From spring through the fall, the Southampton Historical Museum will run concurrent exhibits by impassioned East End painters. Views of Southampton will display the works of Pat Garrity and Into the Deep will feature the paintings of Paton Miller. Garrity and Miller are both prolific artists with a knack for harnessing and amplifying Long Island’s natural beauty. Our local bays, beaches, farms and woodlands are a muse for both as their works elevate the imagination and stir wanderlust in the soul. The scenes they interpret invite the viewer to hop in his/her car, drive off and find the first unexplored side road in search of natural communion.
“Tidal Ripples,” image: pat garrity
According to curator Emma Ballou, the museum has gone to great lengths to match the work it will display to the space where they will display it. “Even though these two artists are both inspired by the beautiful landscape of the East End, their style and technique couldn’t be more different,” said Ballou. “Paton Miller’s artwork will be exhibited in our recently reconstructed 1825 Sayre Barn, which will lend a beautiful rustic quality to Miller’s deep and imaginative contemporary landscapes. Pat Garrity’s artwork will be featured in the Music Room of the Rogers Mansion, her classical style and crisp landscapes are the perfect match for this sophisticated room.”
Garrity’s landscapes are borderline photographic. Colors are ever so slightly accentuated, sharpened to an exquisite point within realistic range. Every brushstroke seems to glisten, absorb and reflect light—walking the line between literal reality and a heightened state of sublime awareness. The paintings invite us to step into them, to imagine ourselves in that place, that moment in time, that shutter click of captured light.
“I have always been fascinated by the ways that light changes what we see,” said Garrity. “One can be in the exact same spot on different days, or different times of the day, or when a cloud passes by the sun and what we see is completely different. One would think that I would have been a photographer as it is a faster process to record what one sees than to paint it. But I hope to get a tiny bit of how I feel about what I see into the painting. I hope to communicate that one moment that captured my attention.”
“October Sky” (oil on canvas) exemplifies just such a place and time. It is quintessential Long Island as it depicts what might be a roadside view of a long stretch of yellowing farmland in autumn. Billows of seductive and textured weather roll up, over and around rows of trees saddened by summer’s temporary betrayal. It’s a piece that begs us to breathe deep, to stare into its depth of field and soak up its picturesque postcard sensation.
“Dusk at Scallop Pond” (oil on canvas) magnifies Garrity’s love of light and her expertise with depict- ing it. Here rippled blues are sharp to the point
of psychedelia, yet remain rooted in reality. And her tall, green grasses carry just a hint of yellow in their reedy, windswept length, both absorbing and reflecting hints of sunlight from the “magic hour.” It’s a fine cinematic snapshot of solitude.
While Garrity’s interpretations root us firmly in one moment, Paton Miller’s work carries a certain world weariness—a pastoral ennui of muted transcendence. Like Bob Dylan’s poetry—Miller’s oil and linen works bespeak hard earned experience, with subtle layers of phantasmagoria that stir memories of the works of Marc Chagall. His paintings are not overly literal, but they are literary, depicting specific times and places but also speaking to all times and places.
“I spent a year, from 1973 to 1974, backpacking around the world, mostly Asia, visiting stupas in Nepal and mosques in the Middle East,” said Miller. “Around this time, I became very influenced by 19th century French and Spanish painting, Goya and Daumier in particular. [My process is] painting the world that I see, especially when I travel.”
Like Goya, Miller’s figurative work is slightly askew; featuring a spooky perspective that evokes the prominent, exaggerated visual contours of totems and exotic masks, and his landscapes often fade to washes of abstract coloration. In his myriad subjects—stoic donkeys (a specific toast to Chagall?), lonely dogs, snoozing cats, and strange solitary figures—Miller projects warmth, pathos and a sense of elusive and intoxicating tropical island spirit.
“Blue Dune,” image: patron miller
“Blue Dune” (oil on panel) may best exemplify Miller’s balancing act between concrete and abstract and certainly is an organic nod to Picasso’s world of blue. The piece is a hazy dream where a concrete pathway invites our journey into the mist. Surely the beach is on the other side, but Miller’s muted sense of mystery gives us a belief in the great beyond.
“Olde Town Road” (oil on panel) is slightly more concrete but no less ambiguous. As a sole dog stands in the road, we sense its howl, its calling, maybe even its warning. A lonely road winds away into the depth of the painting with dirt browns and hints of earthen yellow. The entire piece speaks to the path not taken—and dares us to walk it alone.
Both Garrity and Miller embrace their collective gifts for interpreting the natural world with exactitude and wonder. And they have the ability to carry us away. As they focus on the East End’s bottomless natural beauty, the journey is all too welcome.
Into the Deep: Paintings by Paton Miller will run from mid-May to mid-October at the Southampton Historical Museum. Pat Garrity’s Views of Southampton will run concurrently. The opening reception for both exhibits will be held May 15th, 4—6pm, with free admission and refreshments. For more info, visit southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org.
Drew Moss is an SAT/ACT specialist, college advisor, journalist and ﬁlmmaker. He guest lectures at Adelphi University and lives in Long Beach with his wife and children. See his work at drewmoss.com.