This Week on the Seacoast: Art on the Edge

Contemporary gallery opens in Newmarket

Four years ago, Michael Valotto started painting every night as a way to decompress after a busy day of school and work. When he decided it was time to start sharing his art with the world, he was disappointed to find that there were few outlets for his abstract, contemporary style.

“I showed at coffee shops as much as I could, but you really need to be in some sort of gallery to establish yourself,” he said. “I looked, and there was just nothing there.”

Now a senior studying journalism at the University of New Hampshire, Valotto has finally found a place to show his work and the work of other artists who share his struggle. Earlier this month, he and his business partner, Lauren Moore, opened Bad Tree Fine Arts in downtown Newmarket, an art gallery that they hope will be “a catalyst for a renaissance of art” on the Seacoast, he said.

“We’re a New York-style gallery. We’re unconventional. We’re not about seagulls and sailboats. Our art has an edge to it, and I think the Seacoast is ready for that,” he said. “We want to be that entity that disrupts the established arts market here on the Seacoast.”

A membership gallery, Bad Tree is open to artists and artisans of any medium. The 600-square-foot can fit work by around nine 2-dimensional artists, plus another five or so artisans working with metal, pottery, jewelry and other crafts, Valotto said.

It currently features the work of four members: Jim Brown, a furniture maker from southern Maine who uses old and new materials to create one-of-a-kind pieces; Kyle Stockford, an experimental painter from Massachusetts who has been invited to create paintings for the INside Out Art Museum in Beijing, China; Alonzo Clarke, a Newmarket-based watercolor painter who depicts scenes from his travels and observations of daily life; and Valotto, an abstract painter who works primarily with oils.

“My art is a representation of myself,” he said. “Lately, I’ve been taking a step back to take a more minimal, clean and focused approach to the way I paint, and I think that’s how my life has gone. It’s not chaos anymore. It’s more of a direct narrative at this point.”

Valotto said he hopes to also invite UNH students and faculty to independently showcase their work at the gallery.

“We represent the underdog, the little guy who’s overlooked, the younger artists, and the older artists who haven’t found a place to show their work,” Valotto said. “There is no right or wrong to what we can take on. We just want people [for whom] art is their passion.”

Bad Tree is a place not only for visual arts, but also for performance arts and community events.

“Maybe, one night, there’s a small acoustic concert, or a charity event, or an art soiree,” Valotto said. “We don’t want this to be solely an art gallery. We want it to be a place for the community, where people can come together.”

Additionally, there are monthly art workshops open to the public, lead by artists whose work is featured in the gallery that month.

“We don’t believe in the secrecy of art. We like to teach people about art rather than keep all the secrets for ourselves,” Valotto said. “It’s cool that you can come to the gallery and learn from the individuals who created the art that you’re looking at.”

Bad Tree Fine Arts

Address: 102 Main St., Newmarket
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Contact: badtreefinearts.com, 292-5438

— Angie Sykeny

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