Self Portraits: Artist Tour Cherry Grove 2019

Repurposed windowpane by Michele Snyder.

In it’s sixth annual year the Artist Tour of Cherry Grove continues to grow. Founded by artist Susan Ann Thornton to rethink the standard exhibition venues on Fire Island, what started as a handful of artists opening their home studios to visitors and a set aside weekend, has reached new record numbers with 20 participants this year. It is also the second year they collaborated with the Dune Fund, kicking off activities with a silent action Friday evening, June 7, before the tours commenced for the rest of the weekend.

Along Lewis Walk was Dan Evans. Dan is a regular participant at the Arts Project of Cherry Grove art exhibition, which will take place in July, as well as the Fire Island Pines Art’s Project Biennial, which he will be exhibiting with in August. Educated at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Evans’s work seems primitive at first glance, but the sophistication becomes evident the longer you take it in. The bonus of the walking tour format however, is we got to see his garden, complete with a model train set, revealing a new dimension to this sensitive artist and writer.

Artist, author and poet Dan Evans.

Larry Crawford is someone who travels from Texas to exhibit at the Grove on a regular basis. He makes small scale pen and ink drawings with a bold graphic presence. He generously donated one of his finest pieces to the Dune Fund auction. Talking to Crawford was time well spent. He proudly showed a selfie on his phone taken not along ago with former U.S. Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton. “She was so gracious,” he said of her. Crawford makes duplicate portraits of people he admires, then he tracks them down at concerts or speaking engagements. One he asks them to sign, the other he asks them to autograph and keeps for his private collection that includes Cher, Liza Minnelli, and Rod Stewart.

Michael Fitzgerald’s paintings displayed at “Roseland.”

Warren Boyd Wexler is a year-round resident of Fire Island, and a friend of this paper. He recently contributed a letter to the editor that resonated with our readership. His nature photography is a reflection of his strong bond to this island.

On East End Walk was Michele Snyder, who worked in mixed medias, including photography, sea glass jewelry, hand screened tote bags and repurposed art assemblages. Among the most impressive was a window frame painted in metallic blue and decorated with seashells and seaglass. Snyder is a schoolteacher, and there was a certain practicality to her work that reflected this profession in the objects she created, which were items that could be worn or put to use, as well as enjoyed.

Collecting is an important aspect of this tour, because word has spread about the Artist Tour, and there are art collectors – some established – making serious art investments, while others are more entry level, perhaps purchasing art for the very first time.

Michael Fitzgerald understood this as he gave a female couple a tour of the bayfront property he shares with his partner, Robert Levine. Fitzgerald attended Fashion Institute of Technology, and his colorful sculptures and assemblage paintings were rich in drama, and in some ways reminiscent of stage designs.

Making the tour on Sunday, June 9, meant less crowds and a laid back pace. But this also meant that some names on the list closed shop early; no worries, all the more visitors for the artists who kept their doors open.

One such artist was Aronda Xystris, who lives in a quaint saltbox on Main Walk, and was quite busy selling her artwork to customers. It was easy to see why, her gem-like paintings were not only appealing, but upon closer examination, she too was a fan of repurposing with frames that were smartly constructed of beautifully weathered dune fence. There was an “Alice in Wonderland” quality to her garden, which was decorated with an assortment of rusty objects. Inside her home was a light filled space in blue and gray tones, and she was quick to show the next project she was working on.

Aronda Xystris inside her home

The waning afternoon light signaled it was time to take the next water taxi home, but what a day it had been. For the Artist Tour of Cherry Grove is about so much more than viewing paintings, sculpture or photographs – it’s an intimate portrait of the artists themselves.

See you again next year.