Art Commentary: Box Art Auction for East End Hospice

Art Commentary: Box Art Auction for East End Hospice

The annual Box Art Auction benefitting East End Hospice is now in its 14th year. Local artists interpret small boxes that are then auctioned off and taken home by the highest bidders. It’s the longest-running East End art auction with a single artistic theme, according to benefit committee chairperson Arlene Bujese.

This is not to suggest that this year’s event has no logistical alterations: there are not only more artists participating (95) but more new artists as well. Moreover, a few participants have contributed work, which is quite different from past years. Yet continuity reins, with signature pieces predominating. As always, all the work is imaginative, well-crafted and a labor of love.

The cigar and wine boxes cover a wide range of styles. There’s Pop Art, executed by Archie comics legend Stan Goldberg who created a pre-Archie comic book series of images that is both original (from actual 1940/50s publications) and also hand-painted on the box’s lid. Stephanie Reit’s fantasy-like piece, with an odd-shaped animal and a glass-enclosed head of a queen, recalls Magic Realism. The disconnection between the figures, both animal and human, is intriguing. David Slater’s assemblage of fragmented found objects also suggests a narrative, although not a political/social one, which Slater is known for promoting. It’s hard to define the style: perhaps a combination of Surrealism and fantasy. This mixture gives the work its potency.

Some boxes share an impressionistic style, like Louise Peabody’s figures who seem to walk on a slippery surface. The image evokes a dream-like feeling as does Jennifer Cross’s solitary woman sitting in a room. Both works use the color blue to suggest a similar sense of other-worldliness. That same quality is present in a skyscape by April Gornik, a place we enter and leave at will.

"Paintbrush for Nudes" by Eric Fischl

“Paintbrush for Nudes” by Eric Fischl

Other boxes express a sense of whimsy rather than a style, like Eric Fischl’s “Paint Brush for Nudes,” where a brush with a nude female painted on the handle is stuffed into the box. It’s a bit of a surprise, to say the least. Ditto for Jane Parkes’s pop-up series of paper figures, nude as well. Also whimsical, Margaret Kerr’s abstract feather figure is so captivating, we imagine we can pluck a feather from it.

Then there are works that convey the beauty of construction and texture. Consider the small sculpture by Hans van de Bovenkamp with all its twists and turns and Dennis Leri’s odd-shaped box with fragmented metal pieces positioned on the lid. Frank Wimberley’s abstract assembled wood piece shows an attention to organic organization of material, like the other sculptured work by van de Bovenkamp and Wimberley.

Two boxes are interesting for other reasons, particularly their use of shape and form: Roseanne Schwab’s abstraction symbolizing mythic figures and Barry McCallion’s book where complicated compositions permeate every page. The sheer formal aspects of the images are enough to keep our attention without our wondering about what it all means.

Auction Preview August 27 & 28 at East Hampton’s St. Luke’s Church; Silent & Live Auction September 6 at the Ross School in East Hampton. Call East End Hospice or visit their website for details: 631-288-8400, eeh.org.

"Winging It" by Stephanie Reit

“Winging It” by Stephanie Reit

"Matchbox" by Rosenthal

“Matchbox” by Rosenthal

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