East End Gallery Spotlight: J. Mackey Gallery Shows Arthur Pinajian

J. Mackey Gallery with Eliza Geddes art in window

Having opened in East Hampton just over a year ago, J. Mackey Gallery has quickly become a cultural hub in the village. The gallery brings original artwork to the Hamptons community by representing emerging as well as established artists. Drawing on the spirit of the Hamptons as a place of serenity, natural beauty and vibrant colors. The gallery is committed to exhibiting art that is accessible to the public and curating exhibitions that offer an inviting and unique visitor experience. This season’s scheduled exhibitions are their biggest yet!

Currently on view at the gallery, through June 26, is The Art of Arthur Pinajian. Having exhibited and sold his work while working as the gallery manager at the OSilas Gallery of Concordia College New York, J. Mackey Gallery owner Justine McEnerney, recalls the impression Pinajian’s art left on her. “Seeing the work with my own eyes, I realized how undeniably important it is and how the collection of Pinajian’s work transcends the period in which it was created,” she says. “Without a doubt, when you look at the work, especially the pieces from the mid-century, they’re clearly important in the abstract expressionist movement and to Long Island art history.”

“The Art of Arthur Pinajian” at J. Mackey Gallery

As an Armenian-American and WWII veteran, Pinajian invented himself into a full time artist as a young adult when he returned from the war. Living a simple and at times reclusive life, he worked tirelessly on his art, first as an illustrator for early comic books and then opening new avenues of expression through his prolific painting practice, from his Bellport bungalow. After his death in 1999, Thomas V. Schultz and Lawrence E. Joseph purchased the home and was surprised to find a lifetime of the artist’s work, which they rescued, archived and eventually had appraised. An art historian confirmed Pinajian to be a contemporary of iconic East End painters Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. “Not only is the work beautiful and very important, so is the story,” McEnerney adds.

Following the June exhibition is One Mile Out: The Art of Lyndal Vermette, which is on view June 30–July 31 and will debut new work by the artist. An opening reception takes place on Saturday, July 9, from 6–8 p.m. Vermette is an Australian artist from Brisbane and now lives in New York with her young family. Her family background is immersed in the arts, ballet and theater.

“Her entire family including grandparents and children are submerged in the arts,” McEnerney says. “Vermette is an artist who is completely dedicated to her work, and sees the entire world through an artist’s eye, she puts her heart and soul into everything she does.”

Her unique style incorporates ink, alcohol, and resin to create vibrant displays and pools of color. “I love the tedious process of all of her compositions, I really respect the time and labor that she puts into each piece, I think it adds a whole other dimension to her finished work,” McEnerney notes. “When we first opened the gallery in May 2021, Vermette’s collection was a part of the opening exhibition ‘The Deep End of Peace’. People really responded and connected to her work. As an Australian, she has the ability to capture a feeling of serenity, vibrancy and a crispness — that the coastal area of the Hamptons embodies.”

Looking ahead to late August, McEnerney is planning a special solo show for 94-year-old East Hampton Springs sculptor Phyllis Baker Hammond, whose art journey is so fascinating, McEnerney is writing a book about it. Hammond started studying clay sculpture in Japan in the 1950s, transitioned to welding large-scale metal sculptures in the 1970s and 80s. She was an early participant in art therapy for the mentally ill and the physically disabled, and began to work in colorful forms of sheet metal while in her 80s and 90s. She created two bronze angels for a Connecticut government building, and was commissioned by Japan to create a sculpture commemorating the bombing of Nagasaki and installed four large-scale sculptures at the United Nations.

Phyllis Baker Hammond with one of her sculptures; paintings by Lyndal Vermette behind her

“She’s a woman artist who embodies the artistic experience in the Hamptons,” McEnerney says. “It’s a great Hamptons art story, and I want to capture it while she’s alive so she can be celebrated. We have an amazing and important artist living among us here in the Hamptons and everyone should know about her”.

Eliza Geddes, another prominent Long Island artist, explores fresh interpretations of iconic figures and abstract compositions in her uniquely chic style of painting. She is the most celebrated and prolific artist the gallery represents and like Phyllis Baker Hammond she has dedicated her entire life to being an artist. Her work which spans over 20 years resonates with collectors and designers. It was the catalyst for J. Mackey Gallery bringing the collection to new markets. “Geddes was in such high demand that I was able to do collaborations with designers in Palm Beach, Locust Valley and Bronxville,” McEnerney explains. “It has benefited all the artists I represent by allowing me to display work in all three of those additional locations.”

The East Hampton gallery has also become a space dedicated to encouraging emerging artists and supporting arts education in public schools. McEnerney admits that the recent exhibition of artwork by students from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts was “a highlight of my career.” Along with colleague Amie Hollmann whose son attends the NYC public school and with previous experience hosting regional high school art competitions at Concordia, McEnerney decided to create a professionally curated show for these students to celebrate their talent and provide a larger platform for their work.

Curated by Bartholomew Bland, executive director of Lehman College Art Gallery at The City University of New York, submitted student work was selected by the curator, and they were invited to be part of the exhibition by letter — granting them a rare boost to their young art portfolios. The accompanying silent auction raised considerable funds for the school through big-ticket items like tickets to a Billy Joel concert, courtesy of The Joel Foundation.

Through charitable events such as the student show and silent auction, and past lecture series, J. Mackey Gallery has developed a positive reputation in the community — one that invites visitors to experience art and truly connect with it.

“It was not my intention, but I think we’ve been able to be a bit of a cultural hub, just through the nature of doing the show with LaGuardia … (and) some interesting opportunities that were unplanned that have come up,” McEnerney says. “The focus doesn’t always have to be solely on selling the artwork — the focus can also be to have an experience, and I think we try to be very welcoming and to be a place of reflection and connection.

Mackey Gallery is located at 62 The Circle, East Hampton. To learn more, call 631-237-4655 or visit jmackeygallery.com.

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