I’ve lived in Westport all my life. Yet I’ve never heard this story.
For more than 50 years, a grand Victorian house at 46 Wright Street was home to artist Gabrielle Dearborn and her husband Hamilton. There she painted and drew, often using her property— a large field fringed by woods — as her subject.
The lush English garden she created in back of her house figured in much of her art. Having raised 2 children and an assortment of exotic pets — a monkey and raccoon and parrots, along with turtles, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs — she focused in her last decade on the changing panorama of her garden. She composed, drew plans, and prepared for each year’s plantings with as much thought and study as she put into any of her paintings.
But in her half-century of work she also roamed Westport and area towns, sketching parking lots and church yards, beaches, parks, playgrounds, town halls, even just the shoulders of roads whose landscapes or architecture caught her eye.
Dearborn was widowed in 1977. She remained energetic, independent and self-sufficient, continuing to sketch until her death in 2010. She was just shy of 94.
From tomorrow (Friday, June 28) and running through September 25, the Westport Library will feature almost 100 pieces of her work. On Friday (July 12, 6:30-8 p.m.), an opening reception is planned.
Her son, Jo Dearborn, and daughter-in-law, Karen Gersch, served as curators for this exhibit (called” Watching Westport”). They retrieved and archived the vast body of her lifetime’s work, selecting pieces for this show.
It was not easy. Dearborn was far more interested in creating art than preserving it. Five decades of prints and drawings were crammed into 6-foot shelving units, and crammed into scattered notebooks. Stacks of canvases were tucked in closets. Catalogs and magazines had to be shaken to release loose pieces of art .
The library says the volume of work she accomplished could fill 20 exhibits.
They’ve only got 1. But it sounds like a great one.