Oct. 9, 2003 – Mango Tango Art Gallery is inaugurating its 2003-04 exhibition season with some things new and different: a new day and time for opening receptions, and artists whose works have not been seen previously at the gallery in Al Cohen's Plaza on Raphune Hill.
Meet-the-artist receptions will be on Friday evenings, instead of Sunday afternoons. Friday's first one, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., will feature the work of painters Mace McDowell, Mel McCuddin and Daniel Pinto. McCuddin and Pinto are making their first appearance in a Mango Tango show.
The switch from Sunday afternoons is an effort to reach new audiences, gallery co-owner Jane Coombes says. "We have a loyal client base who will come out anytime we have a show, but there are a lot of other people who want to keep Sundays for their families, or to go sailing," she says.
McDowell's name and work are familiar to local art appreciators. The St. Thomas painter, educated at the Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design and Art Center of Pasadena, has eight enamel-on-canvas pieces in the show. She, however, will not be on hand for the opening. She's currently on the mainland helping look after her brother's two children. Her brother is in the Air Force, assigned to Colombia for two months, and his wife is a college student.
Coombes says that McDowell excels in rendering the human form and worked from sketches and time-lapse photography of herself in creating her new body of work. "The current works show deep influence and interpretation," Coombes says. "These are signature McDowell works. The medium of enamel on canvas gives the paintings, especially the nudes, a slick modern appeal."
When McDowell gets back on island, according to Coombes, she is hoping to help set up a weekly class for drawing from live models.
McCuddin's invitation to show in the gallery is without precedent. For the first time in its 14 years, Mango Tango is featuring the work of an artist who is not from the Caribbean, has never lived in the islands and has never even visited the tropics. Smokey Pratt, Coombes' partner in the galley and in life, hails from Spokane, Washington. They couple "discovered" McCuddin a few years ago when they saw an exhibition of his work there.
Their favorable impression of the self-taught artist's work proved unforgettable. Pratt believes that "it would be hard to feel indifference for a McCuddin painting. It's powerful imagery."
Coombes explains his unusual technique: "Using no preliminary drawing, the 70-year-old McCuddin pours, drips, rubs and wipes paint on canvas using rags, brushes and his fingertips until a painting about the human condition appears."
Six of his works will be on exhibit. Meanwhile, Mango Tango has already booked the artist for a solo show next year. "Artists should take note that he will be teaching a couple of workshops at that time," Coombes says.
Pinto, also self-taught, has been living on St. Thomas for about a year — after having worked as a commercial artist in Puerto Rico for six years and on Tortola for seven. "He has been discovering the world of fine art," Coombes says, describing his imagery as highly representational and serene, making for "a striking contrast to the work of the two other featured artists."
Living in Europe in the 1980s, Pinto "was one of the premier poster airbrush artists working with the esteemed company Verkerke," Coombes says. "His art graced the covers of airbrush magazines, Omni Magazine, and album covers for Phil Collins and Scorpion."
Now, Pinto says, "It's quite a different feeling to paint a sunset because I want to capture its beauty, rather than as a backdrop for a commercial assignment." He has six paintings as well as some prints in the show and will be on hand Friday evening to discuss his work. He's also collaborating with Mango Tango on a door prize to be awarded: the commissioning of a painting he'll do of the winner's favorite local beach.
A list of likes
Coombes is upbeat about the state of the fine art business on St. Thomas right now. "We have real collectors," she says, "people who might be interested in a picture of a beach or a boat, but who are serious about what they're collecting, who are investing in fine art." And, she adds, for the first time since Hurricane Marilyn, "camaraderie among the galleries has returned."
To some extent with that in mind, Mango Tango is setting up a Wish Book Registry, and those attending Friday's opening will be invited to become a part of it. Similar to a wedding registry, it will be a means of letting would-be gift givers know what their intended recipients like in the way of fine art. "I've never set up a database of my customers," Coombes confesses. "So, we'll be asking them to walk around the show and write down three things they would like if someone were to buy art for them."
The possibility is not all that remote, she notes: "We have people come in asking 'Which painting was my wife interested in?'" And when it's time for a corporate presentation, "they'll send someone over from the office to buy something, and that person buys what he or she likes, not necessarily what the recipient would like."
The registry will extend to the adjacent Mango Tango West Indian furniture and accessory offerings as well as the gallery holdings, she says.
Some people have already told her what they are going to list, she says: "Framing, framing, framing." Mango Tango provides that service, too.
The show will hang for a month. For more information, call the gallery at 777-3060.
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