An artist’s last hurrah
After 4 decades, Wynn Breslin is hosting her final open-studio tour
To visit Wynn Breslin’s art studio is to take a pictorial trip through the history of The Wedge, the unique sliver of land whose landscape inspired the Newark artist’s lifetime of work.
From the balcony of her Terrapin Lane home, Breslin has spent nearly six decades chronicling the changing scenery of the White Clay Creek Valley.
In Breslin’s home studio, nearly every inch of available wall space is covered with paintings, a mix of oils, acrylics and watercolors. Hundreds more are stacked in piles against the wall or packed away in boxes.
Over the next three weekends, Breslin, 84, will open her studio up to the public for the final time after 41 years of annual shows. Anyone interested is welcome to browse through her paintings, ask questions about her techniques and hear her stories about The Wedge.
She held her first open- studio event to celebrate the nation’s bi-
centennial, and through the years, the springtime tradition has become a signature of Breslin’s career.
“It’s my feeling that it’s a bridge between the public and the artist,” Breslin said. “That’s what I wanted it to be.”
Breslin believes she was destined to be an artist.
Her father came from a family of Parisbased artists, and growing up in Rutherford, N. J., Breslin was interested in painting from an early age.
“It runs in the genes,” she said. “It’s what I wanted to do my whole life.”
Breslin earned a scholarship to study art at Syracuse University but later transferred to Ohio Wesleyan University after she got engaged to her late husband, Bill.
Bill was drafted during the Korean War, but ended up being stationed at Dover Air Force base rather than being sent overseas. The young couple moved to Georgetown, Del. – where they lived in a trailer parked in a potato patch – and Breslin got a job teaching art at a local school.
When Bill got out of the service, they moved to Newark, where he took a job at the University of Delaware and she accepted a teaching position at the Medill and Central schools. They lived on Kells Avenue while searching for a place to build their own home.
“It took us four years to find a property with a view,” she said.
In 1961, they settled on the 2.5- acre property in The Wedge, the triangular piece of land where Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland meet and that until 1921 was the subject of a land dispute between Delaware and Pennsylvania. For many years, it was known as a lawless noman’s land because neither state could decisively claim jurisdiction.
The Breslins built their house atop a hill overlooking the White Clay Creek Valley. They designed the house to be long and thin in order to maximize the amount of windows that overlooked the vista.
At the time, the home’s vantage point provided her a view of rolling green pastures, accented by an old barn. In the distance was Terrapin Hill – named that because it looked like a turtle from the air, Breslin explained.
Once farmland, the area was owned by DuPont, which aimed to flood the valley to create a reservoir. Bowing to public pressure, the company eventually abandoned that plan and donated the land to the state, leading to the creation of White Clay Creek State Park.
In recent years, however, trees have obscured much of the view from her home.
“It’s a shame, but it happens,” she said. “It’s life.”
Throughout her career, Breslin has done a number of types of art – from sculptures to portraits to landscapes of the Maine coast, where she owns a sum- mer home – but she always finds herself returning to her favorite muse: The Wedge.
“You should have seen it before it all grew up,” she said wistfully. “I just love the area.”
She’s painted the same general scene hundreds of times but marvels in the little details that change – the effect the changing seasons have, the way the land looks in a certain light, and even the way she feels as she’s painting it.
“I look at it through every window in my house,” she said. “Sometimes, the light hits something just right, and I go grab my paints.”
As she prepared for her final open- studio weekends, Breslin seemed remarkably at peace with the four- decade tradition coming to an end, adding that she should have ended it last year, before some recent health issues left her with less energy than she’d like.
Still, she looks back at the last four decades with fondness.
“I’ve made really good friends from people who come every year,” she said. “It’s been delightful for me.”
Besides, she said with a smile as she showed off the view from her balcony, it’s not like she plans to put down her paintbrush any time soon.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll stop painting,” she said.
Artist Wynn Breslin is preparing to host her final open-studio event, a tradition she has carried on for more than 40 years.
Artist Wynn Breslin admires the view of The Wedge from the balcony of her home.