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Artist unveils her enchanted garden

MIDDLEBURY — Ever since attending Trinity College and the University of Vermont after immigrating to the U.S. in 1939, Austrian-born artist Klara Calitri has considered the Green Mountain State home.
“I was a teacher (of history and languages) for many years, and every spare minute I had I would spend on my art. I always said that I would paint and pot when I retired,” the 87-year-old said.
And she has. The majority of Calitri’s work has been produced since she retired in Cornwall with her husband, Junius; she says that Vermont’s natural beauty is an inspiration to her. 
“Nature is very uplifting, inspiring, and consoling — all those things,” Calitri explained.
“The Enchanted Garden,” Calitri’s latest exhibit showcasing natural images in her artwork, will be on display from July 9 to Aug. 7 at the Art House in Middlebury’s Marble Works. An opening reception will take place this Friday from 5-9 p.m., featuring music by Thea Calitri Martin, the principal French horn of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra, along with vocalist Meredith Martin and Jazz musician Fred Haas. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.
The entertainment has a distinctive family flavor — the horn player is Calitri’s oldest daughter and the vocalist is her granddaughter.
When asked how she chose the name of the exhibit, Calitri said that there is a “certain mystique about gardens” that she wished to play upon. One of the pieces that will be on show, titled “Everyone Should Have a View of a Garden,” also influenced her naming of the exhibit.
Calitri is a multimedia artist, and as such her art display will feature monotypes, paintings, murals and porcelain sculptures, including hand-crafted bowls and fountains, with images of flowers, landscapes, still lives, dogs, frogs and birds.
“I love that you can do so much with clay — you start with a piece of mud and end up with something very beautiful or useful. Porcelain also takes color very beautifully,” Calitri said of ceramics, her primary medium.
Each of her porcelain pieces has a unique shape and character, chiefly because she doesn’t use a pottery wheel — “it makes me seasick,” she laughingly explained.
Instead, Calitri adopted a method that she learned at a Frog Hollow Crafts Center workshop based on the way that native people in Peru used river stones to shape the clay.
“The stones create wonderful natural shapes,” Calitri said. “You end up with a product that is much more organic than if you’re working on a wheel. The pots are very light and tactile, and each shape turns out completely unique.”
Clearly the method is working for her. At a conference in Burlington two years ago, President Bill Clinton bought one of Calitri’s bowls, and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy recently selected one of her pieces as an artwork representative of Vermont to bring with him to Washington, D.C. 
Perhaps Calitri’s most distinctive pieces are her porcelain fountains, one of which features smooth ceramic stones at its base and will be on display at “the Enchanted Garden” exhibit. The fountains are Calitri’s way of ensuring that one of her favorite sounds — running water — is ever-present.
“It’s very soothing and pleasant to have a running fountain in a dining room or outside. I love the way it makes me feel,” Calitri said.
“You can feel the mood that I get from my surroundings in my art,” she stated, then laughed and added, “hopefully.”
For more information on Klara Calitri’s upcoming exhibit at the Art House visit www.arthousevt.com, or contact Mary Swanson at (802) 458–0464.

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