Where It’s At

Summer, imagination and First Fridays

Fri, 07/14/2023 - 8:00am

    First Friday energy was evident in and around Boothbay Harbor art galleries July 7! Participating in this month’s event were Gold/Smith Gallery, Boothbay Region Art Foundation, Gleason Fine Art, Studio 53, and Joy to the Wind Gallery with new shows to lure art lovers in, and wine and conversation with the artists to keep them there for a spell. And, yes, art was being bought.

    Karen Swartsberg and John Vander at Gold/Smith’s have the work of a relatively unknown Italian artist, Ivano Balluchi of Livorno, gracing their gallery walls. The pair were perusing open air piazzas in Lucca, Italy last November where Karen found one of Balluchi’s paintings. The entire story about how Karen and John came to buy all of this late artist’s work from his widow is in the press release Karen wrote about the show. The paintings are tempera on board and all painted plein air. Atmospheric. Everyone is just that. There’s a bit of mystery in many – the paintings of the tombs, the stone castle above the sea (love!) among those; the painting of the heads of garlic intrigued me from the moment I saw its night scene with a half-moon in the sky and garlic on the ground as though it had just landed from being thrown by an unseen hand, which had just thrown a clove from the head that appears to be in mid-air on its way down to join the others. This painting, and the others (Karen and John bought all of the paintings Balluchi’s widow had at their home) will easily work their magic on you, too.

    Gleason Fine Art was buzzing with not one, but two new shows by two veteran artists, Henry Isaacs and Kevin Beers; 22 new Beers paintings of Monhegan Island, that the artist says is “the most beautiful place on earth.” Everyone who’s ever been there would agree, which must be part of the enduring attraction art lovers have for Beers’ work. His paintings capture the island’s allure, the light … often boldly, always with affection. He has been renting the same room on the top floor of the Monhegan House for decades. I think Marty Gleason said it best in the gallery’s press release for the Beers show: “Monhegan is Kevin Beers' muse. It is to him as haystacks were to Monet, sunflowers to Van Gogh, and the Olsen House to Andrew Wyeth. As with those artists, Beers never tires of visiting his muse, where he immerses himself in island life and lets the island show him new light effects.”

    Henry Isaacs’ paintings never fail to lighten my spirit. There’s something about the way he speaks with his brush, the fluid strokes of colors that induce a satisfying sigh as you take in his paintings. While Beers uses bold primary colors, Isaac paints in bright pastels, going soft (for the most part) with the primary colors. In an Isaac painting, nothing can harm you; light is all around and there’s a playful streak in his land and seascapes. A few of my favorites in this show, “Maine & Vermont,” include “Crescent Beach Cape Elizabeth” – I look at this and feel happy. I want to be in this painting dancing and lightening my spirit while the “Pond at Sharon VT” is a real soul restorer, the colors restful, autumnal ...

    Boothbay Region Art Foundation was absolutely packed at one point! The new show features the creativity of BRAF members in various media – embroidery, photography, mixed media, oil, acrylic, watercolors, clay, pottery … and you know what that means … each medium will stimulate your imagination in a different way. There’s an Andre Benoit mixed media of a man rowing, a fun piece to check out from a variety of angles, an enchanting mermaid/octopus esoteric-designed painted table “No Fear of Depths” by Georjean Machulis; Annette Stormont’s “A Door to Everywhere” that looks like one someone might imagine during a guided meditation, you know, the heavy door at the bottom of the 10-step stairway?

    Over at Studio 53, Belfast-based artist David Estey’s solo show “Reimagined” takes center stage. For this show, David decided to weed through some paintings in his studio, which for the most part, he’d never shown. Each of the 22 paintings in the show have been “tweaked or touched up” or reimagined by Estey ... whatever the painting (or his instinct) told him to do. One of the paintings never shown is “Toro,” done after a trip to Italy during his junior, or was it senior, year in college. It is, for Estey, the least abstract painting he’s done – that I’ve seen anyway! Another is a black, gray and white piece entitled “No Time Left” from 2020, yes during COVID. The 26” x 30” painting, to me, depicts someone who is being closed in or closed away from their life; there’s hope (symbolized by the white areas of the piece, hope for escape or the situation to come to an end, but many of the means of escape (represented by the textured areas around the bottom of the piece that look like the back of erasers from our youth) are being closed off – and the textured menace is moving further up (top right) and texturization (contamination) is moving in on the light areas where he or she is fighting to keep hold, to keep hope alive. Is the last breath truly imminent? Wow – right? “Mother and Daughter” is an interesting visual commentary depicting, to me, remember, how strained this ever-important relationship can be. The tortured look on the daughter’s face as she looks at her mother and the disfigurement of the mother conveys an emotional impasse of significant magnitude.  Oh, and David Estey is at Studio 53 on Mondays during the show run. Stop in, jump in a painting or two and talk to the artist about it.

    Lynne and John Seitzer at Joy to the Wind across the footbridge were busy before the open house hours began. Sales continued through the First Friday event, and like at the other galleries – things were hopping! Featured new work is John’s “Transformation” series in which he paints a land or seascape and then adds dots of one or several colors on top of the scene creating an optical illusion. When you look “through” it the scene is changed or complimented by them. Kind of trippy … and who doesn’t like that? The new winter studio/gallery space garnered attention and admiration from everyone. John is quite talented with a variety of tools – the natural wood walls and staircase – just gorgeous. There is so much to experience here – this is a couple who are constantly evolving, exploring and feeding their imagination.

    The next event is on Friday, Aug. 4. Check the A&E section of the Aug. 3 Boothbay Register for the list of participating galleries and set your imagination free!