Tag Archive | "The Richard J. Demato Gallery"

Shattering Artistic Boundaries in Sag Harbor

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Barrister Triptych

“Barrister Triptych”, by Phillip Thomas, will be on display in “Shattered Boundaries,” at the Richard J. Demato Gallery.

By Mara Certic 

Post-post-colonial Jamaica, the pollution crisis in China, and the inked up working class of Ohio seem like unusual choices for an art show, and that’s the point.

A search for the unconventional has been a success, as the Richard J. Demato Gallery prepares for its last show of the summer, “Shattered Boundaries.” The desire to find something edgy has left curator Eve Gianni and gallery owner Mr. Demato with a multifaceted show in the small, two-story Main Street space.

Phillip Thomas, who will be in Sag Harbor for the show’s opening reception on Saturday, August 23, is a 33-year-old artist from Kingston, Jamaica. Mr. Demato was introduced to the young artist by local painter Eric Fischl.

Mr. Thomas received his bachelor of fine arts degree from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, and then, after receiving a grant, traveled to the New York Academy of Art to work toward his master’s degree. Mr. Thomas graduated top of his class and was awarded a fellowship.

"Camouflage," by Phillip Thomas.

“Camouflage,” by Phillip Thomas.

It was during that fellowship that Mr. Thomas began using his art to discuss and comment on the real issues and problems in his native Jamaica. “Jamaica has been marketed to the world as paradise, a place of bliss and sheer exotic splendor,” he wrote in an e-mail on Friday. “This bliss is no doubt an exotic gaze, the cast of the non-Jamaican looking in and having very strict expectations of the culture.” According to Mr. Thomas, this has resulted in the inability to see the person before the citizen, the habits before the culture.

This has inspired him over the years, and continues to in his most recent works. Many of his paintings show empty suits—headless, handless bodies in suits, stripping down a national “catch-phrase,” presenting civility intertwined with sociopolitical violence.

Mr. Thomas has used images of matadors to represent the dualism of beauty and violence that is so rife in his home country. His work, he said, often references English and Spanish cultures “through a kind of reversal.”

“Bullfighting, then, is used only as a metaphor to talk about a kind of ‘orchestrated violence,’” he continued. “This glorified iconic ‘death dance’ presents itself in Jamaica in various ways.” The Caribbean island is known for its pristine beaches and beautiful flora, but also for its gang violence and drug warfare.

Even his media represent the chasm between the reality and perceived image of his home. “In painting, the material has been so entrenched in the history of art that its material has developed a kind of iconic presence regardless of the type of image it executes,” he wrote. Mr. Thomas has used oil paints as a signifier, he said, but the combination of that with other media has resulted in “a kind of network of idiosyncrasies.”

Ohio artist Frank Oriti’s oil portrait series also shows a network of idiosyncrasies, but in a very different way. When he found himself working at a Cleveland steel mill after receiving his bachelor of fine arts degree, Mr. Oriti was inspired to create something real.

Clarity by Frank Oriti

Frank Oriti paints the often forgotten working class in his native Ohio seen in “Clarity,” above.

“Frank’s work is also very much shattering boundaries of what we perceive as beauty,” Ms. Gianni said. “Most people think beautiful people in beautiful circumstances—he’s painting middle America.” Mr. Oriti often uses the quasi-destitute as subjects for his portraits, embracing and detailing tattoos, facial hair and looks of despair.

Mr. Oriti’s portraits will also be on display at a show supported by the Richard J. Demato gallery in Jacksonville, Florida, next month. The tatted-up figures which punctuate the gray, washed-out backgrounds of the paintings will be on show in an exhibition titled “Get Real: New American Painting.”

“Years from now, when you look back, this is really what our society looks like,” Ms. Gianni said. “And in addition to it looking like this, it also feels like this. There are a lot of people who are kind of challenged right now,” she said. “And that, in another way, kind of shatters some boundaries.”

An opening reception for “Shattered Boundaries” will be held on Saturday, August 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The Richard J. Demato Gallery is located at 90 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information call (631) 725-1161.





