By Emily J. Weitz
In some creative endeavors, collaboration is paramount. In the music world, a saxophone climbs higher over the sturdy rhythm of a stand-up bass, and voices melding harmoniously make a song, well, sing.
But visual artists rarely have the opportunity to grow a piece together.
Carolyn Beegan and Andrew Adler decided it was time, and the result is a body of work that neither of them could have created without the other. On exhibit at the Arthur T. Kalaher Gallery in Southampton, this collaboration brings together Beegan’s attention to detail and Adler’s creative freedom in works inspired by travel, nature, and one another.
Their first collaborative series, inspired by journeys in Central America, is called Edenism.
“We took lots of photos of local flora and fauna, and of each other,” says Beegan. “We wanted the idea that we were living inside the paintings. That was our home. We were involved in our surroundings, and bringing it home with us.”
The two returned to their studio in Sag Harbor, where most of the real work gets done.
“It’s necessary for us to come back here always,” says Adler. “We’re on the road, taking information, gathering, and we bring it back here to process. We cook it here.”
A second series that will be on display is called “Tales from the Veldt,” inspired by a trip to South Africa. Zebra stripes and gazelle tails make up the vibrant patterns of these mixed media works. The third series, “In the Studio,” consists of classic nude figures in oil on canvas, played upon by Beegan’s digital imaging techniques.
Traveling “is the first part,” says Adler. That’s where they come up with the images, which will make up the foundation of the work. But he goes on to say that then “we figure out how to collaborate, who does what. When we came up with images, then it was about our relationship, and our relationship in the world.”
One of the accidental themes of their work became the balance between traditional and contemporary, both in the fusion of classical painting styles and digital imagery and in the interaction between their two styles.
“It was pretty lucky and fascinating that Andrew’s strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa,” says Beegan. “Andrew is more emotional. He is very free in his painting, he has no hang-ups. He can hit it dead on without fear.”
Of her own tendencies, Beegan says, “I am much more restrictive and reserved. But on the other hand I am the detail oriented one. I do the computer work and the digital imaging. That’s not Andrew’s forte.”
Here, Adler interjects “Not that it’s not my forte. I know nothing about it. Carolyn is totally comfortable with [the technology] and likes doing it. In this way we bring the traditional into the 21st century.”
A striking result of this collaboration is original work that could not have existed without the interaction.
“What makes these paintings most interesting,” says Beegan, “is neither of us could do this alone. I know I couldn’t have created that by myself. We use each of our strengths. One plus one equals three.”
Adler chimes in that “There’s chemistry. One picks up after the other.”
While Adler has shown his work all over the world and Beegan all over the country, they come together in Sag Harbor so it makes sense their first collaborative show would be here. Adler grew up coming to the East End, and moved back eight years ago. Beegan has been living full-time in Sag Harbor for the past 14 years. In their studio here, they let the inspiration gathered on the road take shape.
“We’re both very much at home here,” says Beegan. Adler says “We come here to let our work hatch.”
The show at Arthur T. Kalaher is “A big show in a small space,” says Adler. It includes works on paper, studies and paintings on canvas ranging from small to very large. There will be about 40 pieces in all. Beegan and Adler are energized from their collaboration.
“It’s rare for painters to work on the same piece at the same time,” says Beegan. But they’re also excited about the reception they’ve gotten. They’ve sold a number of pieces already, and gallery-owner Kalaher is “Very enthusiastic,” says Adler. “It’s nice to bring that excitement through to the commercial side.”
Carolyn Beegan and Andrew Hart Adler: Selected Works will be on display at the Arthur T Kalaher Fine Art Gallery in Southampton starting this Saturday, November 26. Check out www.adlerbeegan.com for more information.