Three Big Art Shows, One Message


It has been five years since cartoonist Murray Karn became the first member of the Southampton Art Association to display work on the walls of Southampton Town Hall—a tradition celebrated last Thursday afternoon, April 30, when Art at Town Hall’s curator Robbi Goldberg found a suitable-enough moment to cut the cake.“We’re booked into 2019 for Art at Town Hall,” she said of the monthly exhibition during a small gathering at the municipal

building. “In 2017, we’re going to switch to two-month shows, because the time just goes too fast. When we come to set up, people say, ‘Wow—you’re here already?’”

In actuality, this will mean a three-month-long exhibition for selected artists, who are predominantly local names. When each new collection arrives, the older display moves to the office walls of Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

“It all started with her,” Ms. Goldberg said of Ms. Throne-Holst bringing local art to Town Hall. “I met her at a breakfast between winning her [first-term] election and her inauguration, and had asked if she’d be interested in doing this, and she immediately said yes.”

Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer Garvey said the changing scenery is a fascinating example of how beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. “It’s great, because these works are made by artists of all types and skill levels,” she said. “People react to the pieces in completely different ways.”

Amid the cake and festivities, Corinne Lavinio was busy hanging her work. The 35-year-old photographer, born and raised in Southampton, harnesses her creativity at night, spending the days raising her sons, 5-year-old Thomas and 3-year-old Michael.

“As my husband would say, ‘She does it all while I was asleep,’” Ms. Lavinio, who also sells jewelry featuring micro-prints of her photographs under her shop name East End Light, said with a smile.

“It’s the grind here,” she said. “It is what it is, whether you’re at home or working. I’m a stay-at-home mom and I don’t sit down.”

The artistic effort does not go unnoticed, particularly by those at Town Hall who say the continuing exhibitions help keep their connection to the creative world alive.

Pete Ahlers, a Southampton Town maintenance mechanic, said he is a particular fan of seeing the varying visions of Southampton’s local photographers. “I dabbled in photography years ago, and I just haven’t had the time to do it,” Mr. Ahlers said. “So, whenever someone brings in photos, I’m, like, glued to it.”

Also celebrating an anniversary of the East End’s bounty of art is Guild Hall. On Saturday night, the East End museum unveiled its 77th annual Artist Members Exhibition—the oldest non-juried art show on Long Island—where Pamela B. Topham took top honors with her layered tapestry, “Northwest Harbor, Early Light.”

Christina Strassfield, chief curator and museum director, arranged the show’s 463 pieces so expertly that the exhibition is considered a work of art unto itself—a talent, she says, that comes with 25 years of experience.

“I start with picking a piece to anchor each wall, and then I build around it,” she said. “It’s not just color, shape and form, and you have to mix it up. You don’t want a completely blue wall, or to lump all the representational or abstract together. You want color to transition to shape and form. So you have to be constantly thinking about that as you’re going around to make sure it all works.”

Guild Hall has kept the Artist Members Exhibition in its schedule for 77 years out of sheer reverence for its community, according to Ms. Strassfield, and this grouping will remain on view through June 6.

“We really appreciate the artistic community, and we want to celebrate it at every level,” she said. “From the artist who’s exhibited nationally to the Sunday painter, we hang them all together with the same respect and care.”

Southampton artist and curator Paton Miller did the same for the East End Collected exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, which also opened Saturday, albeit farther west. More than 700 attended the reception—“one of the biggest crowds ever,” he said—where they saw a show that features local artists in East End collections.

“It was amazing to see the community embrace the collection, the center and spring,” Mr. Miller said of the response. “I felt all of those merge last Saturday night.”

East End Collected—on view through May 17—features pieces by approximately 40 local artists, including Mr. Miller’s own 2009 portrait, “The Composer.” In the lobby sits an otherworldly microcosm—a tiny universe that can be accessed through multiple peep holes in a wooden cube sitting atop a pedestal. An untitled mixed-media piece by Nick Tarr comes from the private collection of East Hampton artist Eric Ernst, whose work can also be found in the exhibition. “It’s not just paintings,” Mr. Miller noted.

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