Who are the artists of Open Studio Hartford? You'll have two weekends to meet them

Open Studio Hartford, an annual extravaganza that lets local artists showcase their work and allows art lovers to buy one-of-a-kind creations, is expanding this year from one weekend to two — from Nov. 3 and 4 and Nov. 10 and 11 — in studios and venues all over the city.

Cynthia Bulaong, Open Studio Hartford coordinator and executive director, says that expanding the event was essential.

“People were constantly requesting us to expand since there wasn't enough time to see everything. We are hoping that visitors have more time to relax, spend the time seeing the things they want to, and still get around to see and discover the rest,” Bulaong says.

“There’s no doubt that visiting more than 20 venues featuring nearly 400 artists is too much for one weekend.”

The first weekend is dedicated to venues in the northern part of the city. The second week takes place in the southern part of the city. Admission is free to all venues. The annual Ekphrasis and after-party event follows on Nov. 17, at which writers, musicians and dancers create works inspired by pieces in the group are shown at ArtSpace. Also happening the second weekend is the Holiday Arts & Fine Crafts show at the Connecticut Convention Center, which is $8 with an Open Studio program.

A look at some of the Open Studio Hartford artists:

Natasha Sazonova

Wethersfield artist Natasha Sazonova, a native of Ukraine, emigrated to the United States at 16 and studied art at UConn. She makes a living painting family trees, with family members sitting in branches or in the shade. When making art for herself, she does portraits, self-portraits, abstracted landscapes and 1920s scenes, using paint and collage.

But Sazonova’s greatest interest is Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

“Growing up, I went to museums but there were not many books about female artists, and the female artists I saw didn’t portray real emotions. To see someone honestly portraying her emotions, discussing her misery, made me love her.”

Sazonova has combined her professional and personal life by creating a Kahlo family tree, inspired by Kahlo’s 1936 oil “My Grandparents, My Parents, and I.” The painting both pays homage to Kahlo and shows customers how she paints her family trees. It can be seen, along with other works by Sazonova, at Colt Gateway on the first weekend.

Sarah Rose Nunes

Hartford resident Sarah Rose Nunes is becoming known around the city for her music, playing piano and singing jazz and bossa nova in English and Portuguese in venues including her regular gig at Spectra Wired Café. She also makes aroma jewelry, which she will sell in the Colt building during the the first weekend.

Nunes, 25, found some tiny corked bottles – about 1 inch tall and ¾ inches wide – in a shop. They got her creative juices flowing.

‘“I thought that would make a perfect thing to make a necklace out of,” says Nunes, who wraps silver or gold-plated copper wire around the bottles and fills them with essential oils.

“You can smell the oils even if you don’t remove the cork. The cork acts as a diffuser,” she says.

She offers about 20 scents, including lemongrass, sage, sandalwood, jasmine and pine, as well as blends such as “thieve’s oil,” made of rosemary, eucalyptus, clove and cinnamon.

“You don’t even have to wear it. You can hang it over your bed, hang it in your car. Each scent has specific properties that have therapeutic outcomes.”

Louisa Barton-Duguay

Hartford artist Louisa Barton-Duguay paints floral scenes or inspirational phrases on furniture made by Fresh Start Pallet Products. But a team of people make the products before Barton-Duguay paints.

Fresh Start was founded four years ago by Grace Lutheran Church to provide employment to people with barriers to traditional jobs: recovering substance abusers, felons, refugees who don’t speak English. The Fresh Start employees repurpose wooden pallets and other reclaimed wood into benches, chairs, tables, trellises and other items. Most team members work 32 hours a week for about $15 an hour.

“The furniture is really a by-product of the job training they’re getting, and the living wage,” she says.

Barton-Duguay doesn’t paint all the products, leaving some for customizing. Fresh Start sells kindling, too.

“People take a long time to decide if they want a piece of furniture. If we sell kindling, you can buy something now to help the project,” she says.

Barton-Duguay will be at Colt on the first weekend and at the Fresh Start location, 20-28 Sergeant St., on the second weekend.

Amanda Rodriguez

New Britain artist Amanda Rodriguez makes still lifes, portraits of her friend and self-portraits, usually in watercolor.

One of her self-portraits is called “A&D,” which stands for anxiety and depression, something that Rodriguez has lived with all her life.

“A&D” shows her reflected in a mirror, buried under a quilt except for her hand, which holds a glowing smartphone.

“Depression and anxiety take a lot out of you. It’s super difficult sometimes to get through the day. Sometimes I just want to isolate myself. I wanted to show a feeling of loneliness.”

But the 25-year-old can be lighthearted about herself, too. She calls her art Instagram feed madnessinthemorning.

“I’m not a morning person,” she says.

Rodriguez studied illustration at Paier College of Art in Hamden. In addition to her other work, she is in the early stages of developing a manga-style comic book. She will be in the Colt building on the first weekend and Oak Hill the second.

Eyemn Kogneeto

Bristol artist Greg Carlson also uses a lighthearted moniker, Eyemn Kogneeto (pronounced “I am incognito.”)

