Bars, restaurants, culture and events… Dan Mathers’ weekly guide to what’s going on in Cape May
I’d never been to an art show, so my wife and I dressed nicely for Victor Grasso’s Up From The Wreckage opening at SOMA NewArt Gallery. We overdressed. Victor was wearing a plaid shirt (think chic lumberjack) with a skinny, black silk tie. I’d sent him a text before the show. “Excited or nervous – how you feelin?” I asked.
“Both,” was Victor’s response. He looked it: a bit more somber than usual, but jumpy like a decaf drinker after an espresso. I suppose when a year of your life is hanging on the walls for people to judge, it can be nerve-wracking.
Still, Victor couldn’t have been THAT nervous. When I arrived five minutes after the show opened, he’d already sold three pieces. “I sold the one of the settler choking out the Indian,” he said, “I couldn’t believe it!”
I’m pretty familiar with Victor’s work. I’d seen a few of these pieces on the walls of Victor’s studio in North Cape May, and four paintings were used for our color issue covers. Still, seeing our July cover dominating the first room of the gallery was impressive. You couldn’t help but stare at that epic painting of Julie Papendick Menz in a bikini and high heels, holding a marlin and looking for a ride. With a price tag of $10,000, it was the show’s centerpiece.
Victor was mid-conversation when he saw proprietor Janet Miller standing in front of the painting, patiently and purposefully smiling in his direction. He stopped for a moment then looked toward the price tag to see the red dot indicating it had been sold. Victor wasn’t at a loss for words, but couldn’t clean up his language enough for me to quote him here.
When that piece sold, the excitement in the air was almost tangible. “O-M-G,” whispered Victor’s wife Alicia as she passed us on the way to her next micro-conversation.
Walter Romanek had purchased the piece, and I asked him if he was comfortable talking about his purchase on the record. “Of course, but let me get my wife Nancy. She can speak more knowledgeably about it. I just thought it was a picture of a fish – I’m now finding out there’s more to it,” he joked.
Nancy Miller was truly passionate about the piece. “I’ve been in love with Victor since the first time I saw a painting of his. All of his canvases have a dark side to them, a depth and an insight into the character,” she said. “When we saw the Exit Zero with that on the cover, we were like ‘Wow.’”
Walter shrugged as he told me, “I know she loves Victor, and she has a birthday soon.”
Victor was shocked by it all. “I’m just surprised anyone showed up,” he smiled. In total, nine paintings were sold that night, but the full show is on exhibit in Carpenter’s Square Mall until September 7. I’ll be stopping back again.