By Newlin Tillotson
Mystic, CT- The Mystic Arts Center in the seaport town of Mystic, Conn. has had a long-standing history as an influential home for the arts. Its newest exhibition, “Mystic as a Muse: 100 Years of Inspiration,” explores a history that began with founder Charles Harold Davis, a landscape painter and impressionist, who settled along the Mystic River to capture the area’s marine beauty. The exhibit features work from the past 100 years up to the present day.
The center perches on the edge of Mystic River and is just around the corner from the downtown shops. There are small boutiques, independent art galleries and jewelry stores, including The Art Garden, where visitors can find beads from around the world and a friendly pug named “Buddha.” At the top of the street, adjacent to the arts center, is the famous Mystic Pizza, the place Julia Roberts worked at as “Daisy” in the 1988 movie of the same name.
The town is rife with coastal inspiration, and an array of art in “Mystic as a Muse” is focused on the ocean. In the corner of the first gallery of the exhibit is a large oil painting by Herbert Morton Stoops (1887-1948) that pictures two sailors at work in the summer sun, their muscles strained against the ropes and their brows furrowed in concentration. It shares the wall with Julian Joseph’s bright watercolor painting of boats in a harbor.
There is a mix of mediums and subjects in the show. Besides oceanscapes, there are paintings of fields and beloved animals, including a portrait of a sleeping dog titled “Bush” by Julian Alden Weir.
The exhibition continues in several smaller galleries with art from the present day, modern art that takes a look at the effects of social media and objects that depict the artist’s process including small sketches and drawings.
“Scarlet Meets Azure,” an acrylic on canvas painting by Keith L. Reynolds from 1998, sits in the contemporary gallery. It draws the viewer in with its crisp lines and hazy background. The boats in the foreground are drawn with careful detail, while the background melds sky and water into one blue mass.
Perhaps the most modern art in the show is located in the back gallery — “Our New Relationships,” a multimedia piece by Haley Lynn Smith, from neighboring Stonington, Conn. The work includes a sculpture and a video of an interactive installation that explored the frustrations of social media that included people taking anger out on clay replicas of the Facebook logo.
Mystic’s artistic history reveals itself through landscape paintings, marine art and sculptures, The town has a welcoming personality that has been captured in the variety of art in the exhibit and promises more to come.
(“Mystic as a Muse” is on display through September 28 at Mystic Arts Center, 9 Water Street, Mystic, Conn. For more information, call (860) 536-7601.)