Meet the Artists
Get to know the artists whose works are featured on the New Canaan Sculpture Trail.
Thomas S. Berntsen
Tom graduated Rochester Institute of Technology in 1977 with a BS in Professional Photography. He immediately launched his career as a commercial photographer in NYC specializing in the decorative arts, initially shooting for prestigious shelter magazines, then becoming more involved in a studio discipline.
Reassessing his life’s course after 9/11, he selectively abandoned many past beliefs and shifted efforts toward an inspiriting mode of self-expression, initially as a personal statement for him alone. The resulting body of work, “DancingLeaves,” encompass photography as well as sculpture. Encouraged by friends, he began to show the work publicly. It had become a favorite among designers and had been shown regularly, most impressively at The National Arts Club, filling the main gallery with large prints.
After several years of success and, during a period of restlessness and self-examination, Tom experienced a paradigm shift, a clearing of mind, that compelled him to devote his practice in the creation of art inspired by the ancient practice of meditation. Steadily working on expanding his oeuvre in novel ways using new and varied material, he has taken the time for a journey within that has opened the work in meaningful and introspective ways.
Tom’s interest in psychology, archeology, and philosophy illuminate his work. “Passages” is one idea of several conceptual installation pieces. Each is a creative expression woven together with an enthusiastic playful curiosity and discovery of a “journey.”
Artist website: www.tsberntsen.com
Gilbert Boro has had a distinguished career as a sculptor, architect, educator, and international design consultant. Boro now lives and works in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he runs Studio 80+ Sculpture Grounds, a collaborative work studio and sculpture garden open to the public.
Boro has exhibited his vast body of work to local and international audiences. His sculpture is concerned with the interplay of space, place, and scale. Boro’s long career provides a wide range of works, with varied aesthetics and materials including stone, wood, metal, and fiberglass. He is a constructivist who believes the challenge and joys of creation are equally related to visualization and execution. He believes art should help us regain the creativity we all had as children. Boro’s sculptures are more than just objects in space; they become a place to be experienced, explored and enjoyed by all ages.
Artist website: www.gilbertboro.com
Joe Chirchirillo has been creating sculpture since the early 1970s. He moved to Jersey City in 1979 and joined the first wave of artists building the burgeoning art scene there. In the early 1980s, Joe exhibited at the “Monument Redefined,” and the “Terminal Show,” huge artist-run public events staged in abandoned buildings and blighted urban lots. Both shows received tremendous attention from viewers and critics alike, and Joe’s work was reviewed in Art Forum, Art in America, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times.
In the 1990s, Chirchirillo began to experiment with kinetic sculpture as a way to examine the similarities and contrasts between the natural and mechanical world. He had several successful one-person shows in Manhattan during these years and soon began pushing his ideas even further, creating sculpture based on the cycles in nature. For the last 10 years, he has been working on his “Sculpture Systems” series, which aims to create “nature machines” that mimic natural processes.
Chirchirillo moved to Vermont eight years ago, where he has focused on outdoor sculpture.
Artist website: www.joechirchirillo.com
Born and educated in Lima, Peru, Carlos Davila comes from a family of artists. After receiving his MFA from La Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, he participated in the reconstruction of the 1,500-year-old Pre-Colombian city of Chan-Chan in northern Peru.
Before emigrating to the United States, Davila spent time exhibiting in and traveling around Europe. He lived for many years in New York City, where he attended Pratt Graphic Center and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop and worked from a studio in Greenwich Village.
He currently lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with his wife, Jane, who is also an artist, and works from a loft at the NEST Arts Factory also in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Artist website: www.carlos-davila.com
Chris Kaczmarek is a New York-based artist and educator whose work spans both experimental and traditional sculptural practices, including installation, performance, video, built circuits, and solar-powered objects. His work is often interactive and designed to guide the viewer towards a deeper contemplation about technology and the inhabited environment. Other works include sound scores and set design for the stage, and handmade electronic instruments.
