A new Bellport art gallery is really Something.
The Something Machine was opened 18 months ago in a Station Road gas station by veteran art curators who see the gallery as a bridge between different worlds.
While motorists fretting over gasoline prices get a fill-up at Istvan Gas, the gallery in the spacious bays of the station's former auto repair shop seeks to address more metaphysical concerns.
"We wanted to reactivate the space," Something Machine co-owner Jeffrey Uslip told Newsday. "Quite frankly, we're still a repair shop. The question is, we're not repairing cars. We're probably, I would say, repairing a collective imaginary."
Stripped of car lifts, motor oil dispensers and diagnostic machinery, the airy space last week featured six large-scale oil-on-canvas paintings by artist Atusa Jafari. The exhibit, which closed Sunday, was her first show outside her native Germany.
The gallery, whose name was inspired by a line from Samuel Beckett's 1963 one-act drama, "Play," will next host an exhibit by African-born American painter Papay Solomon.
The repair shop had been vacant when Uslip and his business partners began renting it. They poured fresh concrete and added new lighting, but the gallery retains the shop's bay doors. Echoes from inside the gallery mingle with the familiar sounds of the gas pumps outside.
"Each time someone puts gas in [a car], it's like we hear the clicks," Something Machine director Esther Flury said. "It's a different kind of structure and time."
The juxtaposition of paintings and petroleum is not so strange to Uslip, who points to American artists such as Edward Hopper, Allan D'Arcangelo and Edward Ruscha. He said those artists used images of gas stations to symbolize themes such as "disillusionment and disenfranchisement."
"The gas station is really key," Uslip said. "We have to think, what is a gas station, right? It's a filling station. … And so we saw it as an opportunity for the gas station to refill an American imaginary with art and aesthetics."
Istvan Gas' owner, listed in property records as 11 Station Road LLC, could not be reached for comment.
Jafari, in a phone interview from Berlin, said the Something Machine's exhibition of her portraits and self-portraits "was a really, really honoring moment for me, especially because Esther and Jeffrey are so selective with their artists. They gave me freedom and it means my work is going to be seen outside of Europe, so that was amazing."
Flury and Uslip, each of whom has lived in Bellport for at least six years, have worked as curators and project managers at major exhibitions such as the Vienna Biennale in Austria and international galleries such as Hauser & Wirth.
But they said they have found a welcoming artistic home in Bellport.
"There's a real kind of creative, artistic, thoughtful community here," Uslip said. "One thing we've noticed about Bellport … is that people want to really think and create an environment or a safe space where their creative selves can really express themselves with colleagues."
It's always Something
The Something Machine's next exhibit starts Nov. 12 and will run at least through the end of the year
Artist: Papay Solomon
Background: Born in a United Nations refugee camp in Liberia, Solomon, who is of Guinean descent, later moved to the United States; an exhibit of his work was the Something Machine's first show in May 2021
Subjects: Solomon paints images of family members wearing garments made from blue plastic tarps similar to those that had covered homes in the refugee camp where he was born
Comment: "He makes visible his community," Something Machine co-owner Jeffrey Uslip said
Address: 11 Station Rd., Bellport
Hours: Noon-5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday