The Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye may be a little off the beaten path, but the gallery’s new director hopes to make it a must-see. He plans on doing this by putting exhibits in the hands of the artists and offering an alternative choice to conventional galleries.
David Christopher interned at the gallery this past August, while he was still a student at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. After graduation, this internship blossomed into a job as gallery director, which began last month.
“It is pretty exciting,” Christopher said. “It has been a big change from submitting to galleries to receiving submissions. Before I would drop off artwork and walk away.”
Christopher’s debut exhibit, called “The Master Artists Show,” will open March 17. For the exhibit, Christopher has hand-picked artists he has admired from afar for some time. He said some are friends while others are classmates from the Art Institute.
“It was nice to be able to offer these people whose work I admire a spot in our show,” Christopher said.
Christopher said his work as gallery director has been well received so far. He attributes this in part to Soo Rye Yoo, an abstract artist of note who had a long career in her native South Korea before coming to the United States. When she did, she needed to attend art school here, so she spent two years at the New Hampshire Institute of Art even though she could have been teaching there. As a result, many of her friends were instructors whose work Christopher referred to as “insane.”
For the Master Artists Show, which Christopher said will be an annual exhibit, Christopher tapped into Rye’s extensive network of artists. These artists include Christopher Pothier, Mary Graham, Alison Williams, Maureen Mills, Sarah Heimann, Brian Crowley, Theresann D’Angelo, Bill Cass, Soo Rye Yoo, Christopher Lee Donovan, Leslie Parke, Marcus Greene, Polly Becker and Soosen Dunholter.
Christopher enjoys the process of discovering new artists. While the gallery does get submissions, Christopher said it doesn’t get as many as one would think. He said they often come from out of state, like California or Florida. But the Soo Rye Art Gallery wants to focus on local artists, which is why Christopher aggressively pursues artists online. He said he will often look at one artist’s blog and then from there check out the blogs of that artist’s friends.
What the artists enjoy about Christopher’s approach to an exhibition is the flexibility.
“It’s really nice,” Christopher said. “I tell the artists to do whatever they like to do.”
He said there was no theme for the Master Artists Show and that he encouraged the artists to contribute their personal work. He said this allowed for maximum creativity and could showcase artists’ different styles. For example, he said one figure painter did reclining nudes on a sofa, while another photographer also did nudes but photo-edited teacups on the heads.
“The subject matter could be repetitive but since it is done by two different artists it comes out differently,” Christopher said.
It is all part of Christopher’s overarching goal to get more people to visit the gallery. He wants patrons to know the Soo Rye Art Gallery will feature work that goes beyond traditional New Hampshire art, which Christopher described as focused on the state’s physical landscape. He gave the example of Christopher Lee Donovan, whose work he has been following for years. Christopher said one would never be able to guess Donovan was a New Hampshire artist.
“When you allow the artists to choose what they depict, then you get to see them at their most vulnerable,” Christopher said. “This gives the viewers an intimate look into the artist’s thought process.”
This connection is why Christopher said so many of the artists will attend the opening reception on Saturday, March 19. Christopher wants people to be able to buy art but also feel as if they’re supporting the artist. This has worked well for Soo Rye Yoo as people who have purchased her work in the past will often stop into the gallery just to talk with her and catch up.
“It keeps people close,” Christopher said.