One of the immediate standouts from my quick look around the galleries in Lambertville (see yesterday’s post) was the work of Colette Sexton, an area artist who, though not native to the town of Lambertville, has found it to be home in both the physical and artistic sense. Her bright, fresh paintings of the town and its surrounds seem to me to be in keeping with the plein-air painterly realism of the New Hope school.
In particular, her Winter scenes of Lambertville from above, viewed from an overlook near a graveyard, have the flavor of some of the New Hope painters, who loved to capture the bright, geometric shapes of the houses and other buildings in both towns from the surrounding hills.
Aided by the fact that Lambertville’s contemporary merchants have painted many of their storefronts in bright colors, Sexton’s paintings are vibrant with splashes of brilliant color, rendered in loose, confident brushstrokes that are left unfussed-with and give her work a pleasing surface quality and tactile appeal.
I doubt that Sexton, any more than the original New Hope painters, would call herself an “Impressionist” but she favors elements that many of the painterly realists of the turn of the century had in common, bright contrasts of color and light, the deep, cool colors of dappled shade, and sunlight cascading across spring flowers and snow covered rooftops with equal dazzle.
Walking into what I assumed was a one-preson show in a regular gallery, I discovered that it was, in fact, the “Collette Sexton Gallery”. In speaking with the artist, I learned that she is one of several in the area who have chosen the approach of renting and maintaining their own dedicated gallery space. While this is not a new practice, I think this path is gaining appeal as gallery commissions creep higher and competition for exhibition space grows more intense.
Sexton indicated that the overhead and work involved in running her own gallery were balanced out by the advantages of having her work always on display, rather than at the whims of other gallery owners or institutional shows. It also allows for interaction directly between the artist and collector, something usually restricted to openings. She was fortunate, she said, in that one of the established area artists, who has been running his own dedicated gallery for many years, was kind enough to show her the ropes. Some of the other artists in the area who have followed suit will occasionally compare notes and otherwise support each other’s endeavors.
What I don’t know is how economically viable this approach would be for artists in different areas. Some collectors will follow up on their appreciation for an artist’s work by buying additional pieces, others strive for variety and are not as likely to acquire multiple pieces by one artist. Lambertville and New Hope are unusual, situated within an easy drive of both Philadelphia and New York, and thriving on a reputation as an arts related tourist destination, ensuring that the area has a consistent flow of new visitors.
Personally, I was pleased that Sexton’s work was there at the time we happened by and not part of a show that “closed last week”. She also takes advantage of the other, more common means of keeping her artwork available and on view at all times, with a simple but effectively arranged web site.
Her online gallery has one outstanding feature in particular, in that the main images are available in two resolutions. Thumbnails are linked to medium size images that can be viewed in sequence with a convenient “previous – next” navigation. These browsing size images are supplemented with a second set of higher resolution images that are available from a small drop-down above the navigation area.
While I might wish for a script that would allow visitors to make a set choice to always show the larger images when proceeding through the gallery, I still think this extra step is an excellent practice: providing one size for casual browsing and a second, higher-resolution version for those genuinely interested.
Sexton’s online galleries are divided into two sections, one of “Historic America and its People“, which seems to be largely of scenes in and around Lambertville, and “Water Scenes“, in which she ranges farther afield.