Artists & Galleries

Meet SAC Takeover 2020! Artists Michael A. Butler & Dinah Maxwell Smith

Join Butler for sip and paint workshops on Friday, February 28 and March 27.

The Southampton Arts Center Takeover 2020! artists-in-residence are hard at work creating new works, interacting with gallery visitors and prepping for their exciting workshops. This week, get to know Michael A. Butler and Dinah Maxwell Smith, both Dan’s Papers cover artists, and look forward to Butler’s first paint and sip workshop this Friday, February 28. Keep an eye out for the next Takeover 2020! post featuring Miles Partington and Franco Cuttica.

Michael A. Butler focusing on a painting her started some time ago
Michael A. Butler focusing on a painting her started some time ago, Photo: David Taylor

Michael A. Butler is a self-taught regional artist who focuses on the hidden worlds of the historical and mythological. Many of his paintings reflect the unspoken history of this locality with specific reference to the African American and Native American influences. The deep jewel tones frequently represented in his work are reminiscent of those seen in the paintings of Henri Rousseau and the early works of Romare Bearden, two artists whom Butler admires. His work has been shown in galleries throughout New York and in Massachusetts.

RELATED: Meet SAC Takeover 2020! Artists Jodi Bentivegna & Esly E. Escobar

What are your plans or goals for your Takeover 2020! residency?
I’d like to hopefully finish three paintings, if possible. I started this one (pictured above) some time ago, and now it feels like I’m finally making some headway on it. I have some others here that are just beginning works in progress. I just want to accomplish some real work here.

How did you select the works to display in your Takeover 2020! gallery space?
I recently had a show, almost like a retrospective, with works from 20 or 25 years ago, and I decided I just didn’t want them in this exhibit. Some of the more recent works, I brought in here.

Recent works by Michael A. Butler
Recent works by Michael A. Butler, Photo: David Taylor

How has the East End influenced your work?
I do a lot of light, moonlight, seascapes and that type of thing. I was at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum for a number of years, so then I got into painting whales and fish again. Though I had started painting fish some time ago. Seascapes, sea life and creatures have been my influence, and some of the [East End’s] fields too. I’m not so much of a landscape painter, but I’ve done some of the cornfields and that type of thing as well. [The people in my paintings] all come out of my head normally, sometimes they’re based on people I know vaguely, but no one specific usually.

RELATED: Meet SAC Takeover 2020! Artists Isadora Capraro & Erica-Lynn Huberty

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Dinah Maxwell Smith working on a painting
Dinah Maxwell Smith working on a painting. A work from her “Swimming Pool” series can be seen in the background, Photo: David Taylor

Dinah Maxwell Smith studied at l’Académie Julian in Paris and received a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been widely exhibited on the East Coast, as well as in Paris and Hamburg, and some of her paintings are in the permanent collections of Chase Bank, the Bridgeport Museum of Art, the RISD Museum and the Laurance Rockefeller Collection.

What are your plans or goals for your Takeover 2020! residency?
Working this way is changing the way I’m working. I’m going do some painting that I had started at home, but it’s making me start to think because it’s so un-private. It makes me think I’m going to end up experimenting more. I look very conservative, and I am essentially, but I do experiment. Before all this started, I started the “Swimming Pool” series last year, and I don’t know if I’ll work on those anymore, because it’s one color and one it’s one texture. But I have a bunch of other ones that I want to work on while I’m here. I didn’t really think about a plan, but I can feel that just working like this is very different, because I usually work in the middle of the night, like 8:30 at night until 2 in the morning, so this is very different. I’ll just not work at night at home. I’ve also got two puppies and three dogs that I need to attend to when I go home, so I plan to spend my evenings with them.

RELATED: Meet SAC Takeover 2020! Artists Kerry Sharkey-Miller & Melinda Hackett

How did you select the works to display in your Takeover 2020! gallery space?
It was very hard because there were a lot of pieces that I really wanted to put up. I wanted to put up things that are relatively recent….I have a lot of favorites. They’re like my children, my paintings. We chose basically on the amount of space we had and what we thought would go together, not only thematically but in terms of color.

Dogs are a common sight in Dinah Maxwell Smith's paintings
Dogs are a common sight in Dinah Maxwell Smith’s work. Her dog Parker can be seen in the top right painting, Photo: David Taylor

How has the East End influenced your work?
Obviously, the light at the beach. I’ve been known for doing beach paintings, that’s what people know me for the most. I’m getting away from it now, but just being here, there’s an incredible atmosphere. And the light does get amazing, not always. After a rain we’ll get one of those incredible, luminescent lights. For subject matter, water but also, because I love it here and I’m into dogs, I’ve been painting more and more dogs. I can’t stop painting dogs. The one under the flag is my dog, Parker, he’s a borzoi. They’re big and they need space, and I would never have been able to have more than one in New York, because you can’t walk them.

RELATED: Meet SAC Takeover 2020! Artists Miles Partington & Franco Cuttica

Takeover 2020! is on view at Southampton Arts Center through April 12, with artist-led workshops each weekend. Bring the whole family to Painting for Kids with Isadora Capraro on Saturday, February 15 at 3 p.m. Join Butler for sip and paint workshops on Friday, February 28 and March 27, both at 6 p.m. Visit southamptonartscenter.org for more information. 

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