“Lake, Rain, Light” by April Gornik is just one of 95 artworks to be sold at auction at this year’s Box Art Auction benefit for East End Hospice, which will take place on Saturday, September 6 at the Ross School.
By Mara Certic
Facing ever greater competition among the growing number of summer fundraisers on the South Fork, 14 years ago, David and Marion Porter came up with a unique way for artists to help raise money for East End Hospice.
In 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Porter appealed to sculptors, painters and sketchers to create original works of art made out of recycled cigar boxes to be sold at auction. Both philanthropists have since passed away, but as the Box Art Auction prepares to return this year, their vision is still going strong.
On Saturday, September 6, the 95 boxes will be auctioned off at a benefit at the Ross School. The public will have a chance to view the boxes on Wednesday, August 27, and Thursday, August 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hoie Hall in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton. A free “meet the artists” reception will be held on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday’s benefit will begin at 4:30 p.m. with a silent auction. The live auction will follow at 5:45 p.m., emceed by East Hampton resident Lucas Hunt. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served.
Arlene Bujese has been involved in the show for well over a decade, and has been the benefit chairwoman since 2002. Ms. Bujese is a prominent force in the East End art world; she owned a gallery in East Hampton for many years and, more recently, has worked as the curator-in-residence at the Southampton Cultural Center.
“The idea is that we’re not asking an artist to go into their studio and take a valuable drawing or painting out of their collection,” Ms. Bujese said during a phone interview on Friday. “But to make something, and it can be a signature work of theirs … or they can just play however much they want to—inside the box, outside the box—use their imagination. And as you can see, they do,” she said.
Recently, the organizers have diversified by including wooden wine boxes as well as cigar boxes for the creations. Volunteers keep the organization well stocked with enough cartons, often transporting them from Manhattan to the East End.
The works are donated by each artist. “We’ve had some artists who have been with us the entire 14 years,” Ms. Bujese continued. “Each year we add some new ones, to bring more of the community in.”
This year, 10 out of a total of 95 artists are newcomers, including Brianna Ashe, a teacher at the Ross School, and Louise Eastman, a Sag Harbor resident. Another Sag Harborite, embroidery artist Christa Maiwald created one of her signature pieces for this year’s auction.
“When I worked with her on an exhibition, I thought, my goodness, I’ve never asked her to make a box,” Ms. Bujese said. “And she came up with a signature work. It’s nice, it’s going to be popular.”
“In fact I already have a friend who’s interested in it,” she said of Ms. Maiwald’s cigar box creation, which features a detailed, embroidered feline on the coffer’s inner lid.
In addition to the live and silent auctions, the Box Art Auction organizers encourage absentee bidding for those who are unable to attend the event itself. Pictures of many of the artworks are available on the East End Hospice website, eeh.org, as are absentee bidding forms.
Artist April Gornik returns this year with one of her trademark landscapes painted on the lid of a wooden receptacle, which will be one of the items in the live auction on Saturday. RJT Haynes is an artist from the United Kingdom, whose life in rural Cornwall has inspired his landscapes over the years.
“The format is an interesting mixture of freedom and constraint: the box is a required element, but we can incorporate it any way we like,” he wrote in an e-mail earlier this week.
For his creation this year, however, Mr. Haynes has done a little more than paint the exterior of his box. “I’ve seen many fine examples of straightforward painting on lids, but the wooden container invites a three-dimensional approach,” Mr. Haynes wrote.
“Last year, my Cornish mermaid caused a mini bidding war between two collectors, one of whom wanted it as a gift for her son at college—so this year’s ‘Independence Day’ portrays a newly fledged adult, just starting a life of her own in her first room away from home: I’m hoping it will strike a chord with proud parents at the auction, and make some money for the hospice,” he continued.
“Independence Day” transforms the wooden box into a little diorama: a polymer clay person sits on the floor of the “room,” whose walls are decorated with scaled-down versions of some of Mr. Haynes’s oil paintings and watercolors.
“I spent many years looking after a terminally ill relative, so I’m very happy to contribute to Box Art,” he said.
East End Hospice, which provides end-of-life care for clients in the five East End towns had 487 patients this year alone. Twenty-seven of them were from Sag Harbor. All of the proceeds from Saturday’s auction will go to benefit the hospice.
“I can’t think of a more deserving cause to donate to,” Mr. Haynes wrote.
The boxes will be on view on Wednesday, August 27, and Thursday, August 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hoie Hall in St Luke’s Church, 18 James Lane, East Hampton. A “meet the artists” preview reception will be held also in Hoie Hall from 5 to 7 p.m. The benefit on Saturday, September 6 will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Ross School, 18 Goodfriend Drive, East Hampton. Tickets cost $75 per person. For more information visit eeh.org.