At The Living Gallery Outpost, a Platform for Artists to Manifest Their Dreams | chelseanow.com

At The Living Gallery Outpost, a Platform for Artists to Manifest Their Dreams

L to R, The Living Gallery Outpost’s co-founders Alexandria Hodgkins, Nyssa Frank, and Joseph Meloy at the opening day party. On the bench behind them, Gina Healy and Angello Olivieri make music. | Photo by Bob Krasner

BY PUMA PERL | Last August, I was encouraged by a friend to attend the grand opening of The Living Gallery Outpost. People spilled out of the 250-square-foot space, shared food and songs on the bench outside, and gathered around the hand-created artwork (by building owner Antonio Echeverri) that surrounded a tree. Everywhere there was color and a sense of camaraderie, reflecting a foundation of friendship, community, and love — with a shot of serendipity. The BYO Art (Bring Your Own Art) exhibition demonstrated the commitment to providing space for experienced and emerging artists to share, devoid of competition or hierarchy.

The space, at 246 E. Fourth St. (btw. Aves. B & C), is the second location of The Living Gallery, founded in Bushwick six years ago by visual and performance artist Nyssa Frank. She had initially been looking for a studio. “I had always wanted a multifaceted space,” Frank explained. “Growing up, I didn’t realize that you could be an artist and a teacher, for example. I always thought it was one or the other.”

Her sensibility, from the start, was to involve the community, and “bring positive energy while taking gentrification into perspective.” To that end, she worked actively with the community, which is how she met and befriended Alexandria Hodgkins, a youth and arts specialist who was volunteering some of her time at Arts in Bushwick. At that gallery, Hodgkins also met Lower East Side native Joseph Meloy, an artist and muralist who later became her husband. The two were walking through Soho one day last June and spotted a hand-written sign for an “East Village storefront.” They followed up, called Frank, and the Outpost was born, co-founded by the three. Community events during the past year have included BYO Art, potlucks, monthly open mics, classes, and an artist residency program. Many neighborhood residents, attracted to the spirit of inclusiveness, have become involved.

Frank noted that she “hated galleries as a child when my mother, who is an artist, used to take me. There was so much elite pretension, the second you walked in you were judged. We want people to feel comfortable. There is no hierarchy. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist for four days or 40 years.” The key criteria are passion and commitment to the work. “We provide a platform for emerging artists through exhibitions, screenings, readings, performance and more,” Frank added. “We are also always open to new ideas.”

An untitled work (acrylic paint on black paper, 20 x 20) by mat eis. “My process behind the work,” the artist said, “is very much about building a language.” | Image courtesy of the artist

Not all of the artists are new to exhibiting. On my recent visit, the walls were covered with the black and white acrylic work of mat eis, a neighborhood inhabitant who was a semi-finalist for a residency. “I was walking by and saw this space, and inquired. I had never shared this body of work with anyone. I’d wanted to create a story of who I was, but against a backdrop that felt empty and without context,” he explained, while making lemonade for visitors.

“The subject of all of my pieces is the potential interplay between physical matter of different types. A shampoo bottle that tells the future… a flower that breathes like an organ. My work is part imagination and part observation of the diverse matter that sits unnoticed and waits patiently to be rattled into its own mystical clairvoyant existence.” Words and letters float through the paintings. In one piece, the word “help” is repeated and appears to release the letter “e” as if it could not be contained; above that, water drops fall freely from behind a faucet, which has the words “keep moving” on the spigot.

Last December, East Villager Gina Healy went three for three in keeping with the vision of mounting new platforms, experimenting with original forms, and merging medias. Healy is a singer/performer who, with her partner Angello Olivieri, provided some of the music at the gallery opening. She also has a background in dance and costume design, but had never curated a show. Her idea was to provide a venue for friends who she considered great photographers, but who were known for their expertise in other areas. She called the show “The Artist Behind the Lens.”

“I likened this experience to creating a set of costumes,” Healy said, “and I chose photos that I liked, hoping to make some money for everyone.” Included were musicians Luigi Scorcia, Greg Holt, as well as this writer. Scorcia, who is also an actor, goes as far back as Max’s Kansas City with his band Luigi and the Wise Guys, and traveled the world as the late Johnny Thunders’ bassist. He remains active on the music scene, and while his friends are familiar with his photography skills, he had never shown in a gallery. “Being in the show brought back memories of how it was in the late ’70s and early ’80s, going to little pop-up shows and seeing my friends’ work. It was how we hung, huddled, and met new people, and learned what was happening since there was no Internet or Time Out New York. The lovely curator Gina Healy hung two pieces of my work… nice to have your art bought, and to have memories of ‘Da Alphabet Jungle’ as it was.”

Musician Greg Holt’s “Flight Over Brooklyn Bridge” was part of “The Artist Behind the Lens,” a Dec. 2017 show featuring photographers known for their expertise in other areas. | Image courtesy of the artist

Holt, whose current band is “Fiddler and the Crossroads,” was formerly the fiddle player for the Tampa Bay Lightning and, in 2016, was inducted into the International Blues Hall of Fame. He’s also attracted many admirers of his photographs and his use of color. “I really enjoyed displaying my artwork,” he said. “It’s a nice, clean space that was big enough for all six of us, plus a lot of local street traffic added to the charm (and sales!).”

On Sun., Aug. 12, 1-6pm, the first annual Living Arts Festival will mark The Living Gallery Outpost’s first anniversary. Festivities include a BYO Art show at the gallery and an open mic, live performances, bands, face painting, and workshops at the Sixth St. and Ave. B Community Garden. More details available at facebook.com/events/271201630301694.

As co-founder Alexandria Hodgkins wrote in the press release, “We’ve had a year to experiment and see what people respond to. We definitely want to offer more opportunities for artists to show, develop their careers, and network in our space.” As per Nyssa Frank, “It’s been such an honor to house our gallery in a beautiful building, where the community has been so welcoming! This first year has exceeded my dreams on every level. I can’t wait for more!”

The Living Gallery Outpost is located at 246 E. Fourth St. (btw. Aves. B & C). Visit thelivinggalleryoutpost.com  . On Facebook: facebook.com/thelivinggalleryoutpost.

Actor and musician Luigi Scorcia’s “Decayed Sunset” — from “The Artist Behind the Lens,” a Dec. 2017 show featuring photographers known for their expertise in other areas. | Image courtesy of the artist

L to R: Alice Espinosa-Cincotta, Rosita Roldan, Luigi Scorcia, Puma Perl, Greg Holt, Anne Husick at the opening of 2017’s “The Artist Behind the Lens.” | Photo courtesy of Greg Holt