By Melissa Arnold
Artist Jim Molloy of Miller Place has earned a reputation as a nautical and landscape painter, and it’s easy to see why. His oil-on-canvas masterpieces of lighthouses in Maine, the local harbors of Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai, or the intricate components of a sailboat will transport you to another place. His award-winning work has been showcased up and down the East Coast.
These days, though, Molloy is exploring something completely different. And it all started with a trip to the antique store.
“I found some [children’s] blocks and thought they would make a nice still life,” said Molloy, 53. “From there I started working with Tinker Toys, LEGOs, things like that, anything I could find.”
The new focus on what he calls “abstract realism” has given Molloy a surge of fresh ideas, and he’s ready to share them with the world. His first solo exhibit, entitled Primary Colors, will debut at Gallery North in Setauket on Aug. 30.
Art has always been a part of Molloy’s life, and he worked for decades using his talents wherever he could — as an illustrator for technical manuals, in the advertising industry, making 3-D models, doing custom airbrush work on vehicles and the list goes on. His real passion was for painting, however, and 12 years ago he left the workforce to paint full time.
It was easy to keep up his old rhythm of waking up and getting to work, said Molloy, who paints daily in his home studio. Self-taught, he honed his skills through hours of reading and study.
“After I quit my job, I visited museums and read every book I could get my hands on [about painting],” he said, adding he is especially inspired by Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer.
There are also the artists that encouraged and collaborated with him along the way. Among them are Irene Ruddock, president of Setauket Artists, who met Molloy at an art festival years ago. He began to exhibit with the group, and in 2015, they named him their Honored Artist.
“People are attracted to Jim’s paintings, not just because of his skillful techniques, but because of their soulfulness,” Ruddock said. “His work contains that special quality that tugs a bit at your heart, where you know that you are not just looking at something — you are feeling something that is warm and rare. In short, his paintings become memorable.”
The journey to Primary Colors began last year at Gallery North, when Molloy was featured in a group exhibit titled The Art of Eating. Each work in the show focused on food, and Molloy’s contribution was a whimsical painting of children’s blocks arranged to resemble a plate of sushi with a pair of chopsticks.
The painting, an oil-on-panel work titled “Square Meal,” captured the attention of Gallery North Executive Director Judith Levy.
“I was amused by it. It was unique, interesting and fun,” said Levy in a recent phone interview. “When Jim approached me about an exhibit, I told him I would love to focus on that painting. It’s important for us to show a range of different ideas, and I’m very excited.” The show will also be on view during the gallery’s 2018 Outdoor Art Show and Music Festival on Sept. 8 and 9.
The process of creating each painting is a true labor of love for Molloy. Once he finds a subject that interests him, he’ll take it home and set it up in the studio. But before the painting begins, Molloy takes a photo of the subject that he can work from as time goes on. Getting the perfect angle and lighting is painstaking, and Molloy often shoots 100 photos or more before getting it just right.
In total, 32 works of art will be showcased during Primary Colors, many of them created within the past year with the exhibit in mind. The title hints at a common theme — each painting features the three primary colors — red, yellow and blue — in a prominent way. The paintings vary in size, from 6-by-12 inches to 3-by-5 feet, and all will be available for purchase.
“People in this area know me for my landscape art, so I’m honestly a little nervous about how they’ll respond to this exhibit,” Molloy admitted. “But I think it’s fun and colorful. In the beginning, when I first started painting [in this way], I never would have noticed the little details. But now I see everything differently. It’s a new perspective.”
Primary Colors will be on display from Aug. 30 to Sept. 21 at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket. The public is invited to an opening reception on Aug. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m., and Molloy will be the featured artist at the gallery’s ArTalk series on Sept. 16 from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit, visit www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.
To see more of Jim Molloy’s artwork, visit www.molloyart.com.
Images courtesy of Gallery North