Members Show To Be Bigger Than Ever

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A small group of artists, clutching their work, stood in line near the registration table at Guild Hall in East Hampton on Friday morning. The half dozen or so waiting to submit their artwork for the “75th Annual Artist Members Exhibition” were just a few of the more than 400 who had already stopped in and dropped off their pieces so far by 11:30 a.m.
Not surprisingly, this year’s group exhibit celebrating a diamond anniversary milestone for the oldest non-juried museum exhibition on Long Island, and to be judged by “2012 Whitney Biennial” Co-Curator Elisabeth Sussman of the Whitney Museum of American Art, is expected to break all previous numbers for both submissions and viewers.

“It’s going to be a huge opening,” said Michelle Klein, exhibition organizer and Guild Hall assistant curator. She added that this year’s “Members” show could well prove to be an even more daunting challenge than in years past—finding enough wall and floor space to display all the artwork will require some ingenuity.

“We always manage to make it work,” she said. “We always find space.”

The East End, with its much discussed special light and breathtaking landscape, is home to some of the most successful artists in America; many of whose work will be on display at the “75th Annual Artist Members Exhibition,” opening on Saturday, April 27.

“Where there’s no passion, there’s no profit, E.M. Forster said,” Water Mill-based Eric Dever gave as an explanation for the great numbers of acclaimed talent who make their homes here. The former “Members” exhibit winner for Best Abstract painting speaks of which he knows. The successful artist, who also teaches painting at The Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, was dropping off friend Joe Pintauro’s “Going Out of Business” photograph (Mr. Pintauro is a former Best Photograph winner) and readying his “NSIBTW-13” for submission. This year will be his ninth participating in the exhibit.

The name of the 20-by-20-inch $2,000 painting is an acronym for the colors used, he reported: Naphthol Scarlet, Ivory Black and Titanium White. The number 13 represents that this the is 13th painting he has done using these materials.

“It’s just black, white and red but it stimulates the optic eye,” he said of the “repurposed” piece, which was a sketch for a diptych that is currently being shown at Sara Nightingale Gallery in Water Mill. “I like working that way.”

This “Members” exhibition will be the first as a participant for Ken Miller. His colorful 14-by-18-inch $2,500 “Sea of Sarees” oil on linen is a departure of sorts for the former photographer. The author of “The Hamptons: Long Island’s East End” coffee-table photography book has switched mediums, and the Guild Hall exhibit will mark his museum debut as a painter.

“I went into oil painting a number of years ago but this is the first year I’ve started to show,” he said. “I’m really happy to be part of the ‘Members’ show. This is where I should be.”

The group exhibit, which is open to all Guild Hall members, will offer artwork from artists of all levels and experience. Categorical prizes will be awarded for Best Abstract, Best Mixed Media, Best Representational, Best Work on Paper, Best Photograph, Best Sculpture, Best Landscape, Best New Member, Top Honors and Best Interpretation of the Diamond Theme. The Top Honors winner will be awarded a solo exhibit at Guild Hall.

“The quality and caliber of this work is phenomenal,” said Guild Hall’s Director/Chief Curator Christina Strassfield over a light lunch at the museum with Ms. Klein on Friday afternoon. “This is my favorite show of the year … I’m always surprised by the variety of the media and the way the media is used.”

Ms. Strassfield added that this year there will be the added bonus of exhibitors having Ms. Sussman view their submissions.

“What a great opportunity to have someone of that caliber see your work,” she said.

“Oh, and there’s one more thing, she added. “The best part is when Michelle gets to call the winners.”

“Yes, that’s one of my absolute favorite parts, the congratulatory phone calls,” Ms. Klein agreed. “It’s so uplifting and exciting. It’s a really, really fun moment.”

The “75th Annual Artist Members Exhibition” at Guild Hall will open with a reception on Saturday, April 27, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and will remain on view through Saturday, June 1. There will be a “Meet the Winners” reception on Saturday, May 18, at noon at the museum. For more information, visit guildhall.org or call 324-0806.

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