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What Is Synesthesia? And Why Is It Spreading Across the Hamptons?

The topic of the senses seems particularly appropriate considering the ambience evoked by the holiday season, and four local exhibitions prove the point.

Yet, we have taken the liberty of adding movement to the conventional senses, which now include sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Adding dimension to the subject, Amagansett’s Neoteric Fine Art highlights synesthesia, a blending of the senses in response to stimuli, in a show by that name. One example would be the idea of how “Silk (touch) might taste.” Not hard to figure out, if you answer something like, a milkshake (suggesting the smoothness of silk).

Artists including Darlene Charneco, Collin Goldberg and Maggie Harrsen have effectively combined the senses in the Neoteric exhibit to create intriguing works. Charneco’s signature use of nails (touch) combined with the color of mint blue produce the smell of mint and the taste of ice. Goldberg’s work with acrylic and pigment transfer creates the feeling of movement in three separate panels where the images connect to each other. Harrsen’s “Sundown” features a cactus plant where touch is both potent and powerful.

At Sag Harbor’s Monika Olko Gallery, Maria Schon’s “Landscape and Memories” celebrates sight (color) and sound. Her unusual plant life, composed of big and bold shapes, evokes not only sensuality but a low level of vibration coming from the forms themselves, recalling a jungle-like environment. We can almost hear the grunting animals, chirping birds and splashing waterfalls as we make our way through the thick underbrush. Schon’s colors, like blue, green, yellow and brown, suggest moods and feelings, not to mention taste, touch and smell.

Art by María Schön
Art by María Schön

Denise Regan’s “New Paintings” at Bridgehampton’s Kathryn Markel Gallery clearly feature sight (color), some of them similar to Schon’s bright palette, palpable shades that stimulate our senses. Regan’s composition is another notable aspect of her visual clarity, although such an element has taken different forms through the years. For example, her earlier days were devoted to silk prints, then works that were described as Constructivism. Her Circus Series included figures and whimsical images; her geometric series featured box-like forms arranged on a grid. Currently, she depicts vases with flowers, complete with big and bold colors and equally large petals that often droop. Her images are childlike, without being childish, seen from a child’s perspective. They are delightful, senses and all.

Annie Wilde’s wavescapes are also delightful for their use of touch and sound. We feel we are there on the beach, experiencing the crashing of the waves and the feel of the sand beneath our feet.

Finally, sound appears again in the present exhibit at Sag Harbor’s Tulla Booth Gallery. And no wonder. The 1970s photographs are by Eric Meola, the subject being Bruce Springsteen. There’s no escaping the pictures’ strong visual sense of composition and lighting either. The black and white images are precise, emphasizing Springsteen’s leather jacket and guitar and if we can’t imagine hearing his music, that’s indeed a shame. A particularly strong visual is the musician standing in front of a gate, the shadows creating a feeling of entrapment.

Neoteric Fine Art, 208 Main Street, Amagansett, 631-838-7518,
Monika Olko Gallery, 95 Main Street, Sag Harbor, 631-899-4740,
Kathryn Markel Gallery, 2418 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton, 631-613-6386,
Tulla Booth Gallery, 66 Main Street, Sag Harbor, 631-725-3100,

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