Halfway down the steep incline of State Street you’ll find the set of double doors for “Harris Place”, a moniker as inconspicuous as Harry Potter’s brick wall for platform 9&¾, and just as magical. The Atrium feels like an Italian Piazza as you meander past cafes, with towering white brick walls and sundry leafy green plants. And then, just when you think you’ve fallen into Narnia itself, a sparse but massive wooden archway leads to…a giant portrait of a face, his eyes boring into your soul. This is the grand entrance to the “LQM” Gallery in New London’s seemingly plain Harris Place.
LQM’s founder, Qimin Liu, is a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University and a renowned artist with a penchant for portraiture. LQM’s mission is to be an international space for gallery exhibitions, as well as for workshops and community gatherings. Currently, the gallery does quite well on the international front; LQM does exchange events with art students from Liu’s native China. On the local front, LQM is still working. Vincent Aloia, a gallery assistant, tells of an up and coming show featuring several local gallery assistants’ works, as well as a few other local artists, in the space next door to the main gallery that LQM also owns.
The gallery itself is impressive, with mirror-reflection-shiny wooden floors and huge, impressive exposed brick upon which the various pieces are hanging. The current exhibit is all Liu’s work, and mostly portraits. Aloia’s favourite is a set of eight pen and ink portraits of Liu’s ECSU students – why?
“I admire him for his craftsmanship and his use of ink is outstanding," he said. "He’s great fun to watch, so seeing him make these, makes these my favourite.”
The exhibit doesn’t have a theme, per say, but it is a great collection none the less. Nearly every piece features a human being, but just like the entrance itself, tucked away in corners you find little gems – sailboats, landscapes, explosions of color in stark contrast to the ink and wash, and the muted tones of his massive painted portraits.
Aloia’s voice echoes impressively through the gallery as we speak, lending an air of grandeur that New London is not known for, and sometimes tries to avoid.
“We would love to have this be more integrated [into the downtown art scene],” Aloia explains.
Liu loves the downtown arts community, the main reason he chose New London as the location for LQM. The biggest challenge, Aloia admits, is not having windows. While the atrium is an amazing space, it lacks the ability to catch the eye of passers-by. However, once inside you forget that you’re completely enclosed, and instead are transported into various worlds through Liu’s portraits – some of distinct faces, some of what appear to be homeless people. Or, if in that peculiar corner, you may find yourself on a sailboat out to sea.
Wherever the works at LQM take you, they are of such impressive craftsmanship and sheer magnitude that it’s more than worth venturing through the unmarked double doors of New London’s Harris Place and into the world of the LQM Gallery.
LQM Gallery is located at 165 Harris Place
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.