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October 25, 2011  | 

Pensive pups, a gregarious goat, festive feline and a couple of beguiling birds are dressed to the nines, ready for a night on the town and their debut in CREATURAL. This whimsical new show in Newtown, Connecticut, features the creative talents of award-winning painter, Tarol Samuelson and renowned illustrator, Carol Rizzo. This charming and eccentric exhibition of delightful creatures, which opens on November 5, 2011 and runs through December 3, 2011, will surely appeal to animal and contemporary art lovers alike.  Join bow-tied Gravitas, pinstriped Fowl and all of their furry and feathered friends for a very unique art experience.

Ahead of the CREATURAL opening, New Focus On has the distinct pleasure of conversing with Tarol Samuelson about her exciting new show, her undying passion for art and the emerging local art scene.

JM: How did you come up with the idea to personify animals?

TS: Actually, this idea of humanizing animals and keeping with their integrity was something I had been considering for some time. The owners of Your Healthy Pet (a high standard nutrition and animal adoption company in Newtown, CT) have this incredible gallery space adjacent to their business – the perfect location for an exhibition. Being a painter and also a customer and friend of theirs, they had asked if I would consider having a show. It is such a unique opportunity and what better theme than animals, of course. I feel gratified with my results.

JM: Your animals are particularly expressive and friendly. Would you say you feel an emotional connection to animals and the natural world?

TS: Absolutely! I start my days aware of animal totems around me, trusting in the Native American spirituality that they hold a sacred and symbolic significance. Just this morning an orange and black-striped caterpillar crossed my path, which represents a transitional period, preparation for upcoming change and transformation.

I work for a publishing company that encourages employees to bring in their dogs; at one point, we had about eight different breeds frolicking about. It’s such a beautiful way to work. I am a pet owner of two amazing cats, Spike and Beauty, aka Puppy. I can’t image life without animals, can you?

JM: How did you connect with Illustrator Carol Rizzo for this show?

TS: I am glad you asked that question, because I love how I initiated that to come about. This past spring, while shopping in Kent, CT, I saw in all the shops, Chronogram, a Mid-Hudson magazine of events and ideas. On the cover was this funky man-rabbit, illustrated by Carol Rizzo. Once home I emailed Carol to say her illustration made my day. Carol and I corresponded for just a short time, but we had become kindred spirits. That is when I knew we should undertake a show together.

JM: Was this show a collaborative effort or did you and Carol work independently?

TS: I had just started painting for CREATURAL when I initially saw Carol’s illustration on the Chronogram cover. Carol was primarily set with a full body of work before I appeared. I knew in my mind’s eye what the show was going to look like, and after seeing Carol’s work I knew a show together would be truly special. We both have very different styles; we use different mediums. However, both bodies of work are eccentric and whimsical.

JM: How did you discover your creative talent? Tell me about your artistic history.

TS: I have always known that I AM an artist. As far back as I can remember I was creating something from anything. As a child I remember picking berries from a plant that grew in our yard to make color to dye my dolls’ hair. Winning a design contest in high school for the cover of the yearbook marked the start of my understanding of what I was certainly able to accomplish. I began to seriously paint in 1981. I sold my first piece a few years later. I was approached by a local gallery owner in 1995, offering me my debut showing - it was magic. I grew to love entering into selective group and solo exhibitions. CREATURAL will be my 8th solo exhibit.

JM: The creation of art is such a bold, emotional expression of one's personality, mind and soul. Why do you feel compelled to paint? What do you hope to convey through your art?

TS: I paint because I need to. Up until recently, I have been painting without borders: no direct target, no theme, or consistency - although the quality and technique was evident. CREATURAL is different; it is all about animals and whimsy. My work definitely expresses who I am and conveys my sense of humor.

My next exhibit, which is already brewing in my head, will be without a doubt, the opposite of whimsical. It will be a collaborative of my life’s experiences. A very deep, dark jump for sure. I’m hoping to surprise myself - we will see.

JM: Where and when do you paint?

TS: My studio is a small bedroom on the second floor of my home. I usually have two or more paintings going at the same time, keeping up the momentum. Beginning with conceptual designing on the computer, to grid and penciling the image to the canvas, and giving a wash of base color. Once the prep work is done, the initial painting begins. Most times the painting has a mind of its own, and I just go with it. When preparing for a show I will paint practically every day, and it is usually oils, mixed media. It’s experimentally fun.

JM: There seems to be an emerging indie art scene in the Housatonic Valley area of Connecticut and New York. How do you feel about this community? Is it helpful to have other artists and craftspeople in the area?

TS: I am a member of HVCA, Housatonic Valley Cultural Alliance, and take advantage of what they have to offer (exhibitions and classes). Up until recently, I have kept myself somewhat sheltered. Just last month I decided to branch out and enter an exhibit with RGOA, Ridgefield Guild of Artist.

There is a wonderful energy being involved with a community that appreciates and supports artist. Once you allow them to get to know your art and who you are, they become like family.

For more information:
Tarol Samuelson

Carol Rizzo