To step inside the sunlit venue that is The Hearle Gallery is to be surrounded by creativity in its finest forms. No matter where the eye wanders it falls upon works that dazzle and delight, soothe and inspire, and most are the works of gallery owner and longtime artist Debbie Hearle.
Children frolicking in the gentle waves. American flags of red, white, and blue against vibrant blue skies. Catboats skimming the waters off Stage Harbor Light. Sunsets of fiery oranges and purplish blues above Boston and Chatham. These are but a few of the scenes Hearle has captured on canvas, brilliantly displayed alongside the works of other renowned painters at The Hearle Gallery, a beloved Main Street destination of tourists and locals alike since 1985.
Hearle got her start creatively 40 years ago in the fashion world, graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology before venturing into a career as a buyer in New York City. The arrival of sons Michael and Todd, however, inspired Hearle to refocus.
"I decided I was going to concentrate on being home and being creative," Hearle said, adding with a grin, "so I blame them for my career."
While some might have been challenged by the transition from fashion to fine art, Hearle said the similarities between the two made it seamless.
"It's really simple," Hearle said. "If you're designing clothing or starting a painting, you're starting with a blank canvas. The two careers are so closely melded - shapes, colors, values. The creativity is very, very similar."
Armed with remarkable talent, Hearle began exhibiting immediately, focusing on art leagues in the metropolitan area, including the Salmagundi Art Club, the National Arts Club, and the Hudson River Art Association. Her Chatham locale became a reality after Hearle and her husband Ron decided they wanted to live here and open a gallery.
Debbie and Ron Hearle, owners of The Hearle Gallery in Chatham. “Golden Jubilee”, the top painting, is an amalgamation of Debbie’s visions of her boating experiences throughout the Northeast and the British Virgin Islands. The lower painting entitled “Rhapsody in Blue”, is one of her works in the “Beach Bum” portrait series.
"With my retail background it seemed almost second nature," said Hearle.
The couple moved to Chatham in 1984 and in 1985 opened the gallery, its white clapboard façade, crisp awnings and overflowing flower boxes a welcoming visual for passers-by. Now in its 30th summer, Hearle said the gallery adventure has been wonderful.
"It has been an amazing ride," she said. "Just a thrill."
Hearle keeps her work varied not only to appeal to collectors, but also to keep herself on her painting toes.
"My subject matter varies and that's on purpose," she said. "I want my work to stimulate my thoughts."
Visitors to the Hearle Gallery will find everything from elegant still lifes of hydrangeas and other blooms to impressionistic city scenes, colorful seascapes, and much more. Among her most popular works are her "Beach Bum" paintings of children in all of their childhood innocence, and her "Olde Glory" collection featuring American flags in myriad settings.
Hearle draws inspiration from countless sources, including the streets of Boston, where she has a studio, her grandchildren (the original "Beach Bums") and, of course, Chatham. The "Olde Glory" collection began as a way of expressing her emotions after 9-11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, but also includes cherished flags Hearle has seen along local streets. One in particular, visibly frayed from years of use, became the subject of the piece "All Tattered and Torn But Not Forlorn."
The Hearle Gallery features the works of over 20 award winning artists including John Terelak, Cindy Procious, Ron Tinney, Paul Beebe, Scott Balfe, Jillian Dyson, and Neil McAuliffe.
Ask Hearle which piece is her favorite, however, and the answer might surprise you.
"My favorite piece," she said, "Is the one I'm working on."
Because Hearle is not only a painter, but a fine art aficionado as well, her gallery also includes the works of fellow artists Ron Tinney, Paul Beebe, John Terelak, and Scott Thomas Balfe, among others. “The gallery is managed by my husband Ron, who is a mainstay. The gallery would not function without him.” says Debbie. She credits gallery assistant Annie Stevenson with maintaining the successful standards of the gallery.
"Our mission here is to present to our clients the very highest quality work of living artists today," said Hearle, adding that each artist's work complements the others in the gallery, creating beautiful harmony throughout.
That the gallery has been a local mainstay for three decades puts a smile on Hearle's face.
"They say that time flies when you're having fun, and it flew," she said. "We've never tired of it. It's a challenging business to say the least, and it's been a blessing for us."
Debbie Hearle’s “Flag Series” are among her most celebrated works.
Fine Art Endures and Inspires at The Hearle Gallery
Kat Szmit, The Cape Cod Chronicle, July 2015
All work is copyrighted ©2015. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproductions are prohibited.