May 15, 2008

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Making it in New York … or New Hampshire
Granite State artists talk about selling in the city
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Andrew Moerlein, sculptor and faculty member at The Derryfield School in Manchester, has seen large, expensive houses in New Hampshire with little or no original artwork on the walls. In contrast, there are small apartments in Manhattan with thousand-dollar paintings squeezed next to each other in the little available space.

The difference might be due to money or mindset. Moerlein said young New Yorkers with money are looking to art as an investment. “They tend not to buy boats,” he said. “In New Hampshire we’re pretty much a consumable society. That’s the feeling I get.” He hasn’t shown work in New York.

New Hampshire sculptor Gary Haven Smith echoed the sentiment. “There are a lot of people in New Hampshire who have a lot of money,” Smith said, but they might have more conservative tastes, or they might buy snowmobiles or jet skis rather than art. “I think [buying art] just goes more with urban sensibility,” Smith said.

Intimate, small homes, old Colonials, “just can’t handle aggressive art,” said New Castle artist Dustan Knight, who attended graduate school in New York and returned to New England at the end of the 1980s. Nonetheless, Moerlien is concerned that many people who buy large homes are content to cover bare walls with reprints.

“I think that is one of the big complaints of the area. But it’s probably just as prevalent in Long Island as it is here,” Knight said. True, it’s not just a New Hampshire thing; Moerlien recalls seeing plenty of “cranked out” art in Alaska, where he grew up, always featuring the same scenes and mountains.

In New Hampshire, Moerlien said, “You just don’t see much art at all, basically.”

He thinks this might be due to the “Yankee sensibility” that says “art is superficial and superfluous and we don’t need it.” But he also thinks that’s changing.

Dustan Knight agrees. She says there’s been a “remarkable” change in New Hampshire’s gallery scene in the past ten years and she sees galleries trying to educate people about the benefits of art. “I think they are doing a good job, but I think it’s hard going,” she said.

Smith noted that no matter how much things change, abstract work can still be a harder sell here than paintings of pastoral scenes. Corporations buy a lot of original artwork, “but it’s not, well, you know, it’s not meant to be cutting-edge confrontational work,” he said.

“I have been an abstract nonrepresentational artist all of my life. It has always been kind of an uphill climb,” he said.

New Hampshire buyers might be “more informed by what they see in museums,” Knight said, and are probably used to American impressionist work, realism and a certain amount of modern art, but less cutting-edge work, or what she calls “pigs in formaldehyde.”

So is there a market for original artwork in New Hampshire, with or without formaldehyde? Can artists make a living here, selling within the state? Or do artists need to go to New York to make it?

Smith spent a lot of time focusing on getting into a gallery in New York in the 1980s, “as if it was a stamp of approval,” he said. But as one dealer told him, his work was good, but the dealer could walk 100 yards in any direction and find good artists. He’s had three shows in New York, which he said have “done quite well,” perhaps because of the higher concentration of people. But, “that having been said, I think there’s a lot of people who have shows in New York and don’t do well,” he said. He doesn’t keep much work in New York except during shows — it’s hard to move it around. He’s found that people buy it when it’s there, but won’t travel to New Hampshire to see it. “It’s really fabulous he’s being recognized down there,” said Sarah Chaffee of McGowan Fine Art in Concord. When prices on his work go up, “for us it’s real confirmation for us that we pick good artists ... and some might outgrow us,” she said.

Smith’s work ended up in New York through Spheris Gallery in Hanover, which is partnered with Reeves Contemporary in New York.

Amparo Carvajal-Hufschmid of Alton also showed at Reeves. “I think they have a market for the type of art that I make,” she said. But she’s also worked with several galleries in state. Hufschmid doesn’t find it challenging to work from a rural area. She can send digital images of her work to a client in five minutes and ship the piece overnight. “I think the major thing is more for the artist to be connected to what is going on. You have to make the effort to go out,” she said. She’s lived in New Hampshire for 20 years; she says winters give her time to work and she doesn’t mind car trips. She was in New York just a couple of weeks ago, and then in Boston to see an exhibit. She also shows her work in Colombia. Interestingly, those who buy her work from New Hampshire galleries are often from out of state, she said. Hufschmid, however, prefers to concentrate on the making, not the selling, of art.

