Birdwatchers flock together—especially at the Waterfowl Festival, where the birds are mostly carved, sculpted, or painted. But within the downtown footprint of the 49th annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, you can find images that are neither fish nor fowl.
Oh, to be sure you’ll see art that could pass for waterfowl entries in galleries open for business or mere perusal this festival weekend. But you’ll also find basket-weaves encasing ceramic bowls and plates that are too pretty to eat off—even if you’re serving duck or goose. Or you can puzzle over tromp l’oeils and illusory collages. Not to mention Asian-influenced art that has little to do with avian muses, whether nautical or nocturnal. And you can do this all for free!
If you’re attending the festival on opening day, Friday, Nov. 8, you might consider hanging around until 5-ish for the 22nd Anniversary Champagne Gala reception at Troika, Easton’s oldest, and its proprietors say, ‘finest’ art gallery.
Located on South Harrison, near the Avalon Theater and just up the street from the Academy Art Museum, the Troika is in the middle of Easton’s cultural hub—and this weekend smack in the middle of Waterfowl Festival art venues.
“It’s one of our biggest weekends of the year—this one and the Plein Air Festival,” says Troika owner and founder Laura Era. In its first five years, the gallery was located in the Talbottown Shopping Center. “Moving here was the smartest thing we ever did,” she says. Over the years, the Troika has represented dozens of artists, 35 of whom will be represented this weekend. Nov. 8 marks a rare “Second Friday” event at Troika—evening receptions are held the first Fridays of the month at each downtown art gallery. Era couldn’t say how many of the artists whose work is on display will attend in person. “It’s all about the Bay Bridge,” Era says, noting how many lanes are open and that many artists she represents are from the “other side of the Bay” and as far north as New Hampshire.
One featured artist is Jorge Alberto, a Cuban immigrant who lives and works in Baltimore. He rates his own mini-gallery alcove in this anniversary show. You can admire, and purchase if you wish, “The Enigma of Love,” a scrapbook-style juxtaposition of a classic “why-don’t-you-kiss-me?” photo with a game-of-chance pair of playing cards—the king and queen of hearts. Next to “Enigma” is a tromp l’oeil appropriation of Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”
No waterfowl in sight here, although there are a few local waterscapes, including William Storck’s entrancing “Moonrise on the Miles” oil painting. Other artists represented in the show include Raoul Middleman, featured at the Troika during last summer’s Plein Air Festival, and Victor Nizvotsev, who demonstrated his painting technique in a First Friday reception last weekend. His stunning harlequin painting “Carnival” will grab your eye as you walk through Troika’s front door. “Victor says we all go through life wearing many masks,” recalls gallery manager Peg Fitzgerald. “He does many jesters.”
The current show runs through Dec. 31 at Troika.
On the next block north, past the Tidewater Inn on the right, the Trippe Art Gallery is celebrating its sixth anniversary by featuring a pair of disparate artists with an eye for the natural world. Angela Herbert-Hodges, a native of England’s Lake District who settled on the Eastern Shore, is a mixed-media artist who favors African landscapes populated and sometimes visually dominated by animal wildlife. Her collaged studies of the continent’s landscapes focus on species endangered by poachers and shrinking habitats. Chief among these are elephants and rhinoceros. Local artist Kevin Garber specializes in landscapes in which birds are his muse. And, yes, some are waterfowl. He’s been painting avian scenes for four decades and his work is a year-round favorite among Trippe patrons. You’ll also find fine-art photography, watercolor and oil paintings, sculpture and botanical art in this anniversary celebration through the end of November.
A few doors down, at the eclectic Green Phoenix shop and gallery, this month’s featured artists—among a rotating group of 40, says owner Andrea Tassencourt—are painter Diane DuBois Mullaly and basket weaver Heidi Wetzel. Mullaly, a painting instructor at the Academy Art Museum, said in a recent interview, “My classes are a sanctuary where joy and creativity are encouraged to flow and any negative thoughts are left outside the door.” She also leads a “Nature Sketchers” walk every first Sunday of the month at Adkins Arboretum near Ridgley. Her twin passions of serenity in painting and nature are reflected in “Chesapeake Sundown,” an oil for sale at The Green Phoenix. Nearby, Wetzel’s artisanal works in collaboration with Martha Bogan of Nevitt include woven rims framing ceramic bowls, plates and vases—the latter pretty enough to give flowers competition in a beauty contest.
Around the corner on Goldsborough, Studio B Gallery’s collection of artists will take you to the heartland and much further west, across a distant ocean, the Pacific, to Far East Asia. Betty Huang represents several Asian-American artists of international note, including Hiu Lain Chong, Jove Wang and Qiang Huang, all painters, along with plein air artist Ken DeWaard, who studied at Chicago’s American Academy of Art, and young figure sculptor Rick Casali.
Returning to Harrison Street, you might stop by the Tidewater Inn for a repast and a visit to the Library Room gallery where works by the featured November member of the Working Artists Forum, painter Scott Sullivan, are hung. A couple of blocks west on Dover Street, at the Talbot County Free Library, you can see the rest of the Working Artists Forum show, which is part of the official Waterfowl Festival. If you don’t already have a festival pass, you may need one here, though, of course, the library is open for business as usual.
Easton Galleries and Other Downtown Art Venues
Troika Gallery, 9 S. Harrison St., 410-770-9190
Tidewater Inn, 101 E. Dover St., and Talbot County Free Library, 100 W. Dover St., featuring the Working Artist Forum
Trippe Art Gallery, 23 N. Harrison St., 410-310-8727
The Green Phoenix, 31 N. Harrison St., 410-822-7554, facebook.com/greenphoenixgallery
Studio B Art Gallery, 78 Goldsborough St., 443-988-1818
Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts writer and editor now living in Easton.