LYNN — Peter Abate has an affection for old architecture, and the more broken-down and dilapidated it is, the more beautiful he considers it.
He has a kindred spirit in Gary LaPierre, who enjoys walking through blighted neighborhoods and abandoned industrial sites, photographing the effects of weather and time on old buildings and objects.
The two artists, both former Lynn residents, are bringing their exhibition, “Timeworn — The Art of Architecture in Decline,” to the Lynn Museum. The acclaimed exhibit, which has been shown at several libraries and galleries in New Hampshire and Maine, opens on Wednesday and runs through Sept. 30. An opening Meet the Artists reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 3 to 6 p.m.
“While recently poring over the writings and letters of influential artists, I came across a quote by John Marin, written in 1913, that resonated with me,” said Abate, a 1976 graduate of Lynn English High. “I believe it expresses key inspirational elements of the message we are seeking to convey through this show. Marin wrote, ‘Shall we consider the life of a great city as confined simply to the people and animals on its streets and in its buildings, are the buildings themselves dead? You cannot create a work of art unless the things you behold respond to something within you … thus the whole city is alive.’ ”
LaPierre, a former Pine Hill resident who lives with his family in Beverly, looks at his obsession this way: “You’re an explorer. You’re finding treasures. Peter and I both find treasures.”
And this exhibition is filled with treasures.
There’s a splendid photo of long-empty Walsh’s Garage on the corner of Willow and Liberty streets, its green paint peeling and its Art-Deco-ish clock recalling time long passed. An image of a sign on the side of a Chelsea building advertises “Pillsbury’s Best.” Another photo shows the skeletal remains of the storm-damaged pier at West Beach in Beverly Farms.
Pointing out a photograph of a weathered American flag painted on a barn, Abate editorialized that “the architecture might be in decline but the flag certainly isn’t, given what’s going on in the world today.”
Abate, who grew up in a house off of Union and Chatham streets, digs out a photo of a well-worn stone stairway that climbed from Chatham up to the railroad tracks. “I look at it today, and my memories of being a kid come alive,” he said. “A lot of these no longer exist. I try to get pictures of places and buildings before they fall down.”
“I’ve always been interested in architecture,” said Abate. “When I was about 10, my friends and I would jump on a bus and look at houses and the architecture. Parents wouldn’t stop you back then, you’d just go on your own.”
Abate praises the late Ruth Sparks, an art teacher in Lynn Public Schools, and mechanical drawing instructor Ted Laubner, for helping to cultivate his artistic side.
Abate and his family have lived in West Newfield, Maine, for years now. A 1,200-square-foot barn sits on its 26 acres, and, said LaPierre, it’s stuffed to the rafters with art, artifacts and found objects. Some of those pieces will be on display at Lynn Museum. “If it doesn’t weigh 100 pounds, I don’t bring it home,” joked Abate, who is an active member of several arts organizations up north and has judged at Marblehead Festival of the Arts events.
Abate also paints. A vibrant watercolor depicts the inside of his former home on Wolcott Road. “I like to paint cut-outs of interiors of places I’ve lived in. I’m not a dainty watercolorist. I’m a truck driver watercolorist. I attack the paper or canvas with a lot of paint. Dainty I ain’t,” he said.
LaPierre, a Chicopee native, moved to the North Shore in 1977. “I took the train and got off in Central Square. Wow! And the train was 20 minutes from the Red Sox.” One of his photographs is a shot of the grandstand at Fenway Park, taken at the first baseball game he ever attended there, in the 1960s, showing the worn out badly-in-need-of-a-sprucing-up seats that fans endured during the team’s lean years.
LaPierre, who works for Bridgewell (formerly Greater Lynn Mental Health), was a theater major at Salem State College, appearing in and toiling backstage on many Whitney “Whizz” White/David George productions in the ’70s and ’80s. In 1982, he received a point-and-shoot camera as a gift and, he said, “I’ve been collecting photographic images of unintentional beauty ever since” before a wrecking ball destroys it forever.
Abate and LaPierre hope their exhibit will encourage a greater appreciation of the significance of design and appeal of old buildings and their related structures. They hope to instill the importance of lovingly observing and preserving old buildings as part of our history and architectural heritage.
Abate mentions that Gabe Smith, a Lynn native now based in New Hampshire, will hold a solo exhibition down the street at LynnArts main gallery at the same time the “Timeworn” Meet the Artists reception is going on. Smith, an acrylic painter, has a strong presence online. “We are having a cello quartet at our opening reception,” said Abate, with a grin. “He’s going to be blasting techno music.”
“Timeworn — The Art of Architecture in Decline,” at Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., Sept. 6 to 30. A Meet the Artists reception is Sept. 9, 3-6 p.m. For additional information, go to lynnmuseum.org or call 781-581-6200.