Glass-like Clarity

Cape Cod Life  /  June 2020 / ,

Writer: Brenna Collins

Photography courtesy of The Nines Art Gallery
Artistic duo Lauren DiFerdinando and Luther Bates bring fresh perspectives to The Nines Art Gallery in their signature paintings and photographs

Along Harwich Port’s shoreline, natural light peeks through a collection of glass bottles, highlighting the beach’s calming hues. For artist Lauren DiFerdinando, these are the vessels portrayed in the oil paintings of her signature series “Glass.” East along the same coastline, and fifteen miles off of the Chatham Fish Pier, the ocean water dances in its wild form. Some days, the water rests and gently flows with a glass-like surface. Other days, the wind gusts and the waters roar with jagged waves. Photographer, fisherman, and woodworker Luther Bates captures these moments for his mesmerizing “At Sea” photography, as well as for the photos used in Lauren’s ocean paintings, “The Water Series.” Together, the three stunning collections make up the visual journey that captivates visitors of The Nines Art Gallery in Harwich Port center. 

The couple’s paths crossed due to a series of fortunate, coincidental events that aligned in order for their business to begin and bloom. Luther, born and raised in Chatham, is no stranger to the water. His work as a commercial fisherman began in high school, and as he put himself through Cornell University, he continued to fish at home on weekends. Graduation rendered an economic degree and a job opportunity in New York City, but a well-earned respite found him returning to the Cape to recharge and fish. “I was going to become an equities trader in the New York Stock Exchange. I decided I needed a little break. I wanted to come back to the Cape for six months and regroup. It seems the break has gone on for quite a few years now,” he laughs.

“It’s not really about the bottles in my paintings; it’s the glass and the light that I think is beautiful. I love the translucency. It’s the same reason I love the water: the clearness,” says Lauren, pictured painting in her studio. 

Lauren, a Pennsylvania native and Syracuse University graduate, moved to the Cape to be close to the water. The coastal atmosphere was the perfect backdrop for her art after finding her passion for painting glass during her senior year as a painting major. “I was always searching for a unique, beautiful niche in painting. My senior year of college, I was sitting on my couch and my friend had bought a big glass bowl at a yard sale. It was sitting in front of a window and I thought the light coming through it was so beautiful. I stayed up all night trying to paint it; it was a sudden moment of clarity. It’s not really about the bottles in my paintings; it’s the glass and the light that I think is beautiful. I love the translucency. It’s the same reason I love the water: the clearness,” Lauren describes. Those paintings were the mile-markers that initiated her journey to ultimately selling her art and opening a gallery; a journey that Luther soon joined.

Their first intersection occurred while working on the same project. Lauren was painting the logo for a shop on Main Street in Chatham while Luther installed custom shelves. Just two years later, she took the leap to open her own gallery, Tint, in Dennis Port. When Lauren wanted a local woodworker to create her frames, Luther stepped aboard. 

With a growing business, they moved to an open space in Harwich Port after one season at Tint. They had only two months to complete renovations after signing their new lease. On Memorial Day in 2017, The Nines Art Gallery opened its doors. To this day, it is very much a personal operation, with Lauren and Luther creating everything from the painting and photography to Luther’s handmade frames. The pair made sure to create work spaces in the gallery for the both of them. Behind the public display space, Lauren can often be found painting in her studio space. Downstairs, Luther still crafts each frame by hand. 

Their creative process is similarly a mutual, thoughtful effort. Lauren and Luther photograph the bottles for her “Glass” paintings at a client’s property along Harwich Port’s coastline. This delicate act involves perfectly positioning the bottles and capturing images at just the right time for the light to shine through. “It’s a process; it’s not just grabbing a couple of bottles and throwing them up there. It’s building the painting from the moment you start lining them up to photograph,” Luther adds. Lauren chooses only a few of these photos to paint her lifelike, entrancing compositions on over-sized canvas. Several paintings will often be in various stages of progress at once, and as layers of paint dry she can determine what needs to be added. It  may take multiple months before a piece is complete. 

Like many memorable journeys, the destination was not always the focus. Instead, the couple was fortunate to have a large, open space in The Nines, as well as a desire to create something new. The idea to capture ocean images came to light on Luther’s boat. “I wasn’t in the fine art photography world; I am a commercial fisherman. There were more walls to fill in our new space, and we were thinking about what else we could do besides the bottles. Lauren had been coming out fishing with me because she loves the water, and she thought it would be interesting to paint it. I thought I could take photos of the ocean while I’m out there. I get to see the ocean in such different ways, so I took photos to see if she could paint from them,” Luther recalls. “I remember walking in to see her first water painting completed. I thought, ‘This is it.’ I just got this feeling that this was going to work. At that point, all I wanted to do was get more pictures, so I was going out on the worst weather days just to get interesting photos. The water 15 miles off shore is the same liquid, but the environment is so different,” Luther reflects.

“Looking back, we didn’t know at the time, like nobody does in life when you start something new, if it would turn into something successful. It has come so far from that point. We’ve seen people really grabbed by these ocean images. There are some powerful things that happen in here,” Lauren adds.

When visitors began questioning where the images for the water paintings originated, they added Luther’s photos to the gallery, an unexpected and exciting addition. Luther began taking photos at Cornell, but his intention has shifted since. “When I went off to college, I brought a camera. My intention was to capture the zany things that people were doing. Now, I don’t want to just document craziness, I want to share compositions,” Luther notes.

As each evolve with their craft, they inspire one another with their differing qualities that balance each other and heighten their work. “I’ve been looking at the water for 2,000 days at sea. When we look at the paintings, I can see where areas don’t look real or have depth. We dial into these little spots, and it turns from a two-dimensional colored canvas to a three-dimensional seascape,” Luther notes. For Lauren, this helps bring her work to the next level. “He’s the best art critic to help me develop because he understands the water. I want him to tell me these things because I want the paintings to be the best they can be,” Lauren says.

The couple’s mission is about bringing something new to the table that people have not seen before. “I want you to see the beautiful part of what’s happening in the glass, not just a still life of a bottle,” Lauren says. For Luther, it’s about capturing the topography of the ocean that you just can’t grasp from the shore. “I try to think, ‘What can’t people see? What is a cool part about my job, the essence of what I’m doing out there?’” Luther describes. The Nines’ bright, friendly atmosphere is truly unmatched as the community has gotten on board to support Lauren and Luther, often dropping by to bring in their own glass bottles or simply to say hello.

Lauren and Luther’s work creates simultaneous feelings of ease and wonder at the beauty of glass, light, and ocean water. Whether they help you gain a new perspective or conjure up memories of being out on the ocean, The Nines offers evocative pieces that are sure to resonate with any beholder. 

For more information, visit theninesartgallery.com or
their Instagram page, @the.nines.art.gallery