By MIKE CHAIKEN
A Southington artist is new and now, according to the powers-that-be at the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Clinton Deckert, who has seen his surrealist abstract art hang all around the globe, is now the subject of the New/Now series at the museum. The show opened on Feb. 20 and hangs until June. An opening reception at the museum is scheduled for March 5.
The exhibit accomplishes one of the items on the artist’s bucket list, Deckert said in an email interview.
“When I began painting three decades ago, I made a commitment that one of my main goals was to have an exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art.”
“I first started visiting the museum years ago— when it was the converted (Victorian) Landers House,” said Deckert. “I can still remember the sound of the old floorboards that creaked when walking into the different gallery rooms.”
“Both the museum and I have grown over the years and I am exhilarated to now be part of its legacy. Everyone that I have met who works at NBMAA has been tremendous in his or her efforts to make this show a great success,” said Deckert.
The New/ Now show came about simply enough, Deckert said. “I submitted a portfolio for consideration.”
“When my work was selected for the show; I was overwhelmed with the realization that an epic goal had finally been reached,” said Deckert.
The show in a way is a farewell for the museum’s director emeritus Douglas Hyland and a welcome to the family for new director Min Jung Kim.
“This exhibition is the last event that was scheduled by museum director, Douglas Hyland, before he retired,” explained Deckert.
In a note to Deckert, Hyland wrote, “This will be the last exhibition I arrange for the Museum and I am very happy it will be your time to receive the much deserved spotlight. Congratulations. Good luck.”
“It was rewarding to get the final nod from him,” said the Southington artist. “I have respect for the remarkable things Douglas did for the museum during his tenure. He finalized things the same time that the new expansion opened and also welcomed the new director, Min Jung Kim. It has been an exciting time on many levels.”
For the show, Deckert said, “I selected paintings that are recent and reflect my current aesthetic. I chose work that represents who I am as an artist today.”
“This was difficult since I have hundreds of works from which to choose.”
“Once I whittled the pile down (to what could fit the room), the museum helped me select certain paintings that work well together as a consistent body of work,” said Deckert.
The collection at the New/Now show also includes some of his three dimensional pieces, which he said are “influenced by Dada (and) span a larger time period… they are made of found objects, which are gathered randomly from time to time. It may take years to stumble upon mating pieces that work together… or in the true spirit of Dada, against each other, but create a certain presence or statement.”
The museum has described Deckert’s work as Surreal Abstraction, which is their choice not his, explained Deckert. “People can call my work whatever they want to call it. Surreal Abstraction is a fair title… It gives a vague and yet curious clue about what to expect when coming to the show. I think intrigue is a good thing.”
When Deckert steps back and looks at his own work, he said, “I see the potential of infinite possibilities especially during the initial stages of a painting. Sometimes I find myself staring into them until daydreams begin. I guess that’s a good thing and it helps me resolve the artwork into it’s conclusion.”
As for those who look at his work, Deckert said, “I hope the viewer can utilize the liberty of their imagination and use these paintings as a catalyst for their own imaginative journey. I enjoy when people tell me they see things in the painting that I can’t see. I leave the paintings loose and open to individual interpretation based on ones own life experiences. Sometimes people tell me that they see something different each time they look at a painting. This is the best compliment an artist could ever hope for. It implies that the artwork has a certain built in animation from a stationary object. That is the power of the imagination.”
“In the end people will see what they want to see.”
Deckert’s show at NBMAA also will run concurrently with another exhibit, “Salvador Dalí: Cycle of Life in Print.” That show features the work of the renowned surrealist.
“Exhibiting at the same time as Dali is serendipitous and yet full circle for me,” said Deckert. “The Dadaists and the Surrealists inspired me when I first started painting while I was looking for my own signature style. I strived to blaze my own path and yet many will compare in order to justify and pigeon hole their observations, which is completely human, and I get that.”
Also during the run of Deckert’s show, the Southington artist will participate on March 20—along with several other panelists— in a discussion of the 100th anniversary of Dada.
“NBMAA suggested doing this event when they became aware (from my resume) of my appearance on WNPR, Colin McEnroe Show, ‘The Ebb and Flow of Dada’ (wnpr.org/post/ebb-and-flow-dada#stream/0.”
“It turns out that this is another serendipitous happening since Dada was born 100 years ago and now coincides with my show.”
The panel includes Deckert as well as Ron Crowcroft, an artist who has taken part in Dada provocations in England; Florin Ion Firimita, a visual artist, teacher, filmmaker, and novelist; and Jeff Poole, a Dada-inspired antagonist and promoter, who created and curated the first three Hartford Dada Art Shows.
NEW/NOW: Clinton Deckert runs at the New Britain Museum of American Art through June 7. An opening reception will be held Saturday, March 5 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
“What and Why: Dada 100-Year Celebration!” will be held Sunday, March 20 from 2 to 4 p.m.
The New Britain Museum of American Art is at 56 Lexington St., New Britain. For more information, go to NBMAA.org