Frank Wimberley is an artist but said himself that he is not a carpenter. Still, standing outside his home on Hillside Drive East in Sag Harbor, he pointed out the ramps and levels of the porch that he designed and built. He mentioned in particular the extension he constructed in the front, a sort of stage where he can sit and listen to jazz records playing from inside the house (which he also designed) and where he and his wife Juanita have lived for over 40 years now.
Wimberley, in fact, once played trumpet in a jazz band, and says that often his abstract paintings are compared to the improvisatory style of the one true American art form.
“When you play in a band you try to produce different colors, different sounds,” he explained. “I try to use the same tactic in painting … it’s about personal expression, your expression, not borrowing from anyone else.”
From Thursday, July 24 through August 18, over 25 of Wimberley’s paintings from 1994 to 2008 will be on display at the Spanierman Gallery in East Hampton. According to the artist, Gavin Spanierman came to his home to select the works, and “surprised [him] by liking them.”
“I’m anxious to see what they’re like in the gallery,” said Wimberley. “I’ve had one man shows in other spaces, but none as fine as this.”
Wimberley attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he says his teachers were some of his first artistic influences. After that, his primary influences were the artists “that everyone knows about.” Wimberley visited museums frequently in the 1940s to “see what they were doing,” at first trying to mimic them in his work before developing his own style.
Earlier in his career, Wimberley did pottery, which he describes now as “kind of a humdrum exercise.” He recognizes, however, that he has maintained a potter’s mindset while painting — engaging a tactile, physical quality in his strokes. His colorful abstractions are very much a series of layers. He very much enjoys utilizing collage in his works as well.
Wimberley’s house is filled with his work. Canvases hang from and are propped up against the walls, his own sculptures mixed in among African crafts, spilling out into the yard.
“I want to give a painting movement and life,” he said, “So you see something you wouldn’t expect … something different.”
Wimberley splits his time between his home in Sag Harbor and another studio in New York City. He is more than happy to come out east to find some elbow room, however.
“You can’t stop paint from being slung from here to there,” he explained, making small gestures with his hands. “You need to come work in an open place.”
“It’s very much inspiring out here,” said Wimberley who added that the community of artists has been an inspiration. “They love to come see you and help you. They’ve seen my work change over the years.”
“And everyone talks about the light here,” Wimberley noted. “It’s very magnetic.”
He described how he has brought paintings he finished in New York City to his Sag Harbor home and seen them change completely. Wimberley remarked on how this “migration” can really help him in the process of completing a work.
In selecting the works for the upcoming show, Gavin Spanierman may have found a thread that Wimberley had not previously noticed. But when it comes to theme, Wimberley has his own philosophy.
“My theme is my hands,” he said, “how I work, what I do with the paint.”
Wimberley’s work will hang from July 24 to August 18 at the Spanierman Gallery in the Newcourt Mall, 68 Newtown Lane, East Hampton. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. Call 329-9530 or go to www.spanierman-at-easthampton.com for more information.