Written By: Jess Feldman
A quick chat with Chris Quidley of Quidley & Co. and artist Forrest Rodts.
N MAGAZINE: What inspired you to open an art gallery and why do you think it has remained so successful?
QUIDLEY: I grew up as the son of an artist and framer. I did not want to be in the art world growing up but I found myself drawn into it. I was dragged to museums, gallery openings, and art fairs as a kid. I ended up working at the booths of many of the fairs where my father exhibited. During college I assisted my father with some of his gallery relationships. It was my experiences during those years, combined with the opportunity to intern at Christie’s, that set my path. I worked for a gallery right after college, and opened my own art consulting business in 1993. Quidley & Company was opened here on Nantucket in April of 2006.
N MAGAZINE: What drew you to opening a gallery on Nantucket specifically?
QUIDLEY: My father, Peter, started showing his work on the island in the late 1970s. In late 2000, I was approached by the owner of the gallery that represented my father at the time to work temporarily that winter until he found a gallery director. I ended up staying with them for four years, until I realized it was time to go back on my own.
N MAGAZINE: What would you say is your strategy for maintaining consistency with sales in such an inconsistent market?
QUIDLEY: The art world and collecting habits are constantly evolving and seem to be changing more rapidly now more than ever. There are several important strategies I emphasize: listening to the needs of our collectors; responding promptly to their interests; and introducing to clients the work of new artists they might want to consider collecting. For years, I had a consistent approach of representing a core group of outstanding representational artists who were all mid-career to established painters. Though many of those artists I started with are still part of the gallery, we have grown towards a more modern direction, following the change in tide of the collecting habits of our clients. In addition, we have an influx of collectors requesting assistance with finding blue chip art.
N MAGAZINE: You have a new show opening on July 14th. How would you describe it?
QUIDLEY: The staff, collectors and I look forward in particular to our summer Forrest Rodts exhibition. We are always excited to see what he has created. His work resonates with such a wide audience of all ages, capturing the hearts of all who believe the island is a special place. We host an exhibition of Forrest’s work every two years. It always draws the largest crowds and most active collectors. I would be shocked if we did not sell most of the new paintings.
N MAGAZINE: In your opinion, what about Rodts’ work is going to attract people to this featured show?
QUIDLEY: His work has a happy vibe. You want to be part of the experience he captures on panel. For many it evokes a fond memory of being on island. Whether it is a dog waiting on a beach as his owner is surfing, a Grand Wagoneer cruising on the beach with fishing rods attached, cold Cisco beers sitting on a tailgate, or a beach bonfire at the end of the day, people can look at that and smile. Some will even say they happily recall having personally had one of the experiences depicted in Forrest’s work.
N MAGAZINE: What would you say is Rodts’ greatest strength as an artist?
QUIDLEY: His ability to put the viewer in the scene. His attention to detail is extraordinary, as his facility for capturing the pattern and color of the water that surrounds the island. My favorite aspect of his work is the little details he includes, such as a puddle or a cloud in the shape of the island.
N MAGAZINE: Your bio says that you are a “self-taught artist.” How did you become an artist and what initially led you to pursuing art as a career?
RODTS: I always drew, but I started painting in college where I was studying Economics. I got out of school and went into investment banking and hated it. Started painting full time and loved it. I backed into this career, but over time I realized I had a knack for it and could make a living at it.
N MAGAZINE: Growing up you spent your summers on Nantucket with your family, which has had a large influence on your artwork. What originally drew you to first start painting qualities and items representative of Nantucket?
RODTS: Nantucket is my favorite place, so painting it was the most natural thing to do. If I couldn’t be there, I could be through my paintings. The beauty and memories of Nantucket are my greatest inspirations.
N MAGAZINE: Each of your paintings has immense detail that immediately transports the viewer into the scene. What would you say is the most challenging part of ultimately making viewers feel a certain way, whether it’s on a beach with a beer from Cisco or on a winter walk in the center of town?
RODTS: Authenticity! Getting all the details correct. But at the same time I am trying to elicit a mood. Photorealism is fine, but I want an emotional connection as well. I love doing all the details and getting things more realistic each time. That’s what really excites me, but the initial idea comes from how I feel about the subject and I hope the viewer feels that too. My work was once described as photo-idealistic, which I always liked.
N MAGAZINE: In a few of your pieces, there is a subtle cloud or puddle in the shape of the island. How did you come up with that idea?
RODTS: Just a fun idea I had. It’s never the focal point of the piece, but a little hidden prize for those who looked closely for it. And I don’t always do it, I don’t want it to be a “thing,” but rather an extra gift to those who find it.
N MAGAZINE: If you had to pick one thing, what is your favorite scene of Nantucket to paint?
RODTS: That’s a tough question, because it is so much about emotion or memory rather than a particular scene. And the island offers an endless variety of subjects. But for me to want to paint it, it has to be more than just a pretty scene. It has to bring me back to a specific moment in time. That being said, I do love to paint with evening light.
Join Quidley & Company for the opening reception of “Forrest Rodts: Island Time” on Friday, July 14th from 6 – 8 P.M.