For a town of only about 7,000 people, Essex has an unusually lively art-gallery scene: Six Summit Gallery, Cooper & Smith, Spectrum Gallery, Essex Art Association, as well as the impressive, jam-packed collection of maritime art on the walls at the Griswold Inn restaurant.
On Saturday, Oct. 21, two more exhibition spaces will open in the Essex Village section of the pretty town on the banks of the Connecticut River: Melanie Carr Gallery, focusing on contemporary artists from Connecticut, and Earth & Fire, specializing in ceramics, doubling as a teaching space.
Earth & Fire Gallery, 2 Main St., has a grand opening from 4 to 8 p.m. Melanie Carr, 1 North Main St., has a grand opening from 4 to 7 p.m.
Essex Village's Main Street is lined with well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century houses and ends at the Connecticut River Museum and boat dock.
Carr, a former curator at New Britain Museum of American Art, who now teaches art at Central Connecticut State University and is on staff at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, calls her show "Cool & Collected," since it is made up of art from artists whose work she has bought in the past. The show runs until Dec. 3.
Artists included are Mary Dwyer, Rashmi Talpade, Thea Wilcox Cicciotte, Robert Gregson, Kevin Van Aelst, Matthew Best, Kathleen Jacobs, Ben Parker, Dave Borawski, John O'Donnell, Kimberly Van Aelst, Joe Bun Keo, Suzan Shutan and Margaret Vaughan. All except Jacobs, who lives in New Hampshire, live and create art in the Hartford area.
In addition to hanging work, Carr has a flat file full of more work from her artists. "I want to demystify art. It's not just pristine, expensive stuff hanging on the wall. It's stuff people make," she said. "I want this space to be full of cutting-edge art, but I also want it to be accessible."
Highlights of the exhibit are Dwyer's charming painted portraits of 19th-century female journalists; Talpade's 11-piece "Modern Archaeology" collage series, which creates beauty out of what most would perceive as waste; Borawski's meticulously crafted creations from sliced corrugated cardboard; Vaughn's two-sided hanging collages exploring the intersection of high fashion and porn; and Gregson's pencil-and-ink drawings that, Carr said, "look like music and architecture got together and had babies."
Earth & Fire’s opening exhibit, “Elements,” will feature works by Rachel Carlson, Jeanette Vertentes, Deidre Cox, Meg Martin, Catherine Duffield and Spencer Hill Jewelry, as well as Julie Bonilla, who owns the gallery and studio. At the reception, music will be provided by The Dizzy River Duo.
Julius Bonilla, who was helping his wife open Earth & Fire, is excited about the dual openings and the future of art and artists in Essex. “It does feel like we’re building a community,” he said.