The Edge of Temptation





Wang Xiaobo, “World of Duo #2,” courtesy of RJD Gallery

The Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery in Sag Harbor will host an art opening for the new exhibition, “Edge of Temptation,” on Saturday, June 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The exhibit, which showcases works of sensual and seductive themes, will run until July 24. It will feature works from artists Pamela Wilson, Teresa Elliott, Rick Garland, Katie O’Hagan, Frank Oriti and Bart Vargas.  Prices will range from $2,500 to $295,000.

The gallery, located on Main Street, opened in 2009. It features the work of emerging and mid-career artists with a focus on narrative figurative portraiture, American magic realism, mixed media and contemporary landscape, according to the gallery’s website. It also donates a portion of its proceeds to non-profit causes, like the Retreat, the East Hampton shelter for the victims of domestic abuse, of which Mr. Demato is president.

The gallery is open daily in the summer, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

For more information, call (631) 725-1161 or visit www.rjdgallery.com. For pricing information, contact art@rjdgallery.com.

Richard Demato

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web demato2

The President of The Retreat talks about the effect of the recession on domestic violence, what the not-for-profit has done to stay afloat amid declining governmental assistance and why he thinks local organizations should start working together.

The East End Social Service Summit has been billed as a gathering of local not-for-profits with the ultimate goal of groups developing symbiotic relationships. Where did this idea come from and what do you truly hope this evening will accomplish?

It is a concept that just fell into my head. I felt [The Retreat] had a difficult time and we worked hard to come up with some unique concepts to take care of our agency. I feel, and [The Retreat’s Executive Director] Jeff Friedman agrees, that we have our unique ideas and other organizations have their ideas and if we share them successfully we could all benefit. Although we go to the government for funding, we cannot depend on the towns and the villages to assist us. We do need their money, but East Hampton Town cut us out entirely and if we didn’t do something creative the agency could have really been hurt. Instead, we are doing seven television shows through LTV, which is something I would suggest to other groups including the new Southampton Animal Shelter. It is free, it reaches the East Hampton market and they will give you a copy of the show, which you can submit to other not-for-profit television stations.  As you raise awareness about your organization, as The Retreat has been able to do through the newspaper, you get more and more support. It is critical to clarify the purpose of your not-for-profit and bring awareness to the community and the return is you will find a group that is interested in your organization. And it’s not just financial interest. I have five or six friends that now volunteer for The Retreat. I want to hear what other groups have done and if each of us can pick up one idea, we win. This is only the tip of the iceberg for us. The Retreat is looking to start a program for men and boys. Right now, we can’t shelter men because our shelter is a woman-protected shelter, but we do get calls and we want to be able to address that need as well. That program would be comprehensive – outreach, prevention, education and counseling. We are also trying to take advantage of the housing market to look into creating transitional housing. The point is we are trying to do different things, but someone else might have another good idea. Creativity brings more creativity.

National statistics show that during times of economic crisis, domestic violence rises. Has The Retreat seen this statistic become a reality in the last two years?

We were at full capacity at the end of last year with a waiting list. We had to refer people to other organizations. The unfortunate fact is this puts pressure on individuals prone to violence and the police back us up on this point. There is a direct link to crime, to drinking and drug abuse during a recession. We have started small groups called SOS on Shelter Island because there was a need and I was there when [Shelter Island Police Chief James Read] spoke. He made it clear, the relation between loss of income, people being laid off, the increase of drinking and drug use and how that can result in violence. It is a tough time for a lot of people. I don’t think a lot of people understand how bad it is, particularly in the construction industry. On a positive note, a lot of people, including financial analysts are sating we are starting to come out of the downturn. The real estate market is getting busy again, the inventory of houses is declining.

After a tenuous financial hold in 2008, it appears The Retreat will be closing its books in 2010 in the black. What do you attribute this to?

