By Patricia Bruno
MethuenLife Columnist

As the world around us continues to evolve into a complicated tangle of artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and devices that are outdated as soon as they hit the market, many of us are drawn to the nostalgia of simpler times and places.
Artist Maureen DeSisto appreciates the beauty of rustic New England farmstands, covered bridges, lighthouses and historic buildings, while also being intrigued by the simplicity and charm of people going about their daily life. From her mom sweeping the front porch to New Yorkers bustling through the city, DeSisto feels a connection with what she calls “slice-of-life” scenes. With a background in illustration, it’s all in the details for this artist, and her skillful use of light and shadow brings these simple scenes to life on the canvas.

Maureen DeSisto’s painting of Nevins Memorial Library is now part of Enterprise Bank’s permanent collection in Methuen. Courtesy photos

A Methuen native and resident, DeSisto began her artistic journey in grade school.
“I took lessons from Salem, N.H.,’s Bill Swank until I graduated high school,” she says. “My parents were very supportive of my interest in art and encouraged me to continue to learn.”
She went on to study art at Chamberlayne Junior College, then received BFA in illustration from Mass College of Art. In 1993 she took a position at Techprint, a designer and manufacturer of specialty graphics, where she currently continues to work.
On weekends, she settles into a corner of her living room at home and paints. DeSisto describes her style as realistic. She is also a photographer, so she generally begins by taking reference photos of her subject.
“I don’t just take one photo,” she says. “I shoot from several angles, so that I can study the perspective. I think a lot about light and shadows. Photography helps with the realism aspect, especially when I am painting buildings.”

This painting of Lawton’s, the landmark hot-dog stand in Lawrence, brings back fond memories to many.

Since she loves painting historic buildings, old diners and antique cars, it is important to her to pay attention to details like rusty surfaces and peeling paint to give an authentic feel to the scene. Almost always working with acrylic paints, DeSisto often employs a simple black-and-white color scheme when painting people going about their daily lives.
“This eliminates the distraction of colors,” she says, “and the stark effect of black and white makes the image more powerful.”
A simple-yet-extremely detailed painting of her mom working at the kitchen sink elicits a feeling of nostalgia, the absence of color drawing the viewer into the scene.
“I think that people are hungry for nostalgia,” says DeSisto. “Several years ago, I painted the old Lawton’s hot-dog stand that was in Lawrence for many years, and it always struck a chord with people when I exhibited it. They would share childhood memories and stories of first dates. It eventually sold to someone who was giving it to their spouse as an anniversary gift.”
Another popular painting depicts a colorful carousel in Vermont, which always elicits joyful memories. DeSisto has painted many historic buildings, including Methuen’s Nevins Memorial Library and the former Searles High School which currently houses Methuen’s City Hall. Both paintings were purchased by Enterprise Bank and are now a part of their permanent collection and hanging in the Methuen branch.
A board member of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, DeSisto organizes the programs and demonstrations.
“During the pandemic, many artist groups shut down, yet this group continued to work with its members,” she says. “I think that, during that time, many people who suddenly found themselves isolated or not working picked up their paintbrushes or pencils for the first time in years and began to create again. Also, people were at home more and were decorating their spaces and wanting artwork. So this was actually a busy time for some artists. And the GHAA was there for them.”
DeSisto entered a recent painting of Haverhill’s Mark’s Deli in the GHAA’s spring show at Buttonwoods.
“That corner of the city appealed to me, with the vintage-style deli,” she says. “I really tried to up my game on that painting, getting everything just right.”
The artist also has a large vinyl record collection, and a project brewing is to create a series of paintings featuring famous female rock musicians and singers. But with a full-time job and her work with the GHAA, her personal art is only a part-time gig.
“Time is always an issue,” she sighs.
So for now, she looks forward to her Sundays when she can crank up the volume of one of her favorite records, grab a paintbrush and dip into her paints to recreate a bit of nostalgia to share with the world.

For more on this artist, visit maureendesistoacrylicpainter.com.

Patricia Bruno is a Methuen native, currently living in Haverhill. A writer and photographer, she is also the owner of The Winged Rabbit gift shop in downtown Haverhill.