by Kathy Leonard Czepiel, for The Daily Nutmeg
56 blocks of chunky window glass. Gold stripes on a chartreuse couch. Squared-off floorboards from amber to auburn. Don Wunderlee’s Westville studio is alive with lines, most notably the wavering horizontals and verticals of his acrylic paintings.
Less than a block away, his recent public mural, Garden Wall, appears as a fascination on the retaining wall at the corner of Blake and Whalley—a surprising shift from sage green concrete to the colorful pastel grain of what might be a fantastical wooden wall, complete with knotholes you may be tempted to peek through.
Intermittent sunlight superimposes the shadows of nearby leaves, adding to the impression that there really might be a garden there, just beyond.
Back across Blake, inside the studio he keeps at West River Arts, Wunderlee’s work takes on more oranges, reds and golds, more texture and compressed tension. Enlivened by the scale of Garden Wall—larger work “commands,” he says—he’s going bigger in general, despite the limitations of a workspace where he can’t take more than 10 steps back
One large piece, a square 72-inch work in progress, hangs on the wall, its lines unfinished, some dripping their colors. Such happy accidents will likely be visible in the finished work. “I like to leave the editing in there,” Wunderlee says. “I like to show the notes, and the side notes… because it’s part of the personality of the painting, and my process.”
It’s no mistake that Wunderlee uses musical words like “notes.” In addition to being a painter, he plays lead guitar in the local cover band The Inflatables and teaches at Neighborhood Music School.
“Improvisation,” he calls both painting and music-making. And yet, he says, there’s something more “primitive” about working with paint on canvas. “When I’m playing guitar, I’m listening to the note structure,” he says. “The Western tradition so influences us as listeners, in terms of what’s melodic and harmonic.” There are rules, or at the least the perception of rules.
But painting, Wunderlee says, is more open-ended. “I can dip my hand in paint and just go on the canvas that way. Wow. I don’t see [how] that’s wrong… Why should there be rules?”
None of the hand-rendered lines that are Wunderlee’s signature of the moment run straight. Those in his studio piece Summer Longitude suggest the slightest bow, as of a distant horizon. The lines of Orange Strata II are ragged and raw at the top of the canvas but cool into soothing strokes that conjure pink sand.
Wunderlee’s career as an artist has taken its own wandering line. He began with the dream of becoming a photographer but found it “too wrapped up in the mechanical” for his liking. Next came puppetry. Behind a door in his studio, one elfin marionette still hangs from a box fan, its back to the visitor, and a framed poster for a puppet show he did once upon a time in Nantucket is propped behind a hodgepodge of furniture. In the past year, Wunderlee has done just one puppet show, though they used to be a staple of his artistic life.
As for his current work, “I can’t imagine doing this—I wouldn’t [have done] it—15 years ago,” he says, leaning back in his chair and gesturing around. Ultimately, he thinks, a life in the arts is a great experiment, one that needn’t be drawn with a straight edge.
Wunderlee Abstract Art
West River Arts – 909 Whalley Ave, New Haven (map)
Open by appointment.
Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Photo 1 by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Photo 2 by Dan Mims. Read the full article: Public Mural Unveiled | New Haven Independent
Don Wunderlee: Textured, Colorful Abstracts
by Dan Duhrkoop, for EmptyEasel.com
Ever-fascinated by naturally-occurring cracks, shadows, and repeating patterns in nature. Don Wunderlee’s vividly-painted abstracts are—at their core—a gorgeous re-imagining of the world around us.
At first glance, Don’s paintings feel random and organic, but that’s not entirely true. All of his pieces capitalize on repeating lines and colors, with slight variations in hue and value to draw the eye and create interest throughout each composition. What’s most fascinating is that somehow, even with all that movement, there’s still a rhythmic balance waiting to be explored.
Perhaps it’s that intrinsic sense of balance that makes Don’s portfolio of paintings so cohesive. . . each painting is abstract, yes, but they all begin and end like the melody of a song, or the percussive rhythm of a dance. They all align….
“Five PLus Stars for Don Wunderlee! I have several of Mr Wunderlee’s paintings in my home, and I treasure them. One of my favorites is a smaller work (abstract trees) in my therapy office. It is universally appreciated by clients and the piece is simultaneously soothing and energizing…a great combination!Mr Wunderlee is a passionate artist and this is reflected in his evolving style, his commitment to his work and relationship with customers, and his dedication to his skills and education. I have attended openings at public showings in New Haven, CT. and I never cease to be impressed with the quality and range of Mr Wunderlee’s work, his genuine connection to an audience, and his knowledge of art history, contemporary art and the art world. He is a genuinely soulful, spirited and dedicated professional and his body of work reflects this.”
-Judy B, CT
“We have several Wunderlee paintings in our home. His versatility and use of light and color is frankly amazing. He is a master at capturing a mood abstractly using color and form that you could look at endlessly. His works go from tiny (I have a 4×6 in the bathroom) to wall sized. As an artist Wunderlee is also a total pleasure. Reliable and easy to work with…..”
-Rachel L, CT
“I have continued to view and own Mr. Wunderlee’s work over a period of over 20 years. I would like to give a resounding recommendation for the abstract artist Don Wunderlee. I have been familiar with Mr. Wunderlee’s work for over two decades.
I personally own several of his paintings. They grace the walls of my home and are visual companions that enrich my life on a daily basis. The depth and breadth of his creative capacities and his particular creative aesthetic has never ceased to hold my interest. As a painter he has explored a variety of visual forms over the years, exploring new directions in his work and creating an evolving palate. His work has a form of expression that draws the viewer into the work. Don also has had careers as a musician and a Punch and Judy puppeteer and I imagine his painting is in part influenced by these other disciplines. The audience for his work has been growing over the years which is demonstrated by the fact that his paintings have found homes on the European continent as well as all over the United States.”
“I highly recommend the artist Don Wunderlee. I have known Mr. Wunderlee and his artwork for 25 years. He is experienced, incredibly committed to his love of painting and dedicated to continuing to evolve as an artist. You can look back over his works and see periods of focus on a particular style. He clearly has in depth knowledge of paint on canvas and does amazing things with it. I have admired his works in galleries and exhibitions for many years and finally this past holiday season decided to purchase a large painting as a gift to my husband and myself. Doing business with Mr. Wunderlee was a pleasure. He was interested in the space where the painting was going, the colors and character of the room (our living room) and what we were drawn to in his pieces. He offered suggestions…showing me a variety of his works in keeping with what he learned of our interests and home. Then he gave us time to think over the decision. He was a real pleasure to work with ….very thoughtful, straight-forward, and honest. He is very customer respectful and genuinely looking to satisfy. The painting by Wunderlee which we now have in our home is incredible and both my husband and I, as well as our children and house guests, focus on it often in appreciation of this gifted artist. I hope to buy another piece of his art one day. They are treasures.”
To view additional paintings by Don Wunderlee, please visit Blink Art.