Bernadette "Bern" Wladyka looks at her artwork as a reflection of her life. An artist who has worked with many mediums, she said that her work is life layers.
"It is like my life -- lots of layers and lots of different parts," she said.
Ms. Wladyka will be the featured artist for the final 2013 show at the Saxonburg Area Artists Cooperative, which opens Saturday. The Harrison native returns to her hometown from Leesburg, VA., where she works and lives with her husband, Skip Freidhof, a graphics artist.
Ms. Wladyka's high school art teacher, Sam Andrew, is on the board and one of the members of the artists cooperative. The two have remained in touch, and Ms. Wladyka said he was instrumental in her pursuing her artwork.
"As good teachers do, he sensed I had artistic talent and nurtured the artist in me. His encouragement motivated me to continue the creative process called art," she said.
Ms. Wladyka thought she would follow her mentor's footsteps and become an art teacher. She graduated from Kutztown University with a degree in art education, but decided it really wasn't a career path she wanted to pursue.
"I never did the teaching route -- I just think teaching art was not my forte," she said.
She began working as a computer graphics artist and said in the early 1980s, it was a good career path. Over the years, Ms. Wladyka's professional career has taken what she calls "many twists and turns" to her current role as a common knowledge manager.
"That means I do the graphics for our newsletters, write the newsletter, handle social media -- that sort of thing," she said.
And through her career, her passion for art has remained.
"My personal enjoyment of creating art has remained a constant in my life," she said.
Over the years, Ms. Wladyka has worked with fabric collages, watercolors, acrylic painting, oils and pastels. These days, she often works with several mediums,
"It often takes me quite a while to complete a piece. I'll start working on it, then walk away for a while to see what happens," she said.
Again, she referenced her artwork to her life.
"In both my life and artwork, things don't always end up where they started out to be," she said.
Mr. Andrew said Ms. Wladyka's talent was easy to see when she was in high school.
"Even then she showed strong promise to develop into an accomplished artist. I was extremely pleased to discover just how accomplished she has become," he said.
SAAC is happy to be hosting Ms. Wladyka for the final show of 2013, said Mr. Andrew.
"As soon as I saw her latest work, I knew we had to bring her back to her home region for an exclusive one-woman show," he said.
Mr. Andrew said this particular exhibit has been in the works for more than a year.
"The first few months were spent talking her into a major solo exhibit. I wanted to finish up our 2013 season with a really strong and exciting show and I felt her work to be dynamic, sensitive and luscious to look at," he said.
Ms. Wladyka said she is excited to return home for her show.
"Saxonburg is growing and there is this wonderful art community there. I'm happy to be a part of it and be not only part of the community, but part of the community coming back," she said.
In addition to Ms. Wladyka's artwork, there will be work from the members of the artists cooperative. The artist's reception, which will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, will feature music by Amanda Noah, beer tastings from Cellar Door Micro Brewery and a chocolate tasting from the Speckled Hen Chocolate Co.
"I sincerely feel that this show will be one of the best exhibits of the season. And with the added features of the opening night, I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening," Mr. Andrew said
The Saxonburg Area Artists Cooperative is at The Gallery, 215 Rear, Main Street, Saxonburg. Ms. Wladyka's four-week show runs until Nov.2.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.