Southampton Arts Center Exhibition, A Sense of Place

On Friday, February 24, the Southampton Arts Center in Southampton, New York invited journalists Nathaniel Ainley, Sharon Hoge, Wendy Moonan, Corrado Serra, Nadia Palon, Vyna St. Phard, Laren Stover, and Lisa Larson-Walker to a special viewing of the new 2017 exhibit A Sense of Place. Featuring local artists Toni Ross, Bastienne Schmidt, Philippe Cheng and more, A Sense of Place explores the relationships of these artists to their environments. The day-trip included a visit to Dia Art Foundation’s The Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton as well as studio visits at the homes of artists Toni Ross and Bastienne Schmidt.

A Sense of Place is a carefully curated exhibition displaying the intimate work of various local artists including: Philippe Cheng, Louise Eastman with Janis Stemmermann, Christopher French, Saskia Friedrich, Mary Heilmann, Toni Ross, Bastienne Schmidt, Michelle Stuart, Edwina von Gal and Almond Zigmund.

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Journalists enjoyed a welcoming breakfast spread as they explored the Center’s light filled space. Amy Kirwin, the Center’s new director of programs, greeted the journalists and introduced the artists present. Photographer Philippe Cheng articulated his inspiration for his abstract, naturalistic photographs. Landscape architect Edwina von Gal presented her environmentally infused dioramas displaying various samples of locally sourced earth, sand and grass. Her non- profit organization, Perfect Earth Project, is dedicated to raising awareness about the danger of toxic, synthetic lawn and garden chemicals; her art reflects her desire to transform every landscaper into a “land steward.”

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Christopher French utilizes Braille paper as well as naturalistic forms to create strikingly abstract, bold colorations exploring form, shape and color. Louise Eastman and Janis Stemmerman display the beauty of crushed marigolds on surfaces, while Saskia Friedrich described her process of eschewing paint for fabric-wrapped canvasses.

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Bastienne Schmidt described the works of Mary Heilmann, Michelle Stuart and Almond Zigmund, in addition to presenting her work, which utilizes negative space to quietly evoke her childhood in Greece and the refugee crisis affecting that region. The rear of the museum showcases sculptor Toni Ross’s conceptual meditations on democracy and power. Do Not Look Behind this Wall invites viewers to see what’s hiding behind a conspicuously placed wall in the museum, asking viewers to question larger political and social issues lurking behind more abstract façades.

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The journalists loaded into a minivan and drove across the flat Long Island countryside to the home of Toni Ross. Within her working studio holding unfinished steel works for upcoming projects, Ross treated the journalists to a mouth-watering lunch of brisket burgers, shrimp, salad and scrumptious dessert. Ross also displayed her outdoor kiln, where she creates naturalistic containers, totems and vessels under the wide Hamptons sky.

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The minivan hauled across town to Dia Art Foundation’s The Dan Flavin Institute, a hidden gem of a museum housed within a former fire department turned Baptist Church. The current exhibition, “icons,” features several early Flavin works, in addition to a permanent collection couched within a church-like, meditative space.

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The journey concluded with a visit to Bastienne Schmidt’s home and studio. A minimal, yet, open and inviting space, Schmidt’s home includes two studios for herself and her husband. This is where Schmidt creates her minimal, at times whitewashed, grid-like patterns evoking geometric forms.

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The art-filled press trip offered a glimpse into the inner workings of various local Hamptons’ artists’ processes on a day when the quiet natural beauty of the landscape was on full view.

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Photos by Richard Lewin

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