A brown bag lunch at Albany Center Gallery on Thursday (Aug. 19) featured lively discussion with nine of the 12 artists represented in the show Domestic Dramas, which runs there through Sept. 11.
I like the idea of a midday break to hang out with artists. So, apparently, does ACG director Sarah Martinez, who has made this series a mainstay of the events tied to each exhibition at the gallery. This one was a casual affair, with only a few seats to go with simple snacks and refreshments that visitors picked up and carried around while viewing the art as each creator made a brief introduction to their works.
About two dozen people listened and commented as the artists spoke in a loosely connected order, from Gary Glinski to G.G. Roberts and on through Denise Saint-Onge, Gina Occhiogrosso, Catherine Quinones-Austin, David Austin, Erin Colligan, Kim Hugo, and Scott Hotaling. The hour went by quickly with so many speakers, and the discussion leaned more toward the entertaining than the academic, making for an atmosphere that would have suited any curious downtown worker who might have wandered in.
As it was, not many unconnected onlookers were present, but I hope that can improve. While it's understandable that going to galleries and talking to the hipsters therein can seem intimidating to the uninitiated, this is the perfect low-key atmosphere to make newcomers feel welcome to join in. The gallery is right to continue offering this opportunity for a more interactive kind of art-viewing experience.
Emblematic of the show and the spirit of these impromptu talks was Roberts's work and presentation. Her exuberantly creepy clown-doll installation, augmented by several of her own retro-style paintings, is something anyone could connect to, as we all have childhood memories of the kind of subject matter she explores.
Roberts herself is a larger-than-life personality, with a booming voice and a sharp sense of humor, who described her work as "cheerful, yet kind of evil and sinister, too," and who touched us all with her request for a moment of silence in memory of Staff Sgt. Derek Farley, a local soldier who recently died while attempting to defuse a bomb in Afghanistan.
Another highlight of the talks was when Saint-Onge showed a two-minute video that shows the many steps in the painstaking process of mezzotint that she employs to make her exquisitely toned black-and-white prints.
Colligan, whose photographs chronicle in a minimalist way her very young daughter's open-heart surgery, still had difficulty addressing the topic in words - but the sight of the toddler scooting cheerfully around the gallery proved she is completely out of danger herself.
It was a fun event, and it's a fine show. The other artists in it are Ashley Norwood Cooper, Benjamin Entner, and RFW.
Note: As a member of the ACG Exhibits Committee, I was involved in the early discussions that led to the creation of this exhibition - and I contributed its title - but the ultimate decisions about which artists and what works to include were entirely the responsibility of the gallery director.