March 11, 2010

This year '60 years later'

DEBORAH SAYER

— By

Staff Writer

Last summer, Kennebunk residents celebrated the legacy of American illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) in a three-day affair promoting new artworks that interpret, rather than duplicate, his art.

The celebration proved so popular with locals that a follow-up event is planned for Aug. 14-16.

The painting ''60 Years Later,'' which drew rave reviews at last year's event, has been selected by the 2009 festival planning committee to serve as the example organizers are hoping to include in this year's exhibition.

Created by Kennebunk artist Heather Hill, the work pays tribute to Rockwell's 1926 Saturday Evening Post cover ''Sunset,'' which portrays innocence and first love via a young boy and girl seated on a park bench, gazing at a sunset.

When Hill considered interpreting the painting, she knew the perfect couple to model for the portrait: newlyweds Lockhart Blaney, 84, and his new bride, Priscilla Blaney, 82, whom Hill had met while waitressing at the All Day Breakfast restaurant in Kennebunkport.

They had dated in high school, married others and raised their families, but they were spending their twilight years alone (he divorced, she widowed) until that fateful day when Lockhart saw Priscilla's picture in a high school alumni book and decided to give her a call.

''It was just like old times,'' said Lockhart. ''We married six months later in February 2008 and have been trying to make up for all the years we've missed.''

Hill said her painting of the Blaneys, seated on a similar bench at a sunset, ''represents lost love found. They were childhood sweethearts. He took her to the senior prom and they existed back when (Rockwell painted the original). They had come full circle. What makes the painting so cool is the story behind it.''

The couple's story appears with the painting. The work is on display at the Farragut senior assisted living facility in Kennebunk, where the Blaneys live. And it is slated to be displayed at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., as part of a future exhibit there.

Hill received lots of good feedback from that work, including from one New York man who wept when he saw it. ''He said it reminded him of his (late) wife,'' said Hill. ''I was caught off-guard that people would (react) with such emotion to it.''

Hill is hoping to evoke similar emotion from her upcoming work for this year's celebration.

She's reinterpreting Rockwell's ''The War Hero,'' a 1945 Saturday Evening Post cover featuring a young soldier, newly home from the war, sharing with his neighbors in a garage.

Hill's interpretation of the work will feature a young Army soldier, Scott Hamilton of Arundel, seated in the barn on his family's farm and surrounded by soldiers, rather than neighbors.

Hill contacted five local veterans representing past wars, including Vietnam and World War II, for a photo shoot to advance preliminary sketches for her painting.

''I wanted to celebrate war heros and show the contrast of the youthful soldier to these men, now in their 70s and 80s, who've also been there and know what he is going through,'' said Hill. And Lockhart Blaney, a five-time decorated Navy veteran who served in the Pacific Theater during Worl War II, will again be featured in her work.

Life imitated art when the soldiers shared their experiences of serving their country on foreign fields during the photo session. Hamilton, who'd been home on leave for that fall 2008 shoot, departed for Iraq the next morning.

Hill hopes to finish the painting by June.

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

dsayer@pressherald.com

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