By John Paul Stapleton
Boston, MA – Gateway Arts has been helping disabled artists break into the mainstream since 1973 and is still going strong with their new “Up the Ladder to the Open Door Gallery” exhibit.
Gateway artistic director Stephen DeFronzo and Lorri Berenberg curated this exhibit using work from artists who participated in Gateway’s “Up the Ladder’’ program. Over the past two years, these artists have worked with facilitators to create portfolios and a presence in their local arts community.
The exhibit is being shown in the Open Door Gallery, hence the name, which is a space Gateway has worked with before in their mission to give disabled artists a voice; it’s located a few blocks from South Station on South Street. “We’re dedicated to provide arts based services to adults with disabilities” DeFronzo said.
Gateway not only gives these adults a studio to work on their craft, but also helps them create support materials such as bios, resumes and artist statements.
Artists like Rebecca Gellar, who has been working with Gateway since 1997, get profiles on the Gateway website where you can read their bios, see their accomplishments and buy some of their work.
Gellar painted “OK Harry I’m Done with you,” which is a part of the “Up the Ladder to the Open Door” exhibit. Using acrylic paint on wood, she came out with a portrait that makes use of a very spring-like color palette to give a specifically joyful perspective on the otherwise unamused subject.
Michael Oliveira paints a quite different portrait of a Celtics player using ink on rag. The work, titled “Ben,” has a caricature style with the large depiction of the subject’s head. This style is also shown in the large ears which can be assumed are used to poke fun at the ears of the actual player. These ears are also quite striking in the number of creases giving the piece a hypnotizing effect.
An untitled piece by Nicanor Sanchez brings another lively depiction to the gallery. The acrylic on rag piece shows a cartoon-like view of Massachusetts brought to life with its bent shape. Sanchez uses various shades of blue to cut the commonwealth into sections making it look like a map at the same time as resembling an animated subject. The one outlying color is the red spot he uses to separate Boston from the rest of his map.
Stepping away from the more lively pieces in the gallery, Neri Avraham creates a more abstract and aesthetically pleasing painting of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Avraham uses a gray scale palette of acrylic paint on rag for the tower but sets it against a sky blue background. The observer can easily make out the arches of the tower but is still left to grapple with the surreal form of the mass.
You can buy these works on the Gateway website which will help the artists financially as they pay for the service Gateway’s 23 person staff provides.
Of course, commissions from their artwork aren’t the only way these artists can participate. DeFronzo said many of them are publicly or privately funded but Gateway holds fundraisers to help artists that wouldn’t be able to participate otherwise.
Gateway will be having a reception on Thursday, June 25th for “Up the Ladder to the Open Door” where you can meet some members and see the pieces in person. It will be held from 4-7 p.m. at the Open Door Gallery, 89 South St. in Boston.
For more information or to purchase pieces from this exhibit and others you can visit their website at http://www.gatewayarts.org.
(“Up the Ladder to the Open Door” continues through August 5 at the Open Door Gallery, 89 South St., Boston, For gallery times, please call (617) 734-1577.)