Neustadt, who lives with his wife, Brenda Siemer, in Pomfret, had been making art since he was a child growing up in Irvington, NJ Now 73, he more or less retired from work in time full as an architect: “I’m no longer interested in holding anyone’s hand.
Digital painting now attracts his attention and the results of his experiments are now known to the public. “Faces and Places”, an exhibition of his portraits and landscapes, is on view at the ArtisTree Gallery in South Pomfret until September 28. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork are donated to Zack’s Place, the Woodstock nonprofit that provides arts, cultural and physical education. programs for people with special needs.
Neustadt was interviewed before the opening last Friday, an event he viewed with some equivocation. “I would rather go to sleep tonight and wake up Saturday morning,” he said. (A week later, he said he thoroughly enjoyed the opening).
Neustadt had long painted alongside but also felt, he says, that he had not devoted the decades of training and apprenticeship in oils, acrylics and watercolors that are part of the life of an artist. As a result, he said, he felt he would only be frustrated if or when the ideas in his head did not technically translate to paper or canvas as he had envisioned them.
But making digital art offered a way around that. As an architect, he was familiar with AutoCAD, the design and drafting program. After a year of intense study and practice, he was able to master the language of digital art.
“Computers gave me the ability to produce something that came close to what I had in mind,” Neustadt said. He prints small works himself using a computer printer, but he sends the larger works to Germany, where they are printed on aluminum.
But he had no intention of exhibiting his paintings. “I was just doing the work and enjoying the process,” he said.
He turned to his neighbors Pomfret and Woodstock as potential subjects. When Dottie Deans, a former Democratic Party chairwoman from Vermont who lives in Pomfret and has served for Neustadt, saw Neustadt’s works, she suggested he print some of his portraits and landscapes for an exhibition that would benefit the community. . There are 70 in all in the show.
For his portraits, Neustadt begins by taking 15 to 30 photographs of a person. Neustadt finds that a subject begins to relax after the 15th photograph and by the time it gets to around 30 the subject is “not as aware of the camera as it was at the start”, did he declare. “Those are the most valuable shots for me.”
People reveal themselves, consciously and unconsciously, through expression and gesture.
“Most of what I look for is through the eyes and the structure of the face. The hands and the face and the rest of the shape doesn’t matter to me, the eye can fill that in,” Neustadt said.
Most individuals are receptive to Neustadt’s request for a portrait. One of them, Neil Lamson, a farmer from Pomfret, told him, “If you’re crazy enough to want to paint me, I’m crazy enough to let you.”
People are often surprised by what Neustadt captures of their essence. His subjects often ask: Do I really look like this? In some images, their faces emerge from a dark background, similar to the thoughtful, cerebral portraits of Thomas Eakins. In others, they’re set against a brightly colored background but stare outward with a serious lens.
As a young man in the 1960s, Neustadt left Irvington, which he described as a tough town not far from Newark, to study art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. It was the first place, he said, where he felt a sense of kinship with his comrades. “Here are people like me,” he said.
He received both a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in sculpture from Pratt, and received professional training at Pratt and Harvard.
In the early 1960s, he made his first trip to Europe, which has reminded him ever since. He was in Florence during the catastrophic flood of the Arno River in 1966, which killed more than 100 people and caused terrible and seemingly irrevocable damage to the city’s dazzling heritage of art and architecture, as well as to its massive and irreplaceable collections of city art, public and literary archives. He has a long-standing relationship with Florence, a city to which he returns as often as possible.
Neustadt decided to go into architecture, partly out of pragmatic choice.
“I was good at art, I could see something and I could present it, and I was good at math and science,” he said. “It’s been wonderful, it’s taken me through a whole career.”
He designed both residential and commercial architecture and had offices in New York and the South. Prior to Pomfret, he lived in Reading and Woodstock. The Pomfret house is of his own design.
He is in his studio every day. “I did the work in order to do the work. I truly believe in doing the work and whatever happens, happens.
He quotes Pratt’s mantra: “Be true to your work and your work will always be true.”
“Faces and Places” continues at the ArtisTree Gallery in South Pomfret until September 28. For more information, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.
Nicola Smith can be reached at [email protected]