Art without boundaries

It’s been quite the artistic journey for Ben Diep and Mairead Daly-Diep, the husband-and-wife founders and directors of Square Peg Gallery. The Hastings-on-Hudson arts destination marked its first anniversary in October and can look back on some year.

Square Peg — which boasts sweeping views of the Hudson River, the Palisades in the distance — presented artists from as nearby as the Rivertowns and as far away as China. Work has touched on photography and oils, wire sculpture and mixed media, pastel and charcoal, film, installation and sound.

The gallery also hosted artist talks, lectures, poetry, music and soundscape performances and fundraising events for local nonprofits, along with participating in the annual RiverArts studio and music tours.

In announcing the celebration, the invitation noted that, “We have been bowled over by the number of remarkable people who have come through our doors and supported our efforts to stimulate and enable conversation about and around art, to make fine art more accessible to the public and to support and promote artists — both emerging and established.”

These are words that do seem to sum up what goes on at Square Peg, if a recent opening reception — when a full house was on hand to launch Jerzy Kubina’s solo show, “Between Light and Shadow,” — was any indication.

The Polish-born artist now living in Dobbs Ferry was pleased with the exhibition — and his experience with the Dieps (He met Mairead, he said, during a studio tour and she invited him to exhibit).

“They have a really nice attitude,” said Kubina, who has exhibited around the world.

A GALLERY OF POSSIBILITY

Bedford-based artist Creighton Michael, also on hand that evening, has been following the gallery since its start.

“The space is different, and I mean that in a very positive way,” he said, noting the gallery rooms seem to adapt deftly to each show’s sensibility. And, he added, the outdoor space — which fills with patrons during openings and special events — is unique. “You’re competing with an amazing view outside.”

But Michael is up for the competition — this month, his collaborative work with Ben Diep will debut at Square Peg, with “rgbDRAWING: Pigment on Paper” opening Nov. 5.

James Dean Conklin, who will be doing what he calls an upcoming “sensory exhibit” at Square Peg, said he’s been inspired by what the gallery does — and the possibilities it represents.

“The gallery is not just a picture on the wall,” he said.

Mairead noted that was a valid perception, and she was more than open to Conklin’s pitch.

“He said to us, ‘Think we could pull it off?’” and her reaction was, she said, a simple “Why not?”

It all goes back to her experience working in special events at Harrods in London, which she joined after earlier retail experience in her native Ireland. At Harrods, everything seemed possible.

“We would often (have) something that just seems, ‘Oh my God. It’s crazy.’ But it would take off.”

A WORLD OF INSPIRATION

Mairead, long a lover of the arts, met Ben in Paris, when both were in Europe for work-related travel.

Ben, who had come to America from Vietnam, had left art school to start a photography business with his father. In time, he would go on to open his own print shop in the city’s photo district (a company he has since transferred to Hastings, also headquartered in the gallery’s custom-renovated, mixed-use building).

Ben said he had “three days in Paris, and I met Mairead,” and she picked up the story with, “And we went to all the galleries together.”

In time, they would end up in New York City, where Ben was solidifying his reputation as a master printer, before settling in Scarsdale. Ben and Mairead, parents of two teenagers, purchased the Hastings building some six years ago. With Ben’s business fully in place, the gallery was the next step for the couple.

On a subsequent visit, Ben showed WAG how both printing and museum-quality framing make all the difference to a work of art. Today, he routinely creates prints for leading photographers and museums around the world.

“This is what we do,” he said. “We try to take photography to a level where you appreciate it like a painting.”

ALL IN THE DETAILS

With any work of art, Ben said, “It’s not just about presentation, something that looks elegant and pretty. Art is much deeper.”

The conversation, he continued, is everything — and encouraged at Square Peg.

“We’re here to say, ‘It’s just a human language. You can understand this. Just open up.’”

A gallery, he adds, is a place where “you develop and nurture a trusting relationship with your audience.”

Mairead added with a laugh that though “last year, we were kind of winging it,” the gallery is now proceeding with confidence in its vision.

“For me, art is not just your basic stuff anymore,” she concluded, but rather all part of a bigger picture.

“We really want to be able to use the space and the artwork — and explore.”

And we can’t wait to see what they find.

For more, visit squarepeggallery.com.

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