Destruction as Art

Destruction is a force to be reckoned with. Destruction and life examined through art could be the themes of two complimentary exhibitions held at The South Street Gallery in Greenport through May 30.

Taking center stage is a solo show by Janet Culbertson of Shelter Island. The exhibition, Vital Signs, is a mini-retrospective of sorts. The show spans two rooms and decades of work.

Culbertson’s art portrays environment destruction in the extreme: earth is decimated and only vestiges of human life remain. Clues of a civilization lost can include solitary billboards, cracked highways, oil-soaked bird carcasses, a field of tree stumps and oil rig skeletons.

The subject is harsh and the cautionary message dire but Culbertson’s art still strikes at beauty.

Paintings glitter from their pavement-dominated or lava-hardened landscapes. Vivid colors resulting from chemical accidents are eye-pleasing. Bucolic scenes from life before destruction provide an arresting contrast between Culbertson’s imagined then and now.

The shimmering surfaces can be created through layers of iridescent pigment and coarsely-textured surfaces, according to Culbertson. Mixed media paintings can include shards of glass, tar, Japanese beetles, toy snakes and more. Other artworks use paint alone.

Artwork in Vital Signs pulls from several series (Industrial Park, Billboards, Overview and others). The show includes a piece from Culbertson latest focus: the rash of international violence erupting in response to oppression of the political kind.

Acting as a compliment to Culbertson’s solo show is a group show featuring art by nine artists. The exhibition explores life and destruction in a diverse offering of painting, installation, sculpture and mixed media works.

The painting, “THEY are killing our children” by Anna Jurinich, depicts a world where innocence ebbs as children move from the start of life into one of dangerous choices and accidents, Jurinich said.

Two sculptures by Gina Gilmour feature rice-lathered pedestals that exalt a single gun. The pieces examine the choice of sustaining life (rice) or destroying it (gun), said Gilmour.

The group show includes a mixed media wall piece by Maureen Palmieri made of plastic, tar, dirt, plants and other materials (“Parts of the Circle (detritus)”). Also, an understated interactive installation of a single butterfly by Joseph A. Esser (“Ephemeral 2.0”).

Vital Signs: A solo exhibition by Janet Culbertson is on view at The South Street Gallery, 18 South Street, Greenport through May 30. For information, visit

pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.