‘I could not predict that this would be the kind of work that I would be doing, because my only experience before I started painting was realistic things — real gardens, real objects on a table — and it’s really fascinating to see this development into abstraction,” says Gilda Aronovic about the course her painting has taken over the past 30 years. Aronovic is also a real estate broker for Henderson Sotheby’s International in Princeton, a 30-year dual career that she describes as “a wonderful tradeoff” and “a really nice balance.”
“Painting is a really solitary occupation, whereas real estate is a very interactive one. When you go to look at houses or when you are showing houses, there’s really an intersection (of my two careers) because you can evaluate the architecture and the decorating and the garden, and sometimes they’ll have beautiful paintings on the walls, and sometimes I’m just looking at the paintings. Occasionally, I’ll see my own painting, one that I did a long time ago, and that’s really exciting.”
A retrospective of Aronovic’s paintings spanning the last 30 years opens Sunday, April 23, with a reception at the Henderson Sotheby’s offices at 34 Chambers Street. The exhibit is on view to June 23. It seems a fitting “gallery,” as Aronovic describes the Henderson Sotheby’s offices as being very supportive of her art career.
Art was not a focus of Aronovic’s early life. Her parents, Anna and David, were both immigrants from from eastern Europe, coming to New York City in 1911 as children. David grew up to run a kosher poultry store in Manhattan just a block away from Anna’s father’s dairy store, which is how they met. Aronovic and her three siblings grew up in Manhattan. She majored in mathematics at Brooklyn College and taught mathematics in east Harlem for six years. When she married Sanford Aronovic, an analytical chemist, they moved around a bit, eventually settling in Princeton, where she has been for the past 38 years.
When I ask Aronovic how she got started painting, she says she didn’t become interested until she was an adult. “My twin sister had been painting, and she was doing very well and enjoying it. I had little kids and I was at home most of the time, and I was really looking for something to do, a hobby or an interest, and she suggested that I try a painting class.
Aronovic joined a private class that Sam Feinstein, a student of Hans Hoffman, taught in Princeton to a group of women every Tuesday. “I was very much inspired and excited by his teaching, and that’s how I really got started.” Teaching modern painting as exemplified by Kandinsky, Feinstein focused on color forms, complexes, gesture, and positive and negative space, utilizing still-lifes as the basic platform. Aronovic attended Feinstein’s class once a week for 25 years.
Says Aronovic: “Hoffman was a great colorist, and Sam was able to teach you about color. As a matter of fact, I always remember when I saw my first Hoffman. I was at a gallery in New York City, where Hoffman was having a show, and I walked into the gallery and all this color came at me, and I just felt like I had been living in black and white, and all of a sudden I knew what color was. It was a very exciting moment.”
In her earlier works, the influence of Hoffman’s color and Feinstein’s teaching is evident. The objects in her still-lifes are depicted by patches of color, rather than line. Variation in color helps define volume and spatial relationships within the picture plane. Though the objects are recognizable, they are somewhat abstracted, as Aronovic concentrates on the formal dynamics of color and space.
Aronovic frequents galleries in New York, going to shows every two months. “I love going to the galleries. And what’s really nice, going to the galleries over the years, is that I’ve found artists that I relate to, and those artists will have shows every three years or so. When you go in, you see how they’ve changed and what they’re doing at the current time, and it’s almost as if they’ve become a friend. Even though you have never met them you have a real relationship to that artist. A lot of my learning has been through my visits to the galleries.”
Over the years Aronovic’s art has become purely abstract. She stopped attending Feinstein’s class about 10 years ago when she decided to work abstractly, working from the mind and memory instead of the still-life. Her more recent work shows greater ties to some of the artists she has seen evolve over the years and whom she admires, namely Willem De Kooning and Joan Mitchell. Aronovic’s current abstracts seem to deal purely with color and gesture. The canvases are covered in bright colors, often the primaries in unapologetic strokes, much more active than in the earlier still-lifes. According to Aronovic, she feels her return to the use of primary colors may be due to the fact that she did not get to experience painting as a child.
Aronovic has had five one-person shows, at the Gallery at the Princeton Jewish Center, Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery, Princeton Public Library, West Windsor Public Library, and New Jersey National Bank in Princeton. She has participated in eight juried group shows, and won several awards including “Best in Show” at Montgomery Center of the Arts in 2002.
As for her own children, they seem to have taken more to Aronovic’s real estate side, as none of them are practicing art, but all are involved in business and real estate in one form or another. Hoever, Aronovic is pleased to report that she has “some talented grandkids in the arts” who may follow in the footsteps of her artistic side.
Gilda Aronovic, Sunday, April 23, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, 34 Chambers Street. A 30-year retrospective of the artist’s work. For the last 30 years, Aronovic has been juggling two careers — artist and real estate broker. On view to June 23. Gallery hours 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 609-924-1000.