“I had a stroke in 2010. As far as I’m concerned I dropped dead that day and Eyemn Kogneeto was born,” says the self-taught artist. “Most artists, nobody will ever know who they are.”

Carlson, who until his stroke was a drummer in a series of rock bands, now creates surrealist paintings in which fantastical creatures exist in illogical landscapes, morphing with inanimate objects and engaging in impossible behaviors. Some imagery is symbolic. Some isn’t. He won’t tell which.

“I think confusing people is the goal of art. I like to get into their unconscious, open doors in their mind, where you can see into the future.”

At Open Studio, he will show one work in the ArtSpace gallery exhibit on the second weekend, and at the Ekphrasis event and after-party. The work is called “The First Comparison of Apples to Oranges.”

And what is comparing them? He won’t say.

Candace Nystrom

New Britain artist Candace Nystrom of New Britain uses art to deal with life’s difficulties. She works at the Hospital of Central Connecticut as a crisis nurse technician, helping traumatized people dealing with urgent health, mental-health and substance-abuse concerns.

She has great sympathy for her patients, in part because she also has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, but she needed something to take her mind off it.

“I thought, I gotta do something different than dealing with crises.”

So she took up painting. She works in acrylics, encaustic and in alcohol ink, which she favors because of its bright hues, fast drying and lively nature.

“It has a mind of its own. It’s hard to control.”

She uses canned air to send the ink in the direction she wants it to go, creating abstracted landscapes, florals and other vividly colored images. Nystrom often gives paintings to her patients to raise their spirits.

“I’ve given more away than I’ve sold.” She hopes to sell a few at ArtSpace on the second weekend.

Maurice Robertson

Hartford artist Maurice Robertson has photographed jazz performers in the city and DJed a jazz program on WWUH for decades. He also shoots sunsets, moonrises, “instrumental still lifes” and botanicals, “the sort of things that sustain us and keep our spirits up.”

He wanders Elizabeth Park, shooting what greenery takes his fancy. In the printing process, often he enhances the colors and sometimes he lets them be.

“I see so many patterns in nature. You can edit and isolate the properties differently. But there’s already so much abstraction that occurs naturally that sometimes I gotta ask, do I need to do more to this?”

Every year Robertson opens his 69 Myrtle St. studio for Open Studio Hartford. He will be there the second weekend. Unlike other venues, Robertson will be alone.

“I find that relaxing. You can stay, have a cup of tea, listen to some music, chat.”

Vibeke Dressler

West Hartford artist Vibeke Dressler, who grew up in Denmark, had a “sneaking suspicion” her father was a frustrated artist.

“I came home from school and he had painted the hallway purple.” Her grandmother had an attic full of magazines. That is where her own artistic dreams grew.

“All the images were readily available and could be recombined into a whole new context,” Dressler says. Years later, Dressler learned collage at West Hartford Art League.

“It’s peaceful, almost meditative. And it’s fun looking for pictures. Part of the fun is the hunt.”

Dressler’s pieces often have a large central image of a person — Salvador Dali, Soren Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Anderson, magazine models, classical artworks or mythological figures — surrounded by complementary figurative or abstract images.

Many are serious or symbolic, but she has fun too, as in the piece that shows a naked woman lying on a Pepperidge Farm cookie and being buried in chocolate. She will be at 56 Arbor St. on the first weekend.

WEEKEND ONE OPEN STUDIO HARTFORD is Nov. 3 and 4 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 30 Arbor St.; Arbor Arts Center, 56 Arbor St.; Aquastone, 1477 Park St.; The Dirt Salon, 50 Bartholomew Ave.; Knox, Inc., 75 Laurel St.; Kempczynski Studio, 30 Washington St.; Amos Bull and Butler McCook House, 59 South Prospect St.; Colt Gateway, 34 Sequassen St.; Collective Chill, 777 Main St.; and the Shops at 485 New Park Ave. in West Hartford.

WEEKEND TWO OPEN STUDIO HARTFORD is Nov. 10 and 11 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Oak Hill, 120 Holcombe St.; Healy Studio, 57 Sherman St.; Connecticut Historical Society, One Elizabeth St.; Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, 40 Woodland St.; Maurice Robertson, 69 Myrtle St., Suite C2; ArtSpace Hartford, 555 Asylum St.; Union Station, One Union Place; Pratt Street Studio including Hartford Prints!; Naturally Cats and Dogs, 10 Trumbull St.; Holiday Art and Fine Craft Show at Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd.; Fresh Start Pallet Products, 20-28 Sargeant St.; Fuller Brush Building “No Walls” at 3580 Main St.; and Windsor Art Center, 35 Central St. in Windsor.

Free parking is available most venues, and there will also be free shuttles. You’ll find a map of the venues, and a list of all the artists, at openstudiohartford.com

EKPHRASIS: POETRY, MUSIC AND DANCE INSPIRED BY VISUAL ART is on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m., followed by an after-party from 5 to 8 p.m., at ArtSpace, 555 Asylum St.

THE HOLIDAY ART & FINE CRAFTS SHOW is Nov. 10 and 11 at the Connecticut Convention Center. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $8, $4 with an Open Studio Hartford program.

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