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Arts auction goes deep

JAFFREY CHAMBER: Annual arts auction goes live Saturday night at the Shattuck; silent auction runs today through Saturday

Going, going, gone! Each year, the region’s art lovers gather to either make their quiet, hopeful bids at the Monadnock Arts silent auction, or don the black tie and gown, raise their paddles, and bid on a little art produced by the artists of the Monadnock area and beyond.

Today and tomorrow, interested bidders can scope out artwork at the silent auction on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. Final bids have to be in by Saturday at noon. Then Saturday night, the main event: The Monadnock Arts live auction. There is a long list of well-known area artists who have their work on display in both halves of the event.

Kirk Stirnweis of New Ipswich usually features wildlife in his oil paintings — deer, elk or bear, usually — but for his contribution to the Monadnock Arts Auction this year, he dipped into a long-time passion for marine biology to depict the Great White Shark, entitled “I never met a man I didn’t like!” Stirnweis originally went for a degree in marine biology, he said in an interview Tuesday, and has had a SCUBA license since he was 15. But until recently, he had never brought much marine life into his artwork.

Stirnweis works a lot from photographs, he explained, and one day he came across a picture of a great white.

“Most of them look so incredibly intimidating, but this one looked almost smiling and happy. It struck me as an interesting spin on the animal,” said Stirnweis. Great whites have always held a particular fascination for him, said Stirnweis, since most people think of them as mindless eating machines. Recent footage of sharks, however, has suggested they play, have a hierarchy and intelligence.

“I’ve always been fascinated by them in particular. It just seems like there’s more going on there than people have thought. In the painting, there’s a way he’s looking at you, and it seems to reflect that.”

Kirk’s father, Shannon Stirnweis of New Ipswich specializes in Western scenes and landscapes and nature scenes, which have been featured in magazines such as Field and Stream, as well as illustrations for western novel covers. His submission to this year’s auction is also a landscape, he said in an interview Monday, but one of a northern persuasion this time.

Shannon said he tends to drive around looking for inspiration. When a scene catches his eye, he’ll stop to take a picture to work off of. In his submission for the live auction, he decided to take a typical New England landscape and put a little bit of period flair into it, inserting a horse and wagon. The scene is dominated by red and gold, the result of the technique Shannon used while painting it. Instead of building layers of color, he said, he worked to establish a dominant color, wiping white areas with a towel to blend, and then dropping in the rest of the color afterwards.

“It’s a technique that seems to work quite well with landscapes,” said Shannon. The colors are definitely reminiscent of the New Hampshire fall, he added. “That was part of the intent. I’ve lived in a fair number of areas in the country, and New Hampshire, if it’s not the prettiest is one of the prettiest. You get these red, orange and yellows in the fall, punctuated with a lot of dark evergreen colors which make them pop. So this is my tribute tot the New Hampshire landscape.”

Landscapes are a popular feature this year, with local artists such as David Dodge of Peterborough, Joan Tierney of Wilton all submitting various scenes for sale. Tierney said in an interview Tuesday that her landscape — a snowy field featuring a few bare winter trees topped with a view of Mount Monadnock — was inspired by a scene she drives by almost every day. However, the field that inspired her is in Milford, she said. She added Monadnock to balance the painting.

That’s what she likes about landscapes, said Tierney, which is what she paints almost exclusively. “You can do your own interpretation,” she said. “You go outside and paint the landscape in the summer, fall, and spring, and you have everything right in front on you. You can move around and make a good composition.”

This will be Tierney’s sixth year submitting to the auction, she said. “I’ve been painting forever, and it’s almost compulsive,” she said. “I get really antsy, if I don’t paint every day. I guess it’s an addiction but it’s a good one.”

Another popular theme in this year’s auction is still life. Kendra Shea of Jaffrey has two still life portraits in the auction this year — one in the silent auction, and another in the live. With “Salsa,” her live auction piece, Shea painted a tomato, green onion and peppers. The idea was sparked when a regular buyer of Shea’s work asked if she had ever done peppers. She never had, and the next time she was at the grocery market, inspiration struck.

“One day I was at the grocery, and everything was right there in front of me. I brought it home, and set it up and it all fell together,” said Shea.

While Shea works exclusively in still life, it’s always a different challenge painting a new item, she said. With fruit and vegetables, the trick is the texture. “A tomato is shiny and has a translucent skin. A green onion has many more colors than the green and the white. If you just look at them, you don’t really appreciate how involved they are.”

Maryann Mullet of Dublin is also submitting a still life, called “Summer Bouquets,” that was inspired by the fresh flowers on sale at Rosaly’s Farm Stand in Peterborough. While there seeking inspiration, Mullet took some photographs, and decided to turn it into a pastel on sanded paper.

“I work in pastels, and have for the past five or six years,” said Mullet. “It’s an immediate color. It’s pure pigment, and has the least amount of binder, and when you build up the layers the colors seem to glow.”

Pastels are a good medium for floral works, which Mullet does a lot of, she said. “Summer Bouquets,” like many of her works, takes a close view of the subject. “I like looking at segments of things. That’s what those flowers were,” said Mullet. “I blew up one section [of the photograph] and concentrated on that.”

Jessie Pollock of Peterborough also made plant life the feature of her two submissions to the live auction. Pollock works in encaustic, a type of hot wax painting that adds pigments to beeswax. Pollock’s two submissions, “Willow Tree I” and “Willow Tree II” are typical of her work, she said in an interview Monday.

“Living in New Hampshire, I do a lot of trees,” said Pollock. “My theme is generally nature, so I like doing trees a lot. The way I do the trees in encaustic is to carve the them into the wax with a sharp tool, and then I fill the carving with oil paint. They end up looking more like a silhouette of a tree, all branches and very few leaves.”

Pollock said that when she attended art school, she was a sculpture major, but worked in painting for years. When she found encaustic, it seemed the perfect medium to marry the two, she said.

“Encaustic really resonates with the sculptor inside of me,” she said. “It’s a really wonderful combination of sculpture and painting. One of the joys of encaustic is carving into the wax.”

One of the few abstract pieces in the auction was submitted by Soosen Dunholter of Peterborough, who submitted a mixed media piece entitled “Pueblo de Sol.” It was one of several works she did after she walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. This piece is inspired by the bright sun Dunholter saw as she walked from l’auberge, or Spanish hostel, to l’auberge.

“It’s a continuation of using the visual language of cut paper to tell a little snapshot of that journey, which is what a lot of my work is about: Recording my artistic journey along the path,” she said.

The Monadnock Arts silent auction will be held today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Jaffrey Civic Center. Final bids must be placed by noon on Saturday. The live auction will be held Saturday at Shattuck Golf Club. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for champagne and hors d’ouevres and reviewing the works for sale. Bidding begins at 7:30 p.m., led by Bruce Cobb. Tickets are $45 per person in advance at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce office and $50 at the door, if available. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the chamber’s Monadnock Arts Auction Scholarship. For more information, call 532-4549 or email

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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