Several things. I was fairly aggressive with the board of The Retreat and we came to the unanimous decision to assist the agency. We doubled [our contribution] as a group and that helped. One member bought us a new computer system. Another woman paid for a new person to work at the shelter and all that stuff comes out of the annual budget. It was good stuff. All the radio ads, the art gallery contests, the road rally, the wine tasting we did, each one widens our listening base and elevates the opportunities for us to get more assistance, whether its volunteerism or financial.

The Retreat is the only organization on the East End devoted to preventing domestic violence and helping its victims. How is the organization able to cover such a large area of need?

The staff is extremely focused as is our executive director and they all work 24-7, responding to e-mails and calls even on the weekends. We also opened a larger satellite office near the courthouse in Riverhead this year, which accomplished several things for us. When people hear we are from East Hampton, they assume we don’t need money. Roverhead offers a different economic perspective for people. I was talking to the head of a charity in Westhampton Beach that helps animals and they experienced the same problem because people could not understand that they help all the way out here. We also hired more people because the executive director and the staff wrote strong grant proposals that enabled us to have the funding to bring more people on board and we still finished in the black because people have donated their time to us. If we have three volunteers working, perhaps a staff member can focus on another area of need. No one does just one thing – our staff is versatile, taking on several different roles. I think it is that way at a lot of not-for-profits because you are not just working for the paycheck. There are emotional bonds and most of them appreciate the work they do. At a board meeting the other day, Jeff [Friedman] played a phone message – without revealing the woman’s name – from someone we gave a car to. We have been doing that more as we have gotten car donations as a result of the car rally and it just changes someone’s life. It gives them independence. A lot of people don’t understand why women don’t leave these bad situations and generally it is because they have no money, no car, nowhere to go. Just this can give someone the opportunity to go get work and have independence. It just can mean everything.

Is it your hope that other not-for-profits will be able to take similar techniques after Friday’s meeting in order to further their own work?

The whole idea is for us to be extremely transparent with all the non profits about what we have done, because if we are not I do not believe they will be comfortable sharing their own insights with us. The intention is to be completely honest and that I believe honesty is contagious. For example, we will tell them about the different grant opportunities we are looking at, how we were able to motivate our own board to help the agency more than they already had and I will explain how I plan to make it even better next year; although I will keep that to myself until Friday. But I do have some interesting ideas.

Outside of sharing ideas, do you see an opportunity for not-for-profits to connect over common goals during Friday’s summit?

Absolutely. That is exactly what I am hoping for. The reality is none of us can stand alone today. You simply cannot depend on outside financial resources – you have to find creative ways to involve the community in the work you do. I look at what is going on in Haiti and the success with texting donations. After seeing the impact that has had, I approached The Retreat and suggested we set up a similar system so people can use their phones to donate $10, $20 to our cause. You have to learn from everything around you, and on Friday, if we can pick up a couple ideas from one another, it will be a success.

Outside of not-for-profits, do you expect other guests to attend Friday’s meeting?

I believe Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman will be there as well as New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Is it your hope having government leaders there will help them to understand the level of need for local organizations on the East End?

I think being familiar and comfortable with one another and having them be aware of what we are doing will help ultimately with funding. We have to create ways for people to be involved with our organizations and for The Retreat, having Jay or Fred there goes a long way towards showing that men care about our cause as well as women and that is a major, major thing for us.

The Retreat has been a huge part of your life for a number of years now. What drew you to the organization in such a dedicated way?

Several things. First of all, I tend to get involved with anything I am committed to – it’s the same at my gallery [ The Richard J. Demato Gallery on Main Street in Sag Harbor]. I also have five younger sisters, two of which have lived the life of women we have helped at The Retreat. A neighbor sold me some raffle tickets one day and I went to the event. I saw I could make a difference. At the time they did not have anyone with a business background and with my knowledge of marketing and business it just was a perfect marriage. The Retreat has given me something to be proud of. This is a very special group of people. They are all little diamonds.

The East End Social Service Summit will be held at the Richard J. Demato Gallery, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor, from 5:30 to 7:30 on Friday, January 22. Registration is required and seating is very limited. To register call 329-4398 or e-mail Kathy@theretreatinc.org.