Artists at the Southampton Cultural Center

The Southampton Cultural Center has been in existence for over 10 years, and it’s a venue that has housed great and diverse forms of artistic expression. The space has served as a gallery since 2006 and sometimes a place for classes (particularly theater). Relatively recently, however, it has expanded its focus even more, presenting plays and concerts as well. The one consistent element has been the art gallery, displaying work that is varied and lively.

Perhaps most important, the Cultural Center has celebrated local artists by bringing their previously undiscovered talent to the forefront of the area art scene.

The Center’s current show, Visual Heritage IV, is a case–in–point. Curated by Arlene Bujese, who organizes most of the exhibits, the presentation is eye-catching, stylistically diverse and purposeful. It’s also a homage to Black History Month, which, to be perfectly honest, is often neglected by the arts—not only in this region, but in other areas of the country as well.

Consider Tina Andrews who creates both diverse media and subject matter. Her portrait “I Turo” is not only dynamic, but looks like a real person, although her style is abstract. Andrews’ “Middle Earth” Series is something else again—images that focus on dense, textured forms. The impasto-produced shapes are pervasive and in some ways recall environmental paintings by Janet Culbertson. Andrews’ sculpture of a figure in chains represents another piece that is dynamic with expert use of material.

Work by Danny Simmons includes his Mask series, featuring monoprints on paper created with pencil. The effect is cheerful and lively, abstract images celebrating the magic of drawing. The aesthetics are advanced by Simmons’ employment of lines and the effect evokes a sense of play and joy.

Pieces by Reynold Ruffins (titled “Still Life”) also feature lines as a centerpiece. These shapes often resemble confetti, and the abstract configurations, while dense and colorful, also recall plants that are sprouting from the ground. Ruffins allows us to imagine all kinds of things happening in his work.

Of all the art present, Manuel Hughes’ work is the most directly political with his subtle “Rape of the Sofine Women” and the not-so-subtle “Yesterdays too” and “Yesterdays.” The latter two works use the “N” word as text, but they mask the complete spelling. Curator Bujese was wise to include these conceptual pieces in a show that is not necessarily “political.”

Brent Bailer’s paintings are totally different in purpose: His local scenes are partly realistic with a dash of Impressionism, thus creating a romantic sensibility. His couples dancing in the rainy streets and his “Night Vendor, Jones Beach” are particularly evocative. Photographs of local scenes by Rosa Hanna Scott are also evocative and imbued with nostalgia: a garage door covered with flowers, a woman in her horse-drawn cart and a farmstand (titled “Strawberry Fields”) all make the viewer feel as if we actually are in the setting.

Visual Heritage IV” will be on view at the Southampton Cultural Center (25 Pond Lane, Southampton) until Feb. 27. 631-287-4377.

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