Mary McGowan has sold art in New Hampshire for almost 30 years. “Mary’s managed to build a base of collectors,” Chaffee said. Chaffee said she’s pulling people from Boston who are willing to come up for McGowan artists.

“I’m not trying to negate the fact that it’s hard to sell art,” Chaffee said. She jokes that this is a “not for very much profit” business. But she said people are still looking, “despite the lousy economy.”

McGowan also represents Catherine Tuttle, whose traditional watercolors are a consistent seller. Chaffee is trying to help the Bedford High teacher find more galleries. “It would be nice to broaden my horizons but I haven’t really had the opportunity,” Tuttle said. She thinks the market here does lend itself to her New Hampshire landscapes and Maine scenes (she’s also done paintings of Alaska landscapes). She’s found it’s tough to get watercolors into galleries. Oils fetch a higher price. But she loves “the immediacy of the media” of watercolors and “just being able to push the color.” She can work up a watercolor in a few hours, whereas it takes her weeks or months to create an oil painting.

Chaffee said McGowan brought work to an annual art fair in New York for about five years; McGowan also carries work from out-of-state artists, including some from New York. It makes good business sense for artists to spread out their art geographically, Chafee said. She tends to give preference to northern New England because there’s more opportunity to develop a relationship between buyer and artist. For example, McGowan organizes a tour of Smith’s studio almost every year.

In New Hampshire, most artists live a fairly meager existence, Moerlien said. Those $5,000 grants and fellowships are important for people’s careers. But high auction prices elsewhere — such as an Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe going for $17.3 million — are a sign that people are appreciating art in general, Knight said. And that includes New Hampshire.



