Alternative Spaces on the East End

Alternative spaces are those venues for art exhibits that are not traditional galleries. Here in the Hamptons, such places are plentiful and serve a useful purpose; giving artists an opportunity to show their work in a place where there are more artists than exhibition spaces.

Yet, there are often problems when the art contradicts the surroundings. (Consider a home furnishing store that pairs Pop Art paintings with shaker furniture.)

Two current Sag Harbor shows, both near or on the Wharf, are placed in alternative spaces that seem to blend well with their settings. One is a display by artist Sheila Isham at Salon Xavier, an upscale beauty salon. The environment is soothing and attractive: floors and cabinets are made of dark wood; plants and flowers are cheerful but subtle. The evocation of nature is very much a part of the salon’s ambience and charm.

Isham’s paintings are appropriate in many ways, namely because of their small size; the works do not overwhelm the surroundings. The works are mostly green and blue, hues that not only complement the nature theme but also remind us that water is an important part of the salon’s business. (The building overlooks the bay as well.)

The subjects for Isham’s series, “Cosmic Myth,” similarly fit the natural setting, with their abstract and primitive forms, suggesting that they may have existed many years ago. The configurations are light and airy, giving the appearance of floating. We wonder, however, if Isham’s well-known flower series may have been just as effective at the Salon Xavier.

The Sho Club, next to Simon Harrison Real Estate, is a non-descript, large space presently housing paintings by Stewart Seidman. Most works are colorful figures that hang on railings separating the ground level from a second area. (This arrangement recalls paintings that are hung on cast iron railings at the Chelsea Hotel in New York.) Seidman’s subjects are varied, reflecting his particular interests and experiences. For example, he has painted quite a number of portraits of musicians playing anything from a harmonica to a cello.

Other figurative paintings mirror different times and places, like the portrait of three workers in a field and a man relaxing on a Coney Island boardwalk, recalling the 1950s.  The details are striking, with signs for hot dogs and a bar and grill reminding us of less complicated days. This appeal to nostalgia is a recurring theme in Seidman’s work, no matter what the culture, social status or race he chooses to represent.

Seidman ventures off the beaten track with his Fed Ex creations, abstract pieces that are painted over Fed Ex envelopes. Such works are more spontaneous than his other endeavors and are done quickly, according to Seidman. What’s more, they are done with a paint bucket and a brush. Such a process makes it difficult to tell how they are made or what the exact medium is. Even so, they are intriguing images of animals, for example, and other recognizable objects.

For additional information, call Salon Xavier (1 A. Bay Street) at 631-725-6400 about Sheila Isham’s show and Simon Harrison Real Estate (on the Wharf) at 631-725-4357 for Stewart Seidman’s exhibit.

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