Newburyport, the Birthplace of the US Coast Guard, home of the Customs House Nautical Museum and the Rear Range Light where one can have a romantic dinner at the top of the light tower (contact me for details). On a rainy Saturday afternoon we went on a shopping trawl and gallery crawl, sorting through the 13 various art stops on the city council’s artwalk promotional tour.
OK, I can recommend a wander in historic Newburyport as a great way to spend a day. Park in the municipal lot and pick up an information packet from the welcome center, then start with a breakfast in the locally loved “Angie’s” diner. There are a number of great restaurants for all tastes, and the galleries run the gamut from (as my wife describes) “Women’s Gifts” to a few professional galleries with solid international work and tiny studio/store fronts with earnest, hard working artists eager to discuss their art.
Rather than promote commercial establishments, let me just highlight a few key sightings: One of the professional galleries was featuring actual painting by Liz Gribon, who we have seen before in a gallery in Boston. Working in mixed media, Liz has a distinctive style and works primarily with figurative studies in strong designs and mutes colors. You can find her work on the web—I agree with the critics that promote her—the images are lasting and unique. A tiny shop behind the Tannery featured Encaustics and monotypes, the work mostly in small format and available as prints too—the artists in this shop were warm and inviting and their images were interesting abstracted landscapes and quirky little personal images. The rebirth of encaustic as a medium is fascinating—images can be made misty and “foggy” rather than murky as one gets with paint on paint techniques. This little store should not be missed.
Of course, bad art abounds in Newburyport as well; including the local coffee shop hanging glitter covered, patterned and “illuminated” canvases that were just a mess of gaudy color. It is interesting to me to find so many artists adopting the aboriginal Australian patterning as their basic style, but it doesn’t make the work any more viable and while I keep my opinions to myself, people close to me can tell when I am being disingenuous. Yes, I realize that some artist cherishes these works and my wife says I am being an “art snob,” but I would encourage them to study a bit more before showing…maybe that would be a good idea for a blog series, the art snob and his controversial pronouncements! :-)
The final stop on the Newburyport call is the Firehouse Gallery/Restaurant/Playhouse. It is a fabulous space and the artist currently showing was a photographer who works color flower portraits into double exposure “mandala” images, with their reference to religious iconography and Jung’s psychoanalytical theories. Wrap up the day along the quay side in the park, where the water and the lighthouses and the old brick buildings make a picturesque backdrop to the boats, wharfs and setting sun.