The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum may have shaken up its board, but they’re ultimately getting back to basics.
“Sea and Sky,” an exhibition exploring the texture, color and layering of the two most fundamental elements of the East End, will open with a reception on Friday, June 22, at the Sag Harbor museum, ringing in a new era with classic themes.
“We’re trying to promote local artists and keep with the theme of the Whaling Museum as best as possible, and I think we found a really good balance,” board member Kathie Russo said. “It’s great to see contemporary art in this old house with artifacts from the whaling days, but yet, somehow it works.”
On Friday morning, exhibiting artist Paton Miller admitted he hadn’t visited the museum in some time — at least not recently enough to decide which of his pieces would be on view alongside Scott Bluedorn and Whitney B. Hansen.
“When I do an exhibition, I don’t think of new work. I think of all the work I have,” he said. “The biggest consideration here is the space, the physical space. I have to make sure whatever work I bring fits, and consider the other two artists. It’s a bit of a Rubik’s cube, and I haven’t seen the cube lately. I need to go look at it and figure this out.
“There’s the unknown aspect of it until you get closer to it,” he continued. “It’s like focusing a picture. I’ve been painting quite a bit, so I haven’t seen the forest through the trees until now. So I’m now going to start thinking about it.”
Artist Scott Bluedorn is relying on gut instinct. The East Hampton-based artist, illustrator and designer draws inspiration from cultural anthropology, primitivism, and nautical tradition, creating a world he calls “maritime cosmology,” as seen in his solarplate etching with watercolor, “Siren.”
“A lot of my work delves into magical and surreal scenarios, and levitation is a theme,” Bluedorn said. “This piece recalls the mythological Siren and how they would summon sailors — or in this case, whole houses — to their doom on the shore. This one may be singing the house into the sky.”
A native East Ender, his relationship with the sea runs deep, and is often prevalent in his work, from “The Wanderer” — plucked from a series of paintings based on the idea of hybridized whale and marine creature submarines, “illustrating natures brilliant design and adaptations and how we try to mimic them,” he said — to his watercolor on paper, “Oyster Boat.”
“Oyster shells are very evocative of watercraft in my eyes,” he said. “I love the varied organic forms and wanted to play with how those shapes could compose a boat.”
When selecting the artists with her fellow board members, Russo said she found herself struck by Bluedorn’s age alone — he is 31 years old — let alone his talent, which nods to a pattern within the museum itself.
“He’s young, he’s committed to living in the area — where a lot of people that age move to the city — and a lot of his work is so fresh,” she said. “We’re drawing in younger audiences now, for the last couple years. More people are becoming more aware of us, and just like our library and Bay Street and all of the institutions we have in our town, we have to embrace them and support them as much as possible. And it’s not always giving money. It’s attending events.”
“Sea and Sky,” featuring work by Whitney B. Hansen, Paton Miller and Scott Bluedorn, will open with a reception on Friday, June 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum, located at 200 Main Street in Sag Harbor. The show will remain on view through July 15. For more information, please call (631) 725-0770 or visit sagharborwhalingmuseum.org.