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A lifetime of experience at Capitol art exhibit

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Loretta Hansen shows off favorite paintings of sunflowers and daisies hanging in her apartment at Atria Covell Gardens. Two of her works of art — "California Redwoods, Muir Woods" and "California Redwoods with Marine Fog" — were chosen for a state Capitol exhibit of art by residents of assisted living facilities across the state. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | September 05, 2013 | Leave Comment

When the Assembly Aging and Longterm Care Committee invited residents of assisted living communities throughout the state to submit artwork for an exhibit at the state Capitol, the response from Atria Covell Gardens may have come as a surprise.

Turns out there are many accomplished artists at the Davis assisted living community.

So many, in fact, that nearly 10 percent of the 91 works of art selected for the exhibit were created by Atria residents.

“They have a whole wall at the exhibit,” noted Michele Macmartin of Atria Senior Living. “With these accomplished artists, they had a lot to submit.”

The show, which runs through Friday, Sept. 13, is in the Eureka Room at the state Capitol and features images and symbols of California through various forms and media.

Covell Gardens resident Astrid Ann Munroe contributed a photo to the exhibit.

“I’ve been taking photos since I was 12,” she said.

A nature enthusiast, her photos have tended to focus on the outdoors, though she’s also shot photos of family members as well.

Munroe said her first camera was a Kodak she received 65 years ago and she’s always preferred the most simple models for her craft, eschewing more modern, complicated cameras. She’s self-taught as well, having never taken any photography classes.

“I have a photographer’s eye,” she said of her success. “Composition is my thing.”

Her photo, “Hikers in Moraga,” now hangs in the Capitol, not far from the artwork submitted by her husband, Tapan Munroe.

The couple, who have been married for 50 years, have spent a lot of time in a lot of different places, something evident in Tapan Munroe’s paintings.

A former chief economist for PG&E who also chaired the economics department at the University of the Pacific, Tapan Munroe is a writer and sought-after speaker for whom painting has been a lifelong hobby.

He has painted landscapes featuring the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii and much of California, including Carmel, San Francisco and Moraga, which the couple once called home.

Two of his paintings, “Lake Tahoe in the Afternoon” and the stunning “Mendocino Coast” are included in the exhibit, which the couple plans to visit soon with their daughter, Leslie Baroody.

And Tapan Munroe, who has written several books on economics, is planning to publish a book of his paintings in the near future as well.

Covell Gardens resident Mary Glasson is a lifelong artist as well, though her craft was more than a hobby.

She studied at the Academy of Art in San Francisco “a hundred years ago,” she said, laughing, and enjoyed a long career with many exhibitions of her work and many pieces sold.

Two of her pieces, “Wetlands, Solano County” and “Marin County,” are featured in the Capitol exhibit.

Unfortunately, time and age have robbed some of these accomplished artists of their ability to pursue their craft. Arthritis, in particular, has proven a cruel thief for residents like Glasson and Winifred Waggoner who relied on their hands to create their art.

Now 97, Waggoner began drawing and painting when she was a young girl.

Portraits, landscapes … “I liked to paint anything,” she said.

She no longer can because of arthritis, but she enjoyed seeing her work, “Carmel-by-the-Sea with Cedar Tree,” hanging in the Capitol on a recent visit.

Loretta Hansen took up painting later in life than her fellow Covell Gardens artists — she began taking classes after retiring from teaching.

“It gave me a whole new perspective,” she said.

“I remember the first time our class went to the redwoods,” Hansen recalled, “and I said, ‘I can’t paint these … they’re too majestic and there is no way I can cram a big tree on to a tiny (canvas).’ So I focused on the trunks.”

“My teacher wasn’t very happy about that,” she laughed.

But the results now hang in the Capitol: “California Redwoods, Muir Woods” and “California Redwoods with Marine Fog.”

And she’s certainly branched out: Hansen’s apartment is filled with her work, featuring still lifes, landscapes and more.

Hanging beside her apartment door is an oil painting of her granddaughter, Robin, as a little girl playing in the garden. Now a senior in high school, Robin is the reason Hansen came to Davis and still serves as inspiration for her art.

Hansen’s favorite work is a painting of sunflowers. The largest one, Hansen said, represents her granddaughter, going out to play. Another sunflower is beside her, turned to her as if whispering in her ear, while a third is behind her, calling to her.

Hanging next to it is a painting of daisies in a field.

She had gone to her art class angry about something that day and when her teacher suggested she paint a vase of daisies, she decided, no, “I want daisies standing out in a field defying everybody.”

And that’s what she produced.

Now living at Covell Gardens, Hansen and the others have the opportunity to work several times a week with art teacher Karena Schmitendorf, who offers everything from drawing and painting to just about anything residents request.

Some uncover hidden gifts they never knew they had.

“We have people who didn’t even know they had a talent until they came here and tried it,” noted Kathryn Green, the engage life director at Atria Covell Gardens.

Now, some of that talent is on display at the state Capitol for all to see.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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