Guest curator brings fresh eye to Southampton gallery

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When an artist is also a gallery curator, opportunities for ethical conflicts are bound to arise. As an artist, it should be okay to show your work alongside pieces by other working artists. As the staff curator for an exhibition space—in this case at the East End Arts Council—submitting your own work, even for shows being organized by another curator, could prompt cries of foul play and favoritism.

EEAC Curator Jane Kirkwood found a middle road that wound into a thick forest of secrecy before emerging in a beam of sunlight. Despite receiving the go-ahead to continue to submit her artwork to juried EEAC shows, Ms. Kirkwood decided it wouldn’t be right to compete with the arts community she has served since becoming the Arts Council gallery’s curator more than a year ago. While independent judges always select the art for inclusion in juried shows, Ms. Kirkwood was afraid the jurors would see her name and feel obliged to include her art, whether it deserved the wall space or not.

Enter Atticus Cane. Believed by some to be a tall and handsome artist in his mid-30s, Mr. Cane was the “alter ego” Ms. Kirkwood created to put a name to art she had made. Mr. Cane did well at EEAC juried shows. Ms. Kirkwood’s identify was never revealed. That is, until Hampton Road Gallery owner Peter Marcelle judged a show at the EEAC last year. Mr. Cane was awarded first place honors and Mr. Marcelle went looking for him.

It was only then that Ms. Kirkwood revealed her secret: She was Atticus Cane; he was not really off in Scotland, where he was rumored to spend his time when he wasn’t at his Riverhead residence, and he had never attended an opening.

The artist’s confession led to an offer to curate a show at Mr. Marcelle’s gallery in Southampton. The original offer was to put together a landscape show. Ms. Kirkwood came back with a counter offer to put together a contemporary art show. Mr. Marcelle wanted to focus on North Fork artists, which suited Ms. Kirkwood just fine. A deal was struck and the exhibition, “Drama,” was born.

“Drama” was unveiled at a packed opening on Saturday evening at the Hampton Road Gallery. The show features paintings by Gina Gilmour, Anna Jurinich, Roxanne Panero, Liz Malunowicz and Scott McIntire. Ms. Kirkwood has two paintings exhibited under her own name; one sold during the opening. Figurative photographs by Ian Shand are also a part of the show.

The paintings on view vary in style from classic realism to Gothic to surreal. Some paintings are lighthearted, like “Clowns/Chrysler” by Scott McIntire. Others put the effects of war front and center. These include Gina Gilmour’s “War Bride” paintings and artwork by Anna Jurinich.

Irony can be found in Roxanne Panero’s paintings. Classic beauty that can question or plea is found in the canvases of Liz Malunowicz and Ms. Kirkwood. Meanwhile, the subjects captured in Mr. Shand’s photography soar with beauty and strength set against a simple backdrop of white.

Ms. Kirkwood said she veered away from landscape because she is a fan of contemporary art. Selecting the artists was easy, she said. She picked the best and the brightest who have submitted their work through the EEAC’s doors.

“These are really the cream of the crop,” she said. “I see a lot of artwork and there are plenty of good artists out there. But these artists really shine. I only included myself because Peter [Marcelle] asked me to.”

Anna Jurinich and Gina Gilmour both exhibit with Hampton Road Gallery. Both were “discovered” in juried shows at the Riverhead gallery. Hampton Road Gallery’s regular summer season begins on May 31 with a solo show by Harriet Sawyer.

“Drama” is the second show that has been arranged by outside curators during the gallery’s off season. In January, the Long Island Academy held a faculty show in the space. During the season, Mr. Marcelle occasionally has high-profile guest curators arrange a show in the gallery.

“Drama” will remain on view through May 24 at Hampton Road Gallery, 36 Hampton Road in Southampton. It is open by appointment only; call the gallery for details, 204-9704.

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