CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase | The Express Magazine


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CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

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CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

CMEE Enters Its Rainbow Phase

Sophie Griffin on Aug 18, 2022

The Children’s Museum of the East End is having a bit of a rainbow phase. In collaboration with local artists, the museum is adorned with colorful artwork that livens up the space and introduces children and families to these creators.

“People really seem to be responding to all the color,” Liz Bard, co-president of CMEE, said on a rainy day as children ran through the museum.

Out front, children posed in front of Jeremy Dennis’s rainbow mural, cheesing for photos. As families walked in, kids noticed the multicolored ribbons hanging in the entrance area, a site-specific work by Chelsea Browne called the “Rainbow Room.”

In the main entrance area, works by Brianna Ashe, a recent mother who has done multiple projects with CMEE, hung on movable walls. Down one hall, Matthew Brophy was laying out and painting his own prismatic mural, full of geometric shapes and lines.

Dennis’s mural was a way to reinvigorate and activate the entrance, creating an inclusive and welcoming way in.

“We took a look at the wall, and it was in this kind of cracked and gray state, and it was contrary to the interior of the space,” Dennis explained. “So we wanted to create a mural that responded to the idea or theme of play. We ended up doing something after a couple of iterations and designs that really represents the coming and going to the space in an exciting way.”

Dennis created the bright, rainbow mural in blustery April. It was a first for the photographer and founder of Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio, who is a member of the Shinnecock Nation. But he hopes it won’t be his last, and he spoke of bringing his experience back to create murals on Shinnecock Territory.

The rainbow itself draws from indigenous design, in part from the four colors of the medicine wheel, which represent the four directions.

“The inspiration for the design itself is sort of pan-Indian in style,” Dennis explained. “I wouldn’t say it’s specifically Shinnecock — it’s like a through line throughout native culture, throughout the nation. So it could be pulled from new forms of regalia, how bright and neon they are in their expression and movement. Along with the work of other contemporary artists, like Jeffrey Gibson, for example, who does a lot of work with the vibrancy and the — in my interpretation — the happiness of those bright colors and celebrating life.”

While the rainbow concept ties into many things, including the theme of CMEE’s Family Fair, hosted in late July, one prominent association is the Pride flag, a symbol of LGBT+ pride and inclusion that has been used since the late 1970s.

“I learned later that the LGBT flag itself was designed by an individual named Gilbert Baker,” Dennis said. “And I really loved the idea that the design itself was meant to be open to anyone to use, supposed to be without any copyright. I love that communal aspect as a native artist, because so often native culture itself is the thing that is usually appropriated.

“I wanted to actually create something that responds to the idea of this is free to use, this connects individual artists in this way, and it’s just celebrating a legacy of inclusion and acknowledging, especially in these times, the fact that New York is a safe haven for all people. So I wanted to incorporate that idea into the welcoming space, but also the idea of Native Americans and the color wheel or the medicine wheel that we have,” he said.

Now, children play in front of the mural, and Dennis gets tagged on social media in photos of kids. In the first one he remembers, they were racing RC cars. Dennis hoped that his first collaboration with CMEE opens the door to more, with Shinnecock youth.

Moving inside, Browne’s site-specific entryway piece, created last summer, uses brightly hued ribbons to transform the existing gateway. She had done a similar project at a Sag Harbor boutique that inspired the CMEE one.

“It grabs attention, and I wanted it to be something that was related to the architecture there in the space, and that was playful, that you could touch and move around,” she said.

The ribbons were hand-cut and attached high on the ceiling, so a grab from a little hand couldn’t bring them down.

This is Browne’s second installation at CMEE; the first, an origami window work, was originally put up in the Bronx by the New York City Department of Transportation. She led a hand-cut paper workshop with the kids, related to that piece.

Browne, who currently is showing in a group show at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in Bridgehampton, has done many public art pieces.

“Once in a while, I get an email, or someone contacts me, and says how the artwork has influenced their experience in this space,” Browne described. “It’s a cool reminder to know that you make things and then people interact with them, and you don’t know about it, but it’s, like, you’re almost still there, but you’re not witnessing what’s going on.”

Because of the kids and families constantly moving through, the Rainbow Room is always being touched and played with and photographed by children and parents.

“The art is always there and it’s being interacted with,” Browne said “… I don’t know everything that’s going on with the piece. I just hear bits and pieces of it.”

Due to its set up within a glass vestibule space, the Rainbow Room changes throughout the day. “I really like the way that the sunlight looks when it’s hitting the ribbons at different times,” Browne said. “It would leave these long, streaked patterns. I think it’s cool that the piece interacts with the people and the kids and the space, but it’s also interacting with the sunlight and the time, especially since CMEE has really amazing sunlight.”

