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Newtown Artist Helps Complete 'Missing Links'



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Newtown resident Andrea Zimmermann is one of 12 artists from Connecticut and New York featured in the “Missing Links” exhibit at The Gallery at the Institute Library, in New Haven.

Curated by Catherine Vanaria, who with husband Mark Savoia owns Connecticut Photographers in Danbury, the show opened Saturday, October 18 and will run through Saturday, November 29.

Using photographs from an early 19th Century photo album Ms Vanaria found at a flea market, the writers and artists involved in the show were asked to respond to selected photographs, with no restrictions as to how they might do so.

“I think Cathy felt it was such a shame. Who did the album belong to? Who were these people and where did it come from?” said Ms Zimmermann, reflecting on why Ms Vanaria felt compelled to own the cast off photo album.

Having known Ms Vanaria for nearly 20 years, when the call went out last year for artists to participate in an art show built around that photo album, Ms Zimmermann responded.

“I didn’t really know what it was going to be about. But I was ‘in’ — not sure even what I was ‘in’ for. I knew that anything Cathy put together, though, would be very professional. It is absolutely thrilling [to be part of this show],” she said.

It is usually through the written word that she finds expression. Ms Zimmermann has authored and edited numerous historical books and documents, published a mystery novel, is a contributor to various collections, and is a former reporter for The Newtown Bee. She is currently working on a history of the Danbury Fair, and a mystery novel. Although she has exhibited paintings and photography at Koenig’s FrameWorks in Newtown, this is the first curated show in which Ms Zimmermann has exhibited artwork.

Drawing on her expertise as a writer, as well as an artistic sensibility gleaned from her artist/writer mother and a father in the advertising business, Ms Zimmermann’s contributions to the show are a melding of these two talents. With all of the interpretations, she said, the concepts came quickly, but the actual rendering of the pieces took a great deal of time.

She began interpreting three photographs from the numerous photographs Ms Vanaria posted online, in January, using language as spare as the photographs themselves.

The first photograph she has interpreted is a faded, double exposed picture of two women — who appear twice, in different dress — with a grand old house and formal gardens in the background.

“I found the photo haunting and there was a really sad story in that photograph,” she said. It resulted in the poem “Mother, She Did,” a pondering of one woman’s longing for a child, finally answered, and the loss that inevitably follows between parent and child. The garden in the photograph, she said, “is the thread to the references [to flowers] in the poem.”

In the second photo she selected, two men sit on the deck of a ship. Dressed in topcoats and fedoras of the era, they are clearly travelers. What intrigued Ms Zimmermann is that while one man looks directly into the camera, the other’s eyes are averted. Who is taking the picture she wondered? Why does one man not look at the camera?

“And the story, ‘Milo’s Meddling,’ unfolded,” she said. It is a brief piece of prose, rhythmic, and with the kind of surprise ending that mystery writers and readers, such as herself, enjoy.

“I found it amusing,” said Ms Zimmermann, “the number of women who have told me they love this story.”

Her third piece takes her writing into a more visually creative zone. A smiling woman holds onto the collar of a dog that is obviously intensely focused on something beyond the photographer in the picture that inspired “Robespierre Unleashed.”

“I wanted to do a linoleum block cut of the dog, then decided to stick with words. That seemed to be my theme and specialty,” Ms Zimmermann said. Even before the story line was solid, she knew she wanted an image to pop from the text. So, she highlighted individual letters, from which emerges the image of the dog.

“The text for this piece was one shot,” she said, “because the words had to fit the image.” It was a challenge for a writer who is not shy about revising, but contributed to the fun of this piece.

The final copy is exhibited rolling out from an antique manual typewriter, the original photograph posed nearby.

She is grateful to Ms Vanaria and Mr Savoia, who did the layout, printing, and mounting of the pieces in the show.

“As a writer, participating in a show like this is such an opportunity to witness people giving incredible attention to something I have written. That’s not something writers usually experience,” she pointed out, “and it’s been extraordinary.”

Visitors to “Missing Links” will find some works to be playful, and some works to be quite poignant, said Ms Zimmermann. Through the use of various types of media — from photography and sculpture to music — the interpretations bear the unique signatures of the creators. All, however, are unified by the album that inspired each work.

“It’s all imaginary, of course,” writes Ms Zimmermann in her Artist’s Statement. “But don’t tell the people in the photographs.”

Ms Zimmermann’s work joins pieces created by Chris Durante of Redding, Jim Felice of Danbury, Gene Gort of West Hartford, Brigid Guertin of Danbury, Lys Guillorn of Shelton, Diane Zaleta Hassan of Danbury, Stacey Kolbig of New Fairfield, Victor Pasquale of Mount Kisco, N.Y., Lori Robeau of Torrington, Elyse Shapiro of Norwalk, and curator Catherine Vanaria.

The Gallery at the Institute Library is located at 847 Chapel Street, New Haven. The Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm. 

This double exposure was the inspiration for Ms Zimmermann’s poem “Mother, She Did.”
Newtown resident Andrea Zimmermann is one of 12 area artists participating in the “Missing Links” exhibit in New Haven, through November.
Why one man averts his eyes is the intrigue behind Ms Zimmermann's prose based on this old photograph. It is one of three interpretive pieces Ms Zimmermann is showing in a group exhibition at The Gallery at the Institute Library, New Haven.
Using the written word to create an image, Newtown writer and artist Andrea Zimmermann interprets a photograph from an early 20th century photo album in this piece, "Robespierre Unleashed." 
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