Staff Favorites of 2016 - Exhibits

“Staff Favorites of 2016” lists The Day’s staff members’ favorite moments in the arts this year, from local exhibits and concerts to new releases on film, in music and print, and on television. Here, we share our favorite local exhibits from 2016.

Magical History Tour: A Beatles Memorabilia Exhibit; Great Cedars Hotel, Foxwoods Resort Casino

If you’re a Beatles nut, chances are you’ve seen a lot of this stuff or material that’s similar. On the other hand, if you’re a Beatles nut, you can never get too much Fab Four. Cleverly laid out in four distinct and chronological sections — all of which are presented from the perspective of the Beatles themselves as they went through their journey together and post-band.

The artifacts range from cutesy fan merch to personal items and live/studio gear, and the exhibit-closing piece is a bit of stunning and heartbreaking history that will stay with you for a long time. This show runs through Feb. 7, 2017. Call 1-800-200-2882 for information.

— Rick Koster

‘Castles Made of Sand’; The Gallery at Three Rivers Community College, Norwich

Even if you didn’t know the backstory, you’d feel the visceral power of Jacob Cullers’ paintings that were part of this exhibit. But the backstory adds to the depth of feeling a viewer experiences. Culllers’ pieces were inspired by the artist’s grappling with the death of his brother, Ari, who was 28 when he was killed while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2011.

Jacob Cullers, who served in the Air Force, said, “My work has always been influenced by my experience and by the loss of my brother. Granted, each picture might not be a direct representation of the experience, but it all — the politics, the abstract nature of war — is in the work.” And what compelling work it is.

— Kristina Dorsey

The New London Project 10th Anniversary Portraits; Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London

Lyme photographer Joe Standart believes a city is more than its physical buildings and statistics; it’s really about all the different people who live and work in it. 

And so, 10 years ago Standart kicked off the national project “Portrait of America.” Starting in New London, he mounted large-scale portraits of the city’s residents throughout the downtown area, creating an outdoor gallery viewed by more than 700,000 people.

A decade later, Standart decided to photograph the same people and show the new photographs next to the ones he took in 2006. 

Folks at New London’s Lyman Allyn Art Museum thought it was a fascinating idea and mounted the exhibition last September, which is on view through Jan. 22.

Standart also interviewed and videotaped all of his subjects and made an audio track that plays in the gallery while people are viewing the portraits. 

“I wanted the viewer to see the person, not the environment, and focus on, as I like to say, their individual dignity,” he said. 

— Amy J. Barry

Early Spring Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture; Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art

This past April, Ledyard painter Michael McNabney’s newest works in oil were on view at Groton’s Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art. Inspired by the local landscape, McNabney’s compositions tend to focus up close, bringing the viewer directly into his color-saturated paintings. But this mesmerizing aspect of his work is actually accidental, due to vision problems he’s had his whole life.

“I think it’s about trying to do something within the boundaries of my limitations,” he says.

Ten of his 16 paintings in the show revealed his fascination with the pitch pines clinging to the rocks on Lantern Hill in North Stonington.

“The tenacity of life and the thought that life will persevere interests me,” McNabney says. “The character in those misshapen trees—you can see the struggle and the will they have to live. Nothing will stop them.”

— Amy. J. Barry

‘Inner Sanctum’; Mystic Museum of Art

Each year, the artist awarded first place in Mystic Museum of Art’s Regional Juried Exhibition is given a solo show. In 2016 Stonington artist Sarah Stifler Lucas received that honor.

Lucas has been painting professionally for more than 40 years, exhibiting regionally and nationally, and has received many honors and awards. She works primarily in oil, combining representational elements with the abstract, and she has taught at the museum since 1988.

Lucas named her solo exhibition “Inner Sanctum,” the title of her winning painting in the regional exhibition that was inspired by the Members Club room at The Ocean House in Watch Hill.

Lucas is drawn to the peaceful side of the human condition, evoked by both interiors and street scenes. She finds her inspiration everywhere, from Old Lyme to Westerly and in her travels from New York to Paris and beyond, in “the stories that unfold in such places, such as the lone figure walking at night, couples in groups gathered in cafes or the empty but inviting tables and chairs.”

— Amy J. Barry 

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