Wednesday, April 23, 2014
For the past several years, Kennebunk artist and businesswoman Danie Connolly has celebrated themes of sweetness and nostalgia for the town's annual Chocolate Extravaganza and events honoring Norman Rockwell. Each Christmas, Connolly, a playwright, typically writes humorous holiday sketches to be performed live locally. But this year, she has traded her pen for a camera lens.
Connolly is revisiting a custom from when her children were young: Taking whimsical seasonal photographs.
Connolly has amassed a 60-odd-piece assemblage of holiday portraits featuring local models wearing towering holiday hairdos made of sparkling ornaments, oversized snowflakes, glittering bells and bows. Those images can be seen at the All Day Breakfast eatery in Kennebunk through Dec. 30.
The display serves as a teaser to Connolly's photography exhibit ''Do Are You,'' a collection of zany hairdo images set to debut in February at River Tree Arts Center in Kennebunk. The portraits will use the tools of differing trades to form the tresses for models' heads. Swimmers are sporting seaweed up-dos and real estate agents are donning keys in lieu of hair locks.
Connolly had so much fun creating the exhibit, she offered some funky Christmas shots. She found a ready crew of photo subjects in the wait staff at All Day Breakfast. Nearly one dozen employees offered up their heads for the shoot.
Deer antlers, jingle bells and red Christmas lights adorn the head of one young model while another image puts a whole new spin on the finger wave hairdo, with one woman's head covered in ribbon-candy tresses. Another shows a man sporting a strand of lit blue lights, creating an obvious comb-over.
Cindy Lebarge, a 13-year waitress and frequent Connolly model, is among the images. Draped in translucent, silver splendor, she was captured in a shimmery profile shot, blowing a handful of snowflakes for an portrait dubbed ''Snow Queen.''
''It's a beautiful likeness,'' said Connolly. ''Cindy's my muse. She's got a profile that photographers dream of shooting and a great sense of humor.''
Lebarge, who formerly posed for less-then-glamorous images of Rockwell likenesses such as ''Rosie the Riveter,'' was pleased with the result.
''Working with Danie is always a hoot,'' said Lebarge. ''We get to do these crazy dress-up parties that are lighthearted and fun. This is my third time working with her and I love it. I never know what she's going to do but it always comes out great. This time, I told her, 'Please don't make me look frumpy.' The picture she took of me made me feel glamorous.''
''For this session, I wrapped Cindy's dark hair in silver gauze and added a crown of iridescent, white snowflake garland around it,'' said Connolly. ''Cindy's beauty just radiated through the shot and she got to see it.''
Connolly prefers to work with amateur models like Lebarge, who bring a sense of wonder to the work. She loves to help to dispel the myth that some people don't photograph well.
''Trusting your photographer is huge,'' said Connolly. ''Most people tend to tense up when you take their picture. They want to look their best but don't think they will photograph well. If you can get them to believe that you'll capture their best image, they give you so much more of themselves. I use a digital camera and start by taking a few practice shots to show people what they are projecting. Then, I tell them to forget the makeup. Their essence is what's going to come through in the photo. I let them know about their physical strong points to help them to see themselves differently. That builds confidence, helps them relax and believe that it's going to be a great shot.''
Connolly draws on each client's personality in setting up the costuming for her photo shoots.
''First, I wrap their head in LED lights, which don't get hot,'' said Connolly. ''Then I add layers of beading, feathers, baubles, crystals or something shiny -- whatever I feel reflects their personality.''
For ''Noggins,'' an image of a mother and daughter, Connolly opted for simplicity, asking the two women to pose nose-to-nose, with their heads wrapped in a strand of red and green lights.
For ''Ice Princess,'' Connolly transformed normally warm and endearing Kennebunk police station dispatcher Joan Fox into a glitzy likeness that was totally unlike her true nature.
''I love doing things like that,'' said Connolly. ''If you are looking for a traditional holiday family portrait, I'm not the person to shoot that. I have a vivid imagination and a lot of my personality went into this project. For years, I've been the one setting up these shoots for other people to photograph. Now, I'm coming back to a field that I love. It's been very rewarding personally.''
There is a problem, however.
''My house looks like it threw up Christmas! I've got boxes of Christmas decorations all over the place.''
Some of the ''Holiday Dos'' artwork is available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Keep ME Warm fuel assistance program.
''I think of it as a cool display for a hot cause,'' said Connolly.
Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: