Saturday, March 3, 2018


All week long they had been forecasting that Sunday was going to be a badass day. I'd promised Alice I would come out to the Hamptons for the opening of her art exhibit. The Guild Hall in East Hampton had hung her most recent works and I wanted to see them and support her as well. I hate the Hamptons so this was a big commitment for me. The drive out to East Hampton is brutal so even though I'd be doing it on a lite travel time, a Sunday morning in off-season, the thought of renting a car and the responsibility of being an alert driver held no appeal for me. My two other options were the Hampton Jitney or the LIRR. The pretentiousness of the Jitney making only stops on the toney eastside was something else I didn't think I wanted to endure. The forecast for pouring rain, having to haul myself across the park to the eastside and then wait at a bus stop in the rain and wind with a two-dollar umbrella were all the reasons I needed to opt for the train from Penn Station.
I picked a 9:45 that would get me into East Hampton around 12:30. The opening was set to begin at two. I figured I could pick up a bit of lunch when I got in and then head over to Guild Hall.
The 9:45 on a Sunday morning in the off-season during a constant downpour actually provides for pretty luxurious travel accommodations since there weren't as many people as willing as I was to buck the weather and take a trip to a boarded up for the season Hamptons. It would take two trains. I needed to transfer in Jamaica to one of those double decker scenic cars. I thought traveling on top would be peaceful and provide a nice view while we chugged on toward East Hampton.
I found a seat on the upper level of the first car I entered and thought I had the car all to myself. With me I had Ann Garvin's book, I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around, and the delightful prospect of five hours on the train where I could immerse myself in her tale telling.
It was less than a minute before the doors would close and I'd continue my journey up the Island alone except for the characters in Ann's book when a group of three guys hopped on board and grabbed the three seats directly across from me. The entire car was empty but they decided on those three seats. I could have gotten up and moved but the insulting perception of a move like that didn't seem worth the effort.
I sat and tried to read while they sat immersed in a conversation on the intricate aspects of music that were way beyond my knowledge level. It certainly didn't require my eavesdropping but I couldn't avoid it either.
We passed through Babylon and Bellport and Mastic-Shirley before one of the guys opened his guitar case and his fingers began to run over a few a cords. Another one of the three finally acknowledged that I was also sitting in the car.
"Would you mind if we played a little music?"
What was I going to say? I did an eye roll and said, "No, go ahead." I closed my book, put down my phone, leaned back and closed my eyes in anticipation of an awkward assault on my audio sensibilities.
That's how I was introduced to the New Moon Acoustical Band, a single guitar, a percussion accompaniment and a voice that might have been the progeny of Tom Waits. They combined blues and spirituals into such a moving soulful sound it went straight to my heart. What a way to travel with a concert just for one.

I walked the ten minutes it took to get from the train station to Guild Hall. In the off-season especially with a drizzle overhead the main streets of downtown East Hampton seem more like a town abandoned. Storefront after storefront bore signs of "Up for Lease" hoping for a new occupant for the upcoming season. The whole scene was bleak and a little eerie. I kept my umbrella low shielding my face and watching my shoes take on a water-soaked deeper tone. It wasn't until I got through the front doors of the Guild Hall that the whole tone of the day transformed.
The Hall was packed, albeit with an older crowd. The youth of summer was not majorly represented but the older year-round crowd picked up glasses of wine and cubes of cheese spiked with toothpicks decorated with curled cellophane rosettes. There were three exhibits going on but I headed directly into the room with Alice Hope's pieces. At the entrance to the room with Alice's work was a sign warning visitors with pacemakers they might not want to attend.
This show is heart stopping. Alice has this vision where she takes the most mundane materials and gives them a new life way beyond their original intent.
From the four walls of this exhibit you can travel along the journey Alice has taken through her own looking glass. The remnants of her ball and chain phase are there but the strands of beads are now enhanced with powder coating cascading like waterfalls pouring pure delight.
Her dangerous use of magnets and metal shavings that could send a pacemaker into cardiac arrest repeats in a wall piece that dares you to touch it the way Satan offers an apple to Eve.
There's such a tactile quality to this piece that it requires a sign warning people not to touch it.
Pieces you'd usually find discarded in the trash are repurposed into sculptural icons.
Whether it's a mattress spring adorned with aluminum ball and chain, steel shot and neodymium magnets.
Or an actual trashcan festooned with ball and chain and can tabs that screams like a megaphone from the sides
yet makes you put your ear up to it as if it's a gramophone's horn when you see it head on.
Alice's newest material that she's begun to investigate is hairpins, now copper coated and used in such abundance
that they begin to have the feel and appearance of sea urchins swaying on the ocean floor.
But the stars of the show are still her can tab pieces; millions of tabs strung into giant wheels and then snaked along the floor. These pieces are gigantic in scale and amazing in concept.
Some of them are folded like huge fluid blankets hung out to dry overhead.
It's the transformation of such a fiercely cold unbendable material that makes these pieces seem warm and comforting.
I know the trip out the Hamptons isn't for everyone
but seeing Alice Hope's work and the woman chosen as New York's 2018 woman to watch is worth the journey especially if you find yourself with your own personal concert for one.

Georgia O'Keffe, 1918
Alfred Stieglitz
Represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York City

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