A midwinter's night dream: Hygienic festivities populate New London

It's bound to happen sooner or later. One of these years, David Hockney or Robert Rauschenberg or maybe even octogenarian Jasper Johns, holding a brand new canvas under his arm, will show up at the 8 a.m. drop-off for Hygienic Art's "Salon des Indépendants" exhibit.

After all, over 33 years, the annual "all are welcome," "no judge/no jury/no fees/no censorship" show has otherwise played delighted host to just about any and all artists - working in any and all mediums, with any and all subject matter.

As always, the rule is one piece per artist, and in aggregate, the whole thing's a freakin' and outlandish blast.

When asked how the annual shows seem to conceptually expand each year, Hygienic managing director Rich Martin laughs and goes figurative.

"Our first organizational meetings each year revolve around a seance with lava lamps bubbling and incense burning and several live lobsters working the table. We channel Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Ethel Merman and ask for any insight and direction. Some years this works better than others, but it keeps shifting and shaping itself, and the end result is always a good time," he says.

As always, the exhibition is the centerpiece of what is New London's midwinter artistic and cultural carnival, and folks come from all over the region to wander the Hygienic Art Center's tripartite galleries. The idea is not just to study and discuss the cornucopian display of creative works, but also to see and be seen by other members of the celebratory citizenry.

To and from the show, attendees will of sashay forth to various official and tangential Hygienic programs and visit local shops, bars and restaurants along the way.

"That's the idea," Martin says. "The Hygienic events break up the winter. Personally, it helps me keep focused on various project goals instead of sinking into hibernation and stagnation."

One increasingly cool aspect of the evolving Hygienic is that a lot of events now take place on the second weekend of the festival. The Mayfly Playhouse, Fashion in the Ballroom, Hygienic Poets and the Rock Lobster Band-o-Matic - a brilliantly fun idea with a blind-drawing rotisserie of musicians - are all part of Weekend II.

"There's such incredible talent in our region, and each of these events demonstrate the versatility and creativity of the artists, designers, writers and musicians who are living and working in our little part of the world," Martin says.

It all starts, though, with the Salon des Independants, which runs like a stallion through Feb. 9.

Salon des Indépendants, 7 p.m. Saturday (art drop-off 8 a.m.-6 p.m.), Hygienic Art Galleries, 79 Bank St., New London; free; (860) 443-8001, hygienicart.org.

Two weeks of Hygienic events

All of the events at the Crocker House Ballroom are by donation, and all the others are free.


The Screening Room

Hygienic Art Galleries, 79 Bank St.

Friday, 7-10 p.m.

The Hootenanny

The Commoner, 36 Bank St.

Friday, 7-10 p.m.

The Pre-Fix

Oasis Pub, 16 Bank St.

Friday, 10 p.m.


Salon des Indépendants

Hygienic Art Galleries, 79 Bank St.

Show opens at 8 p.m. Saturday; runs through Feb. 9.

Hygienic Young Artists Exhibition

The Garde Gallery, 305 State St.

Show opens noon-4 p.m. Saturday; runs through Feb. 2.

The Rock Fix

Crocker House Ballroom, 35 Union St.

Saturday, 7 p.m.-midnight

Cabaret Extraordinaire

33 Golden St.

Saturday, 8 p.m.-midnight

The Ice Carnival

Hygienic Art Park, 79 Bank St.

Saturday, 8-10 p.m.


Hy-gienic Photo-gienic

Expressiones, 84 Bank St.

Opening reception February 1, 6-8 p.m.; runs through Feb. 10

Fashion in the Ballroom

Crocker House Ballroom, 35 Union St.

February 1, 8 p.m.


Mayfly Playhouse 24

Crocker House Ballroom, 35 Union St.

February 2, 8 p.m.


Hygienic Poets

Hygienic Art Galleries, 79 Bank St.

February 9, 7 p.m.

Rock Lobster Band-O-Matic

Oasis Pub, 16 Bank St.

February 9, 10 p.m.


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