Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How One Show Can Make A Lasting Impact

Two years have flown by and it's time for the 64th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition held at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY. This juried biennial features 100 pieces by emerging and established western and central NY artists. The works were chosen from a field of 623 entries by 230 artists and juried by Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Regionally, this show carries with it a prestigious history and it's an honor and a pleasure to be included. Especially since the gallery is celebrating it's 100th anniversary. This show has created a bit of history for me, too - both personally and professionally. I was thinking about this when I made the trip to the Memorial Art Gallery last week. 

"The Cardinal", 48" x 60" Oil on Canvas, 2011, $5,700, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY

Friday was delivery day for the upcoming show. I woke early. Packed the car with the large painting chosen for the exhibition (above) and three smaller works selected to go in the gallery store (see the very end of this post), along with some plein air painting supplies (just in case) and started to rain. Not just rain, it poured the entire two hour drive from Elmira to Rochester. 

That said, I arrived without fanfare and smiled to find my friend, Lori McCall, getting out of her car just as I pulled into the drop-off zone. We had planned to meet here but we didn't speak while on the road and somehow arrived at the same time. Well, we laughed and hugged and then got down to business. I, once again, coaxed the large painting out of the back of my SUV (remember it's four feet by five feet and covered with a heavy tarp) without getting it wet. We both signed in, picked up our tickets and headed around to the front entrance to drop off our small works for MAG's gallery store. 

Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
It was still pouring rain so we relaxed, made friends with the gallery workers and decided to stay awhile. We noticed a docent-led tour of the museum was about to begin so we tagged along. Afterwards, while the tour was informative and enjoyable, we needed more. So we went off on our own and ended up staying another two hours. We just didn't want to leave. It's that kind of a museum.

Was it the Cezanne(s), the Monet(s) or seeing the large Fairfield Porter I love so much? Or maybe it was falling for a small work by Eduard Vuillard or a uniquely impressive oil by Winslow Homer? Or absorbing the art with a fellow friend and painter who was just as speechless and inspired as I? Or possibly the building itself whose architecture transitions from grand marble hallways and walk ways to two story granite cathedral ceilings with paintings almost the same height?!?  Well, it was all of these and more. And a good reminder why we must have and support our museums. Art must be preserved and is best seen in person. 
Modern Wing, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY

We said our goodbyes and see you in two weeks and left rejuvenated and inspired to get back to our respective studios.

As I was driving back home the rain started to let up and I reflected on the impact this show has had on my life and emerging art career. There were two significant events that took place during the show that have made a lasting impact on my life, both personally and professionally.

First of which is one that led to additional sales and new, lifelong friendships. As part of the show two years ago I had two small works in the gallery store, both of which sold the night of the opening reception. One of the buyers, a Rochester resident, contacted me a few weeks later by phone and shared how much he liked the painting and that it was a gift for his daughter's summer home on Cape Cod - to which I stopped and said wait, what? really? where on the Cape? Orleans?! Not only is that my home away from home but the painting you purchased was composed from a pond in East Orleans. It was meant to be. He then said he was calling to buy one of my paintings he saw on my website, as a gift, for a dear friend.

That next Spring I received an email from his daughter on the Cape. She and her husband wanted to commission a larger painting. We met in the Fall while I was living in Wellfleet and I installed the completed painting in their home this past May. 

The second led to the award of a 4-week artist residency and a new, impassioned theme for my work. During the show I met up with fellow Elmira artist, Colleen McCall, who, hearing me complain about my small home studio, told me about a call to artists for a 4-week artist residency at the Community Arts of Elmira. Well, I jumped on it.  

As part of the submission process I had to meet with the board to discuss the usual why me's and what would I do's. I pitched the idea of painting a series of "Clothesline" themed paintings using our region as inspiration. This idea came to me during a landscape I was struggling with. And again, later, when someone asked me why I never include people in my paintings? I was thinking about this when I drove by a marvelous farm with clothes out on the line and it hit me - clotheslines are people, too. A reflection of their owners. How they hang. How they handle the winds. Some get left out alone for days. Others are neat and tidy. But always they are tethered together. Much like our communities. And I knew then that it would make for an interesting theme and subject matter.

Well I got the residency that November and first I drove all over the Finger Lakes region taking hundreds of photographs of clothes on the line then went on to paint every day for 30 days in the magnificent and historic Langdon-Pratt building where I was surrounded with supportive and wonderful people. The residency included two artist "talks" where the clothesline paintings were not only well received but I learned the concept struck a chord with the more than fifty attendees as afterwards everybody wanted to tell me stories about their clotheslines, then and now.
Community Arts of Elmira

When it was time to decide which paintings to enter in this years exhibition I included what I felt was one of the best clothesline paintings from the residency, "The Cardinal." And was thrilled when it was chosen. 

So, what a wonderful and lasting impact this show has had on me and I look forward to meeting and making more friends at the opening reception on July 13th.

As always, brush on.

P.S. I am writing this from my new studio upstairs here at...the Community Arts of Elmira. Isn't it funny how the universe works?

Planting Season, 24 x 30" Oil on Canvas, 2013,
Memorial Art Gallery Store

Chequessett Neck (Wellfleet), 12" x 12" Oil,
Memorial Art Gallery Store
Duck Harbor (Wellfleet), 12" x 12" Oil on Linen,
Memorial Art Gallery Store

1 comment:

  1. I can sympathize with the rain, as we have been having it to. The musuem looks amazing and will put it on my list to do now that I have a reason to be in NY more often:my best friend just moved to Syracuse. It is beautiful this time of year for sure. Congrats!