Start with Art

5 Local Abstract Artists to Watch

It’s not size or budget that matters when creating an exciting interior space; it’s the presence of personality.

As a professional "home stalker" for the website and blog Designport, I’ve toured dozens of local homes to share their stories. I’ve observed how well-chosen furnishings, lighting and accessories can create the most beautiful and livable spaces. But the most memorable homes have one common feature: interesting art, books or other personal artifacts on display. Even if it takes you years to furnish your dining room (hello, me), if you hang a painting or framed photograph you love in your entry, your house becomes a home. Not only does art infuse color, pattern and personality into your room, but purchasing original artwork supports a local artist and/or gallery. And your initial investment could increase in value years later, which is more than you can say for most coffee tables.

Because finding art is easier said than done, here’s a round-up of some local artists to watch, specifically abstract painters and printmakers. Our community is blessed with a trove of talented pop artists, fine art photographers, landscape painters, and sculptors too, but as I'm limited to 5 I chose to hone in on abstract art because of its emotional and decorative impact, contemporary appeal, and, often, accessibility when it comes to pricing.  

Liz Leggett is an accomplished artist whose paintings and drawings have been shown nationally and internationally. Her exhilarating paintings focus primarily on the interplay between abstraction and imagery which creates a visual tension that is open to the viewer's interpretation. Her use of color and markings elicits a visceral emotional response: from frenzy, to hope and joy. Liz is the former Director of Exhibitions at MoCA Westport and now works as an Art Advisor and Independent Curator. She has an upcoming exhibition this summer in Europe (Switzerland). Contact: lizleggett24@gmail.com. Website: www.lizleggett.com 

Jay Petrow switched from a corporate art director job, launching a landscape design business and fine art career over 15 years ago.  He began painting in an abstract expressionist style after many years of representational work “in order to connect with and express my experience fathering an autistic child.” The love, humor, sadness and overwhelming emotions Petrow has wrestled with come through in vivid color in each brushstroke on his canvas. Westport-based Petrow spends his winters painting while during the warmer months, he keeps his creativity flowing creating naturalistic gardens for local homeowners. Contact: jay.petrow@gmail.com, www.jaypetrowfineart.com, petrowgardens.com 

Gali Katz is a Westport-based artist whose work includes drawing, printmaking and collage.  Her colorful, emotional compositions speak to themes like childhood, domestic life, specifically the anxiety of parenthood, and simple pleasures. Through her sublime work, Katz attempts to "reconcile conflict and reveal joy in the roles she plays as mother, child, stay at home parent and modern day human." Contact: galizkatz@gmail.com, www.galikatzartist.com

Jen Greely has a Masters degree in Demography and was once on the faculty at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, but she left academia to focus on family and pursue her passion for art. A classically trained painter, she has expanded her mediums to include watercolor, inks, encaustic and printmaking. Recent work incorporates various forms of printmaking with chine collè elements of mark making and hand stitching. These series of delicate monoprints and etchings explore the nature of time passing, "as loose threads evoke unfinished work and cast ephemeral shadows on the paper below." Contact: jzgreely@gmail.com, www.jengreely.com

Claudia Mengel is an accomplished painter and printmaker. Her compelling compositions strike a balance between form and abstraction with large fields of color punctuated by marks that evoke movement and emotion.  Mengel's work is in many private collections in the tri-state area, and she exhibits at several galleries. Contact: claudiamengel@claudiamengelart.com,  www.claudiamengelart.com

While on the hunt, also make a point to pop into local contemporary art galleries Amy Simon Fine Art, Clarendon Fine Art, Sorelle Gallery and Swoon Westport to see some of the above mentioned artists and other incredible works in person.

And it's worth checking out the Westport Artists Collective (artistscollectiveofwestport.org), Metro Art Studios (metroartstudios.org), Firing Circuits Studio (firingcircuitsartists.com), The Norwalk Art Space (thenorwalkartspace.org) and the Center for Contemporary Printmaking (contemprints.org). Some have open studio hours, all have lists of artists in residence and image galleries on their websites. And don't forget to visit MoCA Westport to view note-worthy work from local and nationally recognized artists. 

Finally, remember that the most important factor in making an art investment is feeling an emotional connection to the piece. So forget about the rug or the night-stands for a while, and start with art! Your interior designer, if you've hired one, will support the decision. Because great art will elevate your space, enhancing all of the other improvements you are making in your home, too. 

Don't stop here, Designport is always featuring artists on our Instagram @my_designport and on our website www.mydesignport.com. There are so many talented artists to love and so many lists to make, so check our sites throughout February for more roundups and special features. 

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