Raising a son with autism has influenced Westport artist Jay Petrow’s emotionally charged abstract expressionist paintings that are being featured in “This Must Be The Place” at Stamford’s Mayor’s Gallery Tuesday, March 3, through Tuesday, April 28, with a reception on Thursday evening, March 12.
A native New Yorker, Petrow began his art path with classical beginnings, producing portraits of friends and painting landscapes he visited. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in Vermont, he rarely produced art of any kind for more than 30 years. Working in New York City as a magazine art director for major consumer brands like Time, Sports Illustrated and BusinessWeek, Petrow focused on his career and spending time with his wife, Nancy, and their two children.
However, raising a son with autism created extreme day-to-day stresses for his family, which led to an art reawakening for Petrow, according to a news release. Feelings of love, anger, joy, sadness and loss were overwhelming at times. He turned back to art as a conduit for his expression. Working in an abstract expressionist style allowed Petrow to decipher and translate his emotions directly onto the canvas.
“I approach painting from an explorer’s point of view,” he said. “Initially I may choose a few colors as a starting point to explore the tension and vibrancy between them. As the painting develops, it becomes more an exploration of my inner world and my emotional state in dealing with my son’s autism. My brush strokes and colors explode from within me as I process the different feelings I'm experiencing.
“The work depends on a subconscious level of interaction of my emotions and energy, and visualizing what's happening on the canvas as I layer on colors and textures. Maintaining a conversation from within and without, the work takes on a sense of place. I find joy in seeing the paint come to life, the colors dancing on the canvas and imagined images emerging. My paintings become a place that I inhabit, and if successful, a place that others can venture into as well.”
Besides starting to paint again, Petrow also changed careers and is principal owner of PetrowGardens Landscape Design in Westport. He designs gardens throughout Fairfield and Westchester counties. Petrow’s professional background as a landscape designer is an underlying influence in his work.
Mayor’s Gallery, 10th floor Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd., Stamford. Tuesday, March 3-Tuesday, April 28. Reception Thursday, March 12, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Hours: weekdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; handicap accessible parking on site. 203-858-3082, facebook.com/mayorsgallerystamford/
“Designing landscapes and painting abstract art have more similarities than one would expect. When you look carefully at nature there are so many details to observe. As a landscape designer I’m inspired by my natural surroundings, but I abstract it to its core essence in my designs. When a garden is designed, groups of plants are used to compose areas of color and texture that interplay with each other.”Read Full Article
Petrow has shown his work locally in private galleries, libraries and arts centers and his work is in many private collections. Over the past year he has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as being the artist in residence at Weir Farms in Wilton. Extended intensive work at these residencies has helped facilitate a change in Petrow’s style and a leap forward in his abilities as a painter. Most of the paintings in this exhibit were created during the last year of residencies.