Sandy Hook Mural Salves Unspeakable Wounds

by DAVID SEPULVEDA | Sep 2, 2016 12:13 am

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Posted to: Arts & Culture, Visual Arts, Ninth Square



Reynolds’ Sandy Hook Flock, oil on linen.

The inspiration for Robert Reynolds in designing a mural for the new and newly opened Sandy Hook Elementary School was a long time in coming.


Fifteen years ago on an overcast day, the New Haven gallery owner and fine artist stood on Middleburg Beach in Holland with his then girlfriend, as he received bad news of her medical status; stage 4 cervical and ovarian cancer. Moments later, Reynolds recounted, a flock of sea birds descended, enveloping the couple in what seemed a protective gesture and hopeful sign.


Reynolds in his Branford Studio.

Reynolds, an avid birder and flying enthusiast for many years, said the event inspired a painting series honoring the emotional encounter with the birds. “They were protecting us, the flock acted as one, as a tribe,” he said. When invited to create a work of art for the new $50-million elementary school in Newtown last year that would tie into its therapeutic, healing-themed environment, Reynolds returned to that cloudy day in Holland, to his earlier paintings, and the rich symbolism inspired by the birds at a moment of crisis.


The new Sandy Hook School, designed by New Haven-based architects Svigals + Partners, opened its doors to students last Monday, nearly four years after the massacre of 20 children and six adults not far from the new school’s location. The 87,000-square-foot school has a state of the art security system, but also seeks to create a sense of security and well being through its nature-invoking architectural elements and collection of new art works.

Reynolds’ contribution, Sandy Hook Flock, is an 8-by-8-foot mural, reproduced from one of the flock-themed paintings he created. It has been installed in the school’s administrative offices near the central lobby. The painting depicts stylized birds in flight, painted in warm earth tones over soothing gradients of blue sky. Each bird is different, representing “the diversity that makes up a community.”

Reynolds said the painting does not focus on, nor are there are numerical or visual associations with, the Sandy Hook tragedy itself. Though there are slight variations in the birds’ trajectories, the imagery suggests a unity of vision, purpose, and determination in moving forward — together.

media_3}In total, Reynolds said he painted three new works in the flock series, carefully choosing a color palette that was less intense than the original series painted fifteen years ago. The highly prolific artist, who works in a variety of mediums, faced a number of health challenges throughout the painting process due to the effects of a stroke he suffered just last year, leaving him blind and partially deaf on his left side.

Sandy Hook Flock joins other artworks by local and regional artists created as a result of feedback from parents and the community, their themes a welcome salve for unspeakable wounds.

“It was an honor for me to be involved in the new Sandy Hook Elementary School and to create a piece of art that resonates with the community in such a personal way. Art is my language, and my intent for this project was to create an image that invites the viewer to become part of the flock, rather than just a bystander,” said Reynolds.

The artist has offered limited reproduction rights to the organization Sandy Hook Promise to merchandise the artwork imagery to help raise funds in support of the students and community of Sandy Hook.

When not working in his Branford studio, Reynolds can be found promoting the contemporary art of emerging and established artists at his Reynolds Fine Art Gallery at 96 Orange Street in New Haven’s Ninth Square.


Carole Bolsey, Waterfields Untitled II, Mixed media. Photo by Peter Baird.

An opening reception for artist Carole Bolsey’s highly gestural new works will be held on Friday, Sept. 2, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.


The new show at Reynolds Fine Art Gallery runs through October 29, 2016. Contact the gallery for additional details.