‘Anniversary Show’ Celebrates Major Steps Of A Local Artist Returning To His First Love
One year after a major stroke that nearly killed him, Doug Calderone is celebrating the second exhibition of his art being displayed at C.H. Booth Library. “Doug Calderone: Anniversary Show” is in the library’s John Angel Art Collection Gallery through the end of April.
The self-taught carpenter and Sandy Hook native, 37, had been making a name for himself with his artistic talents well before last year. He attended Concordia University in Bronxville, N.Y., where he was an art major and earned The Christina Holtorf Memorial Award for his achievements in fine arts.
Art became a hobby, and carpentry became his living. He returned to his hometown about ten years ago, working with a business partner and creating furniture from reclaimed materials. He also worked with corporate clients to produce scenes for events and photo shoots.
In 2014 he built an oversize Adirondack chair for a special event in New York City. While driving home with it on top of his vehicle, he was struck by how many people were thrilled with the huge chair.
“At every intersection I was approached by people asking if they could sit in it and/or take a photograph of the chair. After seeing the response on my journey home, I had the idea of using it for a fundraiser,” he told The Newtown Bee in September 2014. The chair raised over $500 when it was raffled for Reach Newtown.
The artist built a second chair the following spring, when it was raffled for The Newtown Memorial Fund. He continued creating art on the side, even being represented in exhibitions with mixed media works in and around Newtown.
By early last year Calderone was living and working in Plainfield. He remembers bits and pieces leading up to the night of his stroke. He’d been treated, even hospitalized a month earlier, for high blood pressure.
He was enjoying an evening out in Plainfield, where he was living and working at the time.
“I was out with a friend, we were playing pool, and then all of a sudden just boom,” he said, indicating falling on the floor.
Paulette Calderone, Doug’s mother, said doctors were still working to balance his medications at the time of the stroke.
“What they didn’t know was he had an aneurysm in the aorta,” she said last week. She still drives her son anywhere he needs to go, although he is working with an Easter Seals program that will help him get his driver’s license again.
“The uncontrolled high blood pressure triggered the aneurysm to burst, and that caused a massive stroke,” she explained.
Spring 2023 was very difficult, mother and son both agree. Calderone was hospitalized, and then in a rehabilitation center until April. He lost any use of his right arm, which had been his dominant side.
“It was really hard,” he said. “I was like ‘I can’t move that. I can’t do this.’”
By May, however, Calderone began doing some gardening. The artistic tools inside him sparked at some point, and he took an art class through Newtown Continuing Education. He feels better mentally, he said, “but I still can’t use this,” he said, pointing to his right arm.
The stroke also left him without speech, but that too is returning. When he thinks of a word but cannot get his brain to connect with his mouth, he is quick to utilize his phone. Calderone types the words onto the small screen and shares that with the person he’s holding a conversation with.
“It’s really weird,” he said of the challenge of not being able to easily enunciate what he says he can clearly see in his mind.
He can, however, use his left arm and hand.
“Everything is different,” he said. “It’s a different way to do things.”
When that realization connected, Calderone began experimenting with paint. By late summer he had a small collection of paintings, very naïve in style but equally encouraging and whimsical for viewers to encounter.
“Doug Calderone — A Different Hand” was presented at Calderone’s hometown library from August until the first week of October. Two dozen paintings offered viewers a look at the new style he was developing. There were also mixed media pieces, collages that combined his acrylic paint with magazine clippings and photos.
Calderone recently returned to wood burning, and has added those works to the current library display which this time offers 40 works. “Doug Calderone: Anniversary Show” can be seen during regular library hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:30 am-8 pm; Friday and Saturday, 9:30 am-5 pm; and Sunday, 12-5 pm.
He also has art on view at Sentimenti, and some art at the Church Hill Road deli Lucia’s Salumeria.
Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.