A Rich Seam

N inth Square’s character has changed dramatically since Reynolds Fine Art gallery opened two and a half years ago. Curatorial director Robert Reynolds has noticed “a lot more foot traffic” compared to those first days, and the art-viewing options have recently expanded, notes gallery director and art consultant Denise Lysak. “Now there are three galleries in one city block,” including Artspace, which has been at the corner of Crown and Orange since 2002, and the new Giampietro Gallery across from Reynolds.

Reynolds Fine Art showed moody seascapes by local painter Margot Nimiroski over the summer, but for the most part it takes on work by artists from other locales across the country and around the globe. “There are so many venues” in New Haven, Reynolds explains, where local artists can reach audiences. But “we also want to bring other things into the area. We want to bring unknown people” to the gallery, prompting viewers to say, “‘Wow, that’s new, I’ve never seen it.’”

Since its opening, the gallery has shown work by Portland, Oregon-based Geoffrey Pagen, who creates abstract, geometric art with glazes on slabs of clay; Danish artist Mette Rishøj, whose collage-like paintings have an aesthetic that at once evokes cartography and organisms that might appear on a microscope’s slide; and Bay Area-based Linda Yoshizawa, whose monotype prints blend American and Japanese cultural sensibilities.

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Bringing in such a wide variety of art requires a similarly broad, or at least broad-minded, audience, and Reynolds Fine Art works to cultivate it. The gallery has often participated in On9 events and is on its fourth month of what it calls “Drink & Draw,” which Reynolds and Lysak created with the help of one their interns, Yale student Megan Valentine. Every second Thursday of each month, the gallery alternates between bringing in a nude model for figure drawing and setting up stations for still lifes. For $25, community members can come practice their drawing while partaking in wine, hors d’oeuvres and music.

The gallery coordinates with local businesses—Hull’s, for example, provides the art supplies, while this month Arpaia Lang is providing jewelry for subject matter—to round out the experience. Many who come are experienced artists, but the skill levels and artistic backgrounds vary: one couple came in for figure drawing unaware that the model would be nude, “got horrified, and walked out,” recalls Reynolds. For others, Lysak says, “it’s almost been therapeutic.” Although Drink & Draw began as a social, community-building idea, she notes, it’s also created a certain synergy among the local businesses; Reynolds Fine Art has created a venue in which a variety of businesses can collaborate in order to find new audiences and contexts for their wares.

Right now, the gallery is showing a series of “quilt drawings” by Daphne Taylor. Taylor translates her Quaker heritage into silk and cotton quilts. By using different colored backings, she creates subtle geometric shapes within the quilts, then “draws” captivating patterns along them with thread. The stitching—all done by hand—creates a quiet, ethereal motion, beckoning the viewer in from across the open, airy gallery for a closer look. As Lysak points out, “her drawing background is evident” in the quilts: the even, precise stitching appears almost like a lightly sketched pencil line from afar.

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It’s taken Reynolds Fine Art two years to curate Taylor’s show in part because each quilt takes her three years from start to finish. The show even manages to include a number of study drawings and fabric fragments in order to demonstrate parts of Taylor’s process.

Her creations “pull me right in. They’re so small, they’re so intimate, they’re so spare,” just distilled down to “the basic idea,” Reynolds says. In one series of study drawings, Taylor uses India ink and silver gouache to create a scene of the woods in rural Maine, where she resides part-time. The study is somehow both abstract and clear, and the shimmering gouache creates the feeling of a windswept, snowy forest. This aesthetic is, in turn, reflected in the texture and lines of the nearest quilt-drawing.

Reynolds says the gallery is “willing to take chances,” which allows it to show the kinds of pieces—like Taylor’s quilts—that would be tough to find elsewhere. Earlier this year, the gallery juxtaposed enormous paintings of interiors by Daniel Bohman with a series of contemporary furniture pieces, prompting questions of whether the gallery’s focus was fine arts or crafts. Says Lysak, “I didn’t know we had to be defined.”

Reynolds Fine Art
96 Orange Street, New Haven (map)
Tues-Thurs 11am-5pm, Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm
(203) 498-2200 | [email protected]

Written by Elizabeth Weinberg. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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Elizabeth Weinberg is a novelist and essayist whose work ranges in topic from oceanography to travel to feminist and LGBT issues. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington, and her work has been published or is forthcoming in PANK Magazine and The Arts Paper. She blogs on her website, www.elizabeth-weinberg.com.

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