Fifth Annual Artist Tour of Cherry Grove

Community and Conversation

By Anika LanserOn Saturday, June 9, and Sunday, June 10, the boardwalks of Cherry Grove were buzzing with patrons of the arts drifting from home to home taking in the works of the residents of the Grove. The Artist Tour of Cherry Grove is different from other art shows in that there is no singular viewing location. Instead, one picks up a map at a central location and visits the homes of different artists where their work is displayed. Each stop along the artist tour is therefore a different viewing experience, curated by the artists themselves.Organizer Susan Ann Thornton came up with the idea after not being able to participate in the art show because of timing conflicts. Thornton reflected, “So I thought about it and I thought about how in Santa Fe they have artist tours. And I thought we should do that here. It’s so simple you don’t even have to get in a car. You can walk to people’s homes and everybody wants to know where people live. They want to see your house, they want to know what you’ve done, the history of it, and so on.”Thornton explained the effect of the Artist Tour on the Cherry Grove artist community. “It’s not competing with the art show in August, just doing what we felt we needed to do not only for ourselves so we could show and sell our art, but so that we could really encompass the community and have the community know who the artists are, and for the artists to show their work,” said Thornton.This year, the Artist Tour also collaborated with the Dune Fund. Artists from the tour donated works to a silent auction where the proceeds were given to the Dune Fund, raising about $2,000 for the cause. Thornton hopes to continue this relationship in coming years. “We’ve discussed this with the Board of Directors of the Dune Fund and they are very interested in continuing this collaboration, which is wonderful. It’s a twofer you know, it brings attention to the need to keep our dunes in good shape and it also is a party and it also showcases the work that we do,” she explained.The works Thornton chose to feature in this year’s artist tour are a series of paintings described as evocative seascapes. For Thornton, painting landscapes is a lifelong passion. She described, “I go in and out of it, but I always go back to the landscape – the ocean, the sky. In New Mexico, of course the mountains and the plains, but I just feel such a love for it. I want to be in it, I want to describe it, it makes me excited to do it, it confounds me and makes me very unhappy, but that’s part of it. That’s part of love, right? It’s love.”The works of art featured in the tour range from paintings to sculptures to photographs. At one stop beautiful ornaments made with sea glass and shells by Bill Hirt hung alongside the paintings of W. Douglas and Patrick Loy. To view Douglas’ “Pink Blossoms” on a warm Sunday morning surrounded by greenery and a breeze on a back deck is a calming experience that sums up the beauty of the Artist Tour of Cherry Grove.Another stop along the tour led viewers to Bobby Lerch’s photographs printed on canvas bordered with dune fencing. All of the photographs Lerch was showing were from Fire Island except one taken in Vermont featuring a number of different tractors on a green grassy field. The photos evoke the same sense of innate happiness one gets from gazing out at the Atlantic from the shore of Fire Island. Lerch explained, “I do not do any photoshopping on any of my photos. The way that you see them is the way that I take them.” He went on, “Photography is my passion. I’ve just sold one of my businesses that keeps me busy during the summertime and I’m going to spend more time with my photographs.”Dan Evans’ acrylic paintings of Fire Island feature a number of different scenes, all painted at his cottage, “Liberty Bell.” Evans noted, “I only paint out here. The light is great out here.” Showcased alongside the paintings of Evans were the photographs of his husband Jim Kelly-Evans. Although Kelly-Evans has been taking photographs for a while, in the past two years he has begun to utilize a drone to take overhead photos of the island. The height of the drone allows Kelly-Evans to capture a completely different perspective, one we are not often able to see.Mark Atten’s mixed media sculptures of nautical scenes, made with glass and shells mounted on wood, also were featured on the tour. All winter Atten uses a rock tumbler, churning the glass to create the sea glass he uses in his work. Atten described his works as “simple, almost childlike,” though the beauty in his sculptures was profound.The photographs of first-year participant Uzi Parnes featured prominently his 2017 Cherry Grove installation, two panels of photographs designed to be shown as one piece. All taken around the Grove, the photographs highlight wildlife and scenes of the sun, ocean, and bay. Parnes also showcased earlier work like his Dancing with Light series. He never uses any sort of Photoshop or manipulation in his work. “It’s all in the camera,” he remarked. As for what it meant to be involved with the artist tour, Parnes said, “It’s fascinating to see what people are doing beyond just someone you pass on the walk without knowing too much about them.”Thornton agreed that the beauty of the artist tour lies in the connections it fosters between artists, residents of the Grove, and those who have come to see the tour. “I also wanted to open it up to dialogue. I think that when people are in their own spaces they are more likely to have a conversation. When you’re in a room full of a lot of people it sort of takes your focus off, but when you’re in your own space, you can speak to your process, your excitement, your pain. You know whatever it is becomes more intimate,” she said.As for future iterations of the artist tour, Thornton hopes to do more. She mused, “I would like the entire island and across the bay to come and see us. I hope to have more promotion. I hope to have more artists on the tour. I hope to work again with the Dune Fund. We just want to help each other and help ourselves and help our community.”