Heavy-duty Reynolds Wrap is not just for turkeys.
In the hands of Barbara Aldi, crinkled aluminum foil is the foundation for luminous arts. With acrylics bleeding and blending atop the shiny, rough surface, the artist creates shimmering, textured paintings. Her abstract works tickle the imagination as they create illusions with shifting light, color and perspective. And for Aldi, who pursued Chinese brush painting and watercolors, the world of art clicked for her when she started laying paint on foil.
“It was exhilarating,” said Aldi. “There is always an element of surprise.”
She recently sold eight foil paintings at an exhibition at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Schenectady. Not only was she pleased, but she was also astonished as painting is her avocation in retirement. She is a pianist and educator by trade, teaching 25 years in Schenectady City Schools and 28, and still counting, at Schenectady County Community College.
A native of Little Neck on Long Island, she sat down at the piano at age 7. She went on to study at the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City and earned her bachelor’s in music education at the Crane School of Music. That’s where she met her late husband, Paul, chairman of the music department at South Colonie Schools. They settled in Scotia, raised two children, a boy and girl, who are also musicians. She is a grandmother of five.
Q: Why did you want to paint after you retired.
A: It’s very simply I finally had the time to explore something I always had a fascination with. My background in art was minimal; therefore, I didn’t know my potential. For me, it’s a new beginning, an excitement and certainly very rewarding.
Q: How did you get started?
A: Much of my admiration and experience, instruction has come from Karen Rosasco. I started with her in 2002. She is one of the most encouraging people I have ever met. When I started with her, we were doing watercolors, then acrylics going out to do landscapes. But there was nothing special about my landscapes. Then we went to experimental water media, [and] everything kicked for me, everything.
Q: But you did Chinese brush painting first?
A: Yes, with Leigh Wen. I was in a class that was extremely difficult. I needed more of a background in art. I needed Painting 101. I took a class from Pat Parker in Burnt Hills. And then someone told me about Karen.
Q: And foil painting?
A: I do a lot of tutorials on the Internet. I saw foil painting and it was at that point my heart skipped a beat. What I do is I take heavy-duty Reynolds Wrap. It has to be heavy duty, not the cheap stuff. I crinkle the foil and then pour liquid acrylic over the foil and see what happens. There is always an element of surprise. That’s what makes it so exciting. It’s unlimited.
Q: How do you create the designs on the foil?
A: Sometimes, I take a brush to the paints or I thin it with alcohol and blow the paint around. With this one (she points to a painting), I thought it looked like water. So I took a straw and blew the paint upwards. Sometimes, I take a stamp to make an impression or gold leaf something over that. Some of them are very Monet-ish. My paintings with flowers, they all have sold.
Q: So you have no set ideas when you sit down. The image just comes to you?
A: Yes. I have no set plan. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be interested in it anymore. I’d be bored. I start with color and then I see something. When I see what is going on, then I’ll add more color or go on.
Q: You didn’t intend to be an Impressionist?
A: No. It just happened that way. What I’m concerned with most is perspective, design, composition. These are things Karen emphasized. When you see a painting, the composition itself, it has to have some interest. The shapes, the technique, the composition are part of that.
Q: They are framed beautifully.
A: I do this all myself. And I don’t sign them. That way, you can hang it anyway you like.
Q: As a painter and musician, do you see a correlation between the two?
A: Very often, what might inspire me is listening to music. I love the classics, jazz, rhythm and blues. If I’m listening, I might be inspired to paint. Both are very fulfilling.
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