Yesterday, Sue Baines from the Kelpie Gallery in South Thomaston picked up eight of my works, with another half-dozen or so headed there next week. I’ve noted this gallery since it opened, since it’s on my way to Spruce Head. It stands off neat and proud against its setting near the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum. Being noticeable is a good first sign.
I’m in the process of searching out new gallery representation, and the Kelpie Gallery was the first place I approached. It started with a visit, obviously.
The Kelpie Gallery hosted the Third Annual Paint Along the Weskeag in August, which gave me an opportunity to spend some time there unattended. I was looking for professionalism in grouping and displaying paintings. This doesn’t always mean lots of white space—it depends on the real estate—but it does mean that the gallerist is thoughtful in matching work thematically and in color relationships.
I wasn’t looking for other artists who paint like me. I wanted to see artists whose work is concerned with the issues I find compelling—the light, feel and architecture of the landscape. It is important to me, also, that they be contemporary in outlook. There is nothing inherently wrong with following the Old Masters, but a gallerist who focuses on that won’t really understand my work.
When you show in a place that’s not philosophically attuned to what you’re doing, you won’t sell. Worse, your work subconsciously responds to their group norms. The biggest difficulty I ever face is getting into the wrong group of artists and trying to live up to their standards. It never works.
I asked how many artists the gallery represents. If you’re one of too many, your work is likely to languish in a back corner somewhere. “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member,” Groucho Marx famously said, and there’s some sad truth to that. If it’s too easy to join up, they may be less than selective. Luckily, that isn’t the case here.
A good gallerist spends a long time looking at your work and takes only a select few. Watching them sort through my work is my favorite part of the process, by the way. Often they will choose works that I find unresolved. That tells me something about where I’m headed as a painter.