Surf City Artist’s Show Opens Saturday at m.t. burton Gallery

Artist Kristin Myers Presents ‘The Sea’s Surface’

By JON COEN | Sep 09, 2013
Courtesy of: Myers Artist Kristin Myers presents ‘The Sea’s Surface’ this Saturday, Sept. 14, at the m.t. burton Gallery in Surf City.

Surfers who make art and artists who surf usually eschew the term “surf art,” as it is too easy to pigeonhole. Their different experiences create distinctively different styles and mediums. And while events based on artist waveriders were commonplace in Southern California and New York City, a show called Where Oceans Converge at the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences in August 2010 was a first of its kind on Long Beach Island. As gallery manager of the Foundation, in Loveladies, Surf City’s Kristin Myers curated a literal convergence of East and West Coast surfing artists.

Myers managed to wrangle internationally known artists such as Andy Davis, Blakeny Sanford, Kassia Meador and Wolfgang Bloch, as well as locals Joel Dramis, Chris Pfeil, Mark Tesi and Julie Goldstein. It was something new for the Foundation, a reinvigorating type of show with a youthful edge. And it was a major success.

“That event was one of the most incredible things I have ever done,” Myers said. “I was given the opportunity to organize my dream show – artists who surf, combining the two things I love most, art and the ocean. I had no idea what I was doing, but fortunately had loads of help from the community, friends and peers, which made it all possible,” she remembered. “I made friendships and connections through that show that I still benefit from. I also believe that that show helped me to realize that as much as I loved being a curator, I really wanted to be one of the artists in the show more. That was when I got serious about going to graduate school.”

In August, Myers graduated from the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia with her master of fine arts degree. On Saturday evening, her solo show The Sea’s Surface will open at the m.t. burton Gallery on 19th Street in Surf City.

Myers’ drawings have hung at the Foundation, the Shore Institute of Contemporary Art in Asbury Park and Moore College, but this is her first solo show.

“It is a very big deal for an artist to have a solo show, especially his or her first solo show, and I am just beside myself excited for the opportunity.”

Myers has been drawing as long as she can remember – Peanuts comic characters, doodling in school, summer painting classes with the late Jane Law, oil painting lessons and even Moore College of Art and Design’s Young Artist Workshop. When it was time to pick a college, art was the only direction she wanted to go. She credits her parents for driving her to Rhode Island, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. to check out schools.

“It wasn’t until we stopped in Savannah, Ga., to look at a school on our way home from a family vacation in Florida that I finally found what I was looking for. That was Savannah College of Art and Design. It was an amazing city and incredible school. Everyone looked so happy and so involved with their art. I had to be there,” she explained. “It also had warm weather and palm trees. I was sold. When I got home, I applied immediately and received a scholarship, so it was off to Savannah.”

Savannah offered a thriving art scene with a small-town charm not far from the little waves of Georgia’s coast. Myers majored in painting and drawing with a minor in art history, and received her bachelor’s of fine arts in 2006.

“I still visit Savannah every chance I get,” she added.

After graduation came life experience – working in local restaurants, from the revered Blue in Surf City to Stefano’s, Black Eyed Susans, and most recently Mud City Crab House. She traveled to Europe, Costa Rica, California and the Caribbean for both waves and art.

“It wasn’t until I was almost finished at SCAD that I realized all my art had always been about the ocean, so I knew that I had to live close to the ocean. I was hired at the Foundation in 2008 to be the gallery manager and, after being there almost three years, was given the amazing opportunity to join my love of art and the ocean by being the sole curator of ‘Where Oceans Converge.’”

Working at the Foundation is when she also met Matt Burton of the m.t. burton Gallery.

“I think I was on the Board and Art Committee at the time, so I got a chance to get to know her,” Burton said. “She was very good at her job, hard-working, had great ideas and really struck me as someone who had a real passion for the arts. I immediately recruited her to come work for me.”

