Staff Favorites of 2014: Exhibits

Dr. Robert Ballard talks about a new exhibit featuring his discoveries of ancient shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Black seas.
Dr. Robert Ballard talks about a new exhibit featuring his discoveries of ancient shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Black seas.

"Staff Favorites of 2014" lists The Day's features staff's favorite releases, programs, events and other moments in the arts and entertainment world. As we can't possibly listen to/see/read/experience everything, we can only call these selections "favorites." Here, we share our favorite local art exhibits and displays.

Ewa Grochowska -artist and domestic violence activist

The exquisite ceramic sculptures by New London resident Ewa Grochowska exemplify how she takes all the pain she has experienced as a two-time survivor of domestic abuse to bring beautiful artwork with deep meaning to the world.

Growchowska's work was exhibited in four outdoor art shows this past summer in Mystic, Niantic, Madison and Norwalk. She uses a portion of all sales of her sculptures to purchase supplies for children's art programs at domestic violence shelters. She also donates her time to teach art to kids at the shelters, including Safe Futures in New London.

The self-taught artist creates simple wheel-thrown bowls and then sculpts layers onto them. She says she doesn't plan her pieces; they just come to her naturally.

Many of her pieces are layered with flower petals. One, called "Protected Beauty" has scrap metal pieces intertwined with the petals, sculpted out of clay-representing women or men who have survived abuse.

"As a survivor, you can still be that soft, loving, beautiful person you always were, but also be that strong, protective person, so that no one can break you again," she said of the piece, in an interview in August.

Grochowska continues to do her art and activism, reaching out to schools throughout Connecticut for the opportunity to share her story and do preventative work with students.

"If I don't speak up, the next generation, and the generations after that will suffer. Speaking up saves lives," she said.

Learn more about Grochowska's art and mission to end domestic violence at www.facebook.com/freedom4ewapottery.

- Amy Barry

Life is a beautiful blur for Old Lyme photographer

Photographer Peter Daitch exhibited his new abstract, color-drenched, motion-filled photography for the first time this summer at the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme.

Whether he's on a snowboard or skateboard or behind a camera lens, it's the theme of motion that moves the Old Lyme photographer.

Daitch attributes his wife Alexandra's bloom-filled garden with planting the seeds of his new work.

Although one would suspect he used Photoshop to create the intense motion of light and color in these images, he did it all with his camera, using various lenses, longer exposures, and different camera movements.

"Flowers are one of my favorite subjects," he said in an interview this summer. "They're organic and work really well. I like anything that's bright colors. It might take me 100 shots to get one I like."

When he isn't shooting action sports or his wife's flowers, Daitch's favorite place to take pictures is within two miles from his house on Ely's Ferry Road.

"There's so much scenery going on there," he said. "So many different environments between the marshes and the cove and the river."

"In a sense, you can make of them what you will," said Jeff Cooley, gallery owner, of Daitch's abstract photography. "It doesn't really matter what it is; what matters is it has that wonderful sense of flow and great richness of color. There's a simplicity to them and yet there's this great complexity and the sheer craft (involved)."

- Amy Barry

"Three Centuries of Women Artists" at the Florence Griswold Museum; ongoing

"Life Stories in Art: Three American Women Artists in Connecticut" is an enlightening and intriguing show at the Florence Griswold Museum that opened in October and is on view through Jan. 25.

The three women working in three centuries are Tonalist painter Mary Rogers Williams (1857-1907), modern sculptor Mary Knollenberg (1904-1992), and contemporary glass artist Kari Russell-Pool (b.1967).

Although the artists have starkly different styles, worked in very different media, and at different times, curator Amy Kurtz Lansing sees a common threat between them.

"There was this push for self discovery and self-identification in all of their work," she said when the exhibition opened.

- Amy Barry

"Inside the Natural World of Jan Beekman," Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London

Jan Beekman's views of nature are unique - imaginative and fascinating to behold. Lyman Allyn visitors have gotten the chance to see a rich exhibition of work by the Preston artist - and the exhibition runs through Jan. 5, so you have a few more days to catch this wonderful display. As curator Barbara Zabel said, "What is so special about Jan's paintings is that he reminds us of the beauty of nature - of being in and connected with nature. They also remind us of the interdependent relationship between humans and the natural world."

- Kristina Dorsey

"Lost at Sea: Shipwrecks of the Ancient World"

"Sub Urbanisms: Casino Company-town, China-town"

Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London

Both of these shows were documentary-like in their approach to the real world. "Lost at Sea" - presented in collaboration with underwater explorer Robert Ballard and his Ocean Exploration Trust and on view through Feb. 1 - focused on discoveries of ancient shipwrecks and damage being done to those wrecks by trawlers. "Sub Urbanisms" found Norwich native Stephen Fan exploring issues surrounding the increasing population of Asians who moved to this region to work at the casinos.

- Kristina Dorsey

"The Artist's Easel," Florence Griswold Museum

What a clever idea: to examine the tools used in making art. The show curated by Amy Kurtz Lansing dealt with, for instance, the evolution of the easel and how changes affected an artist's final product.

- Kristina Dorsey

“Love Lives & Hate Dies” by Ewa Grochowska
“Love Lives & Hate Dies” by Ewa Grochowska
'Transmigration, 2007,' acrylic on canvas, part of the 'Inside the Natural World of Jan Beekman' exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London.
"Transmigration, 2007," acrylic on canvas, part of the "Inside the Natural World of Jan Beekman" exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London.

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