“Sag Harbor Sleigh Ride”, Graphite, colored pencil, acrylic and collage on canvas by Edward Holland of New York City.
By Mara Certic
Sag Harbor residents Peter Marcelle and Dan Rizzie proposed a challenge to 17 local artists: Create a piece of art inspired by Sag Harbor’s favorite sea creature and mascot, the whale.
Returning for its second summer, A Whale of a Show, featuring paintings and sculptures, kicks off the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum’s “Salt Air Exhibition II” series with an opening on Friday evening.
Mr. Rizzie approached Mr. Marcelle about curating last year’s show in an effort to raise money for the museum, which was badly in need of restoration.
“I think I came up with the whale of a show and Dan came up with the title,” Mr. Marcelle said. The aim, he explained, was to both raise money to renovate the museum building and give local artists an opportunity to showcase their work.
Money earned through the proceeds from the art sales last year went toward repainting the old building.
“I get a huge smile on my face every time I drive by it and see it painted. I mean it got more than a facelift. It really looks magnificent,” said Mr. Rizzie.
The show returns this year with six new artists in an effort to fund further restoration at the museum.
The artists “all have something to do with the town: they either live here or have a home here—that’s sort of the basic requirement” said Mr. Rizzie, who, for this year’s show, created “North Haven Whale,” which he described as being something between a painting and a sculpture.
“We’re so lucky to be as rich as we are with artists in Sag Harbor; curating a show like this is such a thrill,” he said.
Returning artists Eric Fischl and Donald Sultan both coincidentally painted orcas on paper this year. “They both did killer whales, and they’re both killer artists,” said Mr. Rizzie. Mr. Sultan’s whale has also been made into a t-shirt which will be available for purchase at the museum.
Award-winning cartoonist Gahan Wilson has created a work on paper for the show, which Mr. Rizzie said is sure to feature his trademark humor.
Co-founder of Push Pin Studios, Reynold Ruffins will also offer his interpretation of a whale again this year. Veteran artists Paul Davis and James McMullan—who has designed more than 40 posters for Lincoln Center—have also returned to support the whaling museum.
“What we really do is try and bring new people in; it’s really exciting when you get new blood,” said Mr. Rizzie of the six new artists participating this year.
Abstract artist Edward Holland said he jumped at the chance. “When Peter approached me and asked me to be involved I absolutely said yes,” he said.
The New York City-based artist, whose paintings all feature heavy collage elements, has been coming to the East End for over a decade. “I’ve always enjoyed Sag Harbor and the area,” he said.
Recognizing a whale in Mr. Holland’s work might be difficult: a collage on canvas with acrylic, colored pencil and graphite, “Sag Harbor Sleigh Ride” is a “very loose” deconstructed map of the town, according to the artist. “I was reading and doing research about Sag Harbor, and what kept coming up was community involvement and how linked the industry was to the town,” he said. “I thought about doing a whale, but I figured that territory would be mined by different people. I wanted to focus on the town and the geographical location a little bit more.”
Mr. Holland’s piece is steeped in historical details and accents. The artist chose media specifically to evoke ideas of whaling and the sea, including an entry on Herman Melville from a 1913 Encyclopedia Britannica. The dominant white and gray hues in the center of the painting are an allusion to the thrashing of water after a whale is harpooned.
The title of his work makes reference to this as well: Mr. Holland explained that whalers referred to the violent aftermath of freshly harpooned whale trying to break free of the whaling boat as a “Nantucket Sleigh Ride.”
“I repurposed it here for Sag Harbor,” Mr. Holland said. “No doubt whalers of this town experienced the same violent drag.”
The opening reception for A Whale of a Show will take place Friday, May 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibition will be on view at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum until Wednesday, June 18. For more information visit sagharborwhalingmuseum.org. or call (631) 725-0770.