Capturing Bermuda’s landscape
Once a frequent traveller, Mitchell Klink has spent the past year in Bermuda thanks to Covid-19.
Where some people might see it as an inconvenience, he’s grateful.
Having the time to look around inspired Illusion & Abstraction: Capturing the Landscape, an exhibit Mr Klink curated that is now on at the Bermuda National Gallery.
For it he selected 39 landscapes; Richard Wilson, Mary Parker West, Charles Lloyd Tucker, Antoine Hunt, Tina Hutchings and Jennifer Bartlett are among the 36 artists represented.
“Just like others through time I think in the last year I have been inspired by nature which has been around us all the time but, before this past year, we’ve had distractions,” said Mr Klink, a management consultant who moved here two years ago with Ernst & Young.
“My first year on-island I explored a lot but I was still getting off-island every few weeks. The last year I haven't left once. I'm on an old property near town with mature gardens and feel incredibly fortunate. In Atlanta, my book-filled studio apartment is under 500sq ft. Here, I go exploring, take very long walks, visit my neighbour's miniature horses; go for a swim in the harbour and at Spanish Point.”
Mr Klink, who paints and draws only “as a hobbyist”, fell in love with art, architecture and design as a child.
“When I was young and we travelled, my mom would drag me to museums. In the US when you do the type of work that I do, you travel literally every week for work. I realised early on that art was an incredible way for me to get an opening into a new city. I could learn about the city, I could learn about the culture and I could meet interesting people – because artists are always interesting people.”
About 15 years ago he began to volunteer at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta as a docent, giving tours and gallery talks. Mr Klink has also guided private collectors in the Atlanta area and given tours in commercial galleries in New York.
“I’ve advised a couple of artists along the way in terms of marketing and how to manage their career,” he said. “So it’s been a combination of this passion that I’ve had and applying some of the strategic thinking and structured thinking that I do in my day job, applying some of that in my approach to art.
“I don’t have a traditional path or an academic path to the art world. I don’t have an MFA, I didn’t work at Sotheby’s. I haven’t worked in a commercial gallery, I haven’t worked formally I’ve only volunteered at institutions.”
On moving here in 2019 the habit stuck. Mr Klink immersed himself in the art community and ultimately became a board member of the BNG.
Illusion & Abstraction is the “first exhibit of this scale” that he has curated at an institution.
Determined that it appeal to enthusiasts of different art styles, he “listened to a lot of stakeholders in the community” before he mapped the exhibition out.
“I wanted to know what people wanted to see, what people’s thoughts were about the institution, about BNG,” Mr Klink said.
“What I kept hearing from people again and again was that the gallery’s programme had swung quite far towards the modern, the contemporary and the conceptual.
“People were telling us that they wanted to see art that was more traditional, they wanted to see art that was maybe more approachable for them. In some cases they said they wanted to see art that they liked; art that exhibited some level of technical precision.”
He decided to break the exhibit into three parts “that would explore different aspects of that spectrum, from realism to abstraction”.
The challenge then became which works to include. On moving here Mr Klink was surprised by the “extraordinary” number of artists and the community that supported them.
“I honestly think that has a lot to do with the fact that it’s such an absolutely beautiful place to live,” he said. “I don’t know of many places that have a higher per capita living artist community. And I’ve been incredibly impressed by that.
“From an institutional standpoint, when you think about the [Bermuda Society of Arts], Masterworks [Museum of Bermuda Art], of the Bermuda National Gallery and the Art Centre at Dockyard, it’s really impressive to think about the number of institutions here as well as the level at which they’re presenting and collecting.”
He was also amazed by the quality of the art in public and private displays here.
“I’m just absolutely blown away time and time again by the art that is resident in corporate offices, in people’s homes. Obviously at the far extreme you think of people like the Greens or the Bacardi collection but in Bermuda it is pervasive. It’s unbelievable the works I’ve seen on people’s walls here.”
One-third of the pieces in Illusion & Abstraction came from the permanent collection at BNG; four came from corporate collections, nine came from private collections and the remainder came from direct loans from artists living and working in Bermuda.
Mr Klink is grateful for the assistance he received from Peter Lapsley, the executive director of the BNG, and his team who helped him put it all together “in a way that showed the art to its best advantage”.
“I had specific objectives about representing a diversity of artistic styles as well as a diversity of voices,” he said. “There are nine Bermudians, there are five artists of colour, more than half of the works in two of the sections are by women … I have a very structured way of approaching things.
“I sort of decomposed it and then started collecting. I will say it was less daunting because the arts community of artists and collectors here were incredibly gracious and helpful.”
He was also thrilled to be able to give local artists a chance to, once again, show their work.
“With fewer tourists, with fewer art openings, with galleries moving online, a lot of these artists haven’t had a lot of opportunities to show their work in the last year and that was important for me – to be able to show living artists. So I reached out to artists that I knew. In many cases they then recommended somebody else that I talked to.
“And then there were a couple of collectors that I knew that I reached out to directly, a couple of specific works that I wanted to see in the exhibit and then in turn they recommended other collectors to me.
“No matter who you are you will find work in the show that I hope you really find appealing.”
Illusion & Abstraction: Capturing the Landscape is on at the Bermuda National Gallery through September