La Salette artist exhibits his work

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

The act of creation: Brother Donald Wininski describes himself as a realist, and paints a portrait of the Madonna looking tired as she holds her child. “She knows a tough life. She’s not pampered,” he says. “She has the tired look — she just gave birth!” His artwork will be on display and for sale at the Altamont Stone House Inn from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Proud of his work, Brother Donald Wininski stands next to a wall of his paintings, which include not just religious scenes but detailed still lifes as well. A retired teacher, Wininski is a resident of the La Salette religious community up the hill from Altamont. La Salette is filled with his works.

ALTAMONT – Brother Donald Wininski’s oil paintings are local treasures that will be on exhibit, and for sale, on Sunday at the Altamont Stone House Inn.

“I have a passion for painting, as every day I paint something. Every day I’m at my easel. I make time to be at my easel,” he said. His works have been exhibited at the inn previously, in the flower and poultry buildings at the Altamont Fair, and in the Athens Cultural Center in Greene County.

“I just enjoy painting. I love it!” he said.

A retired teacher, Wininski is a resident of the La Salette religious community up the hill from Altamont. Wininski has painted since childhood and has produced works featuring the Blessed Mother Mary for La Salette’s annual Christmas card for the past eight years – cards that are sought after, framed, and collected.

“Every year, they bring them out,” Wininski said of his patrons and fans. “Every year is a different theme – a little shepherd holding a sheep, kneeling down,” for example. Most feature the Blessed Mother.

“She knows a tough life. She’s not pampered. She has the tired look – she just gave birth!” he said. Speaking to The Enterprise, Wininski described Mary as he mentally saw her that moment. “She’s tired. Her eyes are closed. I try to portray emotion in my work. My works have feelings,” he said.

A patron gave one of Wininski’s paintings to his daughter, he said.

“She started to cry,” he recalled. “That’s the best compliment for an artist.”

One of his best subjects is Our Lady of La Salette, but he also paints animals, pets, still lifes, and portraits.

“I’m a realist. I paint realism,” he said.

“I just finished a farm scene on Route 158,” he said. Wininski used an 18-by-24-inch canvas for the scene, set in winter. He painted it using a photograph he took, transferred to his computer, and printed, he said.

“I’m quite versatile. I set up my still life and paint from that,” he said.

“I’ve been painting since I was 5 years old. I am self-taught — never a lesson,” he said. “I use oils. I don’t use acrylics. You don’t get that blending — they dry too fast. Same for watercolors. They’re not forgiving.”

Using oils, he said, “You get a richness on your canvasses.”

When he was young, he said, Wininski used to go to Boston museums and look at colors and techniques.

“I’d say, ‘How did they get that?’ ” he said.

Norman Rockwell is Wininski’s favorite painter. His favorite of Rockwell’s works is “Looking Out to Sea,” a painting depicting an old sailor, a boy, and his dog gazing at the water.

“He’s a very realistic painter. He paints folksy — a fine artist,” Wininski said of Rockwell. “We all have our own style.”

Wininski’s exhibit at the Altamont Stone House Inn runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The inn will provide complimentary wine, he said. At the event last year, he said, more than 75 people attended.

“People were buying it before I could hang it on the wall,” he said.

Some of his works will be for sale during the exhibit. In addition to canvasses, Wininski paints oils on small wooden eggs, portraying subjects popular with his audience, like irises and roosters. The eggs sell for $15 each and include a glass stand.

“I have 8-inch-by-6-inch canvas boards,” he said. The smaller canvasses sell for $25, but, as with the farm scene in winter, the sizes Wininski paints vary. Father Jeff L’Arche of La Salette prices them, Wininski said. “I would just be ‘giving my stuff away,’ ” if the pricing were left to him, he said.

Attendees of the exhibit are meant to get “a flair for the art,” he said.

“I want them to enjoy themselves for a few hours — to enjoy an afternoon looking at beauty,” he said.

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