Book about loons is a universal story

Photo Courtesy of Theresa DeSalvio
Theresa DeSalvio, a former Glen Ridge resident, has published a picture book about loons.

Former Appleton Road resident and artist Theresa DeSalvio, currently living in the Hudson Valley, recently self-published, in June, a picture book which is popular among Adirondack residents and selling well.

The book is a series of paintings with a narrative text, both executed by DeSalvio, who attributes its success to the subject matter: loons.

The book is titled “Mama Loon and Mister Dale” and according to DeSalvio, the water bird, with its distinctive call and speckled wings, is treasured in the area where she lives. In a recent telephone interview, she said the genesis of the book was a real-life occurrence.

DeSalvio has a lakeshore residence and one day, with her daughter and a friend as witnesses, a photographer tried to photograph a loon chick.

“Two adult loons sprang into action when the photographer got too close,” DeSalvio explained. “The loons have extraordinary cries.”

Her book tells the universal story of parents protecting their young and for her, an intimate story, she said, because the incident occurred on the small lake ringed by her neighbors.

“I gave a reading of the book in Cornwall,” she said, “and have this instrument that makes a loon sound.”

There was a short silence while she found the instrument and then sent the bird call over the phone.

“The book was beautifully done,” she said. “The printing was overlooked by Tom DeStefano of Budget Printing, in Bloomfield.

DeSalvio moved from the borough in July, 2020, and her paintings have generally been in a series that tell a story.

“My work has always been autobiographical, but became more obvious since 2012,” she said.

She has painted about cancer, titled “In Treatment (Working Toward the Cure)”, and heroin addiction, titled as “Tales.” In this one, she reimagines Pinnochio, the puppet, as an addict. These and others series can be seen on her website:

“My stories have a lot of drama and I always like to have a narrator,” she said. “Even ‘Everyday Living’ has its own quiet drama. I see things in a positive way.”

This series and another titled, “Life Patterns,” are two of her more recent series. She said of the latter that the visual patterns reinforce the patterns of life.

“No matter what the focus of the narrative, there is always a focus on art,” she said. “I’ve always used colors boldly, but it’s more apparent lately. One of my key influences throughout my life has been Matisse and getting to the essence of a subject and removing the clutter. I think getting to the essence is getting to a timeless quality.”

The subject of the series “Everyday Life” is about just that.

“I think the paintings speak to the enjoyment of everyday living, how we’re all unified, how we mark time,” she said. “There are images of gardening and indoor work. It’s about the celebration of life.”

DeSalvio uses representations of herself and family members in her paintings.

“For instance, I was doing a painting and my daughter was making fettuccine,”’ she said. “I took a photo of it and installed it into the work, to inform the work.”
She said the evolution of her work is organic: She does not know what the next painting will be and does not like to repeat herself.

“I’m in my studio right now,” she said, ‘and I’m looking at the work titled ‘Good Morning.’ It’s a joyful work from the series ‘Life Patterns.’ I have chickens and in the painting my granddaughter is carrying a basket to collect the eggs.”

The “Mister Dale” in the Mama Loon book is also a neighbor, but DeSalvio changed his name.

“He was very upset when he heard I was basing a children’s book on this incident,” she said. “Baby Loon dove down into the lake and everyone hearing all the ruckus came out to see what was going on and began searching the water. Mr. Dale became alarmed. No one knew if Baby Loon was safe and he was afraid he’d go down in lake history as the Baby Loon Killer.”

But the chick surfaced. DeSalvio sent a copy of the book to the photographer who was pleased with the way she told the story.

“I think all artwork is a diary,” DeSalvio said. “It reflects a moment in time. But the purpose is not to be a
diary. I have no idea what the next painting is. Somehow it just works. It’s never failed me.”