Tag Archive | "Grenning Gallery"

Four Painters, a Sculptor and a Photographer at Sag Harbor’s Grenning Gallery

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A photograph from Sebastiano Vitale's "Raw Horse" collection, which will be shown at the Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor.

A photograph from photojournalist Sebastiano Vitale’s “Raw Horse” collection, parts of which will be shown at the Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor. Photo courtesy of the Grenning Gallery.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor’s Grenning Gallery will open its season Saturday with a new show featuring an eclectic mix of artists across several mediums.

The young artist Kristy Gordon, discovered by the gallery last year, will show her surreal paintings of people and water. In “Collective Consciousness,” a man in scrubs, a woman in jeans and other ordinary New Yorkers tread through green water as if it is an urban street.

“Collective Consciousness” by Kristy Gordon.

“Collective Consciousness” by Kristy Gordon.

Maryann Lucas of Sag Harbor will show “Lilies by the Window” and other floral and still life paintings in her second show at her hometown gallery,

Having just completed his first major public commission, a giant bronze statue in Philadelphia of former Flyers coach Fred Shero, Chad Fisher will show his half and full life size “Deadly Sins” bronzes, statues of seven classical figures engrossed in each of the deadly sins.

One of California’s premiere plein air painters, Karl Dempwolf will exhibit colorful paintings of “Crystal Lake” and other Western landscapes. His friend and fellow Californian Ben Fenske will show his paintings of Catalina Island.

Italian photojournalist Sebastiano Vitale is presenting his “Raw Horse” collection, photographs of horses in different capacities across the world, from Spanish clubs to farms in Argentina. Using the categories of wildness, elegance, ritual, game and work, Mr. Vitale has captured horses in the polo clubs of Santo Domingo, the horseback fighting festivals of Indonesia and the nomadic culture of Mongolia, to name a few.

The opening reception is Saturday, April 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Grenning Gallery, 17 Washington Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725-8469 or visit grenninggallery.com.

"7 Sins Group" by Chad Fisher. Photo courtesy of the Grenning Gallery.

“7 Sins Group” by Chad Fisher. Photo courtesy of the Grenning Gallery.

Holiday Show Brings Newcomers and Returning Artists to Grenning Gallery

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"Antique Grasshopper Weathervane" by Sarah Lamb, 2011

“Antique Grasshopper Weathervane” by Sarah Lamb, 2011

By Tessa Raebeck

Some 20 years ago, Maryann Lucas brought her two young toddlers to visit Laura Grenning at the Grenning Gallery, then located next to the Corner Bar on Sag Harbor’s Main Street.

“I’ll never forget,” said Lucas, flanked by materials and colorful oil paintings in her new studio behind the Romany Kramoris Gallery in the Carruthers Alleyway off Main Street. “When I walked into her gallery for the first time and thought, ‘Some day.’”

Over two decades later, ‘some day’ has arrived; Lucas will join seven other artists in the Holiday Show at the Grenning Gallery this Saturday. Celebrating the gallery’s most successful year since its 1997 opening, the Holiday Show features a range of carefully selected artists, coming from as far away as Sweden and as close by as Lucas’ studio. While Lucas is showing her work for the first time, headliner Sarah Lamb is returning to the gallery after years of success.

Grenning gave Lamb her first show in 1998, when the artist was in her early 20s. After showing with Grenning for a little over two years, Lamb entered into an exclusive deal with the Spanierman Gallery in New York City. The Spanierman Gallery, which is still open today and continues to show Lamb’s work, no longer has an exclusive deal with the artist, allowing her to show with Grenning once more.

“I’ve been calling her every six months for five or six years now,” Grenning said Monday. “I have clients that want her work.”

After years of waiting, Grenning is excited to exhibit ten new works by Lamb in the Holiday Show.

“What she’s doing is she does these amazing still lives,” said the gallerist. “She’s very prolific. The thing she spends most of the time on is setting them up and deciding the composition. She’s got an excellent eye for design.”

