Days before her 90th birthday,
Antoinette Martignoni sat in a chair a few feet from the door of the Visions
Toward Wellness Gallery on Thimble Island Road in Stony Creek, a sleepy
waterside community with its touch of artistic flair in Branford.
Martignoni, who lives in the
Sullivan-McKinney Elder Housing on Meadowbrook Road, was greeting scores of
friends and family members at her two-week art show, "The Intuitive Art
of Antoinette," in early December. The gallery was packed with the
artist's exuberant patrons, many of who have sat for one of her "Inner
Portraits," which blend her artistic and spiritual sensibilities.
Her purpose in painting inner
portraits is to "empower the individual to use their own qualities,"
said the artist during an interview in her home days before the show's
opening. "It's not about making it up. All I have done is dream for these
Martignoni explained her painting
process. She said she sits quietly with her subject for a few minutes to
visualize the story about the person. After about an hour of drawing, the
artist and her subject look at the images the real nature and the inner beauty
and explore their meanings. This discussion is taped and the subject is given
a copy of it along
with the portrait.
"I believe if you can see your
real beauty when you own your own beauty that shifts the way you are out in
the world and the way that people see you."
She paints the inner beauty that she
senses from the people who pose for their portrait, which in essence is the
way the individual is seen in the world.
"The inner portrait is a
story," Martignoni said. "It gives people a chance to look at their
own story. People bring the most amazing information to their portrait."
"Amazement" is an appropriate word from the people who sat for their
portraits. David Busby of West Hartford was amazed that in his portrait
Martignoni had drawn in the background what appeared to be boat docks, which
he said, looked exactly like those behind his house in Norwalk where he had
Busby met Martignoni through his
friend, Gail Bernson, a Norwalk-based massage therapist. He described
Martignoni as "truly insightful, a person who lights up a room. Looking
at his portrait at the show, Busby pointed out the way Martignoni had painted
the light on his face that looked as if it were the number 17. "I was
born on the 17th."
Busby said viewing his "inner
portrait" made him aware of the choices he has to make that are available
to us if we only look for them.
As part of the process in
interpreting the portraits, the artist has the individual look at the portrait
from all perspectives. Bernson noted that when she turned her portrait she
noticed that an image in the painting looked like a buffalo, a sign for
Bernson that dealt with a decision she was agonizing over with: whether or not
to make a trip out west.
She interpreted Martignoni's portrait
of her holding "the earth as representing a "synergy of energy
empowering her. I am so tall. I seem centered and grounded."
Filmmaker Jim Cooksman of Milford
said in his portrait, he looks "carefree, relaxed and open. I lose sight
of that part of myself in my everyday life."
Fairfield resident Liz Flavin, a
motivational speaker and founder of the Gratitude Etc. Jewelry Collection, met
Martignoni and had her portrait painted. "The portrait is incredible. I
saw power and strength. My voice had been silenced for so long," said
Flavin, who had rebuilt her life after a difficult marriage. She explained
that her portrait showed her holding a dragon, "which for me was
Notre Dame Catholic High School
senior Salvatore Sodaro, 17, was among the scores of friends and portrait
subjects attending the show. He had a different perspective on Martignoni.
She's his great-grandmother whom he calls "Mimi."
"I always grew up with her
pictures. It's part of my history," said Sodaro, recalling 10 years ago
how his Mimi would catch baseballs with him in the back yard. "She was
better than I was," said the high school senior who loves to write, play
music and make videos. His grandmother's creative life is "completely
normal" to him.
Jon Moscartolo sat observing the
throng of people that had come into his gallery for Martignoni's show. He
recently opened his gallery to underscore the healing powers of art. A
volunteer at hospice and at the veterans' hospital in West Haven, Moscartolo
recently earned his doctorate in art education at Columbia.
"I was on the 20-year
plan," said the gallery owner who formerly owned one in South Yarmouth.
He spoke enthusiastically of Martignoni's portraits' representing the power of
Martignoni grew up in Norwalk and
graduated from Norwalk High School. She is the first student to receive the
degree of Bachelor of Applied Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in
1942. In addition, she received a diploma in illustration from the Museum
School of Industrial Art, now the Philadelphia College of Art. She has enjoyed
a 50-year career in commercial illustration. She was noted for her
illustrations of futuristic engineering projects such as the Boston tunnel
(the Big Dig) and the nation's first people mover at West Virginia University.
In 1965, Martignoni attended a sťance
in Shelton in which she came in contact with the spirits that lay the
groundwork for her eventually painting inner portraits through her intuition.
When she sits down to do a portrait she asks of herself what the person needs
to see that is in their life right at that moment to inspire them to see the
beauty and resources already in their life. Within minutes, she intuitively
gets a picture in her mind that becomes the finished portrait.
Her interest in painting inner
portraits began when a friend asked her to be the artist at a psychic fair in
Pennsylvania in 1992 and drew 20 portraits for fair attendees. The experience
inspired her to continue painting the portraits that underscore the point that
"You Are Seen." To date, she has painted more than 700 portraits, in
which Martignoni believes she draws her inspiration from her "guardian
angels" or some spiritual force.
She has written a book, "You Are
Seen: Drawing In Spirit," co-authored with Vanessa Wood and Lisa Jacoby,
covering the impact of art on life in ways that people might recognize, yet
find surprising. The book offers art, life stories and examples of
transitional challenges. The authors are seeking a publisher for the book.
Martignoni's success with her inner
portraits does not surprise her because she has spent her entire adult life
observing the world. She recalled the many years she would carry a sketch book
and observe life.
"I was training the eye and I
didn't know I was training the inner eye," she said.