Last Sunday, January 12th I was on Facebook and stumbled upon this artist event at Gallery 53. Since this gallery is right in downtown Meriden and the event started in an hour or two, I decided to go and check it out.
Gallery 53 is a small space that doubles as a gallery and gift shop. It is owned by the non-profit Art and Crafts Association of Meriden. Besides being the host to John A. Neff for the month of January, they also sell some really nifty art, I would recommend it to anyone looking for an original one-of-a-kind gift for anybody. The space was small and they are making the most of it but utilizing every little nook, wall space, and display table. My only criticism is that it feels a bit overcrowded, and the artwork of the featured artist of the month becomes hard to find, but I completely understand having to work with what you have available. Here is their website: www.gallery53.org/
John A. Neff was born in Wallingford, the next town over, and he started painting in second grade, he told me proudly. With a twinkle in his eyes he also made sure to mention his instructors, throughout his education, who encouraged him to follow his artistic talent. He studied art at Paier Art School in Hamden, CT and at the Whitney School of Art, according to the Hartford Courant press release for this show.
Mr. Neff has collected a long list of awards throughout his career for his skilful watercolor paintings. According to an artist profile on the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea, Neff is an elected member of the American Watercolor Society, NYC’s Allied Artists of America, and the American Society of Marine Artists.
As I searched for more information on the artist, I found that Neff is also one of the [limited] 150 members of the Whiskey Painters of America. Immediately I found myself asking ‘what is a whiskey painter?’ Well, as it is stated on their website:
“A genuine Whiskey Painting consists of painting a miniature piece of art no larger than 4 X 5″ with watercolor by dipping your brush in some form of alcoholic spirits,…. then possibly sipping the alcohol, thereby enhancing the painting experience.”
I found this description fascinating, one that makes me envision an eccentric genius lost in the wonders of his own thoughts drinking his paint-polluted whiskey as a reward for creating yet another masterpiece. Did I mention I daydream a lot? I do, and occasionally those thoughts will have to escape to my writing.
Pictured above is the artist John A. Neff who was happy to have me take his picture surrounded by his artwork. His paintings, I thought, had the same sort of charisma he had. Perhaps it was the warmth of his watercolors that made them inviting for the viewer. What really captivated me, however, was the depth he achieved through all those thin layers of watercolor paint. His passion for painting seascapes, and every day scenes he captured from his travels to Ireland, really translate in the vitality of his compositions which really helps move my eyes through the entire image.
This was art definitely worth seeing, and I hope you find Neff as exciting a find as I did. I am glad to be venturing out to more art events to find subject matter to write about. It is the perfect excuse to be more social and in the midst of the art community. See you soon!
© 2014 Paola Evangelista