Rosie offers art with your coffee
There's something to be said about the popularity of a place that can't be found easily, yet people flock to.
Fans of Rosie, Elm Street's tiny eatery, swear the best way to find it is to follow the smell of the "mile-high" carrot cake.
If you get lost, though, you can just follow the light bulbs.
Recent diners at the restaurant have looked up to enjoy the works of Newtown artist Joanne Keane, which have adorned the walls of Rosie since Sept. 10.
The collection, appropriately named "I Had a Dream About a Lightbulb," celebrates the Edisonian invention through several different artistic interpretations.
"The inspiration was to capture a flow, a stream of conscience," Keane said. "The light bulb came to me as I was going through the process as kind of an iconic image that speaks to the concept."
Keane, a former textile designer and makeup artist/stylist, went to college in Buffalo, N.Y., and received her formal art training at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She said growing up she never expected to be an artist, but unlike her accountant father, she always wanted to have a creative career. Designing textiles and costumes gave her that segue into fine art.
Keane's collection has about 40 featured pieces, including oil and acrylic paintings on wood and canvas, bust sculptures and simple sculptures made from plaster, cement and wire found from a hardware store. All have the shape, likeness or an image of a light bulb in them. For instance, one of the pieces depicts an empty room with a lone wooden chair in the middle. A lone light bulb shines overhead and gives the scene a sense of depth and a lonely perspective.
Another uses a stop sign that Keane bought at a tag sale for a canvas. On it, she painted a light bulb and wrote words that she transcribed from her practice of journaling.
"I'm trying to capture the message we receive unconsciously as we walk around our environment every day -- the energy flow in and out," she said.
In fact, many of her works have in them what appears to be writing -- random thoughts. Keane practices what she calls "stream of consciousness journaling," a form of free writing during which she jots down whatever come to her mind and moves her. Perhaps not coincidentally, she said Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, used to fall asleep in his chair holding ball bearings. When the metal ball fell out of his hand, he would record in a journal whatever was in his thoughts at that time.
"In that plane, I feel like you are not overthinking," she said. "I was going for that powerful feeling."
Some of the words she journaled have made it into her pieces. She turned the entire front window of Rosie into a piece of art, covering it with amber light bulbs and white script writing with sayings such as, "All suppressed truths become poison in the body."
"It seems to me like I was releasing," she said. "It felt good."
The idea to feature Keane's work originated about five years ago, when owners George and Rosie Nammack opened the eatery at 27 Elm St. Both world travelers and lovers of fine art, they wanted Rosie to have the feel of an Old World coffeehouse and art gallery. Since opening, the works of local photographers have been featured on the walls.
"We love art and collect it, and always wanted this to be a showcase for artists and photographers, but we just never had the time," George Nammack said.
Enter Keane, who has been a loyal customer at Rosie for a few years. Through casual conversations about their work (both Rosie and Keane are former textile designers) and business deals (Rosie did the catering for one of Keane's galleries), her art work was discovered and a deal was worked out to have her work decorate the walls of Rosie.
"Joanne was a very lovely customer and a very sunny person," Nammack said. "We realized she was a great artist and we decided to have her art work here."
Nammack said he and Rosie plan to continue showing Keane's work until the end of December and will then be looking for other artists to showcase, hopefully making it art show openings a regular part of the atmosphere. Diners eating at Rosie said they like the idea.
"This place is fun and happy and it's good to have nice things to look at," said Wilton resident Rebecca Young, who was enjoying a plate of pancakes with her son, Harrison Bardwell. "There's so much talent in this area that this can be a place to showcase that."