Wellesley creatives who look at coronavirus in a novel way

Let’s face it, it can be tough to keep our spirits up right now. Daily coronavirus case count updates remind us that it’s still dangerous out there. The most depressing spring fashion trend in recent memory, masks, has made its runway debut. And we’ve got a neighborhood watch culture that has residents wondering if their movements will wind up dissected on a popular community Facebook page.

Then there are the creatives in town, specifically a trio of women who have focused their camera lenses on the absurd, the comical, and the just plain outrageous. I’ve been following Julia Hicks de Peyster, Lynne Smith, and Beth Shedd pretty closely on social media over the last few weeks. Like, obsessively closely. As in, I can’t get through the day without these ladies, so they’d better keep posting.

If you could use a little irreverence in your life right now — and who couldn’t? — let me introduce you to these three Wellesley free spirits. You’re welcome.

Julia Hicks de Peyster

“Each one leaves my mouth more agape in awe and wonder.” — Facebook commenter

When the Getty Museum earlier this month issued a playful challenge to re-create famous artworks using objects lying around the home, Julia Hicks de Peyster answered the call. In her images, de Peyster explores the symbolism inherent in everyday household items. She employs camera filters and raw emotion to convey the various moods she is trying to capture. In the three shots below, de Peyster moves through different time periods. Her use of found items, however, signals her consistent message of hope for a world in which no one need want for toilet paper.

Julia Hicks de Peyster, Wellesley
Here, Hicks de Peyster re-creates Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting, “Christina’s World”. The re-creation, titled “Covid’s World, 2020”, was shot on location on the aqueduct. Although well-known as reclusive, de Peyster acknowledges that she and her crew were “discovered by several sets of friends as we dragged our toilet paper and paper towels across the aqueduct for set-up.” These friends were unsurprised to see her hiking in a skirt, carrying paper products, and did not think to ask probing questions.

Julia Hicks de Peyster, Wellesley
Pierre Auguste Renoir’s “Young Girl with Red Hair” (1890s) gets a much-needed update to “Middle Aged Lady with Red Hair (and a Lampshade)” (2020). de Peyster says, “As an art history major and someone who reads art books like others read novels, I have a number of artists and their works in my head. With that in mind I spend my alone time, which has grown exponentially, wandering around my house and shuffling through drawers and closets finding objects that inspire an image memory. I try to make them funny, and so the less polished and more exaggerated the better when I put them together. Kind of the art tableaux equivalent of a drag queen show.” Photo credit: Nicholas de Peyster.

Julia Hicks de Peyster, Wellesley
“Bomb Hugger” by Banksy, 2003. People are calling these works masterpieces, and they aren’t referring to the original art. de Peyster reveals that the shots are a team project: “My entire family helps me get the angles and expressions right and each one of them had taken a few of the photos.”

Lynne Smith — the only one we know who can stand out at an Elton John show

Wellesley resident and theme-dresser Lynne Smith, the ubiquitous Red Sox fanatic whose Fenway-inspired get-ups have been covered by everyone from us to the Today Show, hasn’t let a little thing like global pandemic hide her light under a bushel. At time when the rest of us are slogging about in sweatpants, Smith has been plumbing the depths of her commodious closet and posting a runway show of sorts. This “best of” Lynne Smith Facebook photo feed has kept me in good spirits all month.

If you aren’t familiar with this fashionista who regularly grants charitable groups and auction winners a look at her closet with its custom-made Red Sox memorabilia (she wears a necklace with a picture of each of the starters for every game), accompanied with stories galore, you will be now. Given this season’s state of baseball, Lynne’s a little heartbroken. But when the going gets tough, and the tough can’t go shopping, the tough get creative. Lynne’s friends describe her as a “cross between Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett.” That sounds about right. 

Lynne Smith, Wellesley
Lynne Smith just keeps rolling along. Photo credit: Gary Smith


Lynne Smith, Wellesley
Here’s Lynne, making America safe again. She says, ” I’ve lived in Wellesley for more than 40 years and feel it’s a great place to raise a family. Like many disasters, the coronavirus has inspired some wonderful acts of generosity and kindness and, unfortunately, some that are despicable. In times like these, we should be making a special effort to be kind, considerate and helpful.No matter where you live, you are a member of a community of neighbors. Try to remember this during these trying times. If we stick together and follow the guidelines, we can beat this ugly virus.” Photo credit: Gary Smith


Lynne Smith, Wellesley
Lynne Smith, at war with coronavirus. Photo credit: Gary Smith

Beth Shedd, positivity role model

You may recognize Beth Shedd’s work from her 2019 project, Wellesley Wednesdays, in which she featured a photograph of people in town and their stories, then posted the results on her Instagram account. In the face of these current unprecedented times, Shedd went on the hunt for silver linings and came up with a new photographic series: Wellesley Home-Days.

To capture her subjects, Shedd goes door to door (but not within 20 feet) to, as she says, “photograph people who are doing the best they can to find happiness during these uncertain times. I loved the photo journalistic angle of my Wellesley Wednesdays series last year, so when the threat of this covid-social-isolation began in March, I decided to focus my lens on the many good things that are coming from being isolated at home in Wellesley.”

Leave it to Shedd to find joy in the everyday, no matter what that day may bring.

Beth Shedd, Wellesley Home-Days
Coronavirus, snow storm, bring it all on. The DeAngelis family (Mark, Dana, tom, and Elsa) has been passing the time by gardening, walking the pups, and doing puzzles. Shedd says, “I love this series because I get to see people (in person and from 20’ back!) and talk with them about how they are finding joy and hope in their homes and businesses. It reminds me that happiness can often be found in simplicity and struggle.”



Beth Shedd, Wellesley Home-Days
Alissa Keene’s dogs, Cassie and Daisy, come in handy for distraction, connection and outright joy. Shedd says, “If you meet them on the path you will notice their incredible good looks and also their remarkable training – an effort that Alissa takes very seriously (and thankfully so do the dogs!).”

Wellesley Home-Days, Beth Shedd
Because the Ankermann family is so very photogenic, and because Candace and I share a garden club and a birthday (which is today), and yeah, because the 1951 MG TD is pretty cool, here they are. Tom drapes a protective arm over the vintage vehicle, while Jett and Dash jump for joy over their now-vanished work commutes. 

If people are interested (or know someone who might be interested) in being featured, they can connect with Shedd at bethsheddphotography@gmail.com or through her website www.BethShedd.com.