Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.31.2005
Section: At Home
Artist's touch: Switch plates, intense bathrooms, artwork make painter's home a living exhibit
Photos by Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star Denyse Fenelon was left with nowhere to paint her signature oil portraits when remodeling her home, so she began painting on furniture around the house.
By Rebecca Boren
SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
While their Tanque Verde Valley home was being remodeled, Denyse Fenelon and Don Peters lived for six months in the guesthouse that is normally her art studio.
Left with nowhere to paint her signature oil portraits of chairs, Denyse turned to painting dollhouse furniture. Then she began painting on actual furniture that was just sitting around the house, looking undistinguished.
Today, a collection of tiny armoires, painted in jewel tones and stencil designs, sits on a brightly-colored bookcase in the art studio.
Outside the not-quite-finished home, several wooden chairs, each painted a rainbow of colors, occupy the patio. Denyse has begun selling her painted chairs, as well as her chair paintings.
While her official art is on view through Oct. 2 as part of the "Light & Shadow" exhibit at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, the home Fenelon and Peters share is a living exhibit of another kind of art - how a painter is using her talents to decorate and personalize more than 4,000 feet of living and working space.
Fenelon and Peters moved to Tucson from Berkeley, Calif., three years ago. She paints and sells real estate out of Long Realty Company's Foothills office. He quit real estate to build hand-launched gliders at home and is now one of the top manufacturers of radio-controlled "sailplanes."
When the couple decided to move to the Baked Apple, he wound up doing the house hunting on Sundays. When he first saw the 1978 burnt adobe they now own, he disliked it so much he almost didn't bother taking pictures to show her. There was the dark galley kitchen, wall-to-wall carpets and a pointless enormous entryway.
But on the flight home, his attitude softened as he contemplated the two big workshops for him, the guest house for her - and the wonderful location just at the city limits.
She figured "I'd bought the last house," so it was his turn to choose.
They had lived here a year - and Denyse had just gotten rid of the last of 200 moving boxes - when Peters told her to pack up, it was time to remodel.
Denyse started small on the home-decorating front - sanding down and painting wooden switch plates in bright acrylics. In contrast to the kitschy switch plate covers you usually see, hers tend to be abstract designs inspired by Southwest weaving. An entryway niche acquired a colorful coating of blues and greens touched with gold because, well, because it looked like it needed painting.
Bathrooms are intense, faux-painted colors like a rosy crimson and turquoise. Seasonal wreaths decorate the front door. And out in the art studio, Denyse Fenelon has gone Southwest, too. Instead of pictures of chairs, she is now busy painting portraits of the Virgin Mary.