Above: Ferry Slip , 8″ x 10″, oil, 2011 by James Daga Albinson.
By Annette Hinkle
Like the return of the osprey and days that last a little longer, when the galleries in Sag Harbor start putting new work in the windows, you know spring is in the air. Three Sag Harbor galleries — Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery, the Grenning Gallery and Tulla Booth Gallery — will hold receptions this Saturday, March 26, providing art lovers the chance to get an early glimpse of what may be in store for the summer season.
Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery
At the Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery (90 Main Street), on view will be a show featuring the work of three artists — Rogelio Manzo, Margit Füreder and Jim Gemake. The reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Gemake, an East End resident, is a mixed media artist who plays with the notion of deconstruction and construction in his sculpture by using found or discarded objects. Margit J. Füreder offers figurative pieces featuring narratives of women in unusual places. Her work combines photography with layers of abstract paintings, letters or quotations. Manzo, a native of Mexico, uses resin panels to build up his portraits with paint, images and texture, thereby distorting the figure and making it less representational.
To find artists for the gallery Demato and his wife, Harriet Sawyer, read about up and coming artists in publications and travel to art shows near and far. While the gallery’s offerings are always diverse, the work is selected with one specific criteria in mind.
“My heart has to be in it,” says Demato. “I like work that makes you think.”
With three village galleries all opening shows on the same night, Demato sees potential. He would like to see joint openings become regularly scheduled events, with restaurants joining in to bring people into the village.
“I believe we’re on track to try something like that,” he says. “If the three of us have a show at the same time it’s good for the village. We’re all very different. We have our own identity. It works. People can have both. No one wants to eat the same thing every night.”
On Saturday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. the Grenning Gallery (17 Washington Street, Sag Harbor) opens a show featuring the latest work of Melissa Franklin Sanchez and James Daga Albinson. In keeping with gallery’s mission, both painters offer contemporary subjects in the old master’s style, and on view will be scenes familiar to East End residents (many people may remember seeing Albinson under an umbrella on Main Street as he painted the fireworks during HarborFrost). Making Sag Harbor a locus for arts is a priority for the gallery’s owner, Laura Grenning.
“I’m definitely seeing the town shift,” she says. “I’ve been here for 11 or 12 years. I think Sag Harbor is getting known as an art destination.”
Diversity of work helps, and what Grenning offers is far different than what is found at other area galleries.
“We’re known for selling these living artists who use a high level of craft and are interested in nature,” says Grenning. “I believe this is the movement of my generation.”
In fact, several of the gallery’s artists recently brought in big numbers at an auction at Christie’s in New York. And while most of Grenning’s painters train in Italy, when they do come to Sag Harbor for shows, many of stay and end up creating paintings of area scenes that local collectors love. Sanchez, for example, is now a summer resident and Albinson, a Long Island native, is here year round.
But beyond creating paintings of local scenes, Grenning sees the presence of these artists as a way to take Sag Harbor to another level as an art destination. This summer, Albinson will organize art workshops that will bring both professional and amateur artists to the area.
“Jim has this concept of a vertically integrated community,” says Grenning. “He does this to bring the artists in who are incentivized to share. It’s like a little community.”
Tulla Booth Gallery
Tulla Booth Gallery’s (66 Main Street) “Spring Preview” photography show opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and features portraits of local horses by a photographer who is new to the gallery, Bob Tabor. Also on view will be Blair Seagram’s panoramic images of surfers taken on the East End which have found a loyal following.
“People get excited when I say Blair’s photos are from Montauk, or the horse in that photo is in Bridgehampton,” says Booth.
She adds that though the gallery also features images by renowned international photojournalists, like Steve McCurry, in the end it’s local scenes people love.
But whatever the style of the artwork, Booth, who in recent years hosted walking art tours of Sag Harbor, feels the main goal of the village’s galleries is to expose people to what they have to offer.
“I think it’s important that people look at art,” says Booth. “I’m also glad Grenning and Demato are there – we’re all really different. Everyone has their taste level.”
“But good art transcends time and place — that’s an important thing,” she adds. “We have a lot of local work – good local work.”