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Heckscher Museum

The Heckscher Museum of Art. Photo by Anthony Petriello

By Anthony Petriello

Over the next two years, the staff of a Huntington museum hope to restore its former glory in time to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

The Town of Huntington’s town board voted unanimously to allow The Heckscher Museum of Art to begin raising approximately $500,000 to fund critical renovations at its July 17 meeting.

“The cost is high,” said Michael Schantz, the museum’s executive director and CEO, “but the museum raises money all the time to support exhibitions, programs, and community events, so I don’t anticipate any issue in raising the funds.”

The stairs leading up to The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington. Photo by Anthony Petriello

From crumbling French limestone to sagging steps, the museum located inside Heckscher Park is in desperate need of repair to prevent further damage to the already crumbling historic exterior. The building is listed on both the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. It is also the longest-standing art museum building in continuous use in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to Schantz, and is a fine
example of Renaissance Revival architecture in need of preservation.

“The Heckscher Museum is the foundation from which all of Huntington’s cultural offerings have grown,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “I’m proud to support the historical preservation efforts that will help the museum and the town continue to welcome and educate patrons of the arts for years to come.”

The museum has several structural issues, most detrimental of which is the roofing. Ken Moss, superintendent of buildings and grounds, said poorly designed drainage on the primarily
flat roof has caused pooling of water that has caused the roof to begin buckling. It poses a grave threat of allowing water to leak into the building, putting priceless art pieces at risk of damage.

The coping stones, or the tops of shorter walls along the front of the building, have extensive damage caused primarily by skateboarders, according to the museum.

The side wall of the Heckscher museum shows discoloration of the limestone bricks and cracking in the walls. Photo by Anthony Petriello

Since the public donation of the museum by philanthropists August and Nannie Heckscher in 1920, settling of exterior steps and patios has caused them to become misshapen and leaves them in need to removal and resetting. The limestone exterior walls have cracked in some areas, and repairs from the past have become discolored compared to the surrounding historic limestone, leaving the entire exterior surface in need of refinishing.

The museum’s staff also wants to remove extensive staining on the building’s limestone exterior walls, stairs and walkways. Due to the stone’s porous nature, it has absorbed airborne pollutants and provides a surface on which green mold can propagate.

Moss said due to the building’s location in Heckscher Park, adjacent to a pond, as well as its sheer age, several factors must be taken into consideration when cleaning its exterior surfaces.

“We need to use cleaners that are environmentally friendly and conservative to the building,” Moss said. “It’s extremely important that we protect the wildlife in the park.”

By repairing and cleaning The Heckscher Museum’s exterior, Schantz indicated how it would further add to the town’s recent beautification  of the surrounding parkland.

“The park has never looked so good,” he said. “and the people that come here have certainly
noticed the difference.”

‘Still Stunning After Storm,’ Honorable Mention, by Marianne P. Stone of Lynbrook

On Sunday, May 6, families across Long Island are invited to enjoy the Town of Huntington’s annual celebration of spring. The natural beauty of the historic Heckscher Park will once again serve as the backdrop for the town’s highly anticipated 18th annual Tulip Festival. 

The free event, located at 2 Prime Ave. in the Village of Huntington, will feature thousands of tulips planted in selected beds throughout the park, activity booths for children with creative, hands-on projects, lectures, demonstrations, a school art contest, refreshments and live entertainment on the Chapin Rainbow Stage from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), the founder of the festival, and chief sponsor, NEFCU, are looking forward to an even bigger community-driven event this year.  

“The 18th Annual Huntington Tulip Festival is a free event that has something for the whole family to enjoy,” said Cuthbertson, adding, “So please stop by and enjoy the festivities!”

To help make this wonderful day a success, volunteers are needed to distribute festival programs to visitors. Any person or community group is welcome to volunteer by calling 631-351-3099.

Entertainment schedule

Gizmo Guys

 

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Explore the Heckscher Museum’s current exhibits for reduced admission ($2). Docents will be in the galleries to answer questions at 2 p.m.

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Winning works from local School Art Contest will be on display near the Chapin Rainbow Stage. 

Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Chapin Rainbow Stage Performance: Gizmo Guys, a rapid-fire juggling act with Allan Jacobs and Barrett Felker that exhilarates and inspires sidesplitting laughter in audiences of all ages.

Linda Humes and Sanga of the Valley

1 to 1:45 p.m. — Chapin Rainbow Stage Performance: Griots in Concert, an inspirational and motivational performance featuring stories, music and songs from Africa, the Caribbean and America with vocalist and storyteller Linda Humes and master percussionist Sanga of the Valley. Griot is the French term for a West African oral historian or storyteller. 

2 to 3 p.m. — Chapin Rainbow Stage Performance: Funkytown Playground, a music and movement program with Aly Sunshine and band featuring interactive songs that are catchy, fun and educational — a high-energy performance delivered with contagious enthusiasm! 

4 p.m. — Festival closes. Heckscher Museum exhibits on view until 5 p.m.

From left, Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci; Jillian Guthman, receiver of taxes; Best in Show winner Paulina Trzonkowska of West Babylon; and Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth. Photo courtesy of Heckscher Museum

The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington recently announced the top awards for Long Island’s Best: Young Artists at The Heckscher Museum. The prestigious competition received 385 entries from a record-breaking 62 high schools across Suffolk and Nassau counties. The juried selection narrowed the field down to 80 works currently featured in the museum gallery through April 15.

“Every year, the caliber of artwork is more impressive and the artists’ statements increasingly more creative and thoughtful. It is a challenge to choose the best of the best from hundreds of entries,” noted Joy Weiner, director of education.  

The competition’s four top honorees were Paulina Trzonkowska, a senior at West Babylon High School who received the Celebrate Achievement Best in Show Award for her colored pencil work titled “Too Close”; Isabelle Lin, a junior at Manhasset High School,  who received Second Place, the Judith Sposato Memorial Prize, for her painting, “Two Flags”; Estefanie Arrue, a senior at Hicksville High School, received Third Place, the Hadley Prize, for “Female Reconstruction,” a mixed media work; and Rico Ford, a senior at Valley Stream Central High School, received Fourth Place for the colored pencil work “Pair of Kings.”   

 Now in its 22nd year, Long Island’s Best provides students the opportunity to exhibit their artwork in a prominent museum and to be featured in a full-color catalog while museum visitors are treated to exceptional artwork by talented emerging artists.  

Jurors for the exhibition were Lisa Chalif, curator, The Heckscher Museum of Art, and guest juror Doug Reina, a notable Setauket artist and 2014 Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant recipient. 

“For high school students, this is a rare and exciting opportunity to put their skills to the ultimate test and show the world who they are. This is where you bring your A game,” said Reina. “This is their first taste of what life in the contemporary art world is really like. The ‘creative pressure’ gives these young people terrific experience as they become the next generation of the world’s artists.”

In addition to the gallery exhibition, visitors can see all of the artwork submitted to the competition on a digital display that will run for the entirety of the exhibition and Mitchells, a Huntington-based department store, will display select images from Long Island’s Best in its windows on Main Street beginning mid-April.  

Generous support for exhibit is provided by The Darrell Fund Endowment, Strong-Cuevas Foundation, TD Charitable Foundation, The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation,  RBC Wealth Management,  A Friend of the Museum and Dr. Inna Gellerman of Gellerman Orthodontics.

The Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

‘Gone Fishin,’ 1994, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cusenza

Trompe l’oeil /trômp ‘loi/ — noun — visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object. Fr., deceiving the eye.

By Ed Blair

Artists have attempted to beguile the eyes of viewers with clever techniques for centuries. While the actual phrase originated in the Baroque period, when it referred to perspectival illusionism, trompe l’oeil dates much further back. It was, and still is, often employed in murals. It was used in Greek and Roman times, as famously illustrated in the ruins of Pompeii. There was widespread fascination with this type of perspective drawing during the Renaissance, and it enjoyed a renaissance of its own in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Visitors to the Heckscher Museum of Art  in Huntington will have the opportunity to enjoy this artistic style in an exhibition opening Saturday, May 21, where the work of Gary Erbe will be on display. Combining trompe l’oeil realism with modernist tendencies, Erbe has created captivating illusions that are entrancingly intricate and hypnotically absorbing. Titