A new outdoor sculpture exhibition opens next weekend on the grounds of Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, featuring works by 25 East End artists, including some pieces that address the former slaveholding plantation’s past and others that promise a leave-no-trace future, using organic material found onsite that will biodegrade back into the landscape.

This inaugural exhibition runs from June 22 through Sept. 7 and is curated by Tom Cugliani, who brings to the project contemporary art expertise and a lifelong history with Sylvester Manor and Shelter Island.

An opening reception, which is free and open to the public, will be held on June 22 from 2 to 5 p.m. on the manor grounds. More info is on Sylvester Manor’s website.

Sylvester Manor has a significant pre-colonial heritage with a documented history dating back to 1651. This summer, its historic waterfront landscapes — 236 acres of forests, fields, and gardens — are settings for art that reckons with the past and imagines the future.

Among the featured artists are Scott Bluedorn and Sheila Batiste who are collaborating on “Island Labyrinth”, a monumental work in three parts, each a labyrinth in the shape of Great Britain, Barbados and Shelter Island, respectively, symbolizing the triangulated trade established in the 17th century by Nathanial Sylvester and his brothers between Great Britain, Barbados and Shelter Island. The Sylvester family ran a sugar plantation on Barbados, provisioned with oak, livestock and produce from the Sylvester Manor plantation; at the foundation of both operations was enslaved labor.

“Sculpture @ Sylvester Manor adds another dimension to our array of historical, educational, and agricultural initiatives through creative engagement with local artists and the community,” said Sylvester Manor Executive Director Stephen Searl. “We look forward to welcoming the public to experience site-specific sculptures and installations across the Manor grounds.”

Another highlight is “Surveillance Capitalism” by Christine Sciulli, an artist-activist who took a visual cue from tree stands used by hunters during deer season on the former estate. Already camouflaged by surrounding woodland, Sciulli covers the structures in reflective material, rendering them to seem optically fragmented. The piece addresses the insidious integration of surveillance and data collection into nearly every aspect of our lives.

The artist Alan Shields (1944-2005) sought Shelter Island’s natural refuge in the 1970s from New York’s avant-garde art world. Here, he continued his imaginative thinking outside commercial art market conventions. His “Bead Piece,” created in the 1970s, adapts to any environment, including an unexpected woodland setting.

Today, Shields’ work enjoys a critical resurgence, reaching new audiences who appreciate his unaffected, eccentric approach. His practice was strongly influenced by the Fluxus
Movement, which embraced chance operations and random associations.

Other artists with work in the exhibition, all with significant ties to the East End, include Monica Banks, Philippe Cheng, Peter Dayton, Jeremy Dennis, Sabra Moon Elliot, Faith Evans, Saskia Fredrich, Donna Green, Jeremy Grovesnor, Mary Heilmann, Kate Lawless, Laurie Lambrecht, Candace Hill Montgomery, Mary Ann Moy, Joel Perlman, Erwin List Sanchez, Bastienne Schmidt, Agathe Snow, Bill Stewart, Peter Treiber Jr. and Almond Zigmund.

Curator Tom Cugliani’s eponymous gallery launched the careers of artists such as Christian Marclay, Jack Pierson, and Charles Le Dray. He served as the point person for the American painter Alex Katz at Marlborough Gallery and has advised numerous private, corporate and public collections.

East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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