Jim Gingerich Is First Visual Artist In Residence At The Church - 27 East

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Jim Gingerich Is First Visual Artist In Residence At The Church

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Artist Jim Gingerich's materials as he works in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich's materials as he works in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's materials in The Church.

Jim Gingerich's materials in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church.

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich working in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church.

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Jim Gingerich at work in The Church.

Artist Jim Gingerich at work in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's work at The Church.

Jim Gingerich's work at The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich at work on a painting in The Church.

Jim Gingerich at work on a painting in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's working space at The Church.

Jim Gingerich's working space at The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's working materials.

Jim Gingerich's working materials. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's artist materials at The Church.

Jim Gingerich's artist materials at The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church.

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich painting in progress.

Jim Gingerich painting in progress. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's work in The Church.

Jim Gingerich's work in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich sculpture and sketch book.

Jim Gingerich sculpture and sketch book. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Ginerich's working space at The Church.

Jim Ginerich's working space at The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich work on walls at The Church.

Jim Gingerich work on walls at The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich working.

Jim Gingerich working. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich painting in The Church.

Jim Gingerich painting in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Ginerich at work on a painting.

Jim Ginerich at work on a painting. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church.

Jim Gingerich at work in The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

Jim Gingerich's sketchbook and a sculpture.

Jim Gingerich's sketchbook and a sculpture. ANNETTE HINKLE

"The Hallelujah Maquettes" are Jim Gingerich's newest sculptural pieces. ANNETTE HINKLE

"The Hallelujah Maquettes," Jim Gingerich's sculptures. ANNETTE HINKLE

View of Jim Gingerich's working space at The Church.

View of Jim Gingerich's working space at The Church. ANNETTE HINKLE

authorAnnette Hinkle on Apr 20, 2021

The very first visual artist to take up residency at The Church, the newly refurbished and renamed maker’s space in Sag Harbor, is Jim Gingerich.

And it may sound like a bit of divine intervention, but the work he is focusing on during his month-long residency is aptly named “The Hallelujah Maquettes” —series of new figurative sculptures which the artist is integrating into paintings inspired by abstract drawings he first created back in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

“These are about human vulnerability and hope — the capability of humans to transcend peril, and we were all feeling the peril,” Gingerich said of his new sculptural work. “There’s a lot about transcendence, ascendance and turmoil, but they’re very optimistic.

“Hallelujah is an apt word for that feeling of euphoria and that ‘aha’ experience,” he added. “It’s akin to the creative experience when you’re struggling with something and you come up with a solution. Then you have energy and focus.”

The Church, a non-profit creative laboratory co-founded by husband and wife artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik, only opened recently after a massive restoration, and while Gingerich is the first visual artist to work in the space— his residency is from March 25 to April 23 — he follows the New York City-based Martha Graham Dance Company, which christened the artistic space with its presence back in February.

While it now serves artists, for most of its life the building functioned as Sag Harbor’s United Methodist Church and Gingerich says he can’t help but feel the residual energy and spirit that remains in the bones of the once hallowed structure.

“When I first came here when it was an empty space, I sat here for a day and a half,” Gingerich recalled during an interview on a recent sunny morning in his ground floor studio space at The Church. With the doors flung wide open, the sound of birdsong drifted into the room as he gestured to the architectural elements around him. “There’s warmth and texture — this is the stone foundation that was built in 1863, these are hand-hewn beams from that time, so it’s a place of worship that had been around for more than 120 years.

“I can feel the echoes and energy of all the souls who came before,” he added, giving a nod to Fischl and Gornik for their efforts to preserve as much of the original structure as possible in the renovation of the building. “That was good company. It coincided that I was working with the Hallelujah sculptures and transferring them into Hallelujah paintings.”

For Gingerich, “The Hallelujah Maquettes,” his series of figurative sculptural pieces which led to the creation of the paintings he’s been working on during his residency, came as a result of necessity due to the COVID-19 shutdown. More than a year ago, Gingerich, a long time East End resident, came back to the area from out West where he’s been living in recent years to help a friend move. But when the pandemic struck, he found himself locked down here in his friend’s condo with no access to a studio or room to paint.

“Like everybody, we were deprived of our normal outlets for energy, creativity and socializing,” he said. “Everybody has been in a bit of a vacuum, for my whole life I’ve needed to do something with what’s going on.“

So he began working on the sculptural figures, a new medium for him that he could work with in a small space. A handful of the pieces are on display at The Church.

“I’ve never made sculpture. I have 30 more of them, I started and didn’t stop,” he said of the pieces, which are made from plasticine, an oil-based clay that remains workable for years. “It’s just like a sketch, but I can go and tweak them anytime I want. One of them is cast in a polymer — that’s the permanent form.

“These were all made during lockdown when I was in the condo,” he explained. “I’m pretty happy with them.”

Gingerich’s Hallelujah sculptures have given rise to an accompanying series of paintings in which a similar figure features prominently. These works are much different from Gingerich’s more familiar colorful East End beachscapes and landscapes. For a starting point, the artist went back decades to a series of abstract drawings he had created between 1979 and 1981, black, white and gray drawings with “X” imagery in them. In some of his new paintings, he only presents half of the X form, and includes his sculptural figures which appear as if they are being drawn up into the heavens by what looks like a shaft of light.

“It’s all about ascension and I go about getting that feeling with different imagery. One thing I wanted to do while I was here is revisit these abstractions from the ’70s,” he explained. “After 50 years of painting, I’m still a journeyman in a way. I always like to go into new territory, because it’s much more exciting. There’s a self confidence in the studio. Who’s in charge here, is it me? Not really, I’m the hands-on guy, but I don’t think any artist knows where inspiration comes from.

“Inspiration and creativity is a total mystery and that’s what keeps me coming back for more every day,” he added. “It’s always fresh.”

One way that Gingrich stays focused on his creativity is with a sketchbook in which he can make a thumbnail sketch in a couple minutes that can save him days of working on a big painting (to say nothing of the cost of the paint). He says that he writes his thoughts in it every day, including those that reference the inspiration of other artists.

“I was just looking at a Van Gogh quote,” Gingrich said, picking up the sketchbook to read what he had written. “In one of his letters to his brother, Theo, he said, ‘I intend to make something serious, something fresh, something with soul in it.’

“I thought that was a pretty good mantra for going into the studio.”

With his residency coming to an end at The Church later this week, what’s next for Gingerich, creatively speaking? Will he stay on the East End or, once again, pull up stakes and head West?

“With the momentum I’ve picked up with these Hallelujah paintings and sculptures, I think I’m going to have to stay put till I work through it — through the summer into September or October,” he said. “I’m excited and on a roll. If I cut away from this now, I’ll never get back to the mindset that I have right now. It’ll be different, maybe better, but never like it is right now.

“Plus, I’m the first guy in here to make a mess.”

The Church, 48 Madison Street, Sag Harbor, is now offering tours of the building from Thursday to Monday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tours are an hour long and limited to 10 guests. Sign up at sagharborchurch.org. In addition to its residency program, currently on view is “In Dialogue: At The Edge of the Sea,” an exhibition featuring two works of art by internationally recognized artists Kerry James Marshall and Awol Erizku.

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