By Dawn Watson
When Paton Miller first thought of putting together an “East End Collected” show for the Southampton Arts Center, he hoped for the best in terms of community involvement. But he had no idea that the annual group exhibitions of local artists would become quite the successes that they have become.
Now in it’s third year, the “Collected” series has so far featured the works of approximately 100 East End talents, all told, and drawn about 10 times that many people to each of its first two opening nights. Humbled by the community’s support, Mr. Miller says that credit is due to those who helped to bring his simple idea to fruition.
“I remember sitting down with Mark Epley, Tom Knight and David Bohnett. for a ‘think tank’ at David’s house four or five years ago. The topic of discussion was ‘what to do with the former Parrish’,” Mr. Miller recalled of his discussion with the Southampton Village Mayor, Southampton Arts Center Board Member and SAC Founders Circle Member. “I suggested that in order to survive, that we had to do something that would be extremely relevant to the community. Something that embraced the artists’ point of view—like an exhibition of East End artists, from those with huge careers to the relatively unknowns.”
That was how the seed was planted. What started out as an idea that “wasn’t rocket science,” was born. And now, in its third year, the series looks to be just as strong now as the first two, according to Mr. Miller.
“Part of the original charter is that every year I’ve invited artists that I know live and work here, but I made the decision to never have repeats, including myself,” he says. “They have to be a reflection of the community, which I think the turnout has shown. It’s a good way to support the artists who are making a living out here. And I have always said that if I ever get the chance to do that, then I’m going to do it.”
Acting as curator, the Southampton-based artist has selected a diverse spread in each of his first two years—including work from renowned artists as well as lesser-known creative types. This year’s exhibition follows the basic format, and will include works by: Stephanie Brody Lederman, David Bunn Martine, Arthur Carter, Jennifer Cross, Janet Culbertson, Franco Cuttica, Josh Dayton, Eric Dever, Adriana Echavarria, Chris Engel, William Falkenburg, Brian Farrell, Terri Gold, Lautaro Keudell, Mary Lambert, Laurie Lambrecht, Gerson Leiber, Judith Leiber, Brett Loving, Lynn Matsuoka, Simon Parkes, Dinah Maxwell Smith, Jonathan Morse, J. Alan Ornstein, Pamela Ornstein, Gabrielle Raacke, Maria Schon, Neill Slaughter, Eileen Stretch, Susan Tepper, Diane Tuft, Sarah Jaffe Turnbull and Frank Wimberley.
Serving the community might be the primary goal but there’s another benefit to curating such a gig, says Mr. Miller. That’s being able to spend time with fellow creative thinkers who also call the East End home.
“I love this job because I get to spend time and meet all these amazing artists,” he enthuses. “From the people I’ve known for decades to some I’ve never met before now. It’s become one of my favorite things to do — kind of like making a painting — putting all these artists and their works together to make a giant oneness.”
“Collected3” includes work by old friends like Mr. Dayton, who used to exhibit with Mr. Miller four decades ago, to new acquaintances, such as Mr. Bunn Marine, “who has been quietly painting these incredible Shinnecock Indian scenes that just blow you away,” he says.
Getting the chance to explore both new and familiar worlds is a heady experience, Mr. Miller adds.
“It’s like a time machine, but for art,” says the painter. “From Gus Leiber — an incredible person and gifted artist — to Ms. Gold, “who is literally photographing worlds out there that are disappearing,” to Mr. Morse, “who has this picture of an ophthalmologist’s machine that is one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen.”
It’s fitting that the show came from the basic idea of celebrating this community of artists, and the collectors who have supported it, says Mr. Miller. Especially as the East End is one of those magical places where the arts continue to thrive.
“We have all these diverse talents in this amazing setting,” he says. “And what we are able to do here is to feed that zeitgeist by including everyone in this community of artists we are so fortunate to have here.”
“East End Collected3” opens with a reception on Saturday, April 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center. The group exhibition will remain on view through May 29. A free “East End Collected3” artist talk is planned for Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m. The show closes with a reception and concert with Mambo Local on Saturday, May 27. Learn more at www.southamptonartscenter.org.