Marianne Holtermann has saved about 4,000 photos on her computer. She didn’t quite know why she was collecting the photos, until recently, when she discovered the Milford Arts Council (MAC). She has since been copying some of those photos onto canvas with pastel and oil paints, and seeing old memories in a new light.

Holtermann, a nurse and a painter of three years, submitted two pieces to the MAC’s latest exhibit, including a portrait of her son and a portrait of her mother-in-law, taken from a 38-year-old photo.

The MAC exhibit is called Body of Art, and it’s specific to portraits and illustrations of the human body. This is the first time MAC has hosted a figurative display. The exhibit is open until April 27 at the old train station behind Milford Bank in downtown Milford.

The show highlights 40 works, according to MAC’s business and marketing manager, Richard Stephen. Typically, he said, an exhibit includes 60 to 100 pieces, and the MAC wants to see submissions climb for next year’s show. “We have a very active arts community in Milford, so people stay pretty tuned in,” Stephen said. “But shows don’t catch on unless you do them every year. The MAC does several annual shows.

The new oil- and pastel-hungry Holtermann was ecstatic for the opportunity and the challenge of the Body of Art show. She said painting the portraits was a step up from the landscape scenes she had been practicing.

“If you had told me five years ago that I would be here with these paintings, I might not have believed it,” she said. She said just to see her works hanging on the wall has been an encouragement — a point MAC community members may very well be proud of.  

She based one pastel piece on a 38-year-old photo that she said lacked some visual appeal.

“You put something into [the piece] when you know the person,” Holtermann said. “Somebody might not say she is beautiful, but when I see her, I see her as more than a face here.”

In others words, Holtermann appreciated being able to add a human filter to the photograph she had taken, which more accurately records the artist’s mother-in-law in Holtermann’s eyes.

“For me, this isn’t a money-making business,” Holtermann said. “That gives me the freedom to paint what I want to paint.”

Stephen added that learning to draw makes a person see images in new ways — beyond the face, in individual shapes and patterns.

Greg Shea, an artist and senior museum preparator at the Yale Center for British Art, is the juror for the exhibit. For Shea, working with Milford has shown him a range of talents and a range of different art styles, which he loves to see.

“A beautifully rendered portrait of someone can appeal to anyone,” he said. He said he likes the local art shows, where art can be free of the pretentious attitude that might be found at more exclusive galleries.

Shea said he loves figurative art because it is easy to relate to.

“It’s a timeless favorite because it’s people representing people, in whatever form that artist decides to take. For 50,000 years it’s been people working on the figure,” he said.

The director of the MAC, Paige Miglio, said she enjoyed seeing new artists, and the foot traffic for the event has been good. Miglio likes to see fresh ways in which people respond to the prompts the MAC presents.

One event, she said, was just called “trees,” and an artist carved the shape of a tree out of a tree stump.