giraffe.

The mini-mural, made possible through a grant from ArtsWestchester, is bordered in garment trim, topped with a partial frame, and easily portable at 53 by 53 inches for transport to the various local places the group hopes to showcase it.

“I think you’re just all wonderful,” Blatt said at the opening party to the supportive group around her. “I feel really privileged to work with each and every one of you.”

The feeling is mutual. Neighborhood House Board President Francesca Spinner described Blatt as “a wonderfully patient person, customizing to whatever they want to do.”

“The floral business didn’t really bring the real art in me out until Chris,” Aiello said. “She gets her will across. She helped show me how to shadow and then everything came to life … The art gets better every year.”





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