One of the year's most anticipated art events, "SOLOS 2013," opened with fanfare before a full house Friday at the Westport Arts Center.
"We've been conducting this show at least five years," said WAC Executive Director Peter Van Heerden, whose 40th birthday coincided with the opening of the juried members' show. "We do two member shows a year -- one themed, like `Foodies,' and SOLOS. The SOLOS show includes artists that have a body of work. The artists are dedicated and passionate about the arts. Many are classically trained and have had significant exhibitions in the past."
Twelve artists are featured in the 2013 edition of the exhibition: Elizabeth Gourlay, Nell Bernegger, Jana Ireijo, Peter Konsterlie, Joel Werring, Gail Rothschild, Eduardo Agelvis, Becky Yazdan, Linda Kuehne, Elizabeth Nagle, Tammy Winser and Steven Parton.
"These artists offer a very strong mix of paintings," said Van Heerden. "Our juror, Susan Cross, a curator at MASS MoCA since 2007, reviewed over 100 submissions. She was not given any criteria, rather she made selections based on creating a unified presentation and common themes. She commented that these selections stood out for her."
The majority of featured artists are Connecticut-based, and were pleased to have their work for a show that has increasingly won respect the region's art community.
"It's a great honor to be selected, especially with the quality of the work in this show," said Konsterlie of the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. "There are very diverse expressions. I think my work fits in with pattern and structure. I like to deal with spatial relationships with the picture plane."
Artist Becky Yazdan, who is from Brooklyn but maintains a gallery in New Haven, is a newcomer to WAC. "I haven't shown here before and am excited about it," she said. "I work a lot from memories. My piece `Blue Room' is about a room in my parents' house when I was growing up -- cumulative experiences in this space. I'm interested in how memories change over time and often become new multi-layered realities."
Westport artist Jana Ireijo said she was flattered to be selected. "It's such a popular show," she said. "My work is introspective and I like to use pop culture references and iconic elements. I'm also a graphic artist, so I think you see that influence in my paintings, too."
Helen Klisser During, the arts center's curator and SOLOS 2013 organizer, said, "I thought it was important to get the endorsement of a major cultural institution like MASS MoCA, the largest contemporary art space in America, and to have the curator select the best work from the region," she said. "Susan Cross has done a superb job. We get a fluent range of paintings including figurative, surreal, abstract, expressionist, photo-real, minimalist and contemporary pop."
Stuart Katz, from Cohen & Wolf, sponsors of the show, noted the Bridgeport-based law firm has a connection to the Westport arts community. "One of our founders, Herb Cohen, was a Westporter and patron of the arts," he said. "The firm has long been involved in supporting the arts scene. And the bridge here in Westport that spans the Saugatuck and links to downtown Westport was named after Herb's wife Ruth Steinkrauss' family."
SOLOS 2013 runs until June 2 at Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Ave. Several artist talks and related activities are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. For a schedule and more information, visit http://www.westportartscenter.org or call 203-222-7070.