• Penny Ashford’s daughter Caroline, from Ashford’s Underwater series
  • From Penny Ashford’s Water series
  • Paintings by Victoria Brooks Melly from, left, the Abstract and Waterviews series
The new Spirit of Water exhibit at the Antique and Artisan Gallery in Stamford, Connecticut, spotlights more than just the work of its artists and the subject of H20; it’s also a celebration of decades-long friendships.

The show is the brainchild of Mari Ann Maher, Managing Partner of the newly revamped The Antique & Artisan Center, who’s known Penny Ashford, one of the exhibiting artists, for nearly 30 years; the two met when Maher worked at John Rosselli Antiques and Ashford was an interior designer in New York. Victoria Brooks Melly, in turn, who’s the other artist on display, is a longtime friend of Ashford’s — they often go antiquing and bring their families together for vacation. “Brooks and I have often talked about doing something together for years,” says Ashford. “So when Mari Ann came to us….”

While their styles occupy the opposite ends of the artistic spectrum — Ashford is a photographer with an eye for spontaneous moments; Melly is a painter who works with palette knives and oil paints — they zero in on one singular theme for the exhibit: abstracted takes on bodies of water. Melly’s textured canvases, for example, offer a cool gaze into minimalist seascapes — squint and the horizon, beach and waves turn into pretty gestures of color. As for Ashford, who’s no stranger to water works, she notes that this series is all about interactions — like hydrangeas and dew drops (“looks like fluffernutter”) and underwater images of kids playing in a pool. “Even though the shots look so peaceful,” Ashford says, “there’s so much joy and fun involved.” Spirit of Water opens tomorrow evening, 6 PM to 8:30 PM, and runs till April 30th.

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