Lamb puts more time into designing her work through the composition than she does with the actual execution, which Grenning says usually takes just a day or two.

“The irony of the classical realist movement,” says Grenning, “is the classical realists paint but they don’t extract themselves to remember why they’re painting and what they’re painting. They don’t think of the composition too much – the abstract design of the painting.”

Since the early days of the gallery, when Lamb was a recent art school graduate looking for a break, she has grown tremendously as an artist. In her first show at Grenning, her works sold for $6,000 tops. This weekend, they will sell for up to $25,000.

"Wherelwork" by

“Wherelwork” by Joe Altwer, 2013

As evidenced by the Holiday Show line-up, Grenning excels at finding and mentoring new artists. She found Joe Altwer when he was an assistant to Mark Dalessio, one of her gallery’s featured artists.

“He actually came to his first opening here on a skateboard,” she recalls of the young Altwer, adding that his paintings in the show are “very beautiful, very well done, very bright light…It’s all about the light reflecting around the room, it’s not so much about describing the objects in the room.”

"River View" by Daniel Graves

“River View” by Daniel Graves, 2013

In the Holiday Show, Daniel Graves will exhibit four new landscapes “inspired by the most lyrical and relaxed tonalists.” Work by Michael Kotasek, who has been likened to the prominent realist painter Andrew Wyeth but is, according to Grenning, “a lot more refined as a painter,” will also be displayed.

The show will feature a “very beautiful” piece of a glass of beer and a musical instrument by Kevin McEvoy, paintings of farmhouses at twilight and a moonrise by Kevin Sanders and an original nocturne of Sag Harbor by Greg Horwich.

And then, of course, there’s Lucas.

“I didn’t realize all the times I was talking with her that she was an avid artist,” said Grenning. As Lucas’s talent developed, she began bringing her oil paintings to the gallery for Grenning to critique.

“I find when Laura critiques my work,” said Lucas. “I really come away with clarity of how to make it better and at the same time, she makes you feel really good about what’s right – she’s a wonderful mentor.”

"Duck Walk" by Maryann Lucas, 2013

“Duck Walk” by Maryann Lucas, 2013

“I, for whatever reason, tell people exactly what I think of their paintings,” said Grenning. “Unless you’re really open to a serious critique it can be unpleasant. She took every observation that I had and responded like an unbelievable student. She had talent but she kind of reorganized herself aesthetically. It’s kind of exciting and apparently this is a longtime goal for her.”

Apparently. After bringing her work to Grenning last spring, Lucas made some changes, landing herself a spot in the Holiday Show, her first exhibit.

“I used to say to my daughters, we would say, ‘Do you think this painting is Grenning worthy’,” said Lucas. “Being in her gallery, this is my first – I guess it’s like a wish list…I’m thrilled and excited for the opportunity.”

The opening reception for the Holiday Show will be held at the Grenning Gallery, 17 Washington Street, on Saturday, November 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 725-8469 or visit Grenning Gallery.

Forming Expressions

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web horses

From sailing single-handed across the Atlantic to serving as a Navy captain in Vietnam, local sculptor Robert Hooke is a consummate observer of life. Hooke is also an artist, and as he explains it, his many and varied experiences in nature and abroad provide the substance of his sculptures. By exposing himself to diverse species and cultures, Hooke seeks to capture emotion and expression in raw form.

“I have two passions: the outdoors and art. I always wanted to expose myself to animals and people in a multicultural sense,” explained Hooke in his new Washington Street gallery space, which occupies the second floor space above the Grenning Gallery. “One thing I have observed is that positions reflect how people feel. A different culture handles life differently in the way they behave. [But] I want to show positions that transcend cultural differences,”

This Friday, November 27, the Hooke Sculpture Gallery opens its first exhibition — “Stance” featuring Hooke’s sculptures.

“To me the definition of stance is the body position and it is assumed by instinct or purpose,” explained Hooke. “For animals, often their position is for purpose. With people it is instinctive.”

