2018-02-22 / Front Page

ALL IN A DAY’S ‘WORK’

Art association feting board members with show
BY RYAN GIBBS


Photographer Ernie Wulff, who curated the Conanicut Island Art Association exhibit that opens tonight, is alongside “Desk,” a watercolor by Allie Sabalis, and “June Garden,” an oil painting by Elaine Porter. The show, titled “The Works,” features work by past and present board members. 
PHOTO BY TIM RIEL Photographer Ernie Wulff, who curated the Conanicut Island Art Association exhibit that opens tonight, is alongside “Desk,” a watercolor by Allie Sabalis, and “June Garden,” an oil painting by Elaine Porter. The show, titled “The Works,” features work by past and present board members. PHOTO BY TIM RIEL For 44 years, the Conanicut Island Art Association has been administered by a volunteer board of directors, overseeing everything from membership calls to curating halls.

To honor those artists, the association is sponsoring “The Works,” an exhibit by 13 directors, past and present, at Jamestown Town Hall, 93 Narragansett

Ave. The show, which continues through March 22, opens with a reception at 5:30 tonight.

“I don’t think that the people who make the art association happen often get enough credit,” said Elaine Porter, board president. “I thought it was a nice way to show the community the talent of current and past board members.”

Porter, who spearheaded the exhibit, began contacting board members around New Year’s, which gave them a month to scour their work and compile submissions. After receiving a broad range of entries – from paintings and photographs to ceramics and sketches – curator Ernie Wulff began arranging “The Works” by their aesthetic similarities. He hung art work by theme or color instead of grouping an artist’s submissions together, dispersing them through the first-floor hallways and council chambers.

“I look for compatibility, geometry and feng shui,” he said. “Colors of frames and subject matter have a lot to do with it. I want things to be congruent, fluid and appealing. All my artists, I try to respect them, so they have their pieces of work showing admirably.”

Catch a wave

Wulff, a photographer, submitted four of his own pieces. These include three photographs of his favorite subject: waves and surfers. The Providence native spent 16 years as a surfing photographer in Hawaii, so he knows a good wave when he sees one crashing onto shore.

When hurricanes Lee and Maria were swirling off the East Coast in September, he went to Beavertail State Park with his camera and snapped a photo of a 15-foot wave. He also is showcasing a photograph of a Hawaiian wave from 1999 and a surfer off the coast of Point Judith three years ago.

Wulff’s predilection to photographing waves comes from his lifelong love of water. He’s been a surfer for more than 50 years, and while living in Hawaii, he caught waves even bigger than the swell he captured off Beavertail.

“I’m fascinated with water,” he said. “I love trout fishing, I love swimming, I love rivers. It’s nice to look at the ocean.”

Water also is a favorite subject of Rick Meli, the association’s treasurer. A retired art historian, most of his submissions are pastel drawings of waterfalls, which captured his imagination in 2017.

“I’ve been very intrigued by movement of water across rocks and the play of light,” he said.

Pat King, one of Meli’s predecessors as treasurer, submitted two landscapes and a modern abstract she calls “Flights of Fancy.” The inspiration came by chance when she accidentally wrote on the cover of her sketchpad and got creative by adding acrylics to the impromptu design.

While on vacation in Las Vegas, King bumped into an art dealer and showed him photos of her work. The impromptu piece from her sketchpad particularly caught his attention. When she returned to town, King began seeing what the art dealer had noticed. She decided to expand it.

“I just like the colors,” she said. “The blues and the yellows come out of it.”

Many styles represented

Jillian Barber picked five pieces for the show, but only one incorporates the tile work for which she is known. The other four are photographs, including one of a golden retriever she described as “one of her best friends.”

Buddy, who was owned by a neighbor in the West Ferry area, developed a close bond with Barber and her dog, Bette. The color photograph of Buddy at Fort Getty was the last one taken of him before his death.

Barber has been entering her photography in shows for nearly 20 years. Her expertise in another medium of art gives her a different outlook when she’s behind the lens.

“As an artist, you see differently than other people,” she said. “You look for that beauty, then you catch it. It’s totally different than working in clay.”

Porter submitted five pieces for the show, four of which are painted in oil. Although she also works with watercolors, most of her paintings in that medium are being displayed at other exhibitions. Ultimately, only one of her watercolors was chosen for “The Works.”

Like Meli and Wulff, several of Porter’s pieces feature a nautical theme. Her watercolor features a skiff tied to a mooring at New Harbor in Block Island on a foggy day. Her favorite of the oils is called “Fish Tales,” which depicts a group of fishermen discussing the catches they made during a day of surf-casting. One of the men is holding his hands to describe the size of the biggest fish he caught, while the others look at him with skepticism.

“I like that painting because it’s just a down-to-earth group of guys who are out there having a great time fishing,” she said. “I’ve always been intrigued by the passion of fishermen on the bay. It’s not just about catching fish, it’s peaceful and meditative.”

Porter also submitted an oil painting of her garden that contains hidden images. For instance, rabbits are hiding under leaves and a deer is grazing in the background.

While the exhibition is open to the public during normal business hours, tonight’s reception gives guests a dedicated opportunity to see “The Works” alongside the artists that created them. The free event also will feature refreshments and music.

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