Aa a young woman, Janet Oesterly wanted to be an artist—but it took her daughter actually growing up and doing it herself to get her drawing again. Now, PYRO Gallery coordinator Sarah Oesterly is sharing an exhibit with her mother at the Douglass Loop Heine Bros. Coffee.
“My mother went for her BFA in college but never did a lot of shows after that,” says Sarah, 24. “I was at the same point in my life where she was when she stopped, and I just wanted to share that moment with her because I felt she gave up drawing to go to work and have kids.” Sarah graduated from U of L last May and found herself asking the first real-world question every graduate does: Could she make a profession out of what she loved—and furthermore, would she have to give it up like the previous generation did? “I’m at the same point she was, but she inspired me to make art and I decided that I’m going to keep making it a part of my life.”
Seasons of Painting features Sarah’s drawings alongside Janet’s watercolors and graphites as each interprets the seasons, using iconography representing growth and change associated with the various seasons of the year—and of life. Sarah had originally planned to do painting, but the allure of colored pencils captured her imagination. “A lot of the ways I use color and layers of color relates to painting,” she says, “so I thought, let’s call it Seasons of Painting, because the colors evoked painting for me.”
The idea of the joint showing was originally Sarah’s, but it didn’t start out that way. She’d first contacted Heine Bros. two years ago, but it took all that time for a spot to open up for her pictures. “I had to wait so long, and finally I wanted to invite my mother because I was graduating and moving out of the house. I wanted to bring her into this, because we were physically and emotionally separating.” However, the older Oesterly hadn’t touched a canvas in years. Encouraged by her daughter, Janet started painting and drawing again after more than a decade. At first Janet was nervous, but as the joy of art flowed back, says Sarah, “it just came out and it was very evident that she has a delicate touch. It came out very naturally.” The years have affected Janet’s choice of subject matter, however. Sarah says that if her mother’s style has changed at all, it is because of her love of nature. “Her style came out stronger when she was using things from her garden or things she found outside.” She lyrically describes her mother’s talent as manifested by “subtly shifting from tight detail to open contours, the organic forms she creates seem to appear and drift back into the whiteness of the paper…They leave an impression as light as a distant memory,” while Sarah’s drawings are more collages of images recalling a specific time and place.
The passing down of art from mother to daughter takes an especially literal form when viewed as an evolution, particularly where Janet’s creations are concerned. Whereas Sarah’s four works, all done with colored pencil, are from the same era—with each representing a season of the year—Janet’s come from a place much more deeply rooted. Three of her graphites date from this past summer, but her other three works, representing summer, are much older. “Those three were done right after she graduated from college,” says Sarah.
Mother and daughter hadn’t considered collaborating on a single piece, but Sarah’s open to the possibility, despite their divergent styles. She says that her mother, now 55, has “almost a classic, crisp way of using her line and color, and mine is not always a classic perspective—I use a lot of colors. It might be a nice complimentary thing if we worked together.”
Besides her administrative work at the PYRO Gallery co-op, Sarah spends her days as an intake specialist at a nonprofit organization, helping people facing foreclosures. She is excited at the prospect of meeting her mother halfway—Janet lives in Hikes Point, while Sarah calls downtown her new home—and knows the feeling is mutual. “She seems very excited—I haven’t seen her work so hard at something like this in a long time,” she says of Janet. “Once she started working again, her talent became obvious to me.”
Seasons of Painting opens Thursday, February 4 and will be on display until March 22 at the Douglass Loop Heine Bros.
Photo: Courtesy www.sarahoesterly.com