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By Geena Matuson
Hometown Weekly Staff
Upon entering The Gallery at Medfield TV, one is immediately swept into a palette of soft colors and imagery ranging from ships to flowers to Native American vision quests. The watercolor works of the late artist Catherine Wollak (1931-2015) adorn the space and instantly create a peaceful atmosphere. Coordinated by her daughter, Yvonne Wollak, the April 28 reception was just as pleasant as Catherine’s art works; the sun was out, and the space was full of light and smiling faces.
After Catherine’s passing in 2015, Yvonne began to gather her mother’s art for display; both the family and Catherine herself wanted to share her art with the world. Yvonne has done well to fulfill her wishes. Earlier in 2017, Yvonne shared her mother’s work by donating a piece to the silent auction at Medfield’s ¡Hola Cuba! event, a social and musical fundraiser for the Medfield High School Jazz Band trip to Cuba. It was there she learned about the Gallery at Medfield TV, and was able to coordinate this impressive showing with the cable station.
“She wanted to share her art with the world,” Yvonne explained. “She did such a good job and this made her so happy. Why let that talent go to waste? We wanted to make sure her art brought the same happiness to the world that it brought to her, and to our family.” Previously adorning the walls of her home, Yvonne brought more than twenty works to Medfield TV, hoping to bring more attention to the work and to her mother’s artistic process.
“She started painting in her fifties, and I would take her to art lessons at the Pfaff Center in Medfield,” Yvonne reminisced. This was also the same time Catherine was diagnosed with macular degeneration, or loss of vision, however “she loved painting and [the family] always encouraged her to continue pursuing her passion, and to focus on something positive.” This positivity is truly mirrored in her works with expertly-executed scenes of the Midwest, travels to Holland, and other scenic imagery. While the subject matter is diverse, the color palette is carried throughout the body of her work, subtle tones that are what one envisions when they think of traditional watercolors.
Both talented and determined, Catherine used a magnifying glass in order to paint well into her 80s. While she was unable to step back and see “the big picture” due to her declining eyesight, one would never guess she had any trouble, at all. After completing a series of works, she and her daughter would go to the frame shop together and pick out colored mattes and frames. Whole series of seasonal landscapes are tied together with ornate gold and vanilla, while Catherine’s Midwestern works are placed in simple wooden frames. Having spent a great amount of time living out West, the Italian family was adopted into the Abernaki nation, Catherine dubbed “Wildwings” while Yvonne was named “Buffalo Daughter.” The wooden-framed painting, “Buffalo,” captured while on a buffalo safari, features the face of a Native American spirit watching over the land.
The Gallery not only features Catherine’s vivid watercolor works, but also on display are two oil paintings. What is impressive is the fact that Catherine not only had expert command of all paint media, but was able to create such beautiful, often subtle art works with a vision-related disease. This aspect is truly mind-blowing when one also takes a look at the two works she copied in watercolor from Old Masters, including the piece “Camping at Lake O’Hara” by John Singer Sargent.
The reception was tied together with a slideshow created by Medfield TV’s new General Manager, Brett Poirier. Held in the studio off the main hall of the station, the slideshow was backlit with pink and purple lights, as Brett wanted to mirror the tones used in Catherine’s prominent works at the entrance of the Gallery.
Catherine’s Wollak’s works will continue to be on display and available for public viewing at Medfield TV through August of this year, the gallery open during Medfield TV hours of operation, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.