“East End Collected2,” opening Thursday, May 5, at the Southampton Arts Center, has all the ingredients of a successful art exhibition, according to curator Paton Miller: great and interesting work, and artists ingrained in the community.
The second annual show exclusively features artists with connections to the East End, and many of the works are on loan from art collectors on the East End—hence the name. The paintings, photographs, photo manipulations, sculptures and mixed media artworks make for a vibrant and varied show that fills the arts center’s galleries with attention-grabbers at every turn.
Walking through the arts center last week as art hangers were busy installing the exhibition, Mr. Miller spoke intimately about every piece in the show—upward of 70 works. He’s been going back and forth with the artists, and becoming familiar with individual works, over the course of several months to put the show together. But the show didn’t really come together until last week, when he made decisions on where each work should be displayed, and what artists should be juxtaposed.
Mr. Miller is an accomplished painter himself. Originally from Hawaii, he left his home state in 1974 to tour Asia and make art along the way. His travel art earned him a scholarship to Southampton College, which launched his painting career. He’s lived in the Hamptons for 42 years—with the exception of three years back in Hawaii, teaching art at the Kalaupapa leper colony—and has called Tuckahoe home for 18 years.
Mr. Miller recalled a meeting he was invited to, during the early days of the Southampton Arts Center, three years ago, held at the Southampton Village home of Founders Circle member David Bohnett. The center’s co-chair, Whitney Stevens, and board member Siamak Samii were there.
“They asked me what I thought would be a good use of this space, artistically,” Mr. Miller recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, in the 40-some years I’ve lived here, what has really worked is two things: good work, and a show that people care about.’”
The formula seems basic, like 1 plus 1, he acknowledged, but it is also successful. He applied the idea to the inaugural East End Collected in 2015, and he boasts that more than 1,200 guests attended the opening reception. And that’s not to mention how many visitors viewed the exhibition in the weeks it remained on display.
Mr. Miller applied the same philosophy to “East End Collected2” and expects the same results—or better.
“Everybody here in this show has strong ties to the East End,” he said. There are 34 artists included, each showing two or more works. None of the artists are repeats from last year. “It’s completely new,” Mr. Miller said.
People come out to see the show because it features good work, and because the artists are their own neighbors, Mr. Miller said. “A lot of these artists out here have been working for 25, 30 years, and they in their way have affected the community. So they’re the straw that stirs the drink—some more than others.”
Artists are not just hiding in their studios, painting away—they are out in their community, like a stone that causes ripples in a pond, Mr. Miller said. “It’s also great, on the other hand, to exhibit artists who no one knows,” he added.
He acknowledged that though he is known on the East End and in New York, when he exhibits in other parts of the world he “swims upstream.” Artists exhibiting in their own hometowns may have an easier time finding an audience—but the work still has to be good.
“I don’t mean to get hung up on words, but I don’t like the term ‘local artists,’ because it connotes someone who’s stuck here,” Mr. Miller said. “Everybody’s got to live somewhere.”
Before he curated “East End Collected,” he had been a curator only once before. He said it’s been a nice diversion, working on putting together an exhibition for a little bit every day for months. “This is a wonderful treat for me to be involved in this iconic space and to have all these different artists come together,” he said. He was also happy to be invited back for a second go because it allowed him to include a number of artists he regretted omitting the first time.
“East End Collected2” is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from May 5 through June 12. The opening reception will be held Saturday, May 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. An artists talk is planned Sunday, June 5, at 2 p.m. A closing party with the Nancy Atlas Project performing is Saturday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. Southampton Arts Center, which will hold a summer kickoff celebration on Saturday, May 28, from 5 to 7 p.m., is located at 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton.
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