Three artists present a seaworthy exhibit at Huntington gallery
By Rita J. Egan
Photographers Holly Gordon, John Ellsworth and Jeff Urquhart are celebrating the end of summer with their latest exhibit, A Boating pARTy, at Huntington’s fotofoto gallery. The show, which opened yesterday, will run through Sept. 23.
Gordon met Ellsworth years ago when he purchased one of her photos, “Foggy Harbor,” and Ellsworth introduced her to Urquhart, whom he met at a photographer’s seminar. Gordon, a fotofoto gallery photographer, said the friendships flowed, and their nautical artwork perfectly complements each other.
“We’re three different sets of eyes and souls who see and respond to the water and boating so differently,” said Gordon.
While she is not an active boater, the photographer and former teacher said she enjoys being on the water and has seen a lot of the world from a boat. Gordon has captured many of her photographs both locally and in places such as Antarctica and the Galapagos while on various types of vessels, including in a raft while on the Amazon River.
The photographer said when she was younger she would gravitate to areas that had water, and she would look to see how the water’s reflection affected colors and shapes. “Being on the water, and looking at water, has always given me a sense of serenity, or calm,” Gordon said. “To me, it’s a very nurturing rhythm. I know water can also be very powerful and cause a lot of problems and trouble, but my connection with water has always been one that’s been very soothing as well as creative.”
Ellsworth said he sees the beauty in everyday things and looks for unique compositions. Among the photographs he submitted for the exhibit is “Recovered Assets.” The piece features two dinghies filled with lobster markers that floated to shore and were collected by residents of Asharoken who gifted them to a Northport bay man. Ellsworth said to him they looked like beautifully colored candy. “I like to look at items that people walk by and don’t see the beauty in them.”
A former Northport resident, Ellsworth now lives in Maryland and said he has owned various boats in his lifetime and always had an affinity to water. He was a Navy quartermaster petty officer on a destroyer in the early 1960s, and in the 1970s, he traveled by sailboat from Florida to Belize and Guatemala. It was during graduate school that he began taking classes that involved photography and the part aesthetics play in it.
“I was trying to understand, and I don’t know if I ever will, why people are moved by certain images, and what are the dynamics of art that speak to people,” Ellsworth said. “I thought if I could understand that it would make me a better photographer, and it has in terms of composition and understanding the dynamics of subject matter.”
Ellsworth said sometimes he can take 20 to 200 photos to get one he likes. “There’s a feeling you get when you get a good image,” he said. “Your whole body resonates with the scene when you click that shot.”
Urquhart, a former Verizon worker who is now a finish carpenter/project manager in Huntington Village, said he loves to sail and kayak. Like Ellsworth he’s owned different boats through the years and finds the water to be a great escape.
The photographer said he has taken photos from schooners, leaned over boats and been on the water during foggy weather to get that coveted shot. Even though he’s taken photos for more than 50 years, Urquhart said it’s only been the last few years that he has learned the intricacies that speak to the public. “There’s a very fine line between taking a picture and making a picture, and I stepped over that line, and I’m now creating pictures instead of just documenting family birthdays and holidays,” he said.
Urquhart said water has been a part of his life since his family moved from Kansas City, Missouri to Long Island when he was a child. “It just feels right,” Urquhart said. “It just feels where I need to be.”
Having learned the compositional aspects of photography, he said there is so much to capture on the water and look at on a boat. “An older wooden schooner lends itself to texture and mechanical aspects that people often overlook or take for granted,” he said.
Urquhart will focus on a specific piece of a vessel and said, when taken in color and taken out of context, it can become crisp and something to admire. Even anchors and lines in a boatyard capture his eye. “It just speaks to me as rough, ready to go, security in the fact that it’s a heavy anchor, heavy rope, it’s not going to suffer any damage,” he said. “It’s the implied security. It’s the implied peace of mind.”
Urquhart is hoping the exhibit will inspire art lovers to visit the places he has and photograph them. “Experience what I’ve experienced,” he said. “Or, if they’ve already done that, and if they don’t have a memory or memento of that trip they took, maybe what I have would satisfy the need.”
Ellsworth’s creative mission is for exhibitgoers to look at things differently whether walking along a shore, boatyard or town. “I [hope they] look at common things in an uncommon way whether a photographer or not, and to enhance one’s viewings when they’re walking, when they’re bicycling, when they’re driving but mostly when they’re walking,” he said.
Gordon has chosen 30 pieces of art in canvas, metal and traditional mat frame and glass for the exhibit. She said the photographs represent the Huntington area, Nova Scotia, Maine and Martha’s Vineyard. Gordon said these places as well as others in the world are connected by water.
“Sometimes I think in terms of Mother Earth, and the water is her blood flowing through all of her veins and arteries and it encircles the whole planet,” Gordon said.
A Boating pARTy exhibit will be docked at the fotofoto gallery, 14 West Carver St., Huntington, until Sept. 23. A public reception to meet the photographers will be held on Sept. 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.fotofotogallery.org or call 631-549-0448.