Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, October 23, 2006

West Neighborhood: Christopher Engstrom

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: Christopher Engstrom
Oct. 21, 2006.

The walls of Christopher Engstrom's apartment/studio bear evidence of what might be called "productive procrastination." On the right, in progress, is a wonderful image of a boy on the shore seeming to hold up a giant yellow-orange ball of sunshine. The image continues onto the adjacent wall. Clouds, dune grass and flocks of terns and sanderlings—inspired by stays in Truro and Provincetown on Cape Cod—are painted in silver leaf. In the afternoon light, and depending where you stand, the reflection off the painted sunshine shows up glowingly copper on the silver paint.

Engstrom is writing and illustrating a children's book. The story started as a flip book and Engstrom also contemplated making it as an animated short film. He doesn't have a publisher yet. He wants to finish the book first.

"It's a project I've been working on too long now," he told me, laughing. Too long, it turns out, is about three years. "The story parallels what I'm doing artistically."

"A little boy, looking for inspiration, walks down to the ocean to take a break from his studio. He grabs a wave and pulls the ocean up to his studio, and pulls it inside one of his paintings," Engstrom explained. "Then he goes back for other things." Like the sunshine he is gathering on the apartment wall.

The painting on the wall, Engstrom said, "is more play for me, thinking about scale. I wondered about having it large and wrapping around you more."

Engstrom said the story is about taking the concept of artistic creation literally.

"When we see something outside that's so beautiful, we just want to remember it. But when you do artwork based on nature, you have to be selective," Engstrom said. We can't pull all of the outdoors into our studio.


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