Final Exhibition at Coastal Contemporary Gallery
Featuring Shari Weschler *Sumo Bunni and Deena Smith
CLOSING PARTY Friday April 22, 2022 5:00 PM
Coastal Contemporary features paintings and photography by artist, curator, small business owner Shari Weschler, in collaboration with photography by Deena Smith. This serendipitous collaborative took root in 2020 and grew into a strong bond and friendship across a struggling nation, stitching California to Rhode Island during a pandemic.
Weschler shares a small visual journey of her life beginning with the gallery's inception in 2018 through 2021. Images taken at the gallery, in Newport and a few of her pandemic self portraits exhibit along with six of Smith's imagery using time-laps videos from an installation with artist Karen Dolmanisth in April 2020, (full lockdown) and an additional four masterful digital creations using Weschler's pandemic self portraiture.
By Deena Smith
In 2019, before we all became fluent in pandemic speak, I saw an Instagram post by an East Coast Artist that struck a chord. The poignant polite exchanges lured me into the magical world of Sumo Bunni and her talented stylized creations and wildly thought-provoking posts. We became fast friends and found many deep affinities that bounced off and inspired each other. We’ve mastered this timely phenomenon that social media lends itself to, breaking through distance and helping folks like us to adventure, learn, find inspiration, and in my case, help heal my broken artistic spirit.
Awestruck, I started taking in Sumo Bunni’s resplendent paintings and her beautiful photographs and discovered she was a soul destined for great artistic expression. As I leaned in further, I could feel a flood of latent and repressed artistic powers breaking free. I’m confident she mid-wifed my artistic rebirth. I felt seen, heard, and heartfully nurtured and what artist, heck… what human doesn’t want that? We promised each other right through this whole unprecedented world crisis to one day have a collaborative show together, and damn—she made it happen.
The survival selfies that Sumo Bunni posted from 2020-2021 quickly became a treasure trove of material I borrowed and made my mad-scientist collagist versions of. She accepted these with the grace and generosity that only an artist with her talent and well-earned confidence could. I won the lottery in winning a creative collaborator, friend, and in terms of my art—a true teacher. These six pieces were chosen with her keen and precise eye. They are here to compliment her amazing talent, and I’m so grateful that she has opened both her gallery and spirit to these. I hope you find whatever it is you are unaware you were seeking as I artistically have. What a gift.
Shari Weschler * Sumo Bunni
Shari Weschler, branded as Sumo Bunni, is a figural narrative painter who exhibits nationally and internationally. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, with concentration in painting and art history. While attending MICA she also studied drawing, printmaking and gelatin silver photography.
Weschler's arts related professional experience includes, Studio Assistant for an avant-garde quilting artist, Artist-In-Residence and Elementary Arts Education through her company Artrageous Adventures. Her curatorial experience began in Baltimore in the 1990s for The Ellicott City Theatre Gallery and continued into Rhode Island in 2013 as a partner and curator/gallery director for Coastal Living Gallery in Wickford and Warren RI. She hosted over twelve exhibits a year and was invited as guest juror for The Warwick Museum of Art, Spring Bull Gallery, WAA & PAC. As a Co-Founder of Providence Center for Photographic Arts (PCPA) she co-curated an exhibition of exceptional northeastern female photographers honoring Women’s Month, March of 2017.
Weschler is an owner and the director of Coastal Contemporary Gallery founded May of 2018 in Newport, Rhode Island. CCG represents over thirty national and regional artists with an expanding list of guest artists. She believes strongly in collaboration and building bridges. Exhibitions are rotated on a three-week schedule hosting champagne events each month to honor the art and artists.
Her own artwork has toured globally with the Affordable Art Fairs throughout Europe, Asia and NYC through Retrsopect Galleries and Artzandra Gallerie. She was the featured artist for the sponsor of Affordable Art Fair, Stockholm 2017. Currently, Weschler is represented by An Inclusive World, (COPE) NYC, Woodman Shimko MA, Coastal Contemporary RI, Carver Hill ME, Skye Gallery Providence, RI and has been published in numerous online and print publications.
I can thank my mother, a professional artist and lifetime educator, for instilling the confidence in me to explore and create art. Living with a master art teacher came with a variety of benefits as well as several challenges. I can’t claim to have been self-taught, yet I didn’t have any formal artistic education. Nonetheless, all her creative nurturing eventually found its way into me, whether she directed her lessons to me or I simply picked up knowledge from them. My mother’s artistic influence also cultivated an inherent sense of observation of the nuances in life, relationships, and hierarchies that both hold and hinder us.
I love art.
I love art history.
I love making art and creating things.
I love coming up with ideas then figuring out how to make it happen.
I also love artists, and I have enormous respect for the creative process. As a youngster, when it became ‘work’ to discover the elusive sweet spot for nearly every artist, I fled. I became a touring musician, songwriter, and guitar player for several bands. That crazy existence taught me about my creative process and the triumphs and challenges of finding “the flow.” It also left me with an insatiable thirst for travel. I eventually grew out of that opulent lifestyle and fell back into the vexing “quest for flow.” It drove me to pursue a variety of professions and many adventures, some of which live on in the pieces I am most proud of today. I’ve learned that the flow didn’t leave me, that the distance between me and my calling created that void. It took many years as an adult to figure out what makes my creative passions soar. A photographer friend of mine recently said it in simple terms, “you’re really good at capturing the rare moments in life.” I had never considered what I created or captured in that way, but that is truly what I love to do.
Now, with this final pivot, I am happy to report, I’m experiencing that flow once again. It cracks me open in so many ways and pushes me to develop and heal, to live a life worth living, and to nurture my best self. This method has helped me to discover my artistic edges while also revealing my personal ones. For me, stretching and leaning into the limits in my thinking, feeling, and ways of being have become evident. I can obtain solid footing, catch those creative sparks, and “find those rare moments” to capture. There is comfort in the creative process—in being an idea machine, and even with the unknowns that abound in the art-selling world, I feel right at home.