By Courtney M. Holbrook
Art and activism will join forces at the 16th Annual Artists Against Abuse Benefit Gala on Saturday, June 25, at the Ross Lower School Fieldhouse. This event is designed to raise money for the Retreat, the only domestic violence services organization on the East End. It is their most important fundraiser of the year, according to Jennifer Palmer, the Development Director of the Retreat.
“When you’re affected by domestic violence, it diminishes your life,” said Richard J. Demato, the vice president of development in the Board of Directors at the Retreat. “We deal with women and children in crisis, and it’s important to have these artists and participants who help those in need.”
Despite the serious nature of the event, it is also a showcase for artists and their work. The gala will feature a silent and live auction, hosted by auctioneer, Sara Friedlander of Christie’s Fine Art Auction House. In previous years, the Retreat auctioned off ceramic plates, each one crafted by an individual artist. But eventually, they realized it was easier for many painters to work on canvasses.
“We felt the paintings would really allow them more room to show their skills,” Palmer said. “Plus, most people wanted to buy paintings to display in their homes. There are only so many ceramic plates people can hang on their walls.”
At the silent auction, participants can bid on 11” X 14” canvasses from local artists. Many of the artists chose themes associated with the event or with life on the East End.
Bobbi Braun is one artist who was influenced by life spent making art in Bridgehampton, where she lives today. She is grateful to participate, because she sees the fundraiser as a way to honor this location and the Retreat through art.
“I chose to paint what I thought was a wonderful field of Bridgehampton,” Braun said. “We live in a very special place on this planet. So, I believe this shows the real essence of where we live in a painting.”
Artist Pat Moran drew inspiration from his home near the Morton Wildlife Refuge in Noyac. His landscape depicts a woman and two children walking down a path to the beach. At the foreground of the painting, the viewer sees the darkness of the forests; but as the family moves forward, the scene opens to reveal the open bay.
“I liked the idea of the darker foreground headed toward open light, open air,” Moran said. “And when they come to the beach at the Morton Wildlife Refuge, they’re just having a lovely time.”
Moran also saw this event as an excuse to experiment with his medium. He usually works in monotype, a type of printmaking; for the fundraiser, he experimented with acrylic.
“I’m not a painter in a conventional sense, so this was a learning experience,” Moran said. “The imagery is more bucolic than my other work, so it was wonderful to have this chance to experiment.”
After the silent auction, guests can participate in a live auction. The canvasses on display tend to be larger, and the styles range from collage to photorealism. Ann Chwatsky, the event’s art co-chair, emphasized the generosity of the artists themselves.
“Whether it’s a collector who gives a piece or the artists themselves, everyone has just jumped at the chance to help,” Chwatsky said. “And because of that, we have a truly amazing collection of art for the auctions.”
Chwatsky also discussed the variety of art on display in both auctions. Audrey Flack’s “Untitled” uses photorealism in her portrayal of a nude woman. Peter Bynum’s “Untitled No. 224” is created on multiple layers of three-dimensional glass. One treat comes in the form of pop art; Roy Lichtenstein’s triptych “Cow Going Abstract I, II, III” will be sold together in the live auction.
“These are paintings that are just going to make people excited to own them,” Chwatsky said. “You can hang them anywhere in your house … and it’s not often that you get to be surrounded by such a variety of world-renowned art.”
The Retreat has drawn artists and participants from a variety of backgrounds. According to Chwatsky, people involved recognize this event’s importance in the fight against domestic abuse — and as an exhibition of artistic masterworks.
“It’s always important to remember the importance of the organization,” Chwatsky said. “But you can also have fun and enjoy great art.”