A colorful reunion: Former gallery co-owner organizes pop-up art show

There used to be an art gallery in Newburyport called Chameleon, which was a fitting name because the works on display were constantly changing.

“It covered everything from beautiful fine art down to wind-up toys for the holidays,” said Leslie Scanlon, who worked at the gallery for 13 years. “There was ceramics, sculpture, photography — it was really unusual. I couldn’t think of any place to compare it to.”

Gallery co-owner Christopha Fitzmaurice also held three-day art salons at her home in Ipswich every fall, which were well-attended by clients and added to the sense of community among the artists she represented.

“They were so big, we had parking attendants in the field,” Scanlon said. 

Fitzmaurice and co-owner Lucinda Cathcart closed Chameleon’s doors after 20 years in 2014, bowing to financial pressures. 

But 10 of the artists who used to show at their gallery have missed it so much, they lobbied Fitzmaurice to hold a pop-up show of their work during the upcoming holidays.  

She has obliged them by organizing Artapalooza, which will be held for the 12 days before Christmas at the Hall-Haskell House in Ipswich.

“It’s the information center during the busy summer months,” Fitzmaurice said. “Also, the front room is available to artists all over the North Shore to have shows there. It’s not a huge space, but it’s a great little space for artists to show in, at minimal cost to them.”

Where Chameleon would normally have around 350 works of art on display, Artapalooza will adapt to Hall-Haskell House by showing around eight or 10 works by each artist.

The group includes Janice Eaton Updike, who lives in Newburyport and creates pastel still lifes and landscapes, and Cathy Connor, an artist who runs Connor Summers Gallery in Newburyport.

“Cathy Connor does this very dreamlike work, with a Chagall-like quality, dreamlike and soothing and beautiful,” Fitzmaurice said. “She also does these wonderful carved birds that she’s painted.”

Scanlon, who lives in Newbury, is a printmaker and has designed knitwear over the past 20 years. She will display recent work in ceramics at Artapalooza.

“They’re all functional, and they all snuggle up to each other,” she said. “A lot of people feel like they look like people in conversation. I put 30 of them on a table, and people rearrange them constantly.”

Scanlon doesn’t use a potter’s wheel but builds her ceramics from slabs of porcelain or studio clay that she first rolls out.

“If you notice, around the rims, they’re uneven and wobbly,” Scanlon said. “They have a very handmade, touched-by-hand feel about them.”

The artists also include Marcia Hermann of Beverly, Sarah Winderlin of Ipswich, Julie Adinolfi of Lynnfield and Donna Baldassari of Lynn.

Steve Negron, a Lynn resident who is the assistant registrar at Endicott College, will display paintings that feature elements we recognize — people engaged in some action, along with a tree, a pool or a chair — but are part of a world whose nature is obscure.   

“I’ve always been telling stories in my pictures, even as a kid sometimes,” he said. “I look at these paintings, and I think that they’re like the things I did before I was formally trained.”  

Negron, who studied art at Parsons School of Design, said that his paintings have been described as visionary, outsider and naïve, and he’s OK with all of those adjectives.   

He thinks they have a gothic quality, and his paintings remind him of ancient Egyptian art and 18th-century Japanese prints.

“I’ll get an idea for a figure in space and then whatever position they’ve taken guides me toward the rest of the picture,” Negron said.

Mary Pollak, an Ipswich resident who owns Indigo Artist Studio in Newburyport, will also exhibit at Artapalooza along with Maria Malatesta, a Rockport woman who teaches at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly and will bring one large painting from her “Field” series.

“They’re very intuitive, but they’re landscape-based,” she said. “Not that I’m trying to depict a particular landscape, but they’re definitely influenced by nature. It’s about the energy and the marks and the color and the space.”

Malatesta said that she has learned a lot from looking at Claude Monet’s late paintings, where his gardens and waterlilies veer into abstraction, and also at the work of abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell.

“She picked up where he left off,” Malatesta said. 

Malatesta’s paintings are about color relationships, and her work at Artapalooza will include small several small grids, measuring 4 inches by 4 inches, which grew out of a series of paintings that she made of stripes. 

“They actually are a lot of work for a tiny little painting,” Malatesta said. 

She was one of those who asked Fitzmaurice to organize Artapalooza, and she said that the artists who exhibited at Chameleon felt like members of a family. 

“We all miss the gallery and her enthusiasm,” Malatesta said. “You’d bring something in, and she’d love it.” 

If you go

What: Artapalooza: Holiday Pop-up Group Exhibition and Sale

When: Dec. 12-24, with opening reception Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 4 to 8 p.m. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Also open Monday, Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

Where: Hall-Haskell House Gallery, 36 S. Main St., Ipswich 

How much: Free admission

More information: 978-356-8540, www.facebook.com/IpswichVisitorCenter or www.historicipswich.org/ipswich-visitor-center