Who would guess that Alaris Health at Cedar Grove had a famous artist among its residents?
An art show at the health center on Grove Avenue Aug. 5 featured local artists from the Hackensack Art Club, and Fort Lee and Montclair residents. The event was inspired by Chinese-born artist Chitfu Yu, who recently suffered a stroke and began painting again during his recovery at the facility.
“When he first came here, he would lie down in his room and do absolutely nothing,” Alaris Health at Cedar Grove Recreation Director Olga Shneyderman said. “It took a while to get him working again. I would bring him to every art lesson and now he paints every day. I’m so happy for him.”
Shneyderman had to continually encourage Yu to begin painting again while he was recovering at the center, but he starting working four months ago and now twice a day, he “religiously” visits a studio she built especially for him, she said.
“When he’s painting and drawing, he’s creating with his heart,” said Lucy Majry, a part-time aide at Alaris Health at Cedar Grove.
Yu was born in 1943 in Guangdong, China, and moved to the United States 40 years ago. He began calligraphy and works in the sumi-e style, which he began practicing at the age of 9, Yu said.
Sumi-e is an eastern Asian style of painting commonly referred to as ink wash painting, where the artist tries to convey the emotional aspect of an object using black ink and water. Yu has painted all kinds of animals, objects and most recently, a series called “Faces” in 2011.
At the art show, Yu displayed portraits and calligraphy work he completed while at the health center.
“The very first art lesson here was all because of Mr. Yu,” Lauren Kaiser said, a fine artist and instructor who gives lesson to center residents. “He didn’t participate much at first, but I knew he was taking it all in. It warms my heart to see his recent work.”
Kaiser began as a volunteer at the center six months ago with its dog therapy program, and once Shneyderman found out she was an artist, she asked Kaiser to conduct art lessons once a month, Shneyderman said.
Yu was not the only one showing off his creations during the event. Shneyderman was able to secure works for display from about 20 different artists, she said.
Kaiser brought out some of her artwork, as well as some of her student’s computer graphic pieces and paintings. Fort Lee resident Jane Sklar also displayed her and her art partner Max Cartagena’s unique creations, described as “manipulated mixed media based on photographs.”
“It’s great to see a consortium of a bunch of art clubs get together and see each other’s work,” said Peter Rossi, president of the American Artists Professional League Inc. in New York, as well as a member of a number of local art clubs in Fort Lee and Ridgewood. “By doing this art show, we get to give back.”
Artist Miguel Gonzalez, a 36-year-old retired Newark Police Department officer, has been a common face around the halls of Alaris Health, frequently volunteering to help residents, and painting a massive wall mural of New York’s Central Park for the facility’s sensory room.
Gonzalez displayed a large canvas painting of a tropical landscape at the art show, and was all smiles entertaining the residents.
“If I see them happy, then I’m happy,” Gonzalez said.
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