When art begs to be touched

BRATTLEBORO — Politics is Wayne Estey's inspiration, it is his religion. His goal is to expose the viewer to things they have never seen before through his art, because then they may think more about it. In the painting "Arian Migrants," one of his mixed media pieces that are now on view at the Works Bakery Cafe, a white, blue-eyed woman is in a burka, bringing to light that not all Muslims are Middle Eastern. Or his piece embracing the use of gold leaf called "Sunset," is a striking presage of what our landscape will look like in 50 years if we keep going at this rate.

"If I can draw a picture to draw attention to what they don't know, or thought much about, I feel I have accomplished something," he said.

Estey, who grew up in East Hartford, Conn., has been working in a variety of art mediums most of his life, crediting his high school with a great arts program. After high school he joined the Air Force and, much to his disapproval was assigned to be a policeman. He admitted that in retrospect he lucked out, however, as he was assigned to Athens, Greece, then Abilene, Texas, during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War.

While in Greece he happened upon an East Hartford Gazette left behind on a table, featuring a fellow classmate on his way to becoming a doctor. Feeling left behind he applied to Central Connecticut University after being discharged from the service, beginning a life-long quest for more knowledge, grateful that his veteran's benefits offered him the opportunity to receive a relatively free education. He did well in math, particularly in economics that he said matched his world view, garnering him a job with Northeast Utilities (now Eversource) as a statistician.

His job at Northeast was abruptly cut short when he and his wife were involved in a motorcycle accident on their honeymoon in southern Italy at which time he broke his femur. Laid up in an Italian hospital for over a month he was let go from Northeast.

He moved on to work for the State of Connecticut in statistics, but with three children, a house in constant need of repair, and taking classes at the Connecticut School of Law for a law degree, his art took a back seat. Picking it up again after the children grew up, he painted up a storm. Education back on his mind, he composed an art portfolio with over 40 paintings and set out to apply for art school. Stopping briefly to mail a letter in the mailbox, leaving his door wide open, a 16-year-old jumped into his car and took off with Estey clinging to the hood until he was thrown off. The juvenile was eventually caught, but Estey's art had been strewn across the countryside during the teenager's joy ride and never found.

Discouraged and distraught, he said he felt like he lost a part of himself. He didn't paint again for 15 years.

Retiring from the State of Connecticut and lawyering in 2011, he and his wife sold their home in Connecticut to buy a house in West Dover, a place where the family could get together. Estey, who described himself as "clearly an extrovert" needed to get a job. He currently works 24 hours a week as Dover's zoning administrator, working with, "The most wonderful people there are, such nice people."

With plenty of time left over, his focus is back on his art. The show at the Works is his first, with selections in a variety of mediums including sequencing work, landscapes, expressive realism, and a piece that begs to be touched.

"I want to show what I know. A lot of people just rearrange their prejudices. If you expose people to things they have never seen before, they may think about things. That is how change is made."

Although his art is for sale, it isn't about the money, "I just want people to see my stuff."

You can see his "stuff" at the Works Bakery Cafe, 118 Main St., through the month of December.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261


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