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New Pictures, Old House
by Allan Appel | Aug 6, 2013 12:57 pm
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Visual Arts, Morris Cove
Karen Josephson, who had always painted indoors and often from photographs, had to answer new questions when she moved outside: What do you do when the sky gradually changes from grey to blue? Or a green shadow appears on the facade you’re painting? Or the boys you’re painting as they frolick in the surf at Lighthouse Point decide to up and leave?
Josephson’s response to the challenges of painting en plein air, or outside in natural light, were on display Sunday afternoon in Morris Cove. Students in a painting group sponsored by the New Haven Museum and the Creative Arts Workshop showed their oils and watercolors at the Pardee-Morris House on Lighthouse Point Road.
It is the first time in decades that the New Haven Museum, which operates the historic house, had organized such a class, with the Pardee-Morris House as the subject and locale for the artists’ efforts.
Local painter Steve DiGiovanni, who heads the drawing and painting department at CAW, shepherded eight students, all adults ranging from beginners to more accomplished painters, to Lighthouse Point for two three-hour Saturdays and four such sessions working in the shade on the northwest side of the house.
Long-time Morris Cover Josephson said she had not painted for several years when she signed up. To do so outdoors would be a new adventure.
How much, she was about to find out.
“Steve’s always saying, ‘There’s some yellow [in the sky], there’s some green on the building,’” she recalled of the sessions.
The students were encouraged to paint either the house or views looking out at the harbor from the pavilions at Lighthouse Point.
Josephson said she dealt with painting the fleeting, frolicking boys and a seagull that alighted long enough for her to begin to paint but then was gone with, well, good humor. “I have a tendency to make things up,” she said.
She is proudest of her watercolor of the small stone and wood carriage house at the side of the Pardee-Morris main house.
No seagulls here, and also the foliage and foundation don’t change, she said.
As she stood in front of the beach and breakwater scene she is proudest of, another student, Carol Courtney, recalled another challenge: light. “We started doing this at nine and it was overcast. At 11 a.m. it was sunny.”
Her solution: “You learn to capture what’s in your memory.”
By the time the weather had changed, she was so into that memory, it was a kind of visual foundation, “very overcast, the serenity.” It’s what she prized most capturing in the work that are on display in the spartan kitchen of the colonial house
Courtney, who took up brushes for the first time in a course with Giovanni two years ago at the University of Hartford, also attempted to paint the Pardee-Morris House itself. She found it was a different challenge, beyond the changing external conditions.
“I was learning to work the angles [of the many roofs as they come together]. This was so complex. It was a puzzle. That’s what I like about painting,” she added.
The works will be on view Sunday, Aug. 11 at the house, the only day of the week the historic structure is open to the public. After that, the paintings may be transferred to the New Haven Museum downtown, although details have not been worked out.
On Aug. 18, another group of area artists, invited by the museum, will debut “Show” at the house.
New Haven Museum’s Education Director Michele Cheng said “Show” will consist of more images or takes on the house, but this time by professional artists invited by the museum. Their work will range from photography to sculpture to mixed media and will offer yet other new views or interpretations of the Pardee-Morris House.
After overcoming a history of recent neglect and mismanagement that caused strife between the museum and Morris Covers, the house in recent seasons is becoming not only the scene of active programming these days but is also now receiving the artistic adulation it deserves.
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