Traveling is an excellent source of inspiration for artists and an amazing way to meet others in our field and get their story first hand. When I travel, I like to wander into the small, local galleries and feast my eyes on the creative process underway. I admire all I see, and if something speaks to my heart I’ll purchase it. Two galleries in my recent travels inspired me more than others, one in the Sniezka mountain region of Karpacz, Poland and another in the picturesque town of Rockport, MA, about an hour northeast of Boston.
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for stories. I love hearing the background to an artwork, what inspired it, who painted it and why. Which is why this particular gallery got my money. My fiancée and I walked into a small gallery shop at the bottom of the mountain Sniezka that we just hiked, looking for something unique to take back with us. There was a wall in the back of the shop, past all the different sculptures and textiles, displaying local artwork. They were all different sizes, but a similar style, of the surrounding landmarks, painted with oils on an irregular bark canvas and embellished with gold leaf. The store owner saw us quietly admiring the artwork, and shared the story behind the art with us. She said each piece is done by a young girl that lives in town. The girl is mentally disabled, but loves to express herself through art and has created all these beautiful pieces. That’s all it took, we purchased two small paintings feeling a special connection to the artist, whom we’ve never met. I walked out of the gallery hoping that this girl continues her craft and that she gets well compensated for her skill. What really stood out for me in her art, was its uniqueness. We’ve looked at many postcard type paintings of the mountain and local spots, and admired their skill and use of color, yet these ones, monochromatic in tone but intentional in detail, caught our eyes because of their unique style and form.
Another gallery that I have fond memory of is more local, in the picturesque town of Rockport, MA. Rockport is a little town next to Gloucester, which has gained some fame through the movie “The Perfect Storm”. Its breathtaking location right on the water attracts many visitors each year. The town has a very serene, romantic feel to it, especially out of season before the flood of tourists. We randomly drove through the town on our way back from a short day trip, and loved it so much we decided to stop for the night at a local motel. While taking a stroll through the streets and making our way towards the water, we stopped at about half a dozen little shops and galleries with a single block. The area is filled with them, all showcasing artwork by local artists in different media and different styles. Daniel noticed the Kaihlanen Gallery before I did and braced himself for a break in my walk, knowing it would catch my eye. And it did. The window was filled with bold, colorful acrylic paintings of not only the surrounding landscapes and landmarks, but also of imaginative, whimsical scenes. A bright, vertical painting of a giraffe immediately caught my attention and drew me into the gallery. Once inside the gallery, my eyes only widened. This was going to be difficult, picking out just one artwork to take home. The gallery has several rooms leading from one to another, and each wall was covered with beautiful art. We listened to the artist, Lauri Kaihlanen, share his love of painting and the influence of his mother’s (and fellow artist) love of color. We picked out a couple matted, unframed pieces showcasing the iconic red barn covered with buoys and of a lighthouse. If our budget allowed, I would have selected several more. While we enjoyed the truly unique and whimsical art, we also have fond memories of talking to the artist himself, as his friendliness and infectious personality is easily reflected in the artwork.
So when you travel, take time to stop by the small, local galleries. These artists have a strong connection to the area and will often give you a new perspective on the location and its beauty.