Let’s Rock the Beach: Artists Stage Annual Beach Painting Club on Hamptons Sand, Partying and Painting in Honor of Elaine de Kooning


This summer, the painter Keith Mayerson has been in residence at the Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton, hard at work on a new series titled “My American Dream: Capturing a Glimpse of Elaine and Her Circle,” an ode to the East End and its rich artistic history that includes everything from the nearby Pollock-Krasner House to a large-scale depiction of Elaine de Kooning at work on her famed portrait of JFK.

This past weekend, his residency at its end, the Los Angeles–based Mayerson decided to throw a party—and add a chapter to the area’s storied cultural heritage—by hosting the eighth edition of the freewheeling Beach Painting Club at Sammy’s Beach in East Hampton. The turnout was strong, with dozens of artists—young and old, famous and emerging—making work, taking breaks in the water, and knocking back drinks.

Mayerson, a past participant in the event, described the Beach Painting Club, which was started in 2012 by brothers Scott and Tyson Reeder, as “painting en plein air under a jellyfish-like tent, just for the whimsy of it, in a non-judgmental environment.” In this environment, “conversations and community are more important than the paintings,” he said. “Elaine, ever one for a party, and for the bonding of community where art can transcend all, would hopefully approve!”

Among those on hand was Clay Fried, Elaine de Kooning’s nephew and a painter who said he hadn’t been to Sammy’s Beach in 20 years. On Saturday, he carried on her artistic legacy at the same place she used to swim daily. “I love combining a trip to the beach with the pursuit of visual exploration and expression,” he said earnestly.

New York–based artist Heidi Howard made paintings alongside her partner, the landscape painter Esteban Cabeza de Baca. “Painting in nature is always invigorating and something we have scant access to in New York City,” Howard said.

Textile artist Chellis Baird, who created a sculptural piece using a blank canvas, drew parallels between the event and Abstract Expressionism’s improvisational and spontaneous techniques. “Gathering on Sammy’s Beach as part of the Beach Painting Club led to spontaneous creation and connection,” she said after the event. “It felt like antidote to digital addictions we are monitoring today. Elaine helped carve the path for us.”

After a few hours of painting, the festivities migrated down the road to the Elaine de Kooning house, where Marlborough Gallery directors Leo Fitzpatrick and Jay Gorney, who rep Mayerson, toasted the artist alongside dealer Jose Martos and artists Enoc Perez, Kelley Walker, Josh Reames, Wendy White, and many more. Below, snapshots from the action.

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