Bisecting the town of Easton, PA, where the church clock is stopped at ten minutes after nine, narrow Sitgreaves Street with its old graveyard and antique gas pump boasts a new art gallery. Our Garage Space Gallery is the place to be on the Saturday nights that Minni Santilli and Tom D’Angelo open their garage doors to host art openings and bands. The mood is raw, gracious, untutored, and neighborly. Minni and Tom have built a following by promoting local artists, selling art without taking a cut, holding art critiques–in general, re-energizing Easton’s arts scene.
On November 9, the show VIII opened with music by Selectronics and featuring artwork by Tom D’Angelo, Ernie Ibarra and Dane Thompson.
Tom’s studio is in the back, and you’re free to wander through his works in progress. He welcomes feedback and may not sell you that piece you dug out from under the pile yet; but he’s amused by your digging, probing and unsolicited advice. Tom collects, sands and often paints odd pieces of wood that he makes into sculptures. He seldom pays for material since he works with a contractor and saves scraps from demolition or carpentry jobs, and people constantly give him castoffs. Instead of using sheetrock, he finished a prominent gallery wall with a hodgepodge of wood scraps. The result elicits no fanfare; its meant to be formidable and functional.
He works in 3-D and 2-D simultaneously, constructing form and considering surface in one decision. He doesn’t attach too much importance to titles, yet sawn “Hurricane Sandy Logs” were individually painted “S” “A” “N” “D” and “Y.” This may be a joke about “interior decoration” meeting “exterior decoration,” suggesting that nature provides furniture after destruction, since the logs make convenient seats. He drips paint down ramps and onto surfaces and then sells both separately for the price of dinner for two. Recently, he is stacking different lengths, shapes, and colors of lumber side by side on the floor, pursuing less obvious forms of sculpture; in his words, “Things you might just walk by and not see.”
A few days before the opening, Tom and Jim Toia brought together local artists with alumnae of Jim’s Community Based Teaching Program at Lafayette College for an art critique. One former student, Andrew Rivera, showed a video that seamlessly merged three plot lines from three different movies with music, making a mash-up of drama and sound that was so entertaining that story didn’t matter. Another former student, David Nicholas, showed charcoal drawings that blended different views of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath in a soft-focus, neo-cubist style. But the highlight of the evening was Tom’s self-explanatory piece, “I don’t throw away a foldable rubber thing, I stuff it in a hole.” It broadened my classification of Tom’s sculpture to include silly, collaborative visual puns that he and Minni share. They both work long hours for money, see each other seldom during the week and enjoy making odd sculptures in the home that only the two of them would notice; hence, Tom’s sculpture is also a subtle, sly and sweet communication.
Our Garage Space Gallery welcomes proposals from emerging artists who want to show in a casual, unpretentious atmosphere. Tom and Minni attract an audience that normally wouldn’t visit a gallery, showcase readily accessible and affordable art, and regularly make sales. They don’t take a cut so the artists make more, and Tom and Minni don’t have to set up a formal business.
For the current show VIII, Ernie Ibarra made graffiti-inspired stencil paintings on plywood framed by metal sheetrock studs. A local collector commenting on “Sex Candy,” a Romney-and Ryan-in-bondage painting, said, “If Romney had won, I would’ve had to buy that.” Dane Thompson is a poster and apparel designer and a printmaker interested in social issues. In one work, “Give to the Needy,” he mocks corporate greed, picturing a black youth spray-painting the McDonald’s slogan “I’m Lovin’ It.” Both artists show promise. James Duffy also exhibited handmade leather goods.
During the opening, Selectronics (Josh Finck and Billy Freed) performed DaDa Trash Collage. My husband Matthew Crain, who is music columnist for the Easton Irregular, provided me with this description of the event:
Josh in his Greek fisherman’s cap and math teacher glasses stands over a rickety card table sagging under the weight of old audio equipment all slaved together in an orgy of inbreeding. This pile of electronic guts makes the sound of a big, blobby blob slithering through the air like an octopus in pudding while a crumbled snippet from a movie soundtrack butts heads with your mother’s scratchy hypnosis record: all this is there one moment, and then it’s gone. Josh says something to Billy, who, in a toboggan and flannel shirt, slides between the table and the wall and starts tapping a key on a kid’s keyboard while his other fingers turn the knobs they’ve lusted for all day….
In a small town like Easton, Our Garage Space Gallery is filling a void, attracting and promoting artists. So if you’re down on Sitgreaves Street on a Saturday night, look and listen for a crowd hanging around an old garage.
VIII closes at Our Garage Space Gallery at 43 north Sitgreaves St, in Easton, Pa on December 15.