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Notable artist Arthur Guagliumi of Northford shares some of his remarkable watercolors in a special exhibit on view throughout the month of February at the Edward Smith Library in Northford. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Arthur Guagliumi's journals, like this one, are filled with details the artist can reference to build into his creative process. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
A carefully assembled grid of interwoven bits of artwork creates an overall effect that's on display as part of artist Arthur Guagliumi's public exhibit at the Smith Library in Northford thorugh the end of February. )
Examples of some of Guagliami's ink and watercolor pieces on display at the Smith include one from the artist's Italian series (Sorrento) at top; as well several Connecticut landscapes. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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A beautiful collection of watercolors on display at Northford’s Edward Smith Library frame is just a tiny segment of the vast creative inventory generated by artist Arthur Guagliumi. The display is on view through the month of February at the Smith Library.
Although his artistic creations have been on exhibit in some notable venues, including the Aspects and Madison galleries in New York, the New Haven Paint and Clay Club (for which Arthur has also served as a past president), Flinn Gallery (New Canaan), Mystic Art Museum, Mattatuck Museum, the Kehler-Lidell Gallery, and many others, there’s something very special about sharing art with his hometown, says Arthur.
A past exhibit he mounted at the Smith Library, which is located at 3 Old Post Road in Northford, shared Arthur’s collection of original prints by artists, some very well-known, together with written histories he provided on the artists and their pieces.
For his watercolors display, “I went through my material and I chose pieces which represented different phases of my life,” including a few from his first experiences with watercolors, Arthur says.
Those in sepia tones are among his first. They were produced in the 1960s, inspired by the scenery of Jackson, New Hampshire, where Arthur was teaching art to gifted teens in a summer program. Other pieces on display are more colorful and impressionistic, using watercolors and pen and inks, and even treatments with acrylic paints. Some represent local shoreline imagery gathered while painting in a group of shoreline painters who met up for “sandwiches and social time” over a period of 15 years, Arthur fondly recalls.
Many of the more delicate landscapes were painted in Italy during trips with his college students in the 1990s. While in Italy, Arthur also taught painting and drawing at the University of Urbino, Italy, for 12 summer programs as a visiting professor.
Another art form for which Arthur is known is his three-dimensional assemblages. The works in mixed mediums pop off the substrate or are built into boxes and deeper frames, often using bits and pieces of found objects.
"I’m always picking things up!” Arthur says.
In fact, his first professional pieces, in the late 1950s, were snapped up to be displayed in a gallery group that was impressed with his assemblage work.
“I started right after I graduated from college. I took my portfolio into New York City. I hit a couple galleries and they took my work,” says Arthur, who was taken in as a co-op member of the Second Generation 10th Street Galleries.
“They were the follow-up galleries to the first-generation galleries, which had artists like [Jackson] Pollock and Franz Kline. They were in these galleries, which were co-ops, and then they got elevated to uptown [galleries],” explains Arthur. “So a lot of these galleries in the Village stayed there, and I came in at a time when all these guys were leaving, and I got into a gallery. I was there for about five years.”
He also produces pieces in a medium that’s a close cousin to assemblage: collage. One of the pieces on display at the Smith Library is a carefully parsed collection of tiny squares snipped by Arthur from paintings, masterfully reconstructed into a grid composition.
In addition to years of teaching as a visiting professor at Quinnipiac University and University of New Haven (as well as teaching at the Guilford Art Center), Arthur recently retired from 48 years of teaching in the Art Department at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). Arthur also brought notable and noteworthy area artists into SCSU by instituting revolving exhibits, with the artists’ pieces on display in two large, glass cases used as dedicated exhibition space.
To recognize his extraordinary contributions to the school, his work was featured in a retrospective at SCSU in 2017 upon his retirement. It was also the first show to be mounted in a grand, new gallery space in the university’s library.
“I was able to put in my constructions, my watercolors, and some collages and some photo images. That was great gift. They were very nice to me,” says Arthur, who also had a couple of pieces purchased by SCSU as part of its permanent artwork collection.
His work is part of numerous public and private collections including Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum and the Arthur Dow Collection at Columbia University.
