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INTERVIEW: Fine Arts Photographers James Slezak And Paul Dempsey Discuss Southampton Artists Association’s Fall Show

T.J. Clemente

Paul Dempsey's Atlantic Wave. (Courtesy Photo)

Artists James Slezak and Paul Dempsey are very excited about the upcoming Southampton Artists Association (SAA) Fall Show at the Southampton Cultural Center. The show starts Wednesday, November 6 and runs until Sunday, November 17.

The opening reception will be on Friday, November 8 from 4 to 6 p.m. The association runs four exhibits per year. Although both Slezak and Dempsey are photographers, the majority of the 120 members of the association are painters. Slezak predicts that 70 percent of the 100 to 150 pieces of work featured in the exhibit and for sale will be paintings. Dempsey noted that SAA does not take a cut of the sale money, with all proceeds going to the artists.

"If you are an artist and want to show your work, being a member of the Southampton Artists Association is an excellent way to have a few major events a year to show and sell your work," Dempsey stressed. Slezak emphasized to show work at the Fall Show, artists must be an association member. "It's just $30 to join and it's just so worth it on the savings with no commissions of sales going to the association," Dempsey noted. The application is on their website: southamptonartists.org.

These two officers of the Association are both photographers, but have taken different paths to become the artists they are. In separate phone interviews, I was able to peek into their artistic souls and hear the pure joy of their passion for photography.

Dempsey is the First Vice President of the Southampton Artists Association and its "webmaster." His first career was as a computer programmer and was trained "by the NASA folks at Grumman."

James Slezak with some of his pieces. (Courtesy Photo)


He jokingly talked about the old days of tech saying, "I have always been very fluid with anything digital." Then he added, "I got into digital photography on the ground floor. I had the first Olympus digital camera back in 1996!" He proudly spoke of the breadth of his work from intricate staged ice cube photos to a snow scene in the mansion section of Southampton Village. However, his specialty, as he said, is, "Taking photographs and fusing them on to metals usually using aluminum. The effect is quite wonderful. They are big sellers." Paul has participated in Art Basel twice down in Miami. He now uses a Nikon d7200 with most of the bells and whistles.

Dempsey mentioned his "artwork can be purchased at: Hildreth's Home Goods, Southampton, The William Ris Gallery, Jamesport, Nature Redux - 30 West Main Street, Riverhead 3rd Floor, Online at FirstDibs.com, through Karyn Mannix Contemporary, and, of course, at all Southampton Artists Association Exhibits at the Southampton Cultural Center."

Slezak is the Recording Secretary of the Southampton Artists Association. He lives in Hampton Bays with his wife and admitted he really enjoys taking sunrise photos over the bay. He moved to Hampton Bays from Jamesport where he used to run a bed and breakfast. He considers himself fully retired and also a "fine arts photographer." Slezak enjoys the activities of the Association, that being the receptions, the hanging party, and other artist interactions. He said, "It's not a competitive group. People join the Southampton Artists Association basically so they can put their stuff up on walls at really nice venues. Some SAA members are accomplished artists! Clearly, this is not about me but ... I have been in 12 juried shows this year, with three that just got into Juxtaposition at LI Photo Gallery and one that just got accepted at Alex Ferrone Gallery's Portals."

He uses a "Sony A7-3R with a really sharp nice lens." He says he intends to invest in other lenses over time.

Slezak suggested interested people should think about joining the SAA "because you meet interesting people, you learn things, and can sell your art too." In closing, he relayed, "We are a local non for profit, for people who want to show their work, we're not competitive and it's nice."

Southampton Cultural Center is located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, visit southamptonartists.org.




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