5/8/2008 Public eye

5/1/2008 Art for Mother's Day
4/24/2008 New art walk planned for Manchester
4/17/2008 Awards for the state's artists
4/10/2008 New directions
4/3/2008 New exhibits: no April Art Walk
3/27/2008 Monastary Gibbons "Visions of Monadnock"
3/20/2008 Currier opens March 30 with week of free admission
3/13/2008 Looking back at baseball
3/6/2008 Painting, calligraphy and classic cars
2/28/2008 More snow delays; Dartmouth receives arts endowment
2/21/2008 Prints and animals in Concord
2/14/2008 From the Andes to New Hampshire
2/7/2008 What does your butt say
1/31/2008 Local color
1/24/2008 Local color
1/17/2008 Conversation starter
1/10/2008 Nominate your favorite arts-loving business
1/3/2008 The inner personalities of rubber finger puppets
12/27/2007 Changes in the arts in 2007
12/20/2007 Local Color
12/13/2007 Portsmouth markets Christmas spirit
12/6/2007 One more cause
11/29/2007 Three days of merriment
11/22/2007 Advocating for arts; Zimmerman season ends soon
11/15/2007 Images, past and present
11/8/2007 Back in time at a Concord mansion
11/1/2007 Governor honors artists with art
10/25/2007 Spatial Matters
10/18/2007 Perfecting a craft
10/11/2007 Handmade furniture
10/04/2007 Capturing nature on canvas and by camera
9/27/2007 Local color
9/20/2007 Nashua, in the abstract
9/13/2007 Local Color
9/6/2007 Looking at the world
8/30/2007 Art in the fresh air
8/23/2007 Berlin pride
8/16/2007 Finding money
8/9/2007 Park of arts
8/2/2007 New Hampshire treasure honored again
7/26/2007 Taking care of wood
7/19/2007 Local Color
7/12/2007 Local Color
7/5/2007 Local Color
6/28/2007 Local Color
6/21/2007 The great outdoors
6/14/2007 Play per day
6/7/2007 Goodbye, gallery
5/31/2007 Impressions
5/24/2007 Local color
5/17/2007 Stieglitz in Manchester
5/10/2007 They're artists and they vote
5/3/2007 Lowell is the canvas for a summer of art
4/26/2007 Local color
4/19/2007 Local color
4/12/2007 Local color
4/5/2007 A Saint paul student returns to show recent work
3/29/2007 Local color
3/22/2007 Compassionate cause
3/15/2007 Local color
3/8/2007 Making money
3/1/2007 Local Color
2/22/2007 Local Color
2/15/2007 Local Color
2/8/2007 Local Color
2/1/2007 DreamFarm Cafe's big show
1/25/2007 Built world
1/18/2007 Expressions of character
1/11/2007 Best practices
1/4/2007 Nominate your favorite for Governor's Arts Awards
12/28/2006 Art in 2006 in southern New Hampshire
12/21/2006 Time to learn
12/14/2006 Frisella's new studio; sell art for animals; girls only time
12/07/2006 Stained glass, found objects and ornaments
11/30/2006 No shortage of art sales
11/23/2006 A Granite State greeting
11/16/2006 Santa Claus hangs with artists
11/9/2006 Visual art meets poetry
11/2/2006 Local Color
10/26/2006 Local Color
10/19/2006 Local Color
10/12/2006 Almost 80 artists in Hollis ...
10/05/2006 Fine art in a field
09/28/2006 Local Color
09/21/2006 Local Color
09/14/2006 Local color
09/07/2006 Bel Espirit, a happening of chance
08/31/2006 An artistic endeavor
08/24/2006 The almost-all architecture edition
08/17/2006 Half century of creativity
08/10/2006 Obsession with the Isles of Shoals
08/03/2006 See the precise craft of carving with a chainsaw
07/20/2006 For museums or your living room
07/13/2006 Making their mark
07/06/2006 Sense of place
06/29/2006 New ground
06/22/2006 MAA honors scholars an artists of the year
06/15/2006 Galleries open doors
06/08/2006 It's sticky up here
06/01/2006 Mural for MCAM
05/25/2006 Scenes from the air
05/18/2006 Vanguardians sit down
05/11/2006 Public masterpiece
05/04/2006 Art helps kids at MAA show
04/27/2006 In-house artists on display
04/20/2006 No Pinocchio here
04/13/2006 School's out art's in
04/06/2006 Meet Michael Toomey
03/30/2006 Art builds community ...
03/23/2006 From Celtic design to Ayn Rand
03/16/2006 Got Cow?
03/09/2006 A creative view of China
03/02/2006 Monastery Arts open new show
02/23/2006 Love and art in one location
02/16/2006 Job loss leads to artistic success
02/09/2006 Art in the key of Adam and Eve
02/02/2006 Art to make you think
01/26/2006 New York artists to show at Derryfiled School
01/19/2006 A new age of artwork
01/12/2006 Photography buffs unite
01/05/2006 Jeweler teaches her trade
Alison Williams
All together now
A forest through the trees
A light in the dark
An event for artists, by artists
Anne Dufresne
Armand Szainer: never forget
Art group picks artist of the year
Art In The Park
Art in the Park sees attendance dip
Arts In Education Conference
Art like Crayons for grown-ups
Art you can sit on (if you own it)
Better Living Through Artistry
Capturing history with a panaramic view
Ceramic Biennial
Currier Kicks Off 2005 With NHSS Show
Die fotografieren
Doug Mendoza: Body Artist
Enjoying the Open Doors Trolley Tour
East Colony Fine Art has gone jazz
Equal Arts Opportunities
Exploring purgatory and paradise
Expressions coming from within
Fighting cancer with creativity
Free food, free music and plenty of art
Harry Umen: New Work

Head of the class
Heating up the canvas
Inside the artist’s studio
It’s art, and it’s even practical!
James Aponovich

James Chase
Jan De Bray
Local Artist, Global Message
Lollipops and Hand Grenades
MAA Adds New Dimension To Gallery
MAA Gallery Mixes It Up
Making Book With Children
Manchester Art In 2004
Morgan's "Danse" Comes To Manch
Morin Avoid Typecasting
NHIA chalks it up to May 14
Open Doors Manchester Returns
Open Doors Trolley Tour, The Winter Version
Looking for a crowd? Just add art
McGowan Fine Art Turns 25
Nita Leger Casey
Patti Matthis
Saint Anselm Favorite Returns
Searching for the extraordinary
Small Town Art Hits The Big City
Spirit Of The Holidays Exhibit
Step into the Art Pad at Langer Place
Stride and ride
Tagging goes to wall, gets legit
The art and craft of Glendi
The art of signs to art and stuff
The Art Of The Qashquai

The Return Of The Art Trolley Tour
The Ubiquitous Ann Domingue
Two-continent painting exhibit opens
Using nature as a canvas
Waxwork
Women's Art Group Marks 10th Year
Wyeth Works Return To The Currier