Four up-and-coming artists bring new life to Chathamby Jessica Laniewski | Photography by Jay Elliott
Returning to his summer hometown in April 2010, abstract artist Richard Koury excitedly picked up his paint brush again after years of working with bronze, brass, steel and stone.
Drawing and painting since he was a child, Koury’s passion for art grew through inspiration from his surroundings, along with the idea of open interpretation. “I’m more of an abstract person,” says Koury, co-owner with childhood friend and photographer, Christopher Seufert, of Narrowland Gallery in Chatham. “My work appears to have a life of its own, constantly changing and evolving over time.”
The Cape has always been a place where Koury was relaxed and inspired by the water, homes, and unique scenery. He often observed the architectural design of the seascapes and landscapes of Chatham, incorporating similar imagery and movement in his paintings and sculpture. In a recently completed series, Koury features a collection of homes resembling Cape Cottages. By adding exaggerated architectural elements, the paintings have a whimsical feel to them. But for the majority of his artistic career, Koury worked with a medium heavier than paint.
“I always thought, wow, it would be pretty cool to work at one of those foundries we used to go to on field trips with our professors,” says Koury, who had become experienced with different types of welding in Hartford, CT. He advanced to one of the largest art foundries in the world, Tallix Inc, in Beacon, New York, practicing metal fabricating of large scale outdoor sculpture.
From there, Koury moved to Sedona, Arizona, where he became co-owner of Artscape Bronze Casting foundry. His work there was of contemporary sculpting, but less abstract then what he was used to back in New York and at his studio. “No matter where I’ve been, my work has always revolved around the Cape,” says Koury. The artist continues to capture the interest of viewers with his abstract painting, sculpture and fabricated bronze jewelry on display at the Narrowland Gallery. 483 Main St., 508.348.1482, www.narrowlandgallery.com
Chatham native Taylor Brown has worn a few hats in her day, but it is her one-of-a-kind headbands that first drew notoriety to her work. Brown, the daughter of a commercial fisherman, started making articles of clothing to wear while she shellfished. Her first headbands were a huge success and her Fisherman’s Daughter Collection has grown to include organic cotton fingerless shucking gloves, seaweed wrap scarves, sailor girl dresses, and fair maiden wrap jackets. Her clothing is wearable, unpretentious, and good-for-the-environment. Having grown up on the water and understanding what we must do to preserve our local environment, the designer chooses her clothing materials carefully. Brown’s BFA in Fashion Design from the Massachusetts College of Art and her work in the industry in the States and abroad gave her a solid base to start her own clothing line. Last spring she opened her first shop, the Fisherman’s Daughter Eco Boutique, in Chatham.
The boutique showcases her collection as well as featuring the work of over 40 other eco-friendly artists and designers, most of who are from Cape Cod and New England. Brown’s collection is hand-cut and sewn in the boutique and now includes children’s clothing and a men’s line. Brown recently teamed up with other local artists to create the Fisherman’s Daughter organic bath and body collection and refurbished furniture collection with a coastal feel.
“I see my current success as a step towards becoming a household name here on the Cape, much like The Black Dog and Vineyard Vines,” says Brown “all while staying true to my message of local culture and sustainable products.” As the youngest shop owner in Chatham, Brown has a unique perspective on traditional Cape Cod chic and that has taken her clothing from the sea to the streets. 17 Post Office Rd., 508.292.5463, www.FishermansDaughterMarket.com.
Stepping inside Mimi Outsider gallery at the east end of Chatham’s thriving Main Street is always a treat for the senses. Found object art pieces, such as one made of delicate shells, painted and mounted to sculptural beauty harmoniously share space alongside gorgeous handmade jewelry. Energetic and petite artist, Tracy Shields, stands at the creative center of this thriving gallery, adored by both locals and guests to the town.
Shields’ personal style is influenced by years spent living in the creative neighborhood of Venice, CA, where she learned to take risks with her work and push the boundaries of her art. Her own jewelry incorporates vintage components that she finds or repurposes from other pieces.
“I also am particularly intrigued with the ideas of found object artwork and the trash as art paradigm,” says Shields, who sells her work alongside a few other carefully selected artists. “I am constantly hunting the dumps, vintage stores, and beaches for the materials and inspiration for both my artwork and jewelry.” She loves to make and wear statement pieces and has been recently experimenting with incorporating textiles in her jewelry. Shields enjoys the repurposing of materials because of the layered history of an object as well as the desire not to waste previous resources. The self-taught artist uses leftover paint for her collages and found material or weathered wood are most often her canvas.
Shields is a huge proponent of the new Chatham Gallery Nights, a recurring Wednesday evening summer program. The artist, along with other gallery owners, has recently formed the Chatham Gallery Association and she hopes that other interesting cultural events will blossom in town in addition to the gallery nights. 400 Main St., 508.945.0797
Some artists are born with a brush in hand while others come to it later in life. J.A. Nickerson was lucky to start painting later in life, at a time when he was able to reflect on his life experiences, and put them onto the canvas.
“I had been sketching for years mostly about my experiences surrounding my past commercial fishing exposure from the early 1960s through the early 80s,” says Nickerson, a 13th generation member of the storied Chatham family. Nickerson’s sketching morphed into working with colored pencils, but was couldn’t get the mix of colors. He transitioned into using charcoal but found that too messy and was seemingly at the end of the road with various mediums. A fortuitous family vacation set him back on the path
“While I was on vacation up in Maine I decided to walk into the local art supply store and ask for help trying to figure out what materials, tools and other supplies that I might need because I really wanted to progress in my painting,” says Nickerson. “The owner was very kind and patient with me and her questioning was more about my personality than anything.” In the end, Nickerson decided on acrylics because there is a lot of variability within the medium. The depth of the paint can be built up to mimic the rich luster of oils or thinned out to look like watercolors.
Nickerson has always painted as a way to put his fishing memories into visuals and thus he most often works from what he has in his mind. While he has used photos as reference material, the forms, shapes, and feel of the painting are from his memories.
“I enjoy the personal challenge of trying to get the shapes of the objects more concrete than abstract and capturing the various effects light has on the subject,” says Nickerson. “I try to make the painting accurate and fairly detailed without adding extra detail that can be distracting.” The artist also adds in movement to his paintings, whether it is through reflection, wave action or subject activity.
“My painting was about trying to get data from my memory to something more visible to share with my immediate family members,” says Nickerson. The artist now shows his work alongside family members at the Nickerson Gallery in Chatham.