Thursday, December 10, 2015

Andrew Houle is one of our resident artists here at The Porter Mill who curated our September show Urban Romantics as well as our show from October, ABOVE/BELOW/WITHIN, which he also contributed work to. We got a chance to sit down with him and learn a bit about his life, work, and how this show came together. 

Growing up in the 80s, Andy became fascinated by cartoons and comic books and quickly realized he had a talent for drawing them himself. By his Junior year of high school, he began taking advanced placement art courses, and soon enough, he began thinking about which college he might want to attend to pursue his passion. When asked how he decided on Montserrat, Andy said, “I blame Dave Ferreira”. While at Dracut High School Andy met Dave, a current instructor at Montserrat, through mutual friends. “He was by far the best…he could draw comic books the best out of everyone in high school. And it wasn’t even close. What he could do seemed so unbelievable that we idolized him and I found out when he graduated, he went to Montserrat for college. Just knowing that Dave went here, truthfully, is what made me originally look at the school” Andy said. 

Although it was a tough choice between Fine Art and Illustration, Andy ultimately chose Illustration as a concentration at the end of his Junior year at Montserrat. Interestingly enough, he says his professional work doesn’t have a lot to do with being an illustrator (since most of his works are oil paintings), however, he wouldn’t change anything about his career path. 

During his time at Montserrat, Andy, like many who visit Beverly, fell in love with this “coastal town that really embodies New England and has such a great sense of community, with music and galleries, and all the culture up here” Andy said.

Not long after he graduated, Andy found an apartment in Beverly and began working out of a studio in Lynn. His everyday commute from Beverly Farms to work, then to Lynn to paint at the end of the day, became exhausting. One day, as Andy was driving down Rantoul Street, he saw a banner at Porter Mill Studios advertising studio spaces. Andy immediately pulled over and ran inside to meet the Gallery Director; he inquired with the director of the gallery about renting a space. Andy didn’t know much about the former RedBrick Art Center other than the fact that many talented artists had worked out of these studios. That, along with his discovery that there was an open studio space in such a convenient location (three blocks away from his current home), was enough for him to decide to join this new community.

Over the past four to five years since he’s moved in, Andy had a variety of studio-mates. His first studio was shared with two of his friends. When they left and he wanted to stay, he knocked on the door of jewelry maker Jesse Dangers’ studio and said “hey, you don’t have anything on your walls, do you mind if I move in?” Although they weren’t aware of it at the time, Andy and Jesse had been renting studios in the same building in Lynn before they moved to Porter Mill. The two realized they had more in common than they thought and quickly became friends.

During his time at Porter Mill, Andy has gotten to know many of his neighbors. “The community here is fantastic” he said of the Porter Mill; “The community here is so good, that I get absolutely no work done when I come here. I tend to come in and most of the people here I’ve met are so warm, friendly and welcoming that you end up wanting to catch up with them like they're your friends. Which I think is the best part about this building, coming in and seeing a lot of the people that are doing all of the same things that you're doing; they're trying to find success as an artist, and they're trying to further their career.” Although sometimes he finds it hard to be productive in such a social environment, Andy clearly finds a way to focus on creating his rich, luminous paintings. He seems to have found the perfect place for his practice to call home, he said, “unless they throw me out of here, I’m never leaving”. 

Andy had a hand in curating September's show “Urban Romantics” as well as October's “ABOVE BELOW WITHIN”. This particular show featured the work of Andy, Morgan Dyer, Anthony Falsetto, George Frary III, and Loren Doucette; each interpreting landscape in their own unique style. Andy explained the ties between the realist and abstract works:

“Lauren is sort of the glue of the exhibition, where we are exploring a range of approaches to the landscape and interpreting landscape. I admittedly am on one end of the spectrum, as I guess a Realist, although I’m not super comfortable calling myself a Realist. Although I guess if I was to fit into a category, it would be sort of American realism. It doesn’t appear that way, but I’m trying to not actually be an American Realist. I think Loren is really the bridge to Morgan’s work next, then George’s work, then at the opposite end, Anthony’s work, where interpreting landscape really breaks down to abstract shape and form, push and pull, and mostly dealing with colors that you find in landscape, and line, and it’s a gorgeous show, I’m really proud of the show and all the work everybody put into it. There was too much really, really wonderful work that came into the show and it was difficult omitting some of the pieces”.

With such different approaches to painting, arranging the show was not a simple task. Andy said “the connections between line and space were big parts of what we were doing hanging the show. It was this really fun thing happening, laying the pieces next to each other and seeing these similarities in work that most people… would not put together, but the way the show has been hung…curated and installed, you really can see connections in the pieces as you walk through the show, and I think …you’ll be able to put that together as you walk in.” 

This carefully curated show is an excellent display of tying together such varied depictions of landscape. The pieces are able to complement each other in a way that creates a strong sense of visual rhythm and motion. Andy continued: “I can’t speak highly enough about these other artists and about how great it is to finally get this together and we’re already talking about this show maybe going somewhere else after, maybe going to Boston, or finding proposals for somewhere else.” 

Check out more of Andy's work on his website 

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