With its last show of the season running from Saturday, Sept. 9, through Oct. 9, SOMA NewArt Gallery in Cape May will feature an annual favorite Stan Sperlak, as well as an artist who hasn’t shown at SOMA in “quite some time,” according to Stephen Haas, associate director at SOMA.
In fact, it’s been four years since Sam Donovan exhibited at SOMA. Donovan, a charmingly funny and plain-spoken man, admits he isn’t real “artsy” when it comes to describing his work.
“I just paint stuff that I like to look at,” he states. “I try to communicate what interests me in a way that interests someone else.”
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A former billboard painter, he also held a “really neat job” with Spencer Gifts, for whom he traveled all 50 states and beyond painting graffiti-like, city-inspired murals on their storefronts.
“I made the new stores look old,” he laughs.
His paintings for his SOMA exhibit, titled “Salty Odds & Ends,” are anything but urban, composed mostly of images of the Maurice River and Delaware Bay.
Donovan’s interest in this scenery stems from growing up fishing on the Delaware Bay.
“When I was little, my grandfather would take me fishing every Wednesday in the summer — on the boat called the Sweetheart in the ’50s and ’60s — the oyster houses were all still there, guys were shucking oysters and hanging out on the wharves when we would come in,” he reminisces. “To see it all gone … there’s nothing left but what’s at Bivalve.”
His latest endeavors may skew toward nostalgia, but he also tries to center in on the here and now, like when painting woodcocks.
“It’s just a really cool, really neat little bird that migrates south but gathers in Cape May first … I have a Brittany spaniel who loves to point them out to me,” he chuckles. “Very few people have a connection to that sort of thing anymore. They’re busy living life through electronic devices. We don’t get mud on our feet or get dirty anymore — we stay inside.”
Donovan is excited about the opportunity to show his work at SOMA again, where he plans to have just under 10 originals hanging.
“SOMA has been great. They’ve encouraged me to paint,” he says. “The opportunity to show work … it’s great to get a reason to do it.”
Sperlak’s ‘The Silence of the Cape’
While Sam Donovan’s exhibit hangs in one gallery at SOMA, Stan Sperlak’s “The Silence of the Cape” will be on display in another. It will be the 10th solo exhibit that Sperlak has had at SOMA.
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Focusing on plein air landscape, his exhibit will include many of Sperlak’s signature ocean, bay and marsh scenes. The dichotomous nature of his pastels is the blending of brilliant and vibrant colors with delicate atmospheric subtleties.
“As a person who walks the landscape, feels the soil and shares the light, I must have been affected enough along the way to realize it was important to share. My desire is to record for others that feeling, that honesty and that vision,” Sperlak says. “I add painting to my oeuvre that includes astronomy, horticulture, nature history and a love of travel.”
A former student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a juried member of the Pastel Society of America, the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters, the Maryland Pastel Society, the North Carolina State Pastel Show and the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts in Millville, Sperlak is a master at mixing pastels to create light and evoke mood.
“Art can be many things to many people, for it is a personal voice, and therefore begins deep within that person.”