Featuring David Syre
Featuring Nicole Appel, Joseph Butta, Ralph Middleton
Shelter is a contemporary art gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side that represents and promotes emerging artists, with a particular focus on those who have been ignored or neglected by the art historical mainstream. Shelter emphasizes the respectful and equitable representation of early-career artists, and is proud to represent the artists of Brooklyn’s LAND Studio & Gallery, a program for professional artists with developmental disabilities.
Joseph Butta was a member of LAND Studio & Gallery in its formative days, and produced a massive body of work until his death in the early 2000s.
Butta’s ongoing series of drawings and writing he deemed the “Lost Belles”, featuring a rotating cast of women in artist-imagined gowns and jewelry, with sprawling eyelashes and commanding hairstyles.
In a corresponding “fashion column,” the artist predicted and advised on style trends for the months ahead.
Nicole Appel (b. 1990)
Nicole Appel in Queens and works at Brooklyn’s LAND Studio and Gallery, which she joined in 2016. Previously, Appel was a member of Manhattan’s Pure Vision Arts’ studio program, where she first began creating her specialized portraits, each an homage to an important individual in her life. Appel’s relationships with her subjects and her unique perspective are reflected in the highly saturated compositions that capture experiences and memories of people and places. These “patchwork portraits” have become highly collected, and offer a unique take on the representation of the inner life and lived experience of the people she features.
Ralph Middleton (1950-c. 2005)
Little is known about Ralph Middleton’s early life other than the fact he was born in, and started to paint in, Harlem, New York. Middleton’s work began to gain recognition amongst folk and outsider collectors in the 1960s and 70s and at some point during those years, he moved to the west coast, making homes out of abandoned rail stations and underneath bridges. The consistency of color palette and materials in in each of Middleton‘s series suggests that someone, possibly a patron, arts program, or supporter, gifted Middleton some paints and board, which he fervently used to create wildly energetic paintings of everything from people he knew, to seemingly abstract scenes of color and line that, we may assume, reflected some of the energy within and surrounding the artist. Middleton deftly keeps each painting from feeling weighty with a subtle and effective use of white, both as negative space and peeking through brushstrokes, the latter of which show an artist confident in his hand. Often painted on board, the artist signed each piece and typically provided an exact date and location, perhaps in a way providing a record – tangible and visible – of this particular moment in his transient life.
Middleton resided in Los Angeles in the 1990s, where he attracted attention from musicians, artists, and collectors seeking out exciting creations by unknown and under-known artists. At the time he was living under a bridge, and these predominantly young and creative collectors would visit him, delivering materials or acquiring work. Despite his precarious living situation, Middleton was known as being self-educated, with a particular interest in philosophy, film, and the arts.