Hooke’s understanding of universal forms, gained through his travels around the world, including over 40 trips to Africa, are transposed into his bronze-cast pieces. His human figures are almost always nude with the face smoothed over. His animal subjects are reduced to their most basic features. Because the details of his sculptures are scaled back and the figure is simplified, a wealth of feeling can be contained in the position of a hand or the flair of a nostril.

For instance, “Rendez-vous” is at first glance a straightforward sculpture of a nude man and woman, who appear intimate with each other. Upon closer inspection, it seems the pair are more unsure of one another. The couple isn’t touching, though the man’s hand hovers over the woman’s elbow. Her gaze is cast downward and away from his eyes.

“The idea behind this piece is the first potentially intimate moment. There is some hesitancy. There is a shyness. He hasn’t quite touched her yet. She hasn’t quite given herself to him,” remarked Hooke as he looked at the ochre work stationed on a table. “It really is the subtle movement and the position that gives people away. It is instinctive and we can’t resist it. Something subtle can show a woman is still in love with someone, but capturing that subtlety is the biggest challenge.”

Before Hooke’s own hands begin working to mold these figures into plaster, which are then cast in bronze, he first begins with an idea of the relationship between the subjects or a situation that he wants to express. Without working from a sketch or photograph, Hooke then tweaks this idea in the plaster model until it is perfected.

The intuition that dictates the positions of his animal figures has similarly guided Hooke throughout his professional artistic career. After earning a masters degree in economics from Columbia University and serving in the Navy, Hooke woke up one morning with an unexplained desire to become a sculptor.

“I knew I had to study sculpture. I went to the School of Visual Arts and the sculpture teacher there was Herbert Kallem. He asked if I had ever made anything. I said, ‘no, not really.’ He handed me a fairly soft stone and he said, ‘You don’t need to study a life drawing. Let’s see what your artistic instincts are,’” remembered Hooke. “I made a runner in alabaster. He said I had a good feel for proportion and form. Then he basically opened up the school for me and said, ‘You can come here anytime you want.’”

After a stint at the School of Visual Arts, Hooke moved to London where he divided his time between sculpture and working with an investment business. Soon his home was spilling over with pieces and a friend suggested he display his work in an exhibit.

“I was later introduced to a gallery owner. He asked me how long it took to create a sculpture and I said, ‘three months. He said, ‘That won’t work for me. If you are going to be with my gallery you have to show every two years. If you can translate this imagery into bronze, then we can do something.’ That is when I made the decision to use plaster blocks,” said Hooke, remembering his transition from marble to metal. Hooke soon devoted much of his time to art and later purchased the gallery.

Although he denies that a background in economics has served him as a gallery owner, Hooke is certainly realistic about the art business.

“In a gallery, you basically have to realize that not everyone is going to like what you like. You have to have an open mind about art,” he explained. “And you have to make sure you have a cross section in the type of art you are showing. Even if there is a certain niche you are filling, there has to be a variety. It increases the universe of potential buyers.”

After 30 years in London, Hooke decided over the summer to return to his stomping grounds in Sag Harbor. Hooke’s family had long summered in the Northampton Shores neighborhood and he purchased a house in the residential community several years ago. So in July, Hooke closed his London gallery and moved back. At first, he hadn’t planned to open a new business. But when the opportunity came knocking, in the form of a second floor space above the Grenning Gallery, Hooke gladly accepted the invitation.

Of his foray into the local arts scene, Hooke said, “It was out of the blue, but it made a lot of sense to me.”

The Hooke Sculpture Gallery will host an opening celebration and a reception for “Stance” on Friday, November 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 17 Washington Street, Sag Harbor.

Influenced by Brief Glimmers of Light

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By Andrew Rudansky

The Grenning Gallery, a staple in the Sag Harbor art scene is presenting an opening reception for British import Paul Rafferty at their new location on 17 Washington Street, Sag Harbor.

