AMY J. BARRY, Special to the Day
Gallery One in Old Saybrook is an example of how artists working cooperatively can keep a gallery alive and thriving, even during challenging economic times.
Founded in 2003, the gallery, which shares space with the Clayhouse, a paint-your-own pottery studio in the Old Saybrook Shopping Center, became a cooperative in 2007. It now has 17 member artists-from Branford to Lyme-working in photography, printmaking, painting, mixed media, sculpture and ceramics.
A group exhibition through June 17 features works by five of the member artists: Judith Barbour Osborne, Rick Silberberg and William G. Nelson of Ivoryton; Christopher James O'Flaherty of Griswold, a student at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (LACFA); Paul Harper of Essex and Lyme; and guest artist Kay Knight Clarke of Essex.
"We strongly believe art should be a part of life," says Osborne, an internationally exhibiting artist who became Gallery One's director five years ago. "The advantage of being located in a shopping center is that everyone needs to come to a shopping center at some point. And as a cooperative, we can split the costs (among the artists) to show, rent the space and for other associated costs of running a gallery. It's also economical to share space with another business (The Clayhouse)."
Selected member and guest artists have a distinct voice, are at a mature level of art, and work in a broad range of mediums and styles from representational to abstract, says Osborne.
Keeping the art affordable for the public to purchase is another important goal of the gallery, she adds.
Osborne notes that a cooperative gallery venue is also wonderful for the artists because it provides "mutual support, stimulation and being with other artists at a similar level of experience, thinking about and talking about their work."
There is also a wide range of ages of artist members from O'Flaherty, a sophomore at LACFA to Harper, still actively painting at 93.
"Paul can do beautiful representational landscapes, but he's drawn to simplifying and contrasting shapes and angles and architectural qualities as he gets older...boiling things down to their essence and with wonderful harmony of color and shape," Osborne says of Harper's recent paintings.
O'Flaherty's work reflects his interest in color, spatial contradictions and flat shapes that read as form. Blue painter's tape appears in several of the paintings.
"It's a real visceral presence, not an illusory image, to have tape coming off the canvas like this," Osborne points out. "It's lovely have the energy and thinking of a young person in the gallery to remind us, feed us," she adds.
Silberberg is showing abstract paintings in acrylic and pencil of imagined landscapes, as well as sculptures he calls "construction boxes" made out of recycled materials.
"I'm always drawn to the dynamic relationship of opposites," Osborne says. Rick's work is geometric as well as extremely organic. He coaxes imagery out of dream landscapes and anchors it with circles, lines, geometric shapes."
Nelson's black-and-white photographic abstractions of nature reflect his interest in the teachings of C.G. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology.
"His subdued representations allow an essence to come through-the essence of us as individuals, the essence of nature," Osborne says.
Kay Night Clarke is the guest artist in the show. Her son lives in New Zealand where Clarke visits and paints, and has inspired her new series of oil paintings.
Clarke, Osborne observes, is interested in the abstract quality of the landscape, focusing on the drama of the New Zealand rocky coastline where it meets the ocean.
"I like the way her paintings bridge representational and abstract: shape, line, push-pull of the ocean," Osborne notes.
And last, but not least, Osborne is exhibiting a current series titled "Closer Alignments," in which she has retrofitted monotypes and mixed media works on paper from the last 20 years "to create a more mature aesthetic and spiritual expression."
Osborne adds graphite, colored pencil, collage, and, as a professional calligrapher, abstract written text into these intriguing, evolving artworks.