Subject Was (or Was Not) Wine

Artists Lables
More than 20 East End artists made label-size canvases for Saturday’s silent auction at the Harvest Festival at the Ludlow farm in Bridgehampton. Above from left are labels by Arlene Slavin, Audrey Flack, Dan Rizzie, Darius Yektai, William King, and Elaine Grove.

    If it seems as though there are a lot of opportunities to bid on art at events this year, it could very well be. There is a long history of commissioning East End artists to contribute works to charitable endeavors, but this year established benefits have been revitalized and newer events that have not had such components have adopted them.
    The latest is the silent auction of “wine label” paintings that will be part of the Harvest Festival’s tasting and Harvest Moon Gala dinner on Saturday night. Arlene Bujese, a retired art dealer and now independent curator for exhibits and projects such as the Box Art Auction held last week to benefit East End Hospice, asked 24 artists from the region to produce paintings on pieces of 5.5-by-8.5-inch canvas. The resulting “labels” will be adhered to magnums of 2008 Merliance, a cooperative blend of 100 percent merlot made by the Long Island Merlot Alliance and part of a silent auction at the gala.
    The wine auction during the dinner will benefit East End Hospice, of which Ms. Bujese is a board member, as well as the Peconic Land Trust and Group for the East End. The events on Saturday night are the centerpiece of a month-long program of salons and dinners to share information and celebrate the food and wine traditions of the East End. The sale of the labels will benefit the festival, which is its own nonprofit group.
    Ms. Bujese said last week that she was looking for something the artists could use as a template, “to take an object and make something that would turn it into a work of art,” similar to how artists transform cigar boxes for the Box Art Auction. In this case, a wine label seemed an obvious choice, particularly since artists have been designing printed paper labels for regular wine bottles for many years.
    “I still have a bottle of Bedell wine with a label Elaine de Kooning made the design for 25 years ago. It’s faded and who knows what the wine is like now, but it gave rise to the idea to make one-of-a-kind works” with a wine label format.
    Yet, it was important to her that the artists work in their own styles and, in particular, that they not feel the need to adopt a vineyard theme. “I didn’t want to see a lot of grapes and cherubs. I wanted variety, not a lot of vineyard images. That’s asking them to decorate or be designers. I said ‘Do what you want, but it has to be this small. It has to be paint on canvas so it wouldn’t be damaged.’ ”
    When starting out, she made two lists of artists: those who might say yes and those that could say yes, but might not. Out of those lists she found 24 artists: Andrew Hart Adler, Carolyn Beegan, Priscilla Bowden, Stephanie Brody-Ledermann, Jennifer Cross, Eric Ernst, Audrey Flack, Connie Fox, Elaine Grove, John Hardy, Carol Hunt, Sheila Isham, William King, Rex Lau, Paton Miller, Roy Nicholson, Dan Rizzie, Steven Romm, Alexander Russo, Arlene Slavin, Ty Stroudsburg, Michelle Stuart, and Darius Yektai.
    The resulting paintings will be affixed to the wine bottles with a special backing and a protective cover that will allow the artwork to be removed and framed. Bids will be taken during a tasting in the early part of the evening and through dinner and the live wine auction.
    While there are many names that will be familiar to loyal gallery attendees, there are some additions that have not been shown regularly or recently on the South Fork. Ms. Bujese went to old friends and artists who once showed at her gallery.
    Only Mr. Rizzie decided not to use canvas. He chose instead a heavy paper to which a fixative was added in order to make it more resilient. With support selected, he was still at a loss for subject matter. Ms. Bujese recalled that she told Mr. Rizzie that the name merlot was thought to be taken from a French word for black bird. Since Mr. Rizzie uses black birds in his work, it was a natural theme. Ms. Grove, who overheard the conversation, decided to choose the same subject, she said. Ms. Brody-Ledermann also includes blackbirds as a motif in her work and used them here. That each used the birds differently according to their unique style is exactly what Ms. Bujese envisioned, she said.
    “Ultimately, I want them to do what they want to do. A narrow theme forces them into a box.” The labels will start with a $500 bid and the artists will share half of the proceeds with the organization. All of them are invited to the wine tasting.
    The tasting and party will take place at the Ludlow farm in Bridgehampton. The tasting starts at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday with 30 East End wineries offering barrel samples of their yet-to-be-released wines from the 2010 vintage, thought to be one of Long Island’s best. The food offered at the tasting will include East End produce, fish, cheese, and dishes made by regional chefs. Beginning at 7, the party will feature a live auction of rare and unreleased vintages of Long Island wines in different formats. William Holden, Tom Schaudel, and William Schwartz will create a three-course farm-to-table dinner served with wines from across the East End. Swing music will be provided by the Jerry Costanzo Orchestra. Faith Middleton will serve as mistress of ceremonies and Charles Antin from Christie’s will be the auctioneer.
    Tickets for the tasting are $125, tickets for the gala and tasting together cost $275. More information is available at harvesteastend.com.