Retirees say their art takes them to another place: Art Show to be held in ECSU Art Gallery March 22-April 8, 2011

Kesha Williams
March 07, 2011

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Visit the Art Gallery at Elizabeth City State University late in March and you will see the work of two, retired friends who cherish the differences between their styles. Their opening reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22, 2011, while their artwork will remain on display three additional weeks. The last day to view their work is April 8 in the Gallery of the Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center.

Betty Haar Salvo is an 82-year-old, self-taught artist who has been painting and entering art contests for the last three years. She finds it extremely rewarding after working in Canada and New York as a dancer and a dance instructor during the 1940s. She met scores of local dancers and some celebrities such as Robert Guillaume and Sammy Davis Jr. She later owned a television production company that produced edgy documentaries that brought to light evolving characters, such as a convicted murderer who succumbed to alcoholism. One of her favorites was a documentary that showcased the dedication of a medical team that operated a flying hospital. Ophthalmologists and their medical teams flew to Jamaica, and other islands providing medical care and surgery for poor residents.

Salvo said those jobs required precision, great timing, attention to detail and creativity. She retired from filmmaking and moved south where she eventually took a sculpting class in the ECSU Art Department. She also tried volunteer work to keep busy. However, painting provided the greatest sense of accomplishment. Salvo sold one of her paintings to a man who visited her home and requested to purchase the piece he saw there. She was encouraged when her paintings won rave reviews in area galleries. Salvo enjoys painting landscapes. The paintings are most often oil and pastels.

"This has been a new beginning for me. Now I paint every day. It never occurred to me I could paint something others would like to hang up. Two of my paintings won competitions. One of the paintings was one of 97 [entries] and was voted 'Best all Around,' " Salvo said. "To come at my age and do this [art show] is incredible!"

Professor Alexis Joyner, chairperson of the ECSU Art Department, has been a source of encouragement, she said. She and new-found friend, Nanette Albano, decided to show their work in area galleries in Edenton and Hertford. While close, the two have very different artistic backgrounds.

Albano, 67, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute in New York. She has painted for decades, taught art classes for 15 years and worked as a floral designer. She's designed and decorated for weddings and a host of special events in Virginia Beach, Va. and Norfolk, Va. Her work has been displayed in galleries in Hampton Roads and the Albemarle region. Albano also has done artwork for charities and painted murals. After raising kids and retiring with her husband, she devoted more time to her art. Like Salvo, she paints daily. She likes to use bright colors to create cheerful scenes that are common sights.

"I really like color and making large paintings, unlike Betty, who paints small ones. I love abstracts that allow me to put my feelings on canvas. When I paint, I escape," Albano said. "It takes me to a different place and you can tell what was on my mind by the way I paint."

While both artists love the outdoors, "our paintings are different," Albano said. "When I first saw Betty's paintings, I thought they were the (emotionally) saddest paintings I'd ever seen - great paintings but dark images," Albano said. "It was a painting done in shades of gray and black . . .no color but people were walking with umbrellas. I have never suffered a tragedy, so my paintings don't include as many dark colors as hers."

Salvo is a survivor of the Holocaust who declares she is fortunate to be alive. She recalls many days from her childhood when she didn't see the sunlight or any bright, cheerful image in her neighborhood that allowed her to celebrate her world. She recalls relatives and neighbors who vanished and were taken to concentration camps. Some survived, but many didn't. The family lived in Berlin and Holland -relocation was necessary for their survival. She remembers dreadful, unthinkable acts of cruelty to Jewish people in public settings. Schools, park benches, businesses, family memorabilia and more were stripped from them to deny Jews any sense of independence and identity. Eventually, her family moved to Canada while waiting to relocate in the United States. She worked diligently to build a better life. Now, she cherishes the opportunities she seized and encourages young people to do the same.

"You make your life worth living," Salvo said. "You live your life doing something well for a while then say to yourself, 'I'd like to go in another direction.'

"In this country you have no idea what you have in the ability to say anything you feel, do anything, any kind of work you like," Salvo continued. "I'm excited about art now. I've met the nicest people on this campus. I'm really looking forward to showing our art in this gallery."