Plein Air Peconic at Sag Harbor Whaling Museum

It’s altogether appropriate that the group of artists known as Plein Air Peconic would have their latest exhibit at Sag Harbor’s Whaling Museum. While the historic building, which was built in 1845 by Benjamin Huntting II, has been a private home and Masonic Lodge, it is now an official “National Treasure,” as it celebrates the village’s legacy as an important whaling port.

Similarly, the Plein Air Peconic group celebrates a legacy created by the surrounding area and its beaches, fields, ponds and wildlife. Such natural elements surely must have been present during the heyday of Sag Harbor’s whaling days. This year’s show, “Light By the Water,” features local landscapes rich with the indigenous illumination that gives the North and South Forks their signature sensibility. As a result, our own sensibilities emerge.

Photographer Kathryn Szoka imbues her arresting images with an asymmetrical perspective, a trait that she often uses to juxtapose contradictory elements in the environment. One photograph employs two trees to accomplish this effect. Another image, “Misty Creek,” seems off-balanced as well, evoking a mysterious ambience. Conversely, photographer Tom Steele’sNorthwest Harbor” features a realistic “You are there” feeling that’s immediate and accessible.

Paintings by Joanne Rosko inspire another kind of emotion. It’s as though we are standing at a distance, imagining the water or land beyond the picture plane. Yet we still feel as if we want to walk into the setting and see for ourselves what lies ahead. A skyscape dominates work by Casey Chalem Anderson, but we still seem adrift among the clouds. Another piece by Anderson appears quite different – the dynamic surge of waves at eye level recalls wave imagery by artists like Pat Steir and April Gornik.

Aubrey Grainger also employs two dissimilar different views past on a near and far perspective – her close up of a gull and her more distanced “Harbor Twilight.” Interaction between the landscape and people is unusual in this show, yet Ellen Watson’s father and son flying a kite is familiar and endearing. Gordon Matheson’s “Circle Beach Stroll” contains similar subject matter and communicates the same feelings, although Matheson employs an Impressionistic style.

Waves are the focal point in a work by Susan D’Alessio. Unlike Anderson’s waves, however, these are calm. Even so, we have the feeling that they will soon develop into a mighty crest, crashing upon the nearby cliff. In contrast, water views by Anita Kusick, Michele Margit and Ellen Dawn Skretch have no waves. In fact, the water is as smooth as glass, with foreground terrain in pieces by Skretch and Margit providing safety and security. For example, the trees in Skretch’s piece are like canopies, and the light and shadow make the grass look lush.

The show will be on view until July 9 at Sag Harbor’s Whaling Museum (200 Main Street). Call 631-680-7834 for information.


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