Two years ago, Linda Fedigan Hale found herself in the South Street home of a recent widower. He was selling some of his wife's possessions. One of them was a painting of a barn on Rockefeller Road against a background of autumn foliage ringing Owasco Lake. The widower said he bought the painting from a young girl 25 years ago, and offered it to Hale for $300. She bought it.
Because it's not often an artist can buy back one of their first works.
The widower had no idea it was Hale who sold him the painting that she was now purchasing. And Hale, for her part, had no idea the man owned one of her paintings until she saw the canvas.
That kind of quiet ubiquity has come to define the art of Hale, an Auburn native who will open her next show Nov. 17 at LFH Gallery in Frankfort. Since selling her first painting for $2,000 to Cayuga Savings Bank in the 1970s, an autumn scene of Hoopes Park, Hale has completed hundreds of works that have drawn the attention of galleries, businesses and collectors.
"I think my paintings are at a point where many people are enjoying them," she humbly said.
Hale, who now resides in New Hartford and has three grown children, was born in Auburn and lived in the area until her 40s. She's been interested in art all her life, she said, and took five years of lessons with Joyce Berry in Skaneateles when Hale was in her 20s. Berry, who has taught at the Louvre, stressed the importance of observation and encouraged Hale to express herself, she said.
Hale's paintings are mostly representational, but she uses vivid colors to achieve a look so three-dimensional that many ask her if she uses a palette knife. (She doesn't.)
"I've had people say you're painting the souls of people's lives," she said.
That aspect of her work is why Jeff and Kathy Edwards, owners of Edwards Poultry Farm in Genoa, have purchased about a dozen of Hale's paintings. Jeff said he and his wife first saw Hale's work at a show at the Moravia restaurant currently known as Drifters On Owasco. They didn't buy anything then, but after building an addition to their house with walls that needed filling, they called Hale.
"The thing I look for in a painting is if it captures the moment, if it's like you were right there," Jeff said. "There's some (of Hale's paintings) that I just adore."
Along with her collectors, area businesses have bought Hale's work for display, including the Sherwood Inn and Tom Thumb Drive In in Owasco, where a painting of the restaurant itself hangs inside.
Once, Hale even sent a painting to President George W. Bush: "Solitude Sits By the Window," an image of a girl holding the world in a style more abstract than Hale's signature. She painted it after landing in San Diego, where her children live, on a flight that was in the air as the Sept. 11 attacks took place. Its airy swirls of greens and blues attempt to depict the tragedy through the eyes of a child, she said. A decade later, Hale painted a sequel with more intense reds and oranges, and her subject that much older. She hopes to donate the painting to a first responders organization.
Hale's art isn't limited to painting, though. She's also directed plays for Southern Cayuga and Cazenovia schools, and writes poetry. A collection of it will be available at her LFH Gallery show.
Many have asked Hale to pair her poetry with her painting more often, she said. Like all of her art, though, that's up to her.
"I paint in the mood," she said. "I love it."