High Bar Harbor Artist Linda Ramsay’s Sandy Recovery Show in Philly 

By PAT JOHNSON | Mar 27, 2013
Photo by: supplied High Bar Harbor artist Linda Ramsay holds her oil painting '9th Street Beach, Barnegat Light' that will be auctioned off to benefit a local LBI artist whose studio was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.

The view from the home of High Bar Harbor artist Linda Ramsay and her husband, Dave, is stunning in all kinds of weather and all times of day. Barnegat Bay laps at the dock just a few feet from the house, and waterfowl float swiftly past in the tidal passage between sedge islands as the water makes its way to the Barnegat Light inlet.

Kayaks rest on their sides in the stone back yard, and binoculars are always at the kitchen sink in case a rare seabird, a seal or an otter comes into view.

It’s not surprising that Ramsay often paints the marsh from her back yard. She loves to paint anything related to Long Beach Island or the Jersey Shore.

The couple rented in High Bar Harbor for eight years prior to buying their home. “We kept upping the rental time we spent there until it was up to a month; that was still never enough,” she said. “So we bought the house next door to our rental, and we have been on the island for 21 years.”    

Luckily, the Ramsays’ treasured summer home was practically unscathed during Superstorm Sandy. The couple had water in their garage, but their living quarters stayed dry, a miracle Linda is quick to acknowledge. “I’m thankful and feel really bad for those not as fortunate,” she said.

Both Ramsay and photographer/friend Deborah Mix wanted to do something to help a Long Beach Island artist who wasn’t quite as lucky, so on April 5, Ramsay and Mix will open their two-woman show at Bluestone Fine Art Gallery in Philadelphia, “Rebuilding the Jersey Shore: One Artwork at a Time.” The show, which runs through April 26, is focused on all the joy the Jersey Shore brings to vacationers.

Ramsay and Mix each donated artwork for a special silent auction to be held during the show that will benefit stained-glass artist Mary Tantillo. Tantillo’s SwellColors glass studio in Haven Beach was heavily impacted by Sandy and is in the process of being rebuilt. 

The opening reception will be during Philadelphia’s First Friday arts event, from 5 to 9 p.m.; an artists’ reception is planned for Sunday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ramsay will create a plein air painting during the artists’ reception.

To help rebuild art collections lost in the storm, Bluestone will deliver and hang all artwork purchased from this exhibit free to homes or businesses along the Jersey Shore.

The artists have collaborated on art projects in the past, and they approached Bluestone Galley this time last year with an idea of exhibiting images of Philadelphia. Ramsay paints in oils while Mix works in digital photography, layering them on faux finishes she had made and then photographed. “She used to do faux finishes, so now she calls her photography ‘fauxtography,’ Ramsay said. “She gets really cool textures. They look like paintings. Some are printed on fine art paper; others are on metallic paper so they shimmer.

“We were going to do a ‘whisper-down-the-lane’ kind of thing, where I would paint one of her photos and then she would photograph my painting and then I would paint from that photo, and on and on till we had something abstract. But after Sandy happened, we decided to change the focus of what we were going to do and make it Jersey Shore scenes from Cape May to Long Beach Island. 

“In changing it, we decided we’d like to benefit an artist who lost her studio. We asked a lot of people, (including gallery owners) Matt Burton and Cricket Luker, and one name just kept coming up: Mary Tantillo.”

Some of Tantillo’s stained glass pieces will also be on display at Bluestone.

Ramsay said she has known Mix for at least 15 years; they live on the same street in Wenonah, N.J. “Our kids went to school together. I live on East Willow (in Wenonah) and she lives on West Willow; we live six blocks apart. Wenonah is only one square mile, so you pretty much know everyone in town.”

The two artists have spent a lot of time on the beaches of LBI and Cape May and also kayaking the back bays. 

“We have mutual friends in Cape May Point; I have painted the Cape May Lighthouse and she photographs a lot of the birds in the sanctuaries down there,”  Ramsay said.

Both Ramsay and Mix are represented in Wildflowers Too art gallery in Barnegat Light.

Ramsay also is a partner with Tantillo and the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in running the annual LBI Artists Open Studio Tour.

“Mary Tantillo started it (in 2004), and I joined it the second year.” 

Ramsay has been painting since she was 10 – “all my life. Then I took a break to have children and started Willow Graphics, doing birth records in watercolors. I’ve been doing that since the 1990s.”

Ramsay studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and graduated with a BA in painting and graphics design from Rutgers, Camden. “I studied abroad, Paris, France, Switzerland and Italy –Venice, Rome. That was when I was in school. We had to do drawings, and when we came back ,we painted from them.

“I got into oils in 2006 when I took a five-day workshop with Colin Page in a wilderness camp in Maine. He used have work in Wildflowers (gallery in Barnegat Light) when he was still in high school; now he’s in all these galleries in Camden, Maine.

“When I started painting again, I put it up in The View Restaurant; it used to be above Rick’s American Café (in Barnegat Light). It had just opened, and it had nothing on the walls and they were big walls, so I told the owner I was a local artist and I did big paintings. I did that for about four years, and they sold them off the walls. They would call me up and say a customer was interested.

“I paint full time now. I’ve had work at the Surflight (Theatre), and I do all the shows on the Island.”

Many of Ramsay’s paintings are large canvases. “I find it easier to paint a larger painting than a smaller one because I’m a little bit freer. I use large brushes. When I paint on a small canvas, I get too detailed.”

Her favorite subjects are landscapes: “The wetlands, images of Barnegat Light, Franks Produce in Viking Village, Blackie’s Clams, the three houses that are on the Causeway – now there are only two since Sandy; I just love those little houses. Lifeguard chairs. I get into themes – bikes, parts of bikes, beach umbrellas, the tents on the beaches in Cape May.

“I also do the Mullica River; using my palette knife, I get the feeling of the water. I seem to go back and forth between bright beach paintings and more-subdued landscapes.”

Ramsay is optimistic about the Island’s recovery from the storm. ’I think LBI has come back from its damage exceedingly well, with many stores and restaurants already open or planning to open by Memorial Day. LBI is definitely going to be ready for summer business. All the regular shows and art exhibits I normally do on the Island are still scheduled, along with some new ones. I think LBI is going to be really busy this summer with vacationers and visitors from shore towns further north that were hit harder than us.”

Tantillo’s landlord is in the process of rebuilding her store. On the Bluestone gallery website Tantillo writes: “Much of my artwork is inspired by the ocean, waves and the energy of nature. I spend a great deal of time reflecting by the water and in the ocean; reveling in its power and beauty. Recently the ocean became an uninvited guest in my art studio, destroying much of its contents.

“When I first saw it I cried. My enduring love affair had turned ugly, like a jilted lover. I thought how could this be? What will I do? But quickly, my upset turned to amazement at my salty old friend. Who else could have so perfectly exposed fragility, strength, and how quickly that can all change? Now I cannot help but appreciate the irony of my inspiration challenging me to grow.

“As a result of Hurricane Sandy, many who have suffered far worse than me have elected to just keep helping others; illuminating how delicate and resilient we are. I am incredibly grateful for my community who generously gives of themselves, resonates with love, and speeds the healing of wounds. I have gained newfound inspiration from those incredible souls who know that we all have salt water in our veins and that we are all in this together.”

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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