Art is subjective. It speaks to us or it doesn’t. Either we get it or we don’t. But often times we can’t get into an artist’s head to understand what they spent countless hours trying to achieve.
But Art Night in Bristol and Warren, RI is different. Not only can you be chauffeured by trolley around these scenic small towns whose local talent looms large. You can meet the artists themselves and better understand what motivates them to think big in the smallest state in the union.
As I walked through the studios of these artists I didn’t know what I’d come to appreciate when the evening was through. What I absorbed was talented people whose artwork demonstrated the kind of thought and intrigue you’d expect to find in a destination national museum.
I reiterate. There are some seriously talented people in both these nostalgic, two road, everybody knows everybody towns. They all have found a niche in the arts that drive them along with a passion for how they do it. There’s meaning behind every method they use to bring their voice to life, along with a vision that drives their creative engines. And it’s about time more people knew just what’s been churning through this mini renaissance Art Night is striving to exhibit.
I didn’t get to see every single artist at the May 26th exhibit. But I look forward to future nights where I can wine and dine on a trolley ride while experiencing fellow artist’s niche passion projects they strive to make great.
Tom is a pop culture Cuisinart. He takes what he sees amidst iconic images, themes, brands and found object (junk to you and me) while blending them into his own brand of conceptual sculpture, and digital prints. His artwork hits a nerve with our culture’s propensity for consumerism.
When you walk in his studio you stare at a pair of beautiful female eyes that would give any Cosmopolitan make up artist a run for their money. In his major pieces you're looking at beautiful landscapes. But up close you're taken aback to see recycled bits of toys, trash, electronics, recycling, even shoes all glued together composing a three-dimensional landfill. That’s when you get a sense of how Tom visualizes the useless and blasé into ‘cultural compost piles’ that grow with intrigue as he describes his amalgamations.
Even his digital portrait compositions show off his warped, yet ironic sense of humor by taking the beauty we covet in pop culture while sending it down an unknown road of right and wrong. You are left to interpret. Check out more of his work here at http://www.tomdeiningerart.com/works.html .
Tom set the bar high on originality and doesn’t apologize for the niche he found in his artwork. That’s what I’d continue to get all night.
The Mint Gallery
A brand new revelation in downtown Bristol, The Mint Gallery is a cultural safe haven for artists. While you’re analyzing more traditional, beautiful oil canvases adorning its’ walls you can’t help but feel Bristol’s nautical tradition amidst the allure a traditional art gallery should have.
When you walk in it feels like home. Comfortable, warm and full of works of art whose artists have purpose with every brushstroke. The gallery itself is full of recycled pieces of wood, doors and tables to add to its rustic charm. With the potential to be a cultural epicenter of the East Bay, The Mint Gallery hopes to cross artisan boundaries by cultivating fine visual arts amidst its walls while housing socially progressive events such as wine and paint nights or local chef nights.
Be sure to follow www.themintgallery.com for updates on bridging the gap between fine arts, fine dining and a collective appreciation for cultural creativity.
The Bristol Art Museum
The Bristol Art Museum has been bringing local and national art exhibits to its historic walls since 1963 thanks to the “Friends of Linden Place”. You can find out more about the museum’s history here http://www.bristolartmuseum.org/about.html
I was treated to a few exhibits including the abstract art conceived of Willy Heeks in the Livingston Gallery.
With “Bristol In Mind” Willy has designed artwork with strategically placed spacing, color and blending to create a fantastical, whimsical approach to moods and theme. Like stepping into a dilapidated fairy tale, Willy bends the limits of geometric theory. Math teachers beware, his unstructured, yet decided style will leave you scrambling for a finite formula until you bend to his will, contemplating his loose composition that generates feeling rather than a perfect picture.
Upstairs in the museum you’ll find Arnie Casavant in The Piccoli Room.
His seafaring work seems a perfect fit for a town surrounded by harbors and boats. But there’s more to his niche than just a love of seaside harbors and boats floating on water.
Arine captures the depths of dusk and dawn with the expertise of a photographer. Instead of setting up his framework composition while snapping away on a roll of film, he paints the perfect moment through shadow and color with a keen eye. This isn’t guesswork or a capacity for timing. The shadows and reflections of his boats and harbors come to life, floating in the very waters he creates with blues, greys, and greens. A video camera can’t do any better to capture a moment of time.
Two artists under the same roof each have found their own inspirational niche to deliver equally impressive and delightful work for the eye and the contemplative.
This studio stood out to me with one foot planted in retro design and another in elegance. Beehive Handmade is the brainchild of two art students whose love of metalworking, crafting and working in the kitchen spurred on their own niche business model.
Sandi Bonazoli and Jim Dowd are precision sculptors who have designed and marketed their own line of kitchenware to great success. Their fine detail and craftsmanship shine as basic molds and castings they create are aged, etched and polished to make a warm, rustic addition to anyone’s kitchen. There are some who look at creating food as an art. Who knew the very tools used to create that art could be art itself?
Combining a metallic, industrial, vintage look aligned with quirky sayings adds personality to these gadgets. These are authentic creations from passionate artists rather than functional after thoughts assembled in the cookie cutter factories of chain stores. Go to www.beehivehandmade.com for a better look at what everyday kitchenware can inspire.
Another Art Night mad scientist, Kendall isn’t a traditional artist much like many creators exhibited this evening. Kendall has a background in science. While most separate the arts and classic educational disciplines, she combines them for a raw, earthly display of living art.
An impressive line of handmade jewelry was on display. Combined with found objects and a naturalistic approach, her funky, vintage necklaces, earrings and bracelets take the experimental and makes it traditional. These one of a kind fashion inspirations could be just as easily seen in the pages of Vogue as they are in her showroom. You can check out some of her pieces at www.kendallreiss.com
But the most interesting part of her display was incubating in controlled glass jars. Kendall’s artistic science experiment shined amidst finely trimmed copper plates that were each growing their own patinas. She etched out a few designs on the copper pieces first before dipping them in various vinegars. What you see is the natural progression of scientific growth rich in blues and greens most artists would kill to use in their artwork. But Kendall’s colors are natural, unadulterated examples of variable A mixed with variable B. Some pieces looked like a topographical landscape lush and full of life.
I walked away from Kendall’s exhibit like the others. Blown away. Every artist I found on my Art Night walk had their own niche passion project they’ve honed on. If for nothing, the thought and meaning behind their work speaks to how dedicated they are, not just to be different for the sake of it, but to be themselves. That’s how artistic sophistication is growing in Bristol and Warren. What a great time to be a cultural consumer in the East Bay.
I don’t know what the next Art Night on June 30th has in store but I’ll surely be writing about it. I hope you decide to witness it.
Mark Bettencourt is a creative writer and producer based out of Rhode Island who likes to tell stories about life through arts and entertainment. You can find more of his written material on the blog The Court of MVB.