Shari Kadar calls it “my obsession.”
Four years ago, she picked up a wooden egg and started drawing. It was as if she was driven by a compulsion from deep inside and long ago. With fine felt-tipped pens, the Santa Rosa artist decorated the plain brown egg with a folk motif from her native Hungary. When it was finished she started another. And another. And another.
It has been four years since Kadar woke up that night, sleepless from an attack of sciatica, and spotted two wooden eggs and started drawing as a distraction. Now, her graceful, art-filled home is awash in eggs — more than 2,000 and counting, each with a singular intricate design.
“I cannot do the same thing twice. I have tried,” said the professionally trained fine artist, slender and still elegant at 89 with high cheekbones and downy hair.
Hundreds are arrayed on the wall of her dining room. Yet more eggs are laid out in neat rows on wooden thread holders lying on a table. Eggs poke out of woven baskets. Lovely eggs, tiny works of art, everywhere.
Kadar’s paintings and sculptures and even some pottery fill her home. But these simple painted eggs have become her signature work late in life.
“I’m half blind,” she says. “This is what I can do. I can get up close, and I can choose wonderful colors. I just go to the art store, and they know me there. The egg lady is coming.”
Kadar sits in a chair by a tall picture window that frames the trees outside and brings in the light, and she goes to work, first drawing the design in black and then filling in with color. When she’s done painting, she polishes each egg with Johnson’s Wax until it is smooth and slightly shiny.
She has never sold a single one, preferring to give them away or to simply keep them for her growing collection.
“Why eggs? I know for sure they come from my memories, from that isolated little village where I was born so long ago,” Kadar explains. “Every spring at Easter, the women of my village decorated dozens of hard-boiled eggs with simple designs reflecting their tastes and their surroundings.”
Children would play with the eggs and trade them and then devour them.
“We would roll them on the floor,” Kadar says. “If yours hit somebody else’s, theirs became yours. It was a big deal in the spring.”
The ground underfoot in the village, Kazsok, near the Austrian border, would become crunchy with shards of eggshells. As the Presbyterian minister in town, her father was a VIP, and parishioners would bring him eggs near Easter, colored naturally with brown and purple onion skins and decorated with candle wax.
“Every village did it. They waited for something interesting to do,” Kadar said, dryly.
“There was no radio. We were the only ones with a radio in the village. They needed batteries this size,” she said, drawing a space in the air the size of a small car engine. “On Sundays, my father put his radio in the window and there was music and people came to the fence to listen. Ah, the radio.”
She tilts her head, as if hearing the tinny sounds of a symphony magically coming from a box more than 70 years ago.