Exhibit by artist battling Parkinson's on display at South Windsor Public Library

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jul. 11, 2013
Gail Paggiola, a close friend of Dona Greaney Winners, brought an art exhibit featuring Winners' work to South Windsor Public Library. She is seen here with an oil painting recently done by Winners, who is battling Parkinson's disease. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
Gail Paggiola, a close friend of Dona Greaney Winners, brought an art exhibit featuring Winners' work to South Windsor Public Library. She is seen here with an oil painting recently done by Winners, who is battling Parkinson's disease. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

Gail Paggiola was about 3 years old she met Dona Greaney Winners in preschool. As the two grew up together in Manchester, Paggiola recognized and admired Winners' keen artistic ability.

"We were in the Craft Club at Manchester High School," said Paggiola. "She would make wonderful jewelry." As an adult, Winners was gifted in quilting, knitting and gardening. But her true flair comes out through her paintings.

Vibrant colors, simple shapes grouped into complex arrangements, shades that sharpen and fade. Each canvas is riotously different, but all are joined by a graceful, unique style. It is all the more remarkable that the artist produced the works while battling Parkinson's disease.

Paggiola brought a collection of Winners' works to the South Windsor Public Library, where an exhibit will be on display through the end of July across from the children's section. Winners has resided in Manchester, East Hampton, South Windsor and East Windsor, and now lives in Powhatan, Va.

"She used to be an oil painter until the shaking stopped her," said Paggiola. Winners turned to a new medium: tissue paper painting. Tissues are dyed, allowed to dry, and then torn into shapes which she arranges into floral patterns, animals and other shapes. Browsing through her works reveals that hydrangeas, wisterias, roses and foxgloves are among her floral muses; giraffes, elephants, swans, foxes and hummingbirds are among her animal ones. Some works are 3D, popping off the surface, while in others, the tissue is so flat it appears to be part of the canvas.

Paggiola said that when an art teacher taught Winners tissue paper painting, he was so impressed by her adoption of the method that he urged her to write a book about it, which she did and hopes to publish.

Paggiola reports that her friend's case is worsening. "She had deep brain surgery," said Paggiola. "She has tremors on both sides of her brain." Medication once gave her a 20-minute window during which she could do her art. "But now I don't think she even has that," said Paggiola.

The exhibit at the library is a way for Paggiola to recognize Winners' talent. "I'm doing this to validate her as an artist," she said. The art also stands as testimony that those with debilitating illnesses can break free from their restrictions. "Mary [Etter] from the library said it shows that people with Parkinson's don't have to give up everything," Paggiola said.

One shelf displays paintings Winners did for Christmas cards and wedding invitations for family members. Many of the works have special significance to Paggiola, including the occasional inside joke.

"I tell her, 'You can't leave this earth. You're my laugh-a-minute,'" said Paggiola.


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