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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Studio Visit: David Arsenault

Center of Attention - Oil on canvas by David Arsenault
His work has been compared to that of Edward Hopper. He was voted "Best Visual Artist" by the readers of Metroland in 2002. And as a past president and Oakroom Artists stalwart for many years, he has shown a lot in Schenectady and just about everywhere else a painter can in the Capital Region. But David Arsenault has moved on - to Rockport, Mass. - and he's not looking back.

Swaying in Time - oil on canvas
I recently caught up with Arsenault in his newly opened gallery in Rockport, a sweet seacoast town on Cape Ann with beautiful harbors, rocky sea walls, inviting cafes, many galleries, and a long history of resident painters. He moved there only last fall, but has already immersed himself in the cultural scene and staked his claim to the town's iconic "Motif #1," a satisfyingly geometric red fishing shack (seen in the painting reproduced above).

Arsenault was pushed to this decision by a helpful interruption to a long career in publishing (he was trained at Sage College of Albany as a graphic designer), and pulled by an equally helpful wife who has often relocated and was ready to do it again. They landed well, renting a nifty wooden house in town and the crisp space that houses the gallery (seen in this photo), where Arsenault has a well-lit painting loft and lots of nice walls to display his finished work, situated a stone's throw from the Motif on a charming, touristy stretch called Bearskin Neck.

Going Topless - oil on canvas
If you've seen his work in the past, you know Arsenault has one chief concern: Light. Unlike many painters who cherish this element, he used to paint night scenes often (an old favorite you may recall features the multicolored glow of the Malta Drive-In), and he also frequently addresses the matter of sunlight as it enters domestic interiors (as did his idol, Hopper). But the current work I saw on this visit is all about the light in the sky, over the water, and on the land of Cape Ann.

Cape Ann Rocks - oil on canvas
This is not a new subject for Arsenault - he spent a lot of time over the last decade or so painting in Cape Cod, where he also often showed - and he began visiting Cape Ann in 2013. But the full-time immersion is new, and the setting of Rockport, as rugged as the name implies and constantly windy, is a prime jumping-off point for this new life. The fact that Arsenault and his wife, Sue, an independent interfaith minister, set off to make their way there just as winter approached (and what a winter it turned out to be!) speaks to the boldness of the act, and goes a long way to explain how quickly these two have been embraced by the local community.

Rock Star - oil on canvas
But, now that the gallery is officially open (as of April 11) and the tourist season has begun, it's time to see if the decision will work financially. So far, Arsenault is off to a good start, having already sold a few originals and several reproductions (he has long marketed his work at several price points to reach a broader market). One concern is that Rockport tends to be popular this time of year with Europeans - but the euro is down sharply against the dollar; another is that surviving as an artist depends an awful lot on luck.

In the meantime, though, Arsenault is in a great spot - he can just keep painting every day until the next sale walks through the door. And, judging from what I saw on this visit, I'd say it's going to work out just fine. To see more of David Arsenault's art, he recommends you go to his gallery's Facebook page (The Art of David Arsenault). Another option is his website. Or you could just jump in the car and go check it out amid the other wonders of Rockport.

Good Harbor Spring - oil on canvas by David Arsenault


2 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

I was without Internet for three ays! Your page is the third place I went, after two of mine. Always informative.

david brickman said...

Roger without Internet? Must have been an interesting three days ... glad you are back, and thanks for checking in. -db