August 02, 2006

In The Gallery

Blue Door Gallery, 40 East Main Street, Riverhead

"New Paintings by Sandi Woessner and Chris Stavropolis"

It's hard to believe that 2006 marks the fifth year Blue Door's airy, two-room exhibition space, gift shop and frame store has been holding court on Flower Alley's red brick road, right off Main Street, Riverhead.

Gallery owner and artist Sandi Woessner now has approximately 30 artists who exhibit with her regularly. Though her client base continues to be local, including year-round residents who work in the nearby courts, many are weekenders, looking for an affordable gift item, as well as those attracted to the organic food store next door.

"I try to cover all price points," Sandi Woessner says, noting that she sells original paintings as well as giclees ("upscale prints") and less expensive copies. She's also been expanding into jewelry and crafts and realizing the benefits of offering art at accessible prices (on average from $250-$450).

So, how's she doing? The current exhibit of her own recent pastels and paintings and of oils by Chris Stavropolis, who has been with her since the gallery opened, "and who sells consistently," can boast a healthy number of red dots. In fact, she laughs, one of her own landscapes — Moody Blue — sold off the wall, "when it was still wet!"

Stavropolis, who signs his work, Kristos, seems to be doing more en plein air work these days, deserted beach scenes that are among his most satisfying pieces. A wall of still lifes and a nude testifies to his increasing diversity, but it is the rocky shore compositions that particularly impress.

Ice Breaker, a small work showing a lone figure (casting a line?) atop a jetty, achieves, mysteriously, a wonderful windswept effect, and is enhanced by being painted on torn edge paper affixed to board. The colorful Inlet also commands attention with impressionist daubs of paint, creating a textured look, the result of the artist's technique of over-painting and scraping with a palette knife.

In several works, a pattern of thin grooved-out lines creates a sense of motion, and in Rocky Shore that quality takes on an almost Japanese effect, as faint mountains seem to rise from the rugged terrain like calligraphic shapes. The best of Kristos has this kind of surprising suggestiveness. Orchids, their startling yellow gold flowers almost (but not quite) hides the green pot from which they spring, and in Red Daisies, the clutch of flowers lying on their side, is also almost absorbed into a pink-purple background that seems to be part of them.

The more striking and colorful landscapes, Dirt Road, by contrast, somehow signal the fact that photographs took over from plein air — not that artists cannot or should not also rely on the camera eye.

Indeed, Sandi Woessner volunteers which of her own recent works is from nature or from — she presses a finger to her temple — or which from photos. The loveliest of the lonely beach scenes here Nary a Soul, a pastel of beach, sky and ocean set in nonreflecting glass, owes a good deal to "personal research" — when she had to go down to the sea again, so to speak, to check the configuration of the shore front.

She's grown subtler over the years, "simplifying," as she puts it, keeping more to smoothly transitioned earth tones and softer hues, more tonalist. Of particular interest in this exhibit are her landscapes exactly the same but done as both oil and pastel. Contrary to popular impression, perhaps, she says that it's often easier to work out certain effects in oil, though skies, for her, are better attempted first in pastel.

Blue Door also carries work of some other regulars — Alan Bull, Fred Bender and in racks visitors can find a wide sampling of prints at a surprisingly reasonable cost. The jewelry, by the way, also reasonably priced, is quite attractive and can often be seen on Diane Reeve, of Eastenders Coffee House (and jazz club) next door.

The exhibition runs through August 23.

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