Gallery Mocks Nemo, Proceeds With Opening
by David Sepulveda | Feb 11, 2013 2:04 pm
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment, Visual Arts, Westville, Winter Storm Nemo
While many scheduled events around the city and state were canceled due to the blizzard this weekend, Westville’s Kehler Liddell Gallery’s opening exhibition of “Nudes and Nudibranchs” by artists Frank Bruckmann and Gar Waterman, went on as scheduled Sunday—albeit with a few adjustments.
Gallery founder Thea Buxbaum emailed notices announcing an additional opening date for Feb. 16 for those who couldn’t make it: “This mighty snowstorm has compelled us to reconfigure our Artists’ Reception. For anyone who can walk to the gallery today, you will be treated to an intimate gathering, warmed with wine and cheese, but there is a travel ban in New Haven and the parking lot behind the gallery remains snowed in, so please use your judgment and be safe!”
Outside the gallery just prior to the official exhibit opening time, sculptor Gar Waterman, who is known to some for his creation of the Wooster Street Arch and embellishments to Edgewood School, was busily rounding out curves of a massive nundibranch (pronounced “nunibrank”) snow sculpture.
Working alongside Waterman was local craftsman Sergei Gerasimenko, who dutifully pushed in two rigid shafts, or armatures, that would support giant pointed horns called rhinophores.
The anatomical structures belong to marine creatures, Opisthobranch Mollusks, known to landlubbers as sea slugs. The creatures are featured in the two-person exhibit along with some of Gar Waterman’s more conventional marine creatures.
Passersby who collected in front of the gallery to watch the sculptor model the snow creature and adding sprays of brilliant color were treated to an impromptu science lesson that eventually nudged some viewers inside the gallery to learn more.
“There are two types of nudibranch coloration,” explained Waterman. “Cryptic coloration uses camouflage as a defense mechanism, while nudibranchs use Aposamatic coloring, brilliant coloration that wards off predators, not unlike the coloring of poison dart tree frogs.”
These are complicated-sounding words for a “nudiphile” who claims he was never interested in science in high school or college. His upbringing on and in the oceans with his oceanographic photographer father, Stan Waterman, provided hands-on science lessons that could probably not be matched in conventional classrooms.
Inside the gallery, painter Frank Bruckmann wondered if the faithful would show. It soon it became clear that longtime fans and friends of the two artists, at least those who live locally, would not disappoint. The gallery, which paired groups of Bruckmann nudes with Waterman’s nudibranchs and other sea life, sparkled with sensuous surfaces. Waterman’s ultra-smooth, undulating forms and Bruckmann’s lush, painterly strokes displayed a wonderful mastery of color harmony.
Bruckmann noted that while nudes have surfaced in his work from time to time, and although he teaches figure painting, he had never before focused on the subject with the intensity he has over the last 18 months. After the sale of some works, he was able to hire models, an expensive proposition, and focus on more detailed and expansive works.
Citing artistic influences like Lucien Freud and Antonio Lopez Garcia, Bruckmann said he strives to make images look realistic. But when he is painting, he is also painting for artists “who understand and recognize the quality of the work and the time that goes into it.”
Westville artist Steve DiGiovanni, who attended the exhibit, said he appreciated Bruckmann’s surface treatment and the way he gave sharp focus on some edges, while transitioning to a softer focus in other areas.
That is all part of the conscious control an artist exerts over the painted surface, according to Bruckmann. Bruckmann cited “Bookshelves” as one of his favorite pieces. The painting, like others in the exhibit, features a beautifully rendered roomscape in which an oriental rug seems to have the starring role: “It’s the first time I can say, the rug really pulls the room together.” A computer monitor available for viewing at the gallery shows time sequence shots of some paintings. Bruckmann said he was able to use the photos to go back and pinpoint where he began to overwork certain pieces-and then to make changes that captured the original vitality that had been lost.
Similarly, Waterman’s approach to creating his nudibranchs is all about the artist’s interpretation of the form.
Waterman said he does not strive to make faithful replications of the nudibranchs he sculpts: “My point isn’t to copy them.” Waterman said he derives great satisfaction from working with the varieties of shape, color and form, “within the parameters of the form, you have endless variety.” Waterman was candid in assessing the marketability of sculptures based on the esoteric creatures: “It isn’t easy to sell marble sculpture—trying to sell sea slugs, ups the ante—it’s already a preposterous undertaking.” But money is not what drives Waterman to create the forms. Beside his obvious love of the nudibranch form, Waterman says he has a master plan for the sculptures that would include using the pieces as part of an arts-bridging science and educational exhibit as an entry point to further discussions of biodiversity, conservation, and marine ecology.
Bruckmann and Waterman happen to live on the same street with membership in the same gallery But their decision to show together was not based on expediency or the catchy title of the show. Their choice was calculated and based on similarities the artists see in each others’ work. “There are nice echos of curves and color throughout the exhibit” noted Waterman, adding he also liked the unlikely pairing of nudes with sea slugs.
For those still digging out from Winter Storm Nemo and unable get to the opening, the second opening reception with the artists on Saturday, Feb. 16, will run from 2 to 4 p.m., followed immediately by a second event, “Poetry and Chocolates,” which offers samples of exquisite chocolates by Chocopolgie and poetry recitations by SCSU faculty & MFA candidates. Admission is free. The gallery will sponsor a third reception with the artists on Feb. 24 from 2-6 p.m. “Nudes and Nudibranchs” runs through March 10.
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posted by: redhed on February 11, 2013 3:06pm
David, you have done it again. Such a great piece. It was informative, very well written and fun to read. The art is incredible.
Thanks so much for going out in a blizzard to keep the community of New Haven entertained and informed. Can’t wait to run around New Haven with you this summer.
Peace and smiles,
posted by: susanmccaslin on February 11, 2013 4:48pm
Great article David and photos too. It was a great reception, just what was needed to round out the crazy weekend. Wine, Cheese, Beautiful art, community…. Congratulations to Gar and Frank!
Great article. Awesome art. Horrible headline.
From what I can tell there was no mocking going on, just people having fun in these weird weather times.
What’s wrong with the title.
As stated in the dictionary - tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner
Mocking certainly represents the action of holding a gallery open in the aftermath of an intense storm which was shutting down the city.
Great article and looks like a great show. Thanks