In the open, main room that the entrance leads into, a few rolling walls sit, hung with Ashe’s work. She had a baby last December, and the work reflects that journey.

“I had a really weird pregnancy — I was sick the whole time,” Ashe said. “I just threw up the whole time. It was pretty miserable. The work on the walls [were] created at the time before I was pregnant, during my pregnancy and then after my baby was born. So there’s sort of a storyline along all of it.”

Alongside two hand-carved woodcut prints on canvas, that were created before the pandemic, most of the pieces are digital works, a first for Ashe to exhibit.

“All of those pieces were drawn on my iPad, because I was incapacitated in a way and couldn’t paint or draw like I usually do,” Ashe explained. “So I just sort of sat in bed and drew all of these, or at my kitchen table.

“It’s the first time I’m showing digital work — it’s a weird feeling to show digital work, because it’s really hard to give it value in the same way that I do with a painting that I work on for 20 to 40 hours or whatever, it’s got all this time and it’s actually made with paint, the paintbrush and my hands. Digital work has always felt not as valuable, even though I am putting my time and effort into it and working out solid ideas. I just threw caution to the wind and decided I would share this work.”

Although the works were all made by her, in some way the exhibit is collaborative: The walls and frames were built by two friends of Ashe.

Many of her graphic, colorful pieces incorporate bits of language — from a FEED ME stretching over what look like teeth to “mom” and “wow” mirroring over a cube.

“I’ve always been really interested in how we communicate with each other,” Ashe said “… How we sort of chop and screw words, the way that we talk, how we type a lot to each other. [I’ll] write in a really unrestricted way. … I usually find that I get really fixated on certain words or phrases, or if someone said something to me and it hit me in a funny way, I try to make sense of it through writing and regurgitate the words and how I’m feeling.

“So I’ve really tried to hone in on drawing words, making sense of everyday life by drawing them out, saying them over again, rewriting them,” she added.

Ashe, who recently moved out of the area with her husband because of its unaffordability, has done projects for CMEE before and worked with kids in many different respects, as a schoolteacher, a house parent and with Guild Hall’s Teen Arts Council. She made CMEE a “welcome back” sign, visible from the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, when the museum began to have regular hours again after the pandemic, and created coloring book pages during the pandemic that CMEE distributed.

“I love working with kids,” she said. “The cool thing about working with kids is they haven’t lost this glimmer that some adults, most adults, lose. Something sparks with kids creatively, and they just can take off. There are no rules, and it’s so exciting to be around.”

And now that she’s a parent, she can see it close up.

“It’s been wildly inspiring to watch this little human have all these moments of condensed growth, and she does such weird, funny stuff already,” Ashe said. “She has such a personality. I’m feeling really inspired by who she is and who she’s going to become. And then how I adapt as a human being and an artist, coming to terms with the word ‘mother’ and owning it, mom-artist.”

Farther inside the museum, Brophy’s mural snakes down a hallway. Anytime a kid comes to get some water, or use the bathroom, their head turns to the color block arrows and sharp lines of the work.

This isn’t Brophy’s first mural — fans of the former Bay Burger may remember the mural depicting Sag Harbor, which Brophy assisted Molly Weiss with — but it’s the first in his style, and the first to use such a bright, broad color palette.

“I wanted the kids to be able to see each color interacting with all the other colors throughout the piece,” Brophy explained. “That was the idea, of the interacting and crisscrossing of all the colors.”

In his work, Brophy works in layers, making new decisions as each one comes down, playing with patterns of repeating lines. As process-based works, he often is not sure what the finished product will look like when he begins. But for this project, he planned out the work ahead of time and mapped out the mural. His background in carpentry and construction was a help for planning a large-scale project.

“Looking at prints and plans always has to do with scaling and fractions and dividing things equally,” he said. “So I’m really comfortable with scale and dividing things and fractions and proportions and all that.”

Masking tape allows him to get clean, straight lines — a technique he picked up in high school, at Pierson’s art department, led by the recently retired Peter Solow, and one he now teaches to his daughters.

“I liked the control and the crispness of it,” he said. “I’ve been working using masking tape for 20 years, on and off, going further down the road of exploring this style.”

Unlike a quiet studio, this workspace comes with lots of inquisitive visitors. “They’re checking it out and asking me all sorts of funny questions,” Brophy said of the children. “And that’s fun, too. I have two little kids also, and we come here a lot and it’s just fun to see the kids checking it out and being curious about it.”

CMEE is located at 376 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. For more on the artists, visit Dennis’s website,; Browne’s at; Ashe’s instagram, @bmashe; and Brophy’s instagram, @matthewbrophyart.

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