Gail Pommerening’s flock of birds stares at me with glowing pastel eyes. Their colorful hand-painted feathers almost shimmer in tiny Art and Soul, Gail’s treasure of a gallery snuggled up to a 500-foot bluff along the Mississippi in Alma, Wisconsin (population: 764).
As beautiful as the birds are, a simple black-and-white image catches my eye. A weathered old man smokes a pipe as he stares into the distance. Behind him: a plain farmhouse, a windmill and a shabby looking shed. The setting reminds me of something. Someone. It could have been the great grandfather I never met. For Gail, it is.
Gail—who, according to her mother, has been drawing from the time she could hold a pencil—first saw Gotlieb Casper in a photo sitting on her mom’s coffee table. When her mother got cancer, Gail thought a painting of the beloved man, set at the family farmstead in southwest Minnesota, would be a nice gift to evoke memories of happier times. When Gail opened her shop in 2005, she made 200 prints of the scene. It was the first piece she sold.
“I think part of it is the nostalgia,” Gail says of the popular painting. “The number one comment I get is, ‘That looks just like my grandpa.’”
Gail “never had the luxury” of knowing any of her grandfathers, but she makes a difference in the lives of many. A portion of her sales benefits an area Honor Flight that sends veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her work also benefits four other charities around the region.
Gotlieb would be proud.
For more information on Art and Soul: art-soul.org