How Hill area artists adapt to closures during pandemic

Posted 6/5/20

“I didn’t start painting and drawing until I was 45 and took a pastel class,” said Corinne Dieterle, of Whitemarsh. by Stacia Friedman Lara Cantu-Hertzler, 34, is the definition of a …

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How Hill area artists adapt to closures during pandemic

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“I didn’t start painting and drawing until I was 45 and took a pastel class,” said Corinne Dieterle, of Whitemarsh.

by Stacia Friedman

Lara Cantu-Hertzler, 34, is the definition of a “working artist.” She was one of the helpful employees at Artists and Craftsman in Chestnut Hill until last November, when her busy teaching schedule necessitated a departure.

“The first week of the pandemic was a little disorienting because I was still teaching at Fleisher, Main Line Art Center and Wayne Art Center,” she said. Then the world stopped, and so did her classes. “When I start teaching at Fleisher again in June, my classes will be online.”

When not teaching, Cantu-Hertzler is painting in her Germantown studio, a former firehouse. “I just got a new commission, and this is giving me a purpose,” she said. “It’s an encaustic architecture scene. I mix melted bees wax and resin with pigment. It is a little dangerous, but encaustic gives a more sculptural feel.”

Cantu-Hertzler paints big, bold and bright. Her architectural and figurative paintings seem to explode upon the canvas. Since graduating from PAFA in 2008, she has built an impressive resume of solo shows, awards and commissions. Her work has been exhibited at the Rittenhouse Square, Manayunk and Chestnut Hill Art Festivals, as well as Rosenfeld Gallery, Woodmere Art Museum, Allens Lane Art Center and Le Bus East Falls.

Cantu-Hertzler’s architectural paintings reflect the Northwest’s older style houses. “I like buildings that are starting to deteriorate but have Victorian detail and structure,” she said.  She even ventures into North Philly for inspiration. Her influences include Monet, Van Gogh, Joan Mitchell, Richard Diebenkorn and Frances Bacon.

Having a painting in the annual Woodmere Museum juried show is no small feat for any artist. But what do you do if you are accepted and the show is delayed for a year due to the pandemic? If you are Corinne Dieterle, 67, of Whitemarsh, you keep on painting.

“I didn’t start painting and drawing until I was 45 and took a pastel class at Main Line Art Center,” said Dieterle. Before that, she had been a weaver for 25 years, spinning and dying her own yarn, a craft she learned in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Dieterle credits her progress to former teachers Valarie Craig, Stefanie Lieberman and Georganna Lensen with whom she studied at the Woodmere, Wayne Art Center and Yellow Springs.

Dieterle’s paintings are deceptively unsophisticated, belying a complex thought process, resulting in images that are compelling in their naturalism. One such painting is “Spider and His Peaceable Kingdom,” which gives a nod to Edward Hicks’ famous 1834 “Peaceable Kingdom.” The subject, Spider, is a homeless man standing against a row of blossoming cherry trees. There is a red fox, seemingly as tame as a collie, by the man’s feet. The mood is serene.

A Jersey girl, Dieterle came to Philadelphia in 1974, lived in Powelton Village and later settled in Whitemarsh. When she was a young mother, she worked at Miquon’s after-school program and later became the school cook. More recently, Dieterle served as the executive director of Whitemarsh Community Art Center.

If you are looking for tile artist Karen Singer, 65, head over to Awbury Arboretum. “I go there to sculpt en pleine air,” said Singer. “I really love Awbury. It is one of Germantown’s hidden treasures.” It is also the only local arboretum open to the public during the pandemic.

“Making art is one of the best things you can do at this time, and it’s even better if you do it outdoors.” Singer previously taught tile making classes at Awbury and exhibited her work there. “I have a lot more time now, and I’m taking advantage to be outside to develop my work.”

When not drawing inspiration from nature, Singer is in the tile studio she established in Germantown in 1991. Her usual source of revenue, creating tiles to honor donors of nonprofit institutions, has slowed down due to the pandemic. “I have a few ongoing commissions for a retirement community, a synagogue and a hospital, but much of my work is on hold or delayed.”

However, the pandemic has not slowed down interest in Singer’s decorative six-inch tiles, available on Etsy and at her studio. Her series of classic cars appeals to men, and her birth flower tiles are popular for baby showers, birthdays and anniversaries. “May’s birth flower is Lily of the Valley which symbolizes humility, sweetness and happiness. I get amazing responses on Facebook.  People get real pleasure out of seeing art. It spreads positive energy.”

When Singer goes to her studio, her husband, furniture designer Peter Handler heads to his studio in Manayunk. “All of his craft shows have been cancelled, but he has a major commission,” said Singer who views their separate studios as a positive factor in their marriage, now more than ever. I believe art is important in this time. You are making something personal. It’s a wonderful way to figure out what truly matters to us.”

For more information, visit karensinger.com, corinnedieterle and/or laracantuh.com

arts, coronavirus

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