When you think of great art, European cities come to mind: Madrid, Florence, even Paris. While Portsmouth’s no international creative hub, its monthly Art ‘Round Town event last Friday found artist Don Gorvett calling Portsmouth “The Paris of New Hampshire.”
With all the beautiful art galleries and lit up streets in Portsmouth, one could almost imagine they were walking under the glittering lights of Paris. But one doesn’t have to travel all the way to France for great art; on the first Friday of every month, Portsmouth holds its Art ‘Round Town event that shows off a miscellany of beautiful artwork coming from a range of artists. The monthly event includes over 15 galleries, including Black Heritage Trail NH, INC; BLEND .603 Gallery; Ceres Gallery; Dennis Perrin Fine Art Gallery; Discover Portsmouth; Gallery at 3S Artspace; Nahcotta; and many more.
G Willikers! Book & Toys, a Portsmouth children’s shop, joined the art gallery transformation Friday night with the help of Families First, a non-profit charitable organization community health and family resource center based in Portsmouth. The owner of G Willikers!, Jody Breneman, said that his store had a “really nice partnership” with Families First that she was proud of. At the gallery they unveiled a calendar with different artwork for every month with 10 percent of the proceeds from artwork sold at the gallery donated to the non-profit.
One of the artists at G Willikers! gallery was Lennie Mullaney, a 2012 University of New Hampshire (UNH) graduate. The most important thing Mullaney said she learned from her time at UNH was to “observe and let go” of her ideas of perfection. She also joked that she was “the grandmother” in the classroom because she was older than the average college student during her time in the MFA Painting program. Her advice to novice artists? “(Be) willing to make a lot of bad art.”
The art gallery at Labelle Winery featured lively watercolor paintings created by Bruce McColl, the art education director at the Currier Museum of Art. McColl’s bright and happy watercolor paintings brought the feeling of summertime to the wine and cheese-filled room despite the cold, fall weather. He wanted his “paintings to sing,” he said.
McColl said his biggest inspiration is Henri Matisse, a French artist known for his use of color. McColl also said that teaching art is like teaching people to see. He said that he prefers to draw landscapes and flowers and doesn’t draw people often because “folks don’t like to sit too long and don’t want to be uncomfortable too long.” McColl said that his next project will be to work with landscapes on a large scale.
“I think I can paint now,” McColl, whose painting career stretches over 30 years, playfully joked.
A more unique art gallery could be found at Nancy Morgan Art, which showed all of Nancy Morgan’s fabric art pieces that she created using her 40-year-old sewing machine. She said she has been sewing since she was a child, but started combining her love of art and sewing about 20 years ago. At one point in the evening, Morgan pulled out the famed 40-year-old sewing machine to give attendees a glimpse into her creative process.
Another gallery at Art ‘Round Town could be found inside a historic New England landmark, the Governor John Langdon House. Gwendolyn L. Smith, the regional site manager, said that all the paintings were very different, but that “the lobster has been a favorite,” motioning toward a painting of a colorful lobster.
At the Kennedy Gallery and Custom Framing, artist Holly Lombardo talked about her artwork and what it’s like to be a scientist and a self-taught artist. She said the most important components to her paintings are sunlight and reflections, which make themselves clear in her use of white space and snow scenes in her paintings. “You don’t have to be one thing,” she said, giving advice to the crowd. Lombardo said she believes the science part of her brain helps out the artistic side, only aiding her.
In Valerie’s Gallery, artist Linda Gray talked about her life as an artist and as a full-time senior philanthropy advisor at New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Gray said that she is a self-taught artist and she doesn’t have anything manmade in her paintings, such as people or buildings. Some of her art includes scenes of coastal Maine, New Hampshire mountains and lakes and depictions of her travels westward. “I’m just painting what I love,” Gray said.
One consistent component to each gallery was the pride and hard work put into every piece of art and maintaining the galleries themselves. If you ever need a little more art in your life, or just want an excuse to walk around Portsmouth on a Friday night, remember to stop by any of the galleries at Art ‘Round Town.
Some of the other galleries that participated in Art ‘Round Town were:
Artist Bruce McColl with one of his favorite paintings at the LaBelle Winery Art Gallery on Oct. 4.
Linda Gray’s artwork displayed at Valerie’s Gallery on Oct. 4.
The unveiling of the calendar at G Willikers! On Oct. 4.
Artwork on display at the Kennedy Gallery and Custom Framing on Oct. 4.
Paintings by Holly Lombardo at the Kennedy Gallery and Custom Framing on Oct. 4.
Don Gorvett woodcut prints at Piscataqua Fine Arts/Don Gorvett Woodcuts & Drawings on Oct 4.
Paintings on display at Historic New England/Governor John Langdon House on Oct. 4.
Paintings on display at Historic New England/Governor John Langdon House on Oct. 4
One of artist Bruce McColl’s favorite paintings at the LaBelle Winery Art Gallery on
Painting at G Willikers! Book and Toys by Lennie Mullaney on Oct. 4.