SKANEATELES - This was a reception of a special sort, where the invitations that were delivered in nearly every room of the Hobbit Hollow Farm Bed and Breakfast were to attend a special moment, occupied only by you.
There in the lobby, the clock stopped for some, at a polo swing, suspended forever in mid-air, the rider's horse with a look of determination locked in his eyes.
In a sitting room corner were white birch trees, their striped bark leading up to still green leaves, the only soil sewn into the scene a dirt path, welcoming a guest to listen to the sound of the forest, as soft as the click of a second hand stopping inside the view.
“I want them to want to walk into the painting, get them so they're looking up into the leaves and can hear the birds chirp,” said Melissa Hornung Jones, describing the piece, one of many she created that transformed the inn into a gallery Sunday.
“I'm looking for serenity when I paint a landscape. I don't (look for turmoil), because I've had so much turmoil in my life. Life is full of turmoil. I want to bring happiness and serenity in people's lives,” she said.
It was the first art show devoted exclusively to the Skaneateles artist. But that did not mean the visitors that thoughtfully strolled from room to room were unfamiliar to her work.
For 10 years, Hornung Jones has painted portraits on consignment; often suggesting tonal inferences to match the decor of a client's home.
However, more than anything else, she captures the emotion of the subject. There is genuine feeling - and thought - that exists in the people, and horses, that she portrays.
“Yes, oh yes - it looks just like him,” said Barbara Bell, of Skaneateles. “His expression, his eyes: We call him Sad Eyes. You could look at the portrait, and then look at a number of horses in a field, and you would know which one was him. In the winter, his dapple of grey goes away, and you see more of the white, and she's captured that. This was of a particular day in the end of summer. I love the horse, and that's him.”
The painting, owned by Bell, was loaned to the artist for purposes of contributing to the showing. Bell was on the horse that day, and is included in the work.
But it doesn't always work that way. Often, Hornung Jones will work with her client, utilizing photographs, or visiting locations, combining a favorite scene, with the subject of the portrait, to personalize a painting.
Occasionally, it will involve incorporating loved ones who are departed.
“Yes, absolutely. I did a family portrait in the park,” she said. “There were three generations - the kids were playing in the gazebo; the grandparents, who were deceased, were sitting on their favorite park bench; and the parents were off on a boat, which is their favorite thing to do, boat on Skaneateles Lake. When the parents saw it, they were brought to tears.”
The exhibit, arranged by Mike Tutor, proprietor of the Sherwood Inn and Hobbit Hollow, both located in Skaneateles, was a chance for the artist to renew old acquaintances, and meet new people interested in art. It was also a chance to view her paintings in an enlightening way.
“It's been amazing, because when you're an artist, you can't tell how others see your work. You're always alone. This is almost like a mirror - it comes alive,” she said.