By Sue Wahlert
Beginning Oct. 9, Gallery North will open its doors to its annual Local Color show, Then and Now. As the final event of its 50th anniversary celebration, Judith Levy, executive director of Gallery North, has brought together works created by the Gallery’s Artist Advisory Board, a talented and renowned group of local artists.
“We wanted Local Color to be focused,” said Levy, who collaborated with Historian Bev Tyler of the Three Village Historical Society to select local historic sites as the artists’ inspirations. “We wanted the artists to go to their selected location and interpret in their own way,” she added.
Each artist had the opportunity to look through historic photos provided by the TVHS and select a historic location. Local artist and advisory board member Pam Brown said of the idea, “History and the arts are a natural relationship. Artists have been the keepers of history throughout time by recording the life and events on canvas and paper.” The result of this collaboration is a multidimensional show full of passionate and meaningful reflections related to these historic spots.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with six of the 15 artists in the show about their process and contributions to Then and Now. Artist Fernanda Vargas, who is originally from Brazil and has lived in more than nine countries, felt it was important to find a place that makes her feel comfortable and connected. She chose the Gamecock Cottage, which is at the end of Trustees Road at West Meadow Beach in Setauket. “The cottage is,” according to Vargas, “a little paradise corner.” Her two graphic works on old French linens reflect the intimate time she spent exploring this historic cottage.
Doug Reina researched the historic area near his studio on Main Street in Setauket. Selecting a building next to the Country Corner Pub, which formerly housed a bakery, led to a friendship with the owners of the pub, who used to live in the bakery building. “I wanted to feel the building,” said Reina. “I sketched it over and over. It forced me to come up with more creative ideas. I used the building as a launch pad using texture and color.”
Other artists chose locations with environmental, social or political histories. Pam Brown, sculptor and fabricator, chose an area on Main Street, which used to be home to one of two rubber factories in Setauket. Located by the marsh and waterways, the factory greatly affected the local environment during this industrial period. Reflecting on these circumstances, Brown uses her elaborate bird sculptures to examine the past and present of the marshland and its survival. “My work is fabricated onto copper and silver, which is very connected to industry,” said Brown. “My hope is to bring people out to these sites.”
Other artists such as Terence Netter and Sheila Breck focused on Setauket’s West Meadow Beach and reflected on its transition from bustling cottages to its natural restoration. Netter whose painting is entitled, “A New Dawn at West Meadow Beach,” reflects his “oasis of peace” in his nonrealistic painting of the beach. From another point of view, Breck reflects on the ever-changing face of the beach in her painting, which shows people occupied by their cell phones, in the oil painting entitled “Beach Reading.”
Nancy Bueti-Randall chose the historic area near the Grist Mill in Stony Brook. However, the mill is not the focus but instead the artist’s connection with the stream adjacent to the mill. Bueti-Randall reflected, “I painted this 12 years ago, the waterway does not change, within the small space. The same reeds and the same house are still there. You connect to the subject intellectually and emotionally.”
Each piece of art visitors experience at Local Color: Then and Now is a look into the creative minds and hearts of the artists and how they process the local historic areas in and around Setauket and Stony Brook. As Netter said, “There’s a lot of history in the little old town,” and it is certainly worth exploring, visiting and reflecting upon.
Local Color: Then and Now will run through Nov. 13. An artist reception will be held on Friday, Oct. 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. and an ArtWalk by Historian Bev Tyler will be held on Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Gallery North is located at 90 North Country Road in Setauket. For more information call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.