Exhibit On Display at the Library Through June 30
The history of the Covid-19 pandemic is filled with stories of disappointment and lost memories as events were abruptly cancelled and the lockdown lasted longer than anyone expected or could have imagined.
One local example was the cancellation in April 2020 of 95-year-old artist and long-time Easton resident Joyce Pedersen’s solo exhibit at the Easton Public Library.
Thankfully, however, this story has a happy ending, as family, friends, and local art lovers from around the region were able to attend the in-person opening of Pedersen’s solo exhibit last month at the Easton Library.
Susan Changnon, a close family friend with experience curating and planning art exhibits, worked behind-the-scenes from her home in Pennsylvania in collaboration with Easton Library staff and the Easton Arts Council to plan the solo show for an April 2020 opening.
“We had everything ready to go a year ago in April when Easton Library Director Lynn Zaffino told us that everything was shutting down,” Changnon said. “We called Joyce together and she was so disappointed. What we didn’t know is that it would go on for such a long time. But here we are a year later!”
As Pedersen recalls, “The opening was just two weeks away and Susan had completed all of the work preparing and curating the show. She did an excellent job.”
While it would certainly be understandable for an artist to experience a creative lull during the pandemic, Pedersen made the best out of a difficult situation and even managed to increase her already prolific creative output.
Changnon was careful to select representative examples from Pedersen’s oeuvre to include in the exhibit. “I don’t think a lot of people know that in addition to Joyce’s watercolor paintings, she has studied the decorative arts and painting on wood as well. There are things done for Easter, and Christmas, and the fall. It’s really fun and delightful folk art,” Changnon said.
Several examples of these artifacts, including decorative wooden bowls and plates, are on display inside a glass cabinet in the main library area.
Pedersen was born in Manchester, England and came to the United States in the 1950s. As she recalls, “Shortly after my daughter was born, my mother was visiting and I told her ‘I feel like painting,’ to which she replied, ‘Well, what’s stopping you?’”
She began her formal studies with the accomplished New England artist Samuel Brown and continued to develop her technique at the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, and through adult education classes in Wilton. She counts George Sutherland, Mary Bartz, Robert Casilla, and Mary Bochanis among her teachers and mentors.
“I started in oils, but they took too long to dry and the aroma bothered me, so I stopped with oils and started with watercolors,” Pedersen said. “I always liked flowers and then people began to send me photos of scenes where they were, and I’d paint a picture.”
Pedersen has since become a fixture in the Fairfield County art community through her affiliations with the Easton Arts Council, the Shelton Art League, the Fairfield Arts Council, and the Society of the Creative Arts of Newtown.
Pedersen’s daughter Roderike Pohl has been a steadfast supporter and admirer of her mother’s artwork for decades.
“She’s been painting since I can remember, going back to the late ’60s,” recalls Pohl. “She has exhibited in several regional shows, but it is especially exciting see so many of her art works displayed in a public venue like this.”
Pedersen’s stepson Eric also made the trip from North Carolina to attend the opening. “When the show was cancelled last year because if Covid, we promised Joyce that we would drive up here,” he said. “We are pleased to see such a great turnout.”
Pedersen’s older daughter Geraldine Slater was unfortunately unable to make the trip from her home in Lawrence, Kansas, but shared with the Courier her fond memories of attending art fairs and museums with her mother while growing up in Wilton in the 1960s. She, too, has always encouraged her mother’s art work, and proudly displays several of her mother’s paintings and decorative pieces in her home.
The response from those who attended the exhibit was universally enthusiastic and especially gratifying for those who have been anticipating the opening for more than a year.
“I’m very excited for Joyce,” said Dianne McAnn from Stratford. “This has been a long time coming because Covid cancelled it last year, so I’m delighted for her.”
“I just love Joyce’s work, her beautiful flowers,” said Easton Arts Council member Geri Gould. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this show since it was cancelled last year. I was looking forward to it then, and now finally I’m here and loving it.”
Danbury resident and retired Wilton public schools music teacher John Rhodes said he and his wife “found the show spectacular. What she sees as an artist is mind-blowing. We just loved it.”
Although this exhibit is the culmination of a lifetime of artistic work, Pedersen has no plans to slow down, because she continues to enjoy learning new things through the creative process. “The more I know about art, the more I realize how little I know!,” she said.
Pedersen advises young and aspiring artists to avoid getting discouraged or giving up on what you love doing when faced with rejection or external criticisms, which are inevitable for any artist. “If you submit your picture to an art show and it gets rejected, that same painting might get accepted for a different show later,” Pedersen said. “It all depends on the judges, and it often comes down to one person making the decision. The important thing is to keep going.”
Her supportive spirit and positive outlook explains why so many in attendance voiced their respect and admiration not only for Joyce Pedersen the artist, but for Joyce Pedersen the person. “Truly, Joyce Pedersen is an inspiration to me,” Changnon said. “It’s inspiring to see someone doing what they love and living the life that they love.”
The solo exhibit A Lifetime of Painting: Watercolors by Joyce Pedersen is on display at the Easton Public Library through June 30.