Amagansett as Seen Through Artists’ Eyes

Sea Oats, acrylic on paper by Anne Seelbach, 2008.
Sea Oats, acrylic on paper by Anne Seelbach, 2008. Credit: Courtesy Anne Seelbach

Now in its third year, “Amagansett Art: Across the Years,” an exhibition and sale for the benefit of the Amagansett Historical Association (AHA), seems bigger and better than ever—but it’s always been great, Jean Trusty Stiles says.

One of four curators (along with Nina Gillman, Isabel Carmichael and Elena Prohaska Glinn), Stiles has an impressive photo of springtime Central Park in the show, but each curator graciously calls attention to the work of numerous others around the room. Eleven out of a total of 52 artists this year are photographers, and the space may seem larger, Stiles suggests, because a side door has been opened to admit more light and air. This has given the roomy, rustic Richard S. Jackson Carriage House a bit more display area for this year’s selections of paintings, sketches, images and small sculptures. The theme remains constant: it’s all about Amagansett, artists who lived and still have studios or teach here, or who live on the East End but have found inspiration in the magic landscape surrounding the hamlet. The sleepy beauty of the area may, perhaps, explain why representation rules (although there are indeed notable exceptions—Arnold Hoffmann’s perfectly composed, collage-looking brown, white and brown abstract, “White Water,” for one).

Stiles notes that this year’s prices start at $150 and there is a concentration of mid-range affordable offerings. There are also twofer deals, such as Betsy Pinover Schiff’s dramatically angled set of color images, “Beach Fences, Summer and Winter.” As always with the AHA annual, approximately 50% of proceeds go to the organization, though Denise Regan (“Near Lazy Point” oil) and Richard Barons ( black-and-white s “Indian Wells”) have generously donated 100%. One particularly striking detail this year is the imaginative grouping of works both large and small. The emphasis is on art and artist simultaneously. Those with multiple larger pieces but diverse subject matter are scattered around the room, while those with restricted subject matter (Sue Gussow, for instance, with her subdued “Spent Roses”) have these pieces shown together. Where works are small, such as Hope Harris’s charming watercolors, “Pattypan Squash” and “Tuscon,” exhibiting one above the other invites comparison of technique in still life and the landscape. And then, of course, the curators have also gone for contrast of media and genre, so that individual pieces stand out from immediate neighbors. Ralph Carpentier’s distinctive cloud oil on linen “Earth, Sky, Farm” sits in quiet elegance near Gosta Peterson’s dramatic, model-in-butterfly-dress b & w solarized photograph, shot in 1967 for The New York Times.

Although it’s impossible to name everyone in the exhibit without succumbing to “telephone bookitis,” some artists demand to be noticed. Among the photos, Morgan McGivern’s black-and-white silver prints with handmade frames (“Girl and Pony” and “Gingerbread House Wedding”) attract viewers with their slightly surreal quality of subjects fading into one another. R.J.T. Haynes’s signature Cornish cows are still up for display, but so is his witty watercolor/mixed media, “Bug Screen” (a recent Dan’s cover), a diagram linear perspective of a reclining figure on a hot summer’s day. Mike Landi’s “Lazy Point Morning” oil commands attention with its aerial perspective and glistening bare branch and sharply defined field grasses.

Anne Seelbach’s three acrylics on paper, blues and browns harmoniously prominent, show how a muted or limited (surface) palette can invoke concern about our fragile environment. It’s also difficult not to note Elizabeth Levine’s tactile “Floral Crescent,” its multicolored buds pressed into an arc, or David Suter’s gorgeous mixed media geometry in “Shades” and “Taken at the Flood,” set in carved frames. “Amagansett Art: Across the Years” is an intelligent and inviting exhibit, a sensitive mix of well known and emerging artists all of whom celebrate common ground.

“Amagansett Art: Across the Years,” on the Amagansett Historical Association grounds on Route 27, off Windmill Lane, Amagansett runs through September 14. Hours are from 2 to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until Labor Day, and thereafter on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. 631-267-3020. 

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