LACONIA — After passing like ships in the night for some years, two local artists — Maureen Bieniarz-Pond and Dennis Morton — who first met in 2007 only to part ways once again, have reunited as partners in the Imagine Gallery, which opened last month on Vintage Row downtown.
Bieniarz-Pond said that while their children went to the Laconia schools together the two first met in 2007 when she opened her gallery on Canal Street and invited Morton to be a featured artists. "He brought a van full of paintings," she recalled. By the time the gallery closed a few years a few years later, Morton, who has shuttled back and forth between the mainland and Hawaii for some time, had returned to the islands, where he enjoyed a career as a painter of portraits and landscapes.
As Bieniarz-Pond pondered reopening the gallery, Morton returned, along with the proceeds from the sale of one of his major works. "It helped get this gallery started," he remarked. The two rented a high-ceiling space in the McIntyre Block, consisting of a gallery flanked by a smaller workroom, a small shed Morton intends for a portrait studio and a basement, where they will hold classes and parties. Morton has configured the outdoor space between the gallery and shed as a patio, where he likes to hang his work in natural light, weather permitting.
Already the works of a baker's dozen artists, including the oils and photographs of Bieniarz-Pond and bold landscapes and sensitive portraits of Morton, are on display. Jasmyn Gray, familiar to those who walk the WOW Trail and ,Larry Frates, whose "Festival of Pumpkins" will grace the upcoming festival, are represented along with painters in different mediums Penny Burke, Gerri Harvey, Cam Sinclair, Michael Cowart and Mary Villaume. There is also photography by Joni Shea, pottery by Mandy Bassett and raku, hand shaped Japanese pottery used in the tea ceremony, by Steve Hayden, one of the sculptors featured on the Sculpture Walk in Meredith.
Bieniarz-Pond said that she aimed to keep it simple by showing the work of a handful of artists, but as word spread she and Morton found themselves moving their own work to make room for that of other artists. Each month the gallery will feature an "artist of the month" selected by the Lakes Region Arts Association.
Bieniarz-Pond is eager to offer Sip 'n Dip parties, open to all who are provided with the supplies they require but must bring the drink they prefer, where everyone leaves with a finished painting.
Morton anticipates teaching landscape and portrait painting. His grandmother assured him he began drawing as a four year old but he said he only made his career in art after realizing he was "a mule in a horse race" as a psychology major at Keene State College. He studied and worked with Richard Whitney of Stoddard, New Hampshire, counted among the finest portrait painters in the country, whose images of governors John Sununu Judd Gregg hang in the New Hampshire Statehouse.
Bieniarz-Pond and Morton agreed the gallery has gotten off to a good start and said they were looking forward to the turning of the leaves, which they expected would bring lots of visitors with an eye for fine art to the the Lakes Region. The Imagine Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closed on Mondays
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