Making Waves in New London & Hartford
By Meghan Richter
When I pulled into the parking lot at Sailfest 2016 last weekend, the town fair energy gave me a sense of the atmosphere of New London. The downtown area only spanned a few blocks, and the ocean breeze drifted loftily through the sweltering heat. Just about every building — and even some of the streets — had been painted with large murals. From giant whales to Sasquatch, to massive people playing saxophone and mandalas over intersections, New London is clearly an emerging art scene.
Sailfest is hosted by the town’s local businesses, a lot of which are run by young artists. Hygienic Gallery and Hive Skate Shop specifically were able to incorporate different variations of art to their town’s annual festival. Hygienic is currently showing an exhibition on “Color & Light” through July 30, but for Sailfest, they opened up the Hygienic Art Park besides the gallery on Bank Street for performances throughout the night.
The work in “Color & Light” is bright, the exhibition composed of five artists: Mark Patnode, Gigi Horr Liverant, Dennis Sirrine, Leif Nilsson and Michael Peery. Though each artist has a unique style, every painting in the Hygenic gallery has one thing in common: their own take on the means by which light reflects color.
Leif Nilsson often uses thick layers of oil paint with quick and heavy brushstrokes to capture the refractions of light and color off of natural settings. In“Studio Garden Path,” his choice of color and impressionist-style brushstrokes mimic a bountiful and layered image of spring. The viewer may walk through the path and fill their nose to its brim with synesthesia.
In contrast, the scratchiness of Liverant’s work and bold use of out-of-the-box colors abstractly displays the time of day in which she is painting. Her main subject for this exhibition is cars driving on the road. In the paintings in which it is either daytime or sunset, the road is bathed in the orange glow of sunlight, while the night time images are drenched in a violet blue. The saturation of color was tremendous to see in person.
Just around the block from Hygienic Art Park’s stage and the exhibition was an exhibition of street artists hosted by Hive Skate Shop. Charlie King, owner and co-founder of the New London Skatepark Organization (NLSO), hopes to build a local skate park with the goal of promoting the DIY nature of both skateboarding and the underground art scene.
Its “SKRT” exhibition held on July 8 was curated by Nichell Delvaille, who has been working in New York City since the 1990s. The artists that she had gathered were key players in the movie “Kids,” in which director Larry Clark had attempted to “make the Great American Teenage Movie, like the Great American Novel.” It was amazing to walk around the exhibition to the beat of the hip hop artists that Delvaille had gathered, all while viewing the works of Nuri Bell, Quim Cardona and Ryan Sikorski, who were able to capture the energy of the NYC scene.
Nuri Bell’s work is primarily in film, and he says that his choice of roadkill as the subject of his work is a symbol for the loss of people close to him. Similarly, Ryan Sikorski’s high energy photographs have captured hip hop legends who have passed. Their works display two very different types of memorials, though they are equally intriguing.
Another film photographer, Quim Cardona, has been photographing his friends skating for years. What came out of this was incredible documentation of the DIY aspect of the skate scene. His skillful mastery of capturing motion in stills bridges the gap between athleticism and art.
On this night, New London swelled with music and art until 11 p.m. King often does exhibitions within his shop, and Delvaille has assured me that this is the first year of many that she will curate exhibitions in the city with Sailfest. The DIY scene seems to be alive and well where you would least expect it — a small coastal town in Connecticut.
The next day, I attended a “Flash Ekphrastic!” poetry reading at one of the galleries at University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School. The works being read were based off of “The 2016 Williams Prize in Drawing Exhibition Presented by the Artist for Artists Project,” the current exhibition at their Silpe Gallery. The student works blended effortlessly — the writing promoted the art and vice-versa — keeping the grassroots spirit alive. I am continually impressed by the ability to find inspiration from one’s peers in order to create a new work.
This injection of youth into the Connecticut art scene breathes new life into it. Having grown up in the area, I knew it to be about bored housewives painting the ocean by numbers. With the recent influx of artists and business owners who are fresh out of college, it is obvious that is far from what Connecticut is about.
(“Color & Light” continues through July 30 at Hygenic Art, 79 Bank St., New London, Conn. Gallery hours are Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., on Sunday from noon-3 p.m. and on Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, call (860) 443-8001. “The 2016 Williams Prize in Drawing Exhibition Presented by the Artist for Artists Project” continues through July 24 at the Donald & Linda Silpe Gallery at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, Parking Lot K, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, Conn. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. For more information,call (860) 768-4393.)