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Monday, 20 June 2016

'Brine'

CAPE MAY ART SHOW
NO DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

Danny Galieote
Bo Barlett
Kris Lewis
By Jackie Atkins
[WC News Service]
What would possess anyone in the Philadelphia/New York City areas to travel  hundreds of  miles down to the tip of South Jersey just to see a curated show of twelve artists? 
 
Cape May, New Jersey, attracts visitors for many reasons; principally because of its quiet ambience, Victorian architecture, and  laid back, decidedly non-“Jersey Shore” atmosphere. When people come, viewing internationally acclaimed art work may be the last thing that come to mind on a mild summer day.

But what’s a vacation without exploring something more than sea shell hunting and dolphin watching?


Sure, in Cape May, as in elsewhere up and down the coast of New Jersey, you can buy any number  of summer shlock pieces from art emporiums; the kind done by retired housewives, who smother paint on canvas and smear it with a pallet knife to mask imperfections. 'Grumbacher Gothic', I call it. OK, it’s true, Cape May does have a Thomas Kinkade retail outlet, if you are so inclined to use your credit card, but  here in the Carpenter’s Street Mall at the SOMA NewArt Gallery hangs works by Bo Bartlett and, besides at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where do you get a chance to see his work up close without submitting your financial sheets for the last twenty years?

Now, turn around and there’s more! Suspended post-war scenes by the classically-trained former Disney animator of The Lion King,  Danny Galiote,  on a windy summer beach, which make you feel part of the timeless flow of sands and tides. Nestled between are the social ecological ocean poster arts of Shepard Fairey who, in a previous political time cycle, created the iconic Obama Hope poster. Lean over and float on the fresco water colors of Ali Cavanaugh of St. Louis, Missouri. Bend your knees and peer at a perfect “Kraken Titanis Axe” created  of resin, glass, hickory wood, heirloom barn floorboard and nailed suspended in a frame from the Canadian artist and founder of Base Camp X, Graeme Cameron. In the corner, you can bask under the fine light of a octopus chandelier by Philadelphian Adam Wallacavage.

After awhile I had to wonder, where am I? Am I living in what an esteem editor once told me is the end of the Parkway at the tip of a dead state, or up in Soho?
 
“ I wanted to raise the bar for art shows here,” says international renown artist and North Cape May resident Victor Grasso, who will be exhibiting this summer in Copenhagen and also at SOMA NewArt in August. “So I invited some of the artists I most admired to come and submit some pieces.”
 
This might be like asking the President to give a talk to your PTA, but Victor is no school principal planning a class speaking engagement. Since first exhibiting in Cape May more than ten years ago, Grasso, whose work as been described as Contemporary Realism bordering on the weird (right down my alley), has accrued a stellar, quiet reputation among the cognoscenti. So a call from him to exhibit in his first curated show was not passed down.  
 
The outcome to his RSVPs has resulted in a three-room sonata of savory, trendy pieces called 'Brine.'
 
Besides Grasso, other prominent South Jersey artists Stan Sperlack, Greg Bennet, Frank Kallop, and Steve Gibson are also exhibiting. “I want to pump up the culture of art for everyone in Cape May,' Grasso croons in his self effacing grand style. 'I want to put Cape May on the map with the same footing as the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard.” 
 
I always admired the works of these local masters, but it took 'Brine' to visible tell me they can hold their own with the big guys.
 
Nowadays, a multi-dimensional show is a rarity, and a group exhibit from a range of artists of high caliber even rarer. It’s like finding a perfect Cape May Diamond on the beach. But this time you don’t have to get your feet wet searching in salty water.

'Brine' runs to 4 July.

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