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Spirit moves Freeville artist

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Artist Adah Jacobson Glaser talks about her process and inspiration Thursday while in her painting studio at her Freeville home.

FREEVILLE — Adah Jacobson Glaser said she’s been an artist all her life.

“I do everything,” she said. “It was people asking me to do this picture. Do that picture. But they were copies of something.”

Now she is branching out doing original paintings — working one on one with people to interpret messages passed on by their deceased loved ones. “I am a spirit artist. People come to me for messages from beyond,” she said.

Glaser, 75, “and going strong,” a caretaker all of her life, whether a nurse’s aide or activities director at a nursing home, is now retired, living at the Temple of Truth in Freeville, a community that explores the spiritual world.

Glaser has lived at the community about five years. It has been in existence about 125 years, she said.

All throughout her small cottage is artwork: canes she’s carved, whirly-gigs: mechanical like statues/toys that move, made by her, and her paintings. She made her wooden bed with elaborately carved Egyptian figures, including Queen Isis and servants. She made accompanying wooden tables.

“I came from a very poor family — in order to entertain ourselves, we improvise,” she said.

She cared for her sister, Betsy, an accomplished quilter, before she died. Her brother, Wade, is a talented musician in the area.

“I met her when I was taking a class in Freeville a couple of years ago,” Ruth O’Lill of Cortland, a poet, said of Glaser. “She was delightful. Always happy, sparkly. I didn’t know anything about her art. I went to where she lived. I was knocked over by her creativity. If she decided she needed a chair or a table, she built it.”

Her spirit paintings are “amazing,” O’Lill said.

“She did one for me. It was on. She did another one for a friend,” O’Lill said. “They said, ‘It hit home.’ There’s this great discussion of intuition and spirit … People call it a lot of stuff. Where inspiration comes from, she has a solid line on it.”

Glaser typically uses images from children’s books — Walt Disney characters are her favorite — for her paintings. Her art room has a large acrylic with all the Disney cartoon characters visiting Geppetto and Pinocchio.

“I love his characters. That’s why I did this,” she said of the painting that is front and center in her studio. “So I could come in and smile.”

Adah Jacobson Glaser carved her own bedroom furniture with an Egyptian theme, including King Tut on her dressing table, shown here.

Glaser’s spirit paintings are new in the last few years. One is hung in the carriage house by the Cultural Council of Cortland County office at the Center for the Arts of Homer, a big painting of a woman seemingly dancing in a woody landscape. Splashes of energy are raining down on her.

O’Lill, Glaser’s friend, asked her to do the painting, dedicated to the healers in the building.

“I got scared,” Glaser said.

She is not used to painting complete originals. And that painting is one. And she doesn’t typically sketch beforehand to plan out her work, she said.

But she is pleased with it.

The person getting a spirit painting sits next to Glaser and asks a question.

“My personal spirit will come through and will give me a message,” she said.

She will start painting from there.

“The first time I did it, I couldn’t believe it. I was right on,” she said.

“I draw on my board the representation, certain things the spirit will tell me.”

And they are symbols for her listener.

She is still new at this, having made three spirit paintings thus far.

“My goal is to go as far as I can,” she said.

David Beale, an area watercolorist and chairman of the Cultural Council of Cortland County board, said he didn’t know Glaser.

“Art is about doing what you feel driven to do, what you want,” he said. “I think something changed in her life that led her into a different direction.”

Beale, also a classic musician, said in the music world, Arnold Schoenberg, a 20th century musician, wrote wonderful romantic types of music. Then he quit writing compositions, Beale said. When he started again, his music was completely different.

“It came as a complete surprise to the music world,” Beale said. He made “twelve tone” pieces, that have specific rules. “And it started a new school.”

“If you have a new interest, it can changed the whole focus of what you want to do,” he said.

Beale, himself, went from the construction field to being a watercolor artist, after taking a class from his artist wife.

“So that’s really interesting. That’s really neat,” he said of Glaser’s new focus. And working from the imagination: that’s hard to do, Beale said.

O’Lill said creativity is important.

“I think it takes us all away from where we are — that delving into that intuitive/God/self/spirit land, way beyond this confusing world we live in. When I come back, you are fresh, the colors are softer.”

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