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Artwork helps heal artist and others

Weber's creative approach after injury lets him finish project

With his left arm in a sling due to rotator cuff surgery, Chuck Weber paints a scene of Waukesha for Waukesha Memorial Hospital's new healing environment.

With his left arm in a sling due to rotator cuff surgery, Chuck Weber paints a scene of Waukesha for Waukesha Memorial Hospital's new healing environment. Photo By Submitted

March 5, 2013

As a respected and award-winning portrait artist around the area and state, Chuck Weber's palette isn't complicated.

"In my work I bring out a lot of bright colors, so I have a lot of warmer yellows and oranges," Weber said. "I'm a colorist and I like the summer, so my paintings have a lighter feel to them."

This contemporary impressionism-style proved to be the perfect combination for his latest assignment.

Weber was being asked to create five paintings for Waukesha Memorial Hospital's new healing public art environment where a collection of pieces are on the second floor leading into the community conference room in one of its recently renovated areas.

The artwork, part of an overall three-year renovation project at the hospital, was funded by a $100,000 gift to the ProHealth Care Foundation by Waukesha philanthropists Anthony and Andrea Bryant.

Weber is one of 14 artists, seven local and seven national, for the art project, done in collaboration with downtown art gallery owner Lynn Gaffey and ProHealth Care's art consultant, Brenda Trier of Trier Design.

No stopping Weber

While this was a project Weber was looking forward to, it was also at this time that he was told by his doctor that he would need rotator cuff surgery.

The injury happened last summer during the first morning of a fishing outing when Weber fell while loading up the boat. He didn't think anything of it and finished the trip.

When the pain got worse over the next few weeks, he had some tests done and the diagnosis wasn't good. His entire rotator cuff was torn. To make it worse, Weber is left-handed and it was on that side.

He finished up the art festival season and had surgery on Nov. 20. During his first two months of recovery, he put his paintbrush down.

When he began to paint again at the end of January he could only paint for an hour before it became painful.

So Weber improvised. Using his mechanical skills, he created a system that would allow him to paint with minimal pain for a five-to-six-hour period.

"Before the operation I tried to figure out how I was going to paint, because I couldn't lift my arm," said Weber, who works out of his home studio in the Town of Delafield. "So I put my arm in a sling that uses a system of pulleys on top of the easel that was connected to weights behind the easel.

"It's like weight lifting and my arm essentially floats. It's perfect."

No stranger to engineering

Incorporating mechanics into his artwork isn't new for Weber. As an artist for the Waukesha GuitarTown project last year, Weber, who has work at The Almont Gallery in downtown Waukesha, didn't just paint over his fiberglass 10-foot guitar sculpture.

His was a Steampunk design, a genre that often features anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations. He used everything from bicycle chains, a sprinkler hose, trumpet parts and motorcycle transmission gears, among others to build a unique creation.

"I love working with my hands," Weber said. "I owe that to my father, who was an engineer."

Weber is still in occupational therapy but diving into this project has provided him with his own therapy.

"Painting is very good for my therapy," Weber said. "I'm moving my arm back and forth and it's great for hand-eye coordination. But it's a two-way street. I'm supposed to be doing some of that so I just happen to do it through my work."

Depicting Waukesha

With this successful approach, he has finished four of the five paintings, all of whichdepict landmarks in Waukesha. They are The Springhouse, The Almont Building, the Dreyfus Plaza at the Fox River, the Bronze Bears statues and the Old Waukesha Courthouse (now the Waukesha County Museum).

"In each of these my goal has been to make them evocative as well as interactive to bring them to life with color and a story - typically individuals and families enjoying their surroundings," Weber said.

Painting for a cause

And just as painting provided him with a healing outlet while recovering, the paintings are meant to provide healing for visitors and patients to the hospital.

Julia Jaegersberg, who works in corporate communications and marketing at ProHealth Care, said she has already seen the effect of the artwork.

"I saw a man bring out his wife in the hospital and they were just staring at a painting," Jaegersberg said. "It's really amazing to watch the interaction and great to see the impact."

Other local artists looking to have this impact through the project are Waukesha residents Chuck Wickler, Jeff Homar and Marcia Schneider, all who were part of last year's GuitarTown project. Connie Pelzek of Hales Corners, a featured artist at Almont Gallery, Laura Fesser of New Berlin and Richard Taylor, formerly of Waukesha, also are part of the project.

Wickler's three vibrant word-art creations, in the south 725 Grille dining space at thehospital, used words meant toinspire.

For Weber, painting for a cause isn't new.

The last 10 years, Weber has done 'live' painting at the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation Golf Outing and Auction at Silver Spring Golf Course in Menomonee Falls.

While the golfers are golfing, he starts a portrait painting - last year it was of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun - in the morning and finishes it later that day where it is auctioned off.

Last year, close to $8,000 was raised on the portrait he did that day and other prints sold $20,750 - all for paralysis research.

"The more you can expose people to art, the better and it's even better when it's bringing some joy to the people who see it," Weber said. "So it's great that this latest series will be in an environment where people are healing."

Hospital art

When completed, Chuck Weber's paintings for Waukesha Memorial Hospital's new healing public art environment will depict the following:

The Springhouse: looks back to Waukesha's famous heritage as the "Saratoga Of The West," and its famous turn of the century springs and health resort era

The Almont Building: a Civil War era architectural building at the corner of Clinton and Main streets, that now houses the Almont Gallery

The Dreyfus Plaza: at the Fox River, where Barstow crosses the Fox, in front of the Dreyfus State Office Building

The Bronze Bears: statues that "forage" along the Fox Riverwalk (this painting is the largest at more than six feet wide and 3 ½ feet tall)

Old Waukesha Courthouse: (now the Waukesha County Museum) at the corner of East and Main streets.

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