April 30, 2008

Profiling Matt Brophy in A Sustainable Art Scene

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The East End art scene has evolved since Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner defined it. Today young artists with fresh ideas inspire a new movement in the community that stirred their imaginations as children and embraced their artistic callings as adults. Twenty-three-year-old Matthew Brophy of Sag Harbor is an active participant in the movement.

"I've been painting since I was a little kid. My whole life I've been painting," he said.

Abstract is his specialty, though the artist is somewhat loathe to pigeonhole his work. "I try not to think about that [too] much."

Still, true to the genre, Brophy's style evokes a sense of organized chaos. Geometric shapes connote structure and order, even as the colors pop off the canvas haphazardly.

"I really like the bright colors and I like to try to get the feeling out of just lines and simple forms" but "a lot of them don't end up that simple."

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What an understatement. Brophy's work is electric. And also, apparently, off the cuff.

"I don't ever really have a plan for the painting when I start. I just let it develop itself," he said. Surfing through art books Brophy finds new methods and color combinations to try. Among the artists he admires is Roy Lichtenstein, whose American Pop art style features bright colors in defined spaces – "there is no blending," said Brophy.

Equally inspiring is a workspace packed with paintings. "I have them all over my walls," he said. "I just need to have myself surrounded by the colors and the lines."

Paintings each have their own story, and while some of Brophy's work focuses specifically on composition and color, others "have a lot of feeling; it usually has to do with what's going on in my life at that point," he said.

But it must come naturally, or not at all.

"Some paintings will take me two days to do . . . [and] sometimes I'll work on a painting for over a year that I just struggle with; it'll sit there on the wall [and] I'll have little arguments with it. I don't know what to do with it. I just have to wait for it," he said.

Brophy's patience (and commitment) is starting to pay off. The artist has already begun making a name for himself – he recently sold his first piece. And this success is in no small part due to his involvement with the increasingly popular Arts4 Collective, a group comprised of young Sag Harbor artists. Its formation was inspired by The Umbrella Show, an exhibit at the Stella Maris School in Sag Harbor, last spring. Bethany Peters, Molly Weiss, Brophy and others elected to form something more concrete after working on the show.

The endeavor has proven a great feat for the group, with five shows since its inception, but they won't be celebrating alone. Arts4 recently joined forces with Bonac Tonic, another more established group of young artists based in Springs.

In February, the two collectives mounted their first group show at Clovis Point Winery on the North Fork. Running on the success of that show, they held two more, both at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. Over 35 pieces were sold at the first Ashawagh show. The two groups have since fused together, creating A4BT (Arts4 Bonac Tonic). They anticipate a total of 10 shows this year.

Next up is a second Umbrella Show, marking the one-year anniversary of Arts4. Slated for Memorial Day weekend at Stella Maris, the exhibit will be an "open call" – that is, "If you want to show your artwork, whoever you are, whether you call yourself an artist or not, if you want to put some rocks in the show, you can," Brophy quipped. Live music and a film screening will accompany the assortment of art.

The young, local arts scene is growing stronger each year, and its followers credit that movement to area school art programs. "The community has always had an art background, but I think it has a lot to do with the schools, planting the seeds for it," said Brophy.

As with art, the schools have also encouraged a spirit of sustainability and the young artists are eager to continue the custom of giving back to the community. Brophy said A4BT may soon lend a helping hand in connecting local students to the art world, either by chaperoning a trip or inviting a class to one of their art shows – the group will "get them involved, get them started, get them while they're young."

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