Also in 2017, in another nod to Arthur’s body of work, several of his pieces were featured as part of the Silvermine Art Center’s LEGACY exhibition. He’s been a member of the Silvermine Guild of New Canaan “just about my whole life,” says Arthur.
Right now, he also has a piece on display in the juried Connecticut Artists Show in the Slater Museum, Norwich. He busy working on pieces he’ll be entering competitions for some upcoming shows, as well.
Lately, when it comes to producing watercolors, Arthur’s been adding collage to his pieces. He’s put a few examples into the show at the Smith Library.
“It’s just a natural development,” says Arthur of the bits of paper and other remnants he’s incorporated. “If you go to the Connecticut watercolor shows or American watercolor exhibits in New York, you’ll see that people combine things with watercolor, because you can do so much with watercolor.”
Other details Arthur’s worked into his pieces on display at the Smith show how he plays with paint.
“Sometimes, I’ll scratch [the painted surface] and sometimes, I’ll use sandpaper on it” to add texture, says Arthur.
He also adds water to dilute acrylics and watercolors to get the color he desires and sometimes paints on damp paper to get a loose, spreading effect from inks and paints.
“I like a light touch, where you let the paper become a part of it,” he says.
In a written note at the Smith display, Arthur lists some of the watercolor artists whose work he admires. He shares with The Sound that he somehow left off Howard Fussner, a good friend and former New Haven studio partner in the 1960s. Others who’s work he’s admired include John Marin, Dong Kingman, William Thon, and Arthur Wesley Dow as well as Belgian painter Pierre Heymans.
For aspiring artists, Arthur highly recommends keeping a journal, as he has. Scores of books now fill shelves in his home as he has been journaling since his youth. The once-blank pages of every book are crammed with notes, ideas, imagery, artful doodles, sketches, miniature paintings, pictures, photos, and clippings, all of which Arthur considers not only a gathering of years of work, but potential inspiration for future work.
“It’s a good way to vent ideas, to flesh them out,” says Arthur. “Sometimes when you start to write, ideas come. Actually, in my art education classes, I have done classes where I get students starting to do books—not just art books, but to write things in it and record. Especially if you’re going to be a teacher, you make notes of your teaching.
“We’ve always believed, in the profession, that you need to dialogue with a book; you need to write it down. Because you can go back later and say, ‘Oh that’s what I meant,’ or ‘Oh, I forgot about that.’ And maybe I had more recently an idea that matches up with something I’ve done in the past,” he says. “Your mind throws out things, all the time.”
The son of a cabinetmaker who immigrated to America from Milan, Italy, Arthur grew up helping out in his dad’s New Haven shop. His father had an architect and artist as uncles, and always encouraged Arthur to get involved in artistic endeavors.
“Here was a man, who, while he was in a tough business and industry, he still had a sensitivity to the fine arts,” says Arthur. “He’d always get me books, and he used to buy me watercolor paper.”
Arthur spends several hours each day working in his studio in the home he shares with his wife, Susan, who is a writer and textile designer. The couple has lived in several towns in the Greater New Haven area and moved to the house they built in Northford about 15 years ago.
“I have five or six things going at once. Because I’m retired, I do it because I need to do it. but not under tension. I do it to relax,” says Arthur of his studio time.
Arthur also a member of the Wallingford chapter of Society of American Magicians.
“Way back when I was in college I did [magic] shows, but as I got so busy with teaching, I just kept it as a casual interest. As I was thinking about retiring, a friend said, ‘You ought to join the local magic club,’ and I did,” says Arthur, who joined about four years ago and now serves as the chapter’s secretary.
He’s now keeping separate journals for his magic ideas, interests, and inventions.
“I like to refine a trick by making it myself, doing my version of it—and not always successfully! But it’s fun. It’s a nice diversion,” he says. “It’s no different than when I go in my studio and find a way of doing things with art. It’s a process.”
Arthur Guagliumi’s artwork is also on display in North Branford at Nataz Restuarant (280 Branford Road) as well as in two other Nataz restuarants in the state, located in Southington and Clinton. All artworks at Nataz are available for purchase; if interested, call 203-484-5090.
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