Connecticut Artists Have Piece Of Paradise City Festival

Roger DiTarando’s home in Vernon is a silent, stationary menagerie: roosters, otters, llamas, owls, birds, koi, frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, herons, sheep, pigs, rabbits, a rhinoceros and a spectacular peacock.

“As a kid, I loved animals,” DiTarando says. “I wanted to be around them, on a farm, but I didn’t grow up that way.”

So for 35 years, DiTarando has been creating his own animals from non-ferrous metals such as copper, bronze and brass, which don’t rust and can be used for both indoor and outdoor pieces.

“In sculpture, there is a whole spectrum. You can make something delicate and elegant and flowing, like a cheetah, long and lanky, to a rhino or an elephant, which are the total opposite,” he says. “I run the gamut from cute, a carrot with bunnies, or otters, to something sophisticated, like a phoenix rooster.”

DiTarando is one of 260 artists from around the country — including 19 from Connecticut — who will show their work at the Paradise City Arts Festival Saturday through Monday in Northampton, Mass.

The 1968 graduate of Manchester High School attended the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, which had a satellite program in technical welding. Later, he attended the University of Hartford. He never finished college, but he got valuable artistic experience at an unusual place.

“Pratt Whitney has a three-year apprenticeship in jet engine metalsmithing,” DiTarando, 62, says. “They teach you machining, welding, sheet metal working, pattern making, punch pressing. The skills are useful in both art and in engineering.”

Last weekend, DiTarando won “best of craft” at a show at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.

At the Northampton arts festival, DiTarando will show off his sculptures, standing and hanging bird baths, fountains, weather vanes and one his favorites, rain chains, an elegant and fanciful alternative to rainwater downspouts.

“They’re incredible. The rain trickles down and creates a beautiful finish,” he says. “In winter, the ice forms on the chain, and then they freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw. It’s so beautiful.”

Smaller Works

Vicki Thaler works in metals, too, but she didn’t start out that way.

“I started out working in enamels, but the store where I bought my supplies sold silver wire for jewelry. I bought it and used it, and I loved it,” Thaler says. “It took over.”

Thaler has been making jewelry since she was 16, and many of her works in gold and silver will be at Paradise City.

Like DiTarando, Thaler went to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, but while he was inspired there to “go big,” Thaler went in the other direction.

“Working big didn’t work for me,” she says. “I prefer working in miniature. I could see the perspective better.”

She creates gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and brooches, with abstract patterns inspired by nature, most of them assymetrical and sparkling with precious and semiprecious stones, including agates, opals, aquamarines and petal pearls in a rainbow of colors.

“I love gemstones, the color, the intensity, the blue of sapphires, the red of the rubies, the tourmaline, which comes in every color,” she says. “Tourmaline is my favorite, today. I have a different favorite all the time.”

Thaler, a New York native who now lives in West Hartford, once had a storefront, but she has operated for the last 19 years out of a low-key studio in the Crossroads Plaza complex on Albany Avenue in West Hartford, where she works with her longtime assistant, Joe Sabo.

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