 The opening on Saturday, August 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. will showcase some of Rafferty’s impressionist and post-impressionist landscapes and life-scenes from the East End and Europe. This show will feature many noticeable landmarks of the Hamptons, including the Sag Harbor Cinema, the American Hotel, Long Beach and The Dock House.   

Rafferty, who was born in Oxford, England, has had no formal training himself, but paints based on what he calls a “melting pot” of influences.

“I take a little bit from everyone,” he says. “I consider myself a tonalist not a colorist…I only use six colors. What really influences me is light,” said Rafferty of his work.

Light plays a central role in all of Rafferty’s paintings. One of his works entitled “Waiting for Lunch” is a close-up view of the American Hotel, located on Main Street, Sag Harbor. He explains that he combined three different light sources to influence the colors of the painting: lights from the interior, sunlight and the shadowed light on water.

“Light ties my collection together,” he said.

Rafferty says the light on the East End has a grey quality that he tries to put into his paintings of the local area. He adds that places across the globe give off different light In the South of France, where Rafferty now lives, has a golden light, where California has a blue tint to the light. 

Rafferty eschews a traditional studio for the open air. “I like to paint outside,” he said. He explains that when you are inside you cannot capture the light on the canvas. Light plays such an important role in his creative process that he might discard a piece he is working on if he doesn’t capture the light within 30 minutes. He explains the reason for this is “It’s a different painting every half hour.”

“Sunset Over the Haerter Bridge” a massive 48 by 60-inch oil painting of the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Memorial Bridge in Sag Harbor is one of Rafferty’s most impressive pieces for this show. The painting was completed two years ago and was originally titled “Sunset Over the Sag Harbor Bridge.”

“I have always loved this painting,” said Rafferty. But now, with the renaming of the bridge and significance it has for Sag Harbor locals the painting now has “a deeper meaning,” he noted.

Like Monet, Rafferty is interested in series paintings, painting the same scene at different times of day or season. Rafferty expressed interest in doing a series of paintings for the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Memorial Bridge in the future.

Into Plain Air: Artists show for the Peconic Land Trust

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When Gordon Matheson first came to the East End more than 30 years ago, he was struck by the unspoiled vistas and the pastoral views that defined this rural place by the sea.

“I’ve been out here since the mid-70s,” says Matheson. “I spent a lot of time riding my bike and driving my car around — gas was cheaper then. I was originally a country boy from North Carolina. I just loved the outdoors. I loved all the farms and open marshes.”

“I took early retirement and decided to paint because I loved the landscapes here so much,” adds Matheson, a self taught painter. “I couldn’t afford one of the 100 acres properties, but realized if I painted it, I could bring it home.”

Many of those views that Matheson enjoyed have since been lost — victims of the unending need for expansion that has defined human existence for thousands of years.

But it’s not all bad news — there have been some successes in preserving landscapes that remain on the East End. Three years ago, a group of East End artists, including Matheson, formed Plein Air Peconic, a unique alliance with the Peconic Land Trust, an organization which works to save rural parcels under threat of development.

The artists realized that the scenic vistas they loved to paint and photograph were rapidly evaporating. Their collaboration with the Peconic Land Trust was a way to heighten awareness of the organization’s work – and its importance to the artistic community of the East end.

This weekend the 12 artists will open “Plein Air Peconic III,” their third annual Columbus Day show.

“It’s the big magilla,” explains Matheson.

After shows in East Hampton and Amagansett, Plein Air Peconic comes to Sag Harbor for the first time with this exhibit, which is being hosted by the Grenning Gallery. An opening reception will be held at the gallery, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor, this Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. The show remains on view through October 18.

“Our intention was to move the shows around,” explains Matheson. “We would like to do Southampton or Bridgehampton next year.”

Plein Air Peconic also does a smaller spring show every year at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. A portion of all the group’s shows benefits the Peconic Land Trust. There is also a traveling exhibition that pairs the artists’ work with educational information on the Land Trust.

