Work on Monday: “Day of the Dolphins” by Dalton Portella

Day of the Dolphins by Dalton Portella
"Day of the Dolphins" by Dalton Portella

Today’s Work on Monday returns to the realm of photography, with some digital manipulation adding to the fun. From Dalton Portella’s No Picnic series, “Day of the Dolphins” presents a contemplative and surreal dream-scape in a very local setting.

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Day of the Dolphins
Dalton Portella (b. 1958, lives in Montauk)
Digital C-Print on Dibond
48 x 72 inches, 2008

Portella’s mix of excellent Photoshop skills and clean photography gives his viewer the stage on which to admire this high-concept tableau. If an artist does not have technical mastery of his or her tools and an ability to trick the eye, digital manipulation will fail, but done properly it allows us to believe what we see and therefore move beyond the details of how it was created.

The viewer knows “Day of the Dolphins” can’t possibly be real, yet the piece encourages us to ask anyway, and then move on to consider its meaning. The cryptic, dream-like image centers on a partially submerged wooden picnic table in placid bay waters, while a pod of dolphins and a camouflaged hunting boat, or perhaps simply a derelict boat covered in seaweed, complete the misty picture.

While it’s impossible to know exactly what Portella is trying to say with this picture (if even he knows), its various parts come together beautifully and, above all else, feel quite authentically from the realm of dreams. Just as it does in sleep, the brain processes each of these things clearly—a table, a boat, the water, dolphins, trees—but together they reside on the edge of reason, just outside sense and logic.

And therein lies the beauty.

See more work by Dalton Portella at

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