Island artist displays work at library
Allie Sabalis has lived in Jamestown for nine years. During that time, she served as president of the board of the Conanicut Island Art Association for two years. Her painting and photography work has been shown in New York, Boston, Newport and here in Jamestown.
The Jamestown Philomenian Library is presenting a digital photography show of Sabalis’ work. The exhibit is called “Remembrance of Things Past” and features five large-scale photographs of long forgotten objects that Sabalis came across in consignment and thrift shops.
“I started to go out again with my digital camera,” she said. “I like to visit consignment stores in my free time. I began to see these objects that were for sale.”
Sabalis said that a lot of these objects are sentimental to some people. She said there was a mix: some items were “ordinary,” while others were “antiques.”
“I have a knack for recognizing a deeper psychological dimension for the things I’m looking at,” she said.
Sabalis described the creative intent of her show: “The roots for inspiration for these images come from remembered objects. It is a visual commentary of the social history and detritus of things left behind, in memory and in actuality.”
She said that castoff and used or abandoned items may reflect the aging process and also the “death of the glitter of consumerism.”
“This outdated stuff represents a sentimentalism of the ordinary and day-to-day objects which bring back a plethora of personal emotion and thought.” She said that some are meant to be amusing, while others belie a darker mood.
“These images create a visual history of the oddness of things which provide a bridge backwards in time for all of us.”
Sabalis, who got her Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt University in New York City, lived in Maine for 12 years before moving to Rhode Island. She said that she went on to a variety a jobs following earning her degree, but never wanted to teach at the college level even though she was qualified.
“So I had to find a variety of ways to support myself as artists do,” she said. “I worked in the film industry. I worked as an art therapist in a psychiatric hospital setting.”
After living in the New York area for 20 years, Sabalis moved to New England. “Maine is a very beautiful place to live, and it’s a wonderful place to be an artist,” she said. “It’s also a very difficult place to earn a living, and it’s also a very isolated place to live, especially in the winter time.”
When she decided that it was time to relocate again, Sabalis chose Jamestown because she liked the small-town atmosphere, and the similarities to the Maine landscape that she knew so well. “It’s a beautiful place to live,” she said. “When I saw Beavertail I thought it reminded me of Maine because of the rugged cliffs, and the ocean, and the lighthouse.”
Sabalis, who is currently a broker associate at Lila Delman Real Estate in Jamestown, has always divided her artistic pursuits. She said that she is always going back-and-forth between painting in her studio and working in photography.
“I’ve actually pursued both disciplines almost equally in my career as an artist,” she said.
She continued: “For years I’ve done large-scale watercolors and also large-scale landscape painting. In painting I’ve always worked fairly realistically and it was always connected to my background in photography. I always worked from my photographs when I did my paintings. Some people like to go out with their easel and canvas and paint outside, but I’ve never enjoyed doing that. So I use my photography to create the images that I would put on canvas or paper.”
Sabalis looks forward to the public reaction to her latest work. She said that she hopes some of her images make people laugh.
“It’s kind of a social commentary on the world that we live in,” she said. “I hope that they find it intellectually and emotionally stimulating. They’re not images that are meant to be decorative. This is more art about art. The stuff that I take pictures of does bring back memories. Looking at these images can stimulate people to bring their own memories to them.”
Sabalis said that artists are visual people and she wants her images to speak for themselves.
“My impulse to make images, whether they’re painting or photography, comes from a deeper emotional response to the world that I live in.”
Due to space considerations, the library exhibit includes just five of Sabalis’ 18-by-24-foot digital images.
“I actually have about 40 images that I have collected. Little by little I’m getting them printed up and framed,” she said. “Eventually I would like to have a whole show of them.”
She said that all of her work can be seen on her website, al liesabalis.com.
“Remembrance of Things Past,” an exhibit of digital photography by Allie Sabalis, is sponsored by the Conanicut Island Art Association. The exhibit will run through Friday, July 29 in the Foyer Art Gallery at the Jamestown Philomenian Library.