When Anita Peghini-Räber enters the room she greets everyone. Though there are only three people in Preshy’s Italian Restaurant one recent afternoon, the smiling Peghini-Räber bounces around the dining room, giving each person special attention.
By the time she sits down, the couple two tables down and the restaurant owner, Roberto, whom she knows by name already, are smiling ear-to-ear, victims of her positive energy.
Peghini-Räber moved to Rehoboth 10 years ago and has been an active member of the area art scene ever since. Earlier this year, she curiously inquired as to the price of sponsoring a film at the annual Rehoboth Independent Film Festival. The local painter has been a regular attendee at the festival for years, and when she found out it would cost her only $150, Peghini-Räber said, “Count me in!”
“Alamar” is a Mexican film portraying a father and son spending their last days together at sea before the son moves to Rome to live with his mother. Though she will not see the film until it premieres at the festival, Peghini-Räber has already been inspired by the story to paint similar thematic images of ocean scenes and parents with their children.
“It’s nice to contribute; to make sure it’s up and running,” Peghini-Räber said of the festival, which began in 1998. The sponsorship will also be a good opportunity for her to promote her own paintings, mostly acrylics on canvas, which she began working on full-time after moving to Rehoboth. “The economy is hard on the arts,” she said.
Peghini-Räber was particularly inspired by one film she saw last year titled “Mario Mario.” She returned from a trip to Myrtle Beach the last day of the festival, but she wanted to catch a film.
She bought the last ticket before “Mario Mario” sold out. “It’s not a fairytale,” she said, “but it’s a metaphor for many things in life.”
Peghini-Räber and her family moved from Switzerland and lived in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., before landing in Rehoboth. Her husband, a gastroenterologist, brought her and their two children to the area because he found work. “As a foreign doctor, it’s hard to stay in this country. You have to go to an area that’s underserved,” Peghini-Räber said.
They arrived just before Christmas. Peghini-Räber said when they arrived, her two children were so excited to see the beach they jumped into the cold Atlantic Ocean, fully clothed.
Peghini-Räber said she loves living in Rehoboth. “I’m inspired by people living here. There are so many people from different cultures.” She said she recently met a former conductor for the New York symphony orchestra while dining at Preshy’s, which is located next to the Movies at Midway in Lewes, also the site of the Rehoboth Independent Film Festival.
Peghini-Räber was a student of philosophy, French literature and had a career in communication before deciding to become a full-time painter. She said when she first started displaying her work in the area, people would ask, “What does it mean?”
She said she tries to create a mood with her paintings, and she loves the ambiguity of certain organic mistakes, such as when a subject appears to have three legs.
Peghini-Räber said she also enjoys capturing people deep in thought. “I don’t want to tell a story,” the artist said of her paintings, “I want to engage in conversation.”
The artist said she is often engaged in conversation with buyers of her work who want to talk about her paintings, but the conversation often veers to a personal nature. Peghini-Räber said she appreciates her customers’ openness because her paintings are very personal which sometimes makes it difficult to display them for strangers.
“You feel vulnerable. It takes guts,” she said. Peghini-Räber uses her home studio for much of her painting, but often paints on location, many times at the beach. The artist said she does not necessarily enjoy her own paintings once they are finished, but appreciates them with time. “I have to let it settle in,” she said.
As for her favorite painting in her collection, “I’m still on the look, otherwise I would stop painting,” she said.
One of Peghini-Räber’s pieces, “Book,” which she considers a breakthrough in her career, was recently shown at the Regional Juried Fine Arts Show at the Rehoboth Art League. “Expression,” her newest painting, will go up for auction on Saturday, Oct. 30, to benefit Concert Artists of Baltimore at the L’Hirondelle Club in Ruxton, Md.
Recently, Peghini-Räber got together with 25 fellow female artists of various mediums, in Ventura, Calif. The women got along so well they decided to collaborate on a book: “Art: Twenty-Ten,” due out this holiday season.
Talking about the book, she said, “Even if we didn’t know each other, it was easy to communicate. The art tells everything, and we had so much in common.”
Peghini-Räber’s work is often on display at the Philip Morton Gallery on Baltimore Avenue in downtown Rehoboth. “Alamar” will be playing at the 13th annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, which takes place Wednesday, Nov. 10, through Sunday, Nov. 14.
For information, go to rehobothfilm.com