SOMERS, N.Y. - A piece of masking tape holds a blue jay feather to a slab of burled wood in a still life oil painting on display at Muscoot Farm in Somers. It is one of the first pieces sold from the exhibit, up throughout September, featuring painters Dorothy Lorenze and Leslie Carone.
The masking tape in Lorenze’s painting, “Jay Burl,” was intended to fool the eye with its realistic, three dimensional detail. Lorenze, 65, of Granite Springs, called it a “fun element” to make viewers stop and say, “Wait a minute, what am I looking at?” One friend even asked if it was real masking tape. But, the buyer saw something else entirely.
Grieving her grandmother’s recent death, the young woman had asked for a sign, wishing her grandmother would show up as a blue jay to let her know she is still close by. Soon after, she told Lorenze, a blue jay showed up in front of her car late at night and wouldn’t move as she was trying to leave a parking lot.
“And when she walked in the room [at Muscoot Farm] and saw that feather she felt compelled to buy it,” Lorenze said. “You don’t know that’s going to happen when you’re painting something…where people have made such an intensely personal connection.”
Making a connection is always the ultimate goal for Lorenze, who has worked in oil paints and still life since 2009 and, before that, had a 20-year career in graphic design.
“Obviously when you’re painting, composition is important,” the award-winning artist said. “It can take me hours to set up a still life, trying to decide how objects should relate and where the light goes, and the stories it’s trying to tell.”
In this exhibit, Lorenze has more than 40 paintings and Carone, of South Salem, has more than 30, many of which relate directly to Muscoot Farm, which dates back to 1880 when it was a dairy farm. Today, the 777-acre site is owned and operated by Westchester County and offers year-round programs, including monthly art exhibits in the main house.
“I do a lot of vintage paintings, a lot of historic objects and places,” Lorenze said.
Her paintings include an interior of the farm’s milk house and some of the farm animals, including the notable Muscoot Farm rooster, DB.
“It was pretty funny. You’d be in the dairy barn and there’s this rooster lording over the cows on the top beams looking down on everybody,” she said. “So, I captured that and I love it.”
“She’s very much a craftsman in the sense that she has great skill in making something look real,” Carone said of Lorenze. “My paintings are often from life. I do all kinds of subject matter, like portraits or still life. But for this show I only put in landscapes… so we complement each other in this way.”
After 35 years teaching art in the Bedford Central School District, Carone retired and now is pursuing her own artwork.
“And Dorothy really gave me a push because she wanted to have another person help her fill the space at Muscoot… and I’ve been painting like crazy for the past few months,” she said.
This is Lorenze’s second exhibit at Muscoot. But, she remembers decades earlier taking the youngest of her four daughters, Tessa, to the farm’s Young Farmers Program one summer when she was 9. Tessa, 35, got to learn about and care for the animals on the farm.
“And now Tessa is bringing her daughter to see my artwork and to see the critters,” she said. “It’s kind of a nice circle of life, I think. I think it’s important to pay attention to that connectivity.”
While raising her children, Lorenze’s creative side came out with homemade Halloween costumes, fundraisers and PTA events. She also, on occasion, created designs and patterns on furnishings meant to fool the eye by creating the illusion of a three-dimensional object—a style called Trompe l’oeil. For example, she transformed wooden boxes into treasure chests by painting pearls spilling out in an apparent three dimensional manner.
“It was really training for the representational painting that I’m doing now and, at the time, I didn’t even know I was training myself,” she said. “I was just having fun.”
After 20 years in graphic design, the stress of constant deadlines led Lorenze back to her passion.
She studied oil painting at the Art Students League and the New York Academy of Art and with Todd Casey, a Cortlandt Manor resident who teaches classical atelier painting methods.
This summer she had her first painting shown at a museum as part of the International Trompe L’oeil Exhibition featuring contemporary art.
The Muscoot Farm exhibit is free in the main house gallery on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Muscoot Farm is a historic farm and homestead on Route 100 in Somers.