“We’re small potatoes but we’re raising public consciousness,” notes Matheson. “Most shows have over 500 or 600 people come through.”

“Every little sound or image bite makes them think about the conservation. It’s why we try to make such nice brochures and invitations so that people think about it each time.”

Plein Air Peconic includes nine painters — Casey Chalem Anderson, Susan D’Alessio, Terry Elkins, Aubrey Grainger, Gail Kern, Michele Margit, Gordon Matheson, Joanne Rosko, Eileen Dawn Skretch, and three photographers — Tom Steele, Kathryn Szoka, and Ellen Watson.

“All the painters are painterly realists,” says Matheson. “There’s a little wiggle room, but that’s the center.”

The focus for Plein Air Peconic shows is, as its name implies, the pastoral views of the area — specifically parcels that have been directly saved by the Peconic Land Trust.

“For these shows, 50 percent of the work is of places that have been preserved by the Land Trust,” notes Matheson. “That’s the number I give the artists to aim for. The traveling exhibitions are all Land Trust projects.”

A quick glance at the work in this show makes it easy to see why the artists are so passionate about preserving the local views. One of Matheson’s landscapes depicts the dunes by Sagg Pond. The scene is eerily reminiscent of the work of another plein air painter from the area — William Merritt Chase — whose paintings of Shinnecock date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Perhaps it’s a testament to the power of preservation that such a scene can still be found today.

There is even a figure in the scene that at first glance appears to be from Victorian times. But in fact, Gordon explains that it is actually fellow Plein Air Peconic painter and Sag Harbor resident Casey Anderson who was working alongside Matheson on one of her own paintings.

“One of the advantages of working with the Land Trust is they will get us into private property if we want to go somewhere or they suggest it, like the Blair Preserve at Sagg Pond,” says Matheson. “It helps them show the public what they’re doing.”

Matheson recalls a few years back that he was given permission to paint in the pasture at Mecox Dairy Farm. He decided to do a large 20” x 40” painting and ended up spending a lot more time in that pasture than he bargained for.

“That painting took three years,” grins Matheson. “I did it in early May when the foliage was starting off. I worked for about a week then it started raining. When the rain was finished, it was totally different.”

The following May, Matheson finished the background for the painting. But he had a new problem.

“I couldn’t get the cows to stand still. So I did those this year,” says Matheson. “The cows were interesting. When you’re painting, the cows all come and stand right in front of you.”

Matheson notes that he isn’t just hanging out in the fields with cows. Often, the Plein Air Peconic artists will agree to go to a location and work together — like he and Anderson did at Sagg Pond.

“The photographers go out early in the morning, but it takes us a little longer — like three years — to finish a painting,” says Matheson. “The painters go a few individually or in groups of two or three. We’ll also plan days to go to places like Quail Hill where all nine of us will get there.”

One of Matheson’s favorite spots to paint is Scallop Pond in North Sea. It’s an area ripe with saved views and looks out onto two different Land Trust preserves, plus a Nature Conservancy parcel.

While many art shows on the East End also raise funds for good causes, Matheson notes that the Plein Air Peconic collaboration with the Land Trust is one that has developed into a true partnership between the two groups.

“One of the things that is very different about Plein Air Peconic is that we have a year round permanent relationship with the Peconic Land Trust,” notes Matheson, adding that often non-profit organizations and galleries come together for a show and then, “go their separate ways for a year.”

“I work with them constantly,” he adds. “They use our art for note cards that they sell or give to donors, all of those are of preserves.”

New for 2009, notes Matheson, will be Peconic Land Trust calendars featuring paintings by Plein Air Peconic artists of the Land Trust’s preserves.

“This is the first time we’ve done it,” he says. “I think they will really do well.”

