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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Flowers of Spring

Arpik Weitzer's Garden

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It was a long winter and rather than grumble with the rest of us, Arpik Weitzer decided to paint. With "The Artist's Garden," the Milwaukee painter has mounted an exhibition of 25 floral watercolors at DeLind Gallery of Fine Art, 450 E. Mason St. Bright with the colors of spring and summer, her canvases might just be the tonic for those often gloomy, disappointing days of April.

An Armenian from the Black Sea coast, Weitzer grew up in a place of citrus groves and, yes, many flowers. "We always had flowers in our garden," she recalls. And though her relatives discouraged her interest in pursuing art as a career, creative expression was all around her. "Papa always liked to draw but he never went to school for it—he was told it wasn't a real profession," she says. "My grandma was always weaving and sewing and taught those things in school. She was an inspiration for me."

An elaborate network of art schools starting at junior high level flourished during the Soviet period, providing excellent training in the skills of expression. Weitzer was a product of that system, graduating from Moscow's College of Applied Arts in 1991 just as the Soviet Union dissolved. Her brother Artur Kalenjian, also an artist, immigrated to Milwaukee and established a business in custom crafting and building. He encouraged her to follow him and helped find her a temporary job with Milwaukee Public Schools, teaching a class in iconography. While applying for her visa at the U.S. embassy she met her future husband, Joe Weitzer, a West Allis native traveling in Russia. The years since have been spent in the Milwaukee area, where she taught art at UWM, restored the stained glass at St. Josephat Basilica, designed and installed stained glass windows at St. John the Baptist Armenian Orthodox Church and painted a colorful mural of the old country in the church's cultural hall. Naturally, her landscape of Armenia is edged in flowers.

Although the current exhibit at DeLind includes floral watercolors executed over the past decade, Weitzer feels her newer work is best. "The lines are more sharp and the washes are more clear. I'm interested now in how the light hits the petals, how the shadows make their own compositions," she explains.

And why always flowers? "I get great comfort from them," she says. "They make me happy when I'm frustrated or angry. When everything looks gray, I can go to the park, or in the middle of winter go to a book and look at pictures of flowers. They give me peace."

"The Artist's Garden" will be on display at DeLind through April 30.
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