Bill Stromberg, who was among the 18 Charlestown retirement community residents whose works form the "Matters of the Heart" exhibition, hangs a painting in the Fireside Dining Room, where the paintings are on display through March 14.
Bill Stromberg, who was among the 18 Charlestown retirement community residents whose works form the "Matters of the Heart" exhibition, hangs a painting in the Fireside Dining Room, where the paintings are on display through March 14. (Photo by Noah Scialom)

The sixth Fireside Dining Room Exhibition proves that when it comes to matters of the heart, a single interpretation just won't do.

The works of 18 Charlestown residents will hang in the dining room of the retirement community on Maiden Choice Lane until March 14 for residents and visitors to enjoy and purchase.

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While the mediums range from pencil to ink to watercolor, acrylic and oil paints, each work matches the theme "Matters of the Heart" established by the exhibition's curator, Jewell Brenneman, who also displayed an acrylic work.

"Each person, when they paint, pulls something from inside," said Brenneman, 76, in her fourth year as a resident of Charlestown. "Everything that's there was done for a purpose, and a lot of it suggests that the work does come from inside the artist."

Stephanie Weiss, 71, used mixed media to match the theme.

A heart frames the center of Weiss' work, filled with a collage of sayings about love she found primarily in clothing catalogs.

Written on the edge of the heart is the phrase, "May love bring calm to you in this chaotic time in which we live."

"The picture in the center that gave me this idea was a T-shirt that said I love you more," said Weiss, who retired from teaching art after 35 years. "(That's) a statement that my husband (Jerry) says and I repeat back, and so it goes."

While Weiss took a rather literal and personal approach to the theme, others chose to other routes.

Linelle La Bonte, for example, created an 11- by 14-inch pink and black silk screen print called "Madonna of the Universe" featuring faces from different cultures.

"It's Madonna of the Universe. Nobody has more heart than the person who looks inside the spiritual side of himself or herself," La Bonte, 74, said. "It's the entire universe and it's also the mother image."

Displaying art is not foreign to La Bonte, who has permanent collections in Europe and the United States.

Still, she said, it's a thrill to have her work hang alongside those of fellow Charlestown residents, some of whom came later in life to art.

Richard Clarke, 86, for example, retired from a career in aerospace engineering. That's his oil painting of a girl playing violin among the works on display.

When Clarke moved into Charlestown six years ago, he said he brought his paint supplies and would often go to one of the studios to work.

"Art has always been a hobby of mine," he said. "Working with other fellow artists is very inspiring."

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Jo Collins, 77, said she typically paints with a group of residents every Friday, a get-together that provides motivation as well as socialization.

"(Working with them) is fun. It inspires you. It gives you a reason to paint," Collins said. "Just the fact that you know there will be a group on Fridays (helps). It's nice to know there will be others."

All that inspiration led Collins to create a life-like watercolor painting of two chickadees sitting on separate branches facing each other.

Most of the works are for sale for around $50, but the prices can go as high as several hundred dollars.

One artist, Betty Walton, declined to put a price on her oil painting.

Elizabeth Byerly, 78, who priced her oil painting of two children huddled with a puppy at $385, can understand why Walton doesn't want to sell her work.

"A painting becomes part of you," said Byerly, a Maryland Institute College of Art grad. "I sell, but I don't like to sell."

Byerly said she typically doesn't even like showing off her work and only did so because the other artists encouraged her.

Having her work hang next to works by her neighbors made her feel more comfortable, she said.

"This is a great group of people," Byerly said.

In addition to the artists mentioned above, the exhibition featured the works of Marie Brinsfield, Barbara Fahey, Patricia Green, Don Griswold, Irene Hebert, Teresa deKowzan, Marilyn Marx, Bea Miller Medeiros, Barbara Ryan, Bill Stromberg and Phyllis Yingling.

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