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Local favorite Kaihlanen returns with new exhibit

By Staff | Mar 5, 2009

On Tuesday, artist and island regular Lauri Kaihlanen exhibited his newest batch of colorful artwork at the Captiva Civic Association.

Along with his wife, Anne, Kaihlanen welcomed wave after wave of art enthusiasts and folks looking to add a some of his whimsical work to their collections.

Kaihlanen has been coming annually to Captiva for 28 years, thanks to his mother and father who discovered the island 30 years ago.

Kaihlanen’s 90-year-old mother, Hilda, is also an artist. Several of her unique beach and Captiva scenes were on display and for sale during the event.

Most Captivans know Kaihlanen, and even if they don’t, they’ve probably seen his work. The colorfully muraled Captiva Post Office mailbox is one of Kaihlanen’s most well-known pieces.

“I always tell people that the color is in my genes. It’s just my way of expressing myself,” Kaihlanen said, noting that he prefers to work with acrylics because of their versatility and rich, brilliant colors, listing “Thalo Blue” as one of his favorite shades – especially when it comes to creating big blue skies and oceans.

His affinity for vividly hued compositions is characteristic of what Captivans have come to recognize as Kaihlanen’s unmistakable style.

“I think Lauri is fantastic. It’s all about color, it’s all about variety, it’s all about happy, it’s all about island living,” said Captivan Paul McCarthy. “I think Lauri’s work personifies what it is to live on Captiva.”

But while Kaihlanen spends most of his time in Rockport, Mass., he said that Captiva and his art work are a perfect match, especially because of the island’s large spectrum of beautiful colors and abundant wildlife – two things Kaihlanen loves most.

“They just go hand in hand,” he noted. “Captiva is a beautiful place to be.”

Aside from being an accomplished painter, Kaihlanen also likes to draw.

“I love to draw in black and white, but I have to have some color in it,” he said, referring to his series of black and white trees that all feature a surprise pop of color.

Trees could easily be considered one of Kaihlanen’s favorite themes, but he’s also well-known for his wildlife, particularly if the critter in question is perched atop a colorful bicycle (some Captivans might recall several ABC Sale t-shirts featuring Kaihlanen’s delightful designs.)

In his most recent CCA exhibition, however, Kaihlanen showed another facet of his creative abilities, with pieces that are much different – more muted and realistic – than his stylistically recognizable and vibrantly graphic masterpieces which he likes to describe as “lighthearted and carefree.”

“I was looking through my reference material and I just fell in love with these photographs of lions,” he said, attributing his prolific production of animal paintings to his deep love and appreciation for wildlife.

“I’ve always done whimsical lions, but these are more realistic,” he added, explaining that he drew his inspiration from the photographs, but infused his own imaginative ideas into his representations of the lions.

Kaihlanen has also started painting pet portraits from photographs.

According to Kaihlanen, the most popular print of the evening was of an original painting immortalizing the Island Store, the Chapel-by-the-Sea and the Captiva Post Office Box.

Though the CCA exhibit was a one-night-only event, people that are interested in Kaihlanen’s art can visit www.kaihlanengallery.net.