 Above: “Plein Air Dunes (Sagg Pond)” Gordon Matheson, acrylic/canvas, 14 x 18 inches


Capturing the Summer on Canvas

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By Marianna Levine


“Local Landscapes,” a show opening at the Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor on Saturday, August 30, captures the serene beauty of a summer spent on the eastern end of Long Island. In fact the paintings will represent the idylls of this specific summer. “Some of the paintings are so new they’ll be hung wet!” Shea Keating, the Grenning Gallery’s manager enthuses. Several international artists, most of who are connected with Daniel Graves’ classical school, The Florence Academy of Art, have spent their summer painting the area’s countless beaches, marinas, and picturesque pathways. Keating describes one of the yet to be completed works as “ a 48 by 72 inch painting of a local beach by painter Ben Fenske. The canvas is so large that he had to strap it onto the top of his car and drive it to what he likes to refer to as his “secret beach” in North Haven. The painting is so long that he can’t even place it on an easel. The canvas was constantly blown down by the wind.”

Another work by an artist named Ramiro is a small, black-framed painting of Long Beach. Seeing this familiar local beach so well executed on canvas brings out the romanticism of a vista most residents have long taken for granted as they fly by the road on their way to town. The sea is a choppy, deep Prussian blue, while the azure of the sky is dabbed with the purplish pink suggestion of a budding sunset. It is a snatched moment of summer familiar to anyone who walks along Long Beach in late afternoon.

Laura Grenning explains how this end of summer Grenning Gallery tradition began.

“Several of the artists we represent are anchored to this community through portrait commissions,” she said. “Often they are hosted by the family they’re painting, so they stay out here for weeks or months at a time. Life-long friendships are built, and of course it makes for a much better portrait in the end. However, landscapes are a great way for artists to get out of their studios and paint. The outdoors is what most people come out here for anyway. And it was a good way for me to test out new artists for the gallery as well.”

She also adds that several artists are put up by volunteers in the community making it an informal and creative version of a foreign exchange program. The host families often get a painting in exchange for free room and board. So down come all the studied interiors, and dramatic full-length portraits that usually line Grenning Gallery’s walls, and up go large and small paintings of every imaginable shade of blue. Each painting reminding one of how sunny this soon-to-pass summer was, and how delightful it would be to capture its essence by hanging it on one’s wall.

Wandering into the gallery, housed within the historic Sag Harbor Cinema, one feels pleasantly transported back in time. The gallery resembles a nineteenth century Parisian atelier. The narrow gallery entrance widens into a larger reception area, which leads one up a wooden staircase into a skylit, turpentine-scented studio space. Although it is easy to mistake the displayed landscapes hanging there for paintings from an earlier era, little details in the work remind one that the artwork is indeed contemporary.

As a matter of fact, Grenning is quick to point out that the majority of her gallery’s artists are in their 20s and early 30s, and that it is part of her mission to support living artists. Grenning feels that the style of poetic realism she chooses to exhibit is “the movement of our generation – marked by a high level of craft, humility in the face of nature, a desire to represent the harmony and balance found in nature, and a possession of the discipline and skill necessary to present it to the public. That’s really what this show is all about.” Grenning feels this is a twenty-first century movement and a positive reaction to the abstract, the pop art, and the conceptual common in twentieth century art.

Laura Grenning started her gallery ten years ago after a dramatic life-change, which led to a chance encounter with the painter Nelson White on, appropriately enough, a local beach. Grenning had worked as a stock market analyst in Hong Kong, but had always dreamed of returning to the United States and buying a house on Shelter Island. Once she had the house, she decided to resume the study of art, an interest she had put on hold while earning a living in another capacity. However, she had trouble locating schools that taught the realistic, classical style she sought to emulate. It was her encounter with White that brought her into contact with The Florence Academy of Art, and eventually led her to open a gallery to display and sell the work of artists who worked in the academy’s style. At the time she felt, “this tradition was dying. It was a visual language that seemed to be unavailable, and I wanted artists to portray my contemporary life in this way.” What Grenning has accomplished with her gallery space is to guarantee that realistic, well-crafted landscapes of her local community will be made and displayed for new generations to appreciate.