Darien artist Jan Dilenschneider’s still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and abstracts have been purchased by collectors in Germany, England, and France. She has won “Best in Show” at an exhibition sponsored by the Silvermine Guild Art Center in New Canaan. Each piece of her artwork currently sells for about $5,000. Yet astonishingly, prior to 2013, she had not sold a single painting.
“I would make a painting and put it in my basement,” said Dilenschneider in a recent interview at her home on the Long Island Sound.
“One day, a friend came to dinner at a holiday party, saw my paintings, and asked about buying them. I had no idea what to price them at. He ended up buying two pieces.
“As soon as he bought them, I had the biggest emotional feeling of ‘there goes my baby.’
“To this day, I still get choked up whenever someone buys my work,” said Dilenschneider, who has shoulder length blonde hair and hazel eyes.
Dilenschneider’s next show, which embraces the theme Freedom of Expression, will run from July 7 to July 28 at the Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier in Paris. Her exhibit pays tribute to democracy.
“I am so impressed with the French people supporting their freedom of speech, and I think back to our country’s revolution. My theory is that if writers go, artists can’t be far behind,” she said.
This will be her third consecutive show, and it will feature all her work from September 2014 to the present. Her first two shows were also at the Paris gallery.
Dilenschneider’s home, which faces Long Island Sound, contains a studio with arched ceilings and doors that her husband Robert Dilenschneider had built for her. Many of her paintings — done in oils — are inspired by the scenic landscape surrounding her home.
Born in Manhattan, she moved to Ohio when she was three. She studied art in high school and graduated from Ohio State University, majoring in fine arts education. She took art classes at the North Shore Art League in Illinois and at the National Academy School of Fine Arts in Manhattan. She has also taken classes and taught seminars at Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan since moving to Connecticut in 1996.
She and her husband, who is founder and principal of The Dilenschneider Group, Inc. in Manhattan, have two sons — Geoffrey, 29, and Peter, 25. Before becoming a full-time artist, Dilenschneider worked in the cosmetic industry, as director of training at companies such as Estee Lauder and Revlon.
She said she never knows what will inspire her to make a new painting. “I drive down Long Neck Point and look over at the water. There is a foggy mist, which I think is so gorgeous. I then get out my phone, open the top of the car, and take photos. I use the photos as inspiration. Then, when I come home to my studio, I let the paint tell me where to go.”
She believes being an artist is an ongoing process. “Every single day, you have to keep going, keep advancing and experimenting. If you’re not learning, then you should put the canvas in the closet and do something different,” she said.
Dilenschneider believes that if she wants her painting to move her audience, it must first move her. “When I get to a certain stage with each new piece, I make sure it meets my criteria.
First, I ask myself, ‘Is the painting fresh? Are the strokes dynamically put down? Second, the colors have to sing. They have to make a harmony with each other.”
A common theme in many of her paintings is water. “Water is inspiring because of its universality. Water can appear to be so many different colors; it is blue if the sky is blue. If the sky is gray, it can appear purple if you look into it.”
With all the current advancements in technology, she’s afraid the arts might be taking a backseat. “I’m not saying it’s wrong to have the technology. We have to make allowances for creativity and they shouldn’t eliminate classes like art, music, and creative writing in schools. I’m worried about young people missing out on knowing how to you use their creative brain.”
David Dunlop of Wilton, artist and lecturer at Silvermine, said Dilenschneider is a marvelous artist. “She reflects authentic personal emotion in gesture and color. She has a clear affection for nature and landscape.
“She transmutes her feelings into paint, and all of that is revealed in her works. If you’re going to see her show, relax, and breathe deeply. In this relaxed state, you will find a shared empathy with nature revealed through Jan’s paint gestures and colors,” he added.
Westport resident Alyse Rosner, who teaches painting at Silvermine, said “The subject matter is so compelling to Jan that it just flows. Painting is natural for her. The process and vision are seamless. She has so completely internalized what is interesting to her about making a painting that when she works, it appears effortless.”
Dilenschneider said she is honored to be invited back to Paris to display her work each year. “On the first opening night that I was there, at least 200 people came.”
In the future, she is hoping to get a United States gallery to display her work. In addition, she plans to go a little wilder in her paintings. “I will make my landscapes a little more abstract.
“I will continue to push myself in my work. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I’m not worried about it.”
Through September 18, Dilenschneider’s paintings may be viewed at the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University, 1073 North Benson Road, in her exhibit titled Dualities. At the Paris art show, from July 7 to July 28, up to 40 piece of artwork will be on display. She will be present on opening night and available to answer questions.
For more information on Dilenschneider and her art, visit www.jmhdilenschneider.com.