Myers came on board with the gallery in 2009 and immediately showed her value.

“As an artist it is always nice to get feedback or another point of view from other artists,” Burton said. “I get into deep art conversations with my assistants, and Kristin was no exception. She was always willing to show me her newest paintings.”

Myers jumped at the chance to work for Burton, “Although I turned out to not be a great ceramic artist,” she said, laughing, “Matt and I turned out to be great friends. “He’s introduced me to new artists, helped me with my own art, and now offering my me first solo show opportunity. I am forever grateful to him,” she added.

Attaining her MFA from Moore included a fairly heavy seven semesters. She chose Moore because of its location, but as a low-residency program, it allowed time to work in restaurants. She also got to do one semester at the Burren College of Art in Ireland.

“It was very hard, though, being out of the academic world for five years between SCAD and Moore, and then diving back in head first. Moore’s program is also very heavily focused on art theory, which I had no experience with at SCAD,” Myers explained, “So that was a wake-up call. I spent most of that first summer semester reading art theory articles for hours, trying to catch up. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I ever made it through.”

But she did make it through. She was up at 5:45 a.m. and into the studio at 7 Monday through Friday, researching her thesis, taking class and working on her sketches, not arriving home until 9 or 10 at night. It also included constant critique of her art.

“It was intense,” she mused.

Myers and her boyfriend, Jesse Westmacott, live in Surf City year ’round – surfing, paddling the bay and playing with their dog, Dagmar. She has long been inspired by Harvey Cedars-turned-California woodcut artist Julie Goldstein and has studied Margaret Kilgallen’s folk-inspired works telling traditional stories of strong and independent women with a modern twist.

“Most recently, I have been obsessed with Julie Mehretu, an Ethiopian-born artist who makes large-scale, layered drawings of architectural and landscape images referencing her home country and its political issues. I went up to NYC in June to see a solo show of hers at the Marian Goodman Gallery. Her drawings are so meticulously detailed and take over entire walls.”

LBI has never been an easy place for an artist to make a living. Our sandbar is remote, and the season to sell art to visitors is short.

“I believe there are challenges to being an artist wherever you are, but my main challenge here on LBI is being far away from the cities where more opportunities are. Even now that I am done with school, I am constantly going back and forth from here to Philly,” she explained.

This fall she secured an internship at Philly’s Space 1026.

“It’s an amazing opportunity, and I am so excited. It also means for the time being, I’ll still be making that weekly drive up to Philly. But that’s a small price to pay. On the other hand, I think it is essential for me personally, to live at the beach because it is where my inspiration comes from. I always had a hard time during my summer semesters at Moore, when I moved up to the city for a full-time class load. I missed the salt air too much.”

“The Sea’s Surface” represents a new development in her artistic path, shortly before her 30th birthday.

“Before attending Moore, her paintings were dynamic and expressive,” Burton said. “Waves and turbulent weather were the dominating theme – brush strokes and drippings echoing the forces of nature. She always had an equal passion for surfing and action painting. The new work was created by drawing with ink on noticeably smaller scale. It strikes me as labor intensive and controlled. Nature is still the subject matter with hurricanes and ripples, but I see a more global awareness in her work – not just about the energy in nature as her early work would suggest, but how that energy affects our lives, landscapes and generations. I also see a sense of calm and repetition in some of the drawings. Perhaps that signifies the reasons why we settle so close to the sea. There is a certain sophistication in the new work; there is more than what just meets the eye.”

The Sea’s Surface body of work consists of drawings Myers has made over the last 2½ years – samples from her thesis exhibition at Moore and several other works that led up to it. They are all tied to the ocean.

“When Kristin told me she was leaving to earn her MFA at Moore, I was very happy for her and told her I wanted to host her thesis exhibition when she graduated. Now the time has come for friends and family to see her art on LBI,” said Burton. “I’m very proud of her and looking forward to seeing more growth and change in her work.”

The reception runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. The show will hang until Oct. 15.

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