Story of an Art Community in Golden Anniversary Show

The 50th annual Springs invitational art exhibition
This year’s invitational exhibition in Springs will include Nicolas Tarr’s “Ghost in the Machine,” one of his lensed-box series from the 1990s, when his interest in optics and illusion was at its peak.

When Teri Kennedy, a Springs artist, agreed to serve as curator for the 50th annual Springs invitational art exhibition, she received advice from friends about how to approach it. Some suggested she make it a very small show with only the best people.

“After thinking about that,” she said over coffee at Starbucks, “I thought it was an inappropriate response to the 50th anniversary. I decided to try to tell the story, as much as you can with disparate pieces of art on the walls, of what art is in this community.”

It was originally called “Artists of the Springs,” and in its early days Jackson Pollock and friends gathered in August during the annual Fisherman’s Fair and raffled art for the benefit of Ashawagh Hall, where the show has always taken place. The net was cast wider over the years to include some artists from outside East Hampton.

While she didn’t feel she could restrict the show to Springs artists, Ms. Kennedy’s first step was to limit participation to artists living in East Hampton Town. “I never expected it to become so controversial. There has been a lot of pushback about that decision.”

Not as controversial, perhaps, but in a departure from previous shows, she decided she wouldn’t just choose artists, she would choose particular works. “That meant a lot of studio visits, a lot of footwork.” The result was 150 studio visits and 110 artists selected.

“Usually the selections are kept secret until close to the show, and I didn’t feel good about doing that. So I came out of the curatorial closet. I put out my email address, and if somebody invited me to his or her studio, I went.” She also consulted Hamptonsarthub.com and artists’ directories, went to galleries, and solicited names.

“One thing I wanted to do was find new artists who haven’t been in this show before, especially young artists, which isn’t easy, since it’s so expensive to live here. But I feel it’s really important to expand the Ashawagh Hall idea.”

She also wanted to include artists with deep historical ties to the region’s art community, among them Connie Fox, Audrey Flack, Phyllis Baker Hammond, Roy Nicholson, Reynold Ruffins, and Athos Zacharias.

Thirty-two artists are exhibiting in the show for the first time, and participants range in age from early 20s to 90s. In addition to recent work, she selected pieces from as early as 1976.

Among several special events associated with the exhibition will be the investiture of Jackson Pollock as an honorary Bonacker, which will happen on Friday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. “The town will give the Pollock-Krasner House a proclamation, there will be beer and clams, and past curators will be invited to be special guests.”

In addition, the hall’s vestibule will be dedicated to Pollock, courtesy of Helen Harrison, the director of the Pollock-Krasner House. She will bring to the opening “Untitled (After Number 8, 1951),” a screen print made by Pollock’s brother, Sanford McCoy, from a photograph of one of Pollock’s black enamel paintings from that year. A photograph of the print will remain on view in the entryway, as will other photographs and explanatory text.

The opening reception will take place tomorrow from 5 to 8 p.m., and a reception for the 2017 “Summer of Sculpture” show is set for Aug. 12 from 5 to 7:30. Ms. Kennedy will lead a curator’s tour on Aug. 13 at 11 a.m.

With so many artists, Ms. Kennedy faces a daunting installation. “There are walls and corners there that artists dread. I’m choosing some significant pieces for those locations to counteract the idea that those spots are less desirable.”

“I think the show is a way to tell the story of the East Hampton art community. It’s not only famous artists, but all those who have come here to make art.” The exhibition will be on view through Aug. 20. 

Teresa Lawler’s “Rosie” is made from fused glass and paper.