Robin Benton Crutcher, Nancy Lassen and Sindy Scalfi all have made their marks in their professional careers as a clinical social worker, an interior designer and a musician/dog trainer respectively.
But apart from those endeavors, they’re also making their marks in their avocation as artists. The trio’s work is on display at Christwood Retirement Center’s Atrium Gallery, in the appropriately titled “Being Abstract in 2018.”
Full-time artist David Doherty is also represented in the free show, which runs through Feb. 24.
“We all studied together (under Nell Curtis Tilton at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts),” Scalfi said. “So, it’s fantastic that we’re together in a show.
“Plus, in a business like this, exposure is everything.”
It’s the first of six free exhibits scheduled for this year at Christwood, located off the Pinnacle Drive exit at Interstate 12.
Curator Anne Loomis said that with watercolors, photography and a residents/members show in the coming months, abstracts seemed like an appropriate way to start 2018.
“It’s like the new year is still being fleshed out,” she said. “And abstract’s elements of color, shape, movement and energy give the viewer more room to form their opinions than something more representative does.”
As might be expected, Crutcher, Lassen and Scalfi, who all specialize in abstracts, have incorporated influences from their day jobs into their art.
As she does with her patients, Crutcher uses her art to pull from her subconscious, although she denies that the intrusive red elements on her otherwise peaceful canvases have anything to do with repressed anger.
“I don’t like a lot of drama in my life, but I don’t mind creating a little drama in my painting,” she said. “Maybe it is a little jarring sometimes.
“But I like to do what comes out intuitively. What I do comes from inside of me just like what the viewer does is inside of them.”
Lassen’s work looks appropriate for the homes she helps decorate because, she said, “I treat the canvas the same way I treat my interiors.
“You’ve got to have balance and scale and texture and line. It’s the same ideas and mental process for me. But in the end, we all react differently to them.”
Most of Lassen’s work, which is displayed in several homes and offices in the area, is up to interpretation.
But one of her favorite subjects, the Bonne Carre Spillway rail trestle, is in two of her works in the Christwood show.
“I’ve got a thing about bridges,” she said. “They’re not necessarily meant to be thought-provoking, but sometimes I add in elements designed to get people talking about them.”
Scalfi’s work is the least-abstract in the show, a reflection of her longtime animal activism.
One of her pieces, “Tweega in the Mara,” features a giraffe (“Tweega” is Swahili for “giraffe” and “mara” is a grasslands area in Kenya), albeit missing its head and the upper part of its neck because the canvas isn’t big enough. Another, “Mustangs Forever,” is exactly what it sounds like.
“I’d say I put animals in 85 or 90 percent of my paintings,” said Scalfi, who got her start drawing frogs in the first grade. “I feel like the value of animals is something which should be more recognized and their rights respected.
“I try to capture their spirits in my paintings.”
Although Scalfi was an art major in college, the early part of her adult life was spent pursuing a music career as both a writer and in bands. So, it turns out, this is only her third show after two in Seaside, Florida.
“I’ve mainly painted for myself and never worried about selling it,” she said. “But now I’m in the position to do it full time, and I’m out pursuing shows and exhibitions to show my work.
“It’s really exciting.”
Showcasing the arts, Loomis said, is one of the main reasons Christwood sponsors exhibits, as well as bringing musicians to the facility.
The others are providing enrichment for the 200-plus residents and connecting with the community at large, a useful marketing tool.
But Loomis’ motives are not entirely commercial.
“One of the greatest pleasures I have is hanging a show,” she said. “It’s a little bit like a puzzle because you want each piece to lead you to the next one, and no piece outdoes the other.
“When you get it right, it flows. That’s a good feeling.”
Especially when it helps the artist.
“Sometimes you paint just to evoke emotions, either your own or the viewer,” said Lassen, whose work has been seen publicly since the 1984 World's Fair. “And sometimes, you make something appealing enough that somebody wants to take it home and live with it.
“That always gives me a special pleasure.”