Tag Archive | "Plein Air Peconic"

Sag Harbor Artists Featured at Plein Air Peconic: “Bridgehampton Past and Present”

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"Hendrickson Farm" by Kathryn Szoka. Image courtesy Bridgehampton Museum.

“Hendrickson Farm” by Kathryn Szoka. Image courtesy Bridgehampton Museum.

By Tessa Raebeck

Driving through the backroads of Bridgehampton, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road, rather than glued to the beautiful farmland, ponds and wildflowers of Sagaponack, Hayground and Mecox. The natural vistas of the hamlet are featured in Plein Air Peconic: “Bridgehampton Past and Present” at the Bridgehampton Museum May 22 through September 18.

The exhibition and sale, featuring photographs and paintings of landscapes, will have an opening reception Saturday, June 15 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Three of the artists, Casey Anderson, Kathryn Szoka and Anita Kusick, live in Sag Harbor.

“The show includes beautiful landscapes, many conserved with the help of the Peconic Land Trust, and will provide an opportunity to gain perspective on how our precious landscape has changed over time,” said Plein Air Peconic in a press release.

A percentage of all sales benefit the Peconic Land Trust and the Bridgehampton Museum. The exhibition is at the Bridgehampton Museum Archive Building, located at 2539-A Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. For information, hours and directions, call (631) 537-1088.

A Partnership of Painting and Conservation

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Sag Harbor Jetty by Anita Kusick

Sag Harbor Jetty by Anita Kusick



By Joan Baum

Light By the Water: Coastal Landscapes of the Sag Harbor Area by Plein Air Peconic, opening Memorial Day weekend at The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum, is inaugural in more ways than one. The exhibit marks the first time Plein Air Peconic is collaborating with The Whaling Museum in addition to The Peconic Land Trust. It is also the first time the twelve artists who constitute the six-year-old Peconic Plein Air group — nine painters, three photographic artists — are depicting a particular preservation area – Sag Harbor.

And the exhibit also marks the start of what the board of The Whaling Museum hopes will be a “revitalization” effort for this historic building, turning it into a cultural center in the village by way of timely and relevant music and art, says Casey Chalem Anderson, curator of Light By the Water. She notes that Whaling Museum Board Vice President Barbara Pintauro Lobosco is passionate about this broader cultural and environmental initiative and looks forward to putting on more events that call attention to preserving local natural resources.

“It’s not just whaling and history,” says Anderson. And it’s not all aesthetic concern. Preservation affects the local economy.

A beautiful and eclectic example of what the AIA Architectural Guide calls “Long Island’s finest example of high style Greek Revival architecture,” the Whaling Museum building reportedly contains the largest collection of whaling equipment in the state, and over the years has been providing information for visitors and schoolchildren about when Sag Harbor was a major whaling town in the 18th and early 19th century. But it’s time to add to that heritage and enhance it, Anderson says, and she’s hoping that the Plein Air Peconic exhibition will do just that. Certainly the artists involved in the show are excited about being at the museum, with their larger works hanging in the high-ceiling front parlor and smaller pieces in the corridor off the main hall. Each artist is showing three to five works.

Every year, Plein Air Peconic partners with a different organization or venue but Light By the Water is a “special show,” notes Anderson, focusing on the bays and ponds and beaches around Sag Harbor at a time when  “new homes and commercial buildings” threaten to contaminate or destroy the East End landscape.

Such is the dedication of the participating artists in Light By the Water, a few of whom live and work in the village, that they acknowledge – with humor – some of the difficulties they faced; indeed, as one painter advised, as her work was being hung, “don’t touch, it’s still wet.”

Another allowed as to how she was still adjusting composition and color.

En plein air does not necessarily mean being outside in the natural light to do it all. It never did, even as the genre gained in popularity in the 1870s, when paint in tubes made it easier to transport materials to a site. Finishing up in a studio, working from a photo, a sketch or small study is not uncommon. True enough for Susan D’Alessio, whose contributions include the tranquil “Sunday Sail” — three people easing along Noyac Creek near Clam Island, with Morton Refuge in the background — a sunny scene set against a ridge of  Hopper-like trees. She also submitted a night painting of The Whaling Museum itself  — done en plein air “before it got totally dark.”

Anderson’s oil on wood-panel “North Haven and Rain Cloud” is meant to signify  the triumph of sun over darkness (“a metaphor” for her, over the last few months), and is  paired with “The Volger Estate” (off Noyac Road), whose cheerful “ball of clouds” confirms the metaphor. Both paintings reflect her desire to capture both pond and bay in the same painting.

Yes, the light out here is “amazing,” says Anita Kusick, the newest member of Plein Air Peconic. Every day, every hour, the light changes the color of the water. And the wind, when it’s not blowing up?  Maybe around sunset, if Aubrey Grainger’s big-sky over Mill Creek can serve. And when is the water not in flux, creating different land patterns, depending on time of day and season, observes Joanne Rosko, who said she was particularly challenged by the ever-changing curved beach around Tramaridge.

Boats on the bay is a popular subject in the show. With few exceptions they are shown moored, masts prominent as organizing vertical lines, as in Ellen Dawn Skretch’s striking, smoothly painted sunset in the harbor. Gordon Matheson, who works in acrylic (using “more layers than most oil paintings”) talks about always loving to depict the strolling path on Circle Beach because it presents both bay and pond, and a lone large tree he’s been doing for years.

Rarely are the pictures in the show moody — though Kathryn Szoka’s atmospheric, monochromatic-like images with their slightly “vintage” look (Otter Pond, Tramaridge, Long Beach) and Ellen Watson’s colorful, sharply focused mid-horizon lines will give viewers a chance to appreciate the various media embraced by this group of representational artists. It’s always nice, says Anderson, when viewers identify places from the photos and paintings and leave better educated, if not moved, about the goals in common between art and conservation.

Light By the Water runs through July 9. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Peconic Land Trust and to The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum. Participating Plein Air Peconic artists include Casey Chalem Anderson, Susan D’Alessio, Aubrey Grainger, Gail Kern, Anita Kusick, Michele Margit, Gordon Matheson, Joanne Rosko, Eileen Dawn Skretch, Tom Steele, Kathryn Szoka, Ellen Watson. The Whaling Museum is at 200 Main Street, Sag Harbor. An Artists’ Reception will be held on Saturday, May 26, 5-8 p.m. and a Coffee With . . . on Sunday July 1, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

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