His work has been exhibited at national and international galleries and festivals such as Art Souterrain in Montreal, Canada; the Trinity College Science Gallery, Dublin Ireland; the New York Hall of Science, Queens NY; Real Art Ways, Hartford CT; the Henry Street Abrons Art Center, New York NY; the Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield OH; the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus OH; and the Page-Walker Arts Center, Cary NC.
Artist website: www.chriskaczmarek.com
Elizabeth Knowles & William Thielen
Elizabeth Knowles: Natural patterns inspire the art making of Elizabeth Knowles. Some are biological patterns on the cellular level of organisms. Others are geological patterns of the earth’s natural landscapes. Working site specifically and utilizing a variety of media, she explores how dynamic patterns connect landscapes and life forms, physiology and physics, death and detritus, growth and form. Revealing life’s rhythms, the work displays the unfolding and undulation of vibrant energy expanding, contracting, and recycling itself through visual relationships.
Knowles is the recipient of numerous grants and residencies including the Weir Farm, Wilton, CT, Assets for Artists Residency at MASS MoCA, MA, Puffin Foundation, NJ, Miami Beach Cultural Council, FL, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, CA, Banff Centre, Canada, E. D. Foundation, Artist’s Space, Millay Colony, and Yaddo. Recent New York Projects include installations for Chashama, Montefiore Hospital Fine Art Program, the Flatiron Prow Art Space, NYU Langone Medical Center, Pen and Brush, Governors Island, Saks Fifth Avenue as well as the Bank of America Plaza, in Charlotte, NC. Her work can be found in a variety of corporate, medical and private collections. Knowles received a BA from Pomona College, Claremont, CA and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL.
Artist website: www.elizabethknowles.com
William Thielen: Born and raised in Pierre, South Dakota, William H. Thielen did his undergraduate studies in painting at Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota from which he received a B.S. in Art (Painting with minors in Fibers and Sculpture) in 1977. Wanting a broader base from which to draw for his art, he enrolled in graduate school under M. Joan Lintault at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he received his M.F.A. in Fibers in 1980.
He has shown throughout the U.S. and Canada, and has been a visiting artist and lecturer at numerous universities throughout the Midwest. His work has been shown in more than 110 galleries, museums and art centers in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. His work has been published in multiple books and periodicals. Thielen’s shows have received positive reviews in art publications nationwide. He has received awards and grants, most notably a National Endowment for the Arts visual artist fellowship. Thielen is currently a studio artist, living and working in Carbondale, Illinois for the past forty years.
Artist website: www.williamhthielen.com
Anthony Heinz May
The rural outskirts of the Umpqua Valley on the West Coast is where I grew up. Enveloped by fir tree forests, the majority of my life was spent contemplating nature. I developed deep fascination with creativity of nature and artistic elements found there.
As a New York based artist, I am interested in engaging natural/rural/urban communities with environmental art practices to help foster natural relations humans once held with Earth. My concern is based on reintroducing people to the support system of their existence in order to emphasize sustainability and sustainable practices in daily life.
Eventually this process led me into sculpture and public art. Centerpiece to my art practice is the investigation of overarching statements concerning nature, humans and technology. My sculpture is a place-maker of the past/present/future of nature and human relationships with it.
Artist website: www.anthonyheinzmay.com
Matthias Neumann was educated as an architect in Germany and moved to New York City in 2000. His work has since fluctuated between architecture and a wide range of artistic practice surrounding the discipline of architecture. Built and published work include his finalist proposal for the World Trade Center Memorial in New York (2003), various built projects in New York City, the temporary exhibition structure for the Spier Biennial for Contemporary Art South African Art (2007), and Hendershot Gallery, NY (2010), among others. Over the past years, his focus has expanded from architecture to include museum- and gallery-based work, as well as a compounding interest in social and landscape aspects of the built environment and participatory interaction.
Matthias opened his own practice normaldesign in 2004. He currently teaches the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College New York and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Artist website: www.normaldesign.com