Starksboro artist creates tribute to family home
BRISTOL — Cynthia Guild Kling, a Starksboro-based painter who was one of the first artists to become part of Art on Main, has painted landscapes all her life.
That covers a wide variety of landscapes, because Kling has lived in many places throughout her long life, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Mexico, Sweden and Kuwait.
Art on Main, the artists’ cooperative and gallery space in downtown Bristol, this Saturday will host Kling at a book signing. The centerpiece will be her most recent art project, “The Farm,” a book of memories of her parents’ farm on Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H.
“It was a happy house, it was a gorgeous house,” Kling said in a recent interview. “It was just so full of life and love.”
The illustrated book is a compilation of memories that Kling’s younger sister, Marcia, collected and recorded for their children and grandchildren. Kling’s detailed illustrations show the rooms, views, and people that color the family’s memories of the historic house.
Built in 1793, the post-and-beam farmhouse was bought by Kling’s parents in 1944 and carefully preserved to reflect its original architecture.
“About the only thing my mother did was to — carefully — put in closet spaces,” Kling said. But the house was sold in the late 1980s after Kling’s mother died. When the house changed hands, the new owners made extreme changes in an effort to modernize the house, including installing a gymnasium in the screened porch area and letting trees on the property grow until they obscured the view of the lake.
“It had changed so drastically that (Marcia and I) felt we had to do something for the grandchildren, to remember how it was,” Kling said.
Last Christmas, the two sat down and decided to compile the book of memories. Nearly a year later, the book is printed and complete. Each page has written memories on the left and a beautiful illustration by Kling on the right.
Changing landscapes are both an influence and an inspiration for Kling, whose artist statement for Art on Main explains that for her, landscapes “are a form of visual history.”
“Many of the places I have painted have changed,” Kling wrote in her statement. “Fields are ‘developed,’ trees die and are cut down, buildings are lost or moved, roads are built or widened. My work tells the story of ‘time when.’”
Kling never received formal training; while in college at Lyndon State College, she took an art course for a short time but was soon discouraged by the professor’s attempts to streamline her painting style. Her only mentor in the arts was an illustrator with whom she took one-on-one lessons once a week. But art has always been part of her life.
“I have always painted,” she said simply.
She has also lived an incredibly adventurous life. After 27 years of marriage, she had what she laughingly refers to as her “mid-life crisis,” and moved to New Mexico for two years. She returned briefly to New England to “straighten out” her aging mother’s affairs. Then she took off again — this time to Sweden, where she lived for six years and married a Swedish man.
In the late 1980s, with her mother’s passing, she returned to the U.S. and spent a year packing up the farm at Lake Winnipesaukee. She happened upon an advertisement in the Burlington Free Press for a teaching position in Kuwait — and off she went. She taught there for two years, right up until the Iraqi invasion in 1991.
Upon her return to the U.S., she settled in Starksboro. She has been active in the Five Town Area arts community, and speaks gladly of settling in the area.
“I’m done (traveling),” she said with a smile.
She is at work on another book of paintings and memories, of activities that her kids did during their childhoods.
“My kids lived outdoors,” she said, vividly recalling an activity involving spearing apples on sticks and lobbing them across fields, as well as using snow to paint smiley faces on trees in the winter.
The book signing will take place at Art on Main this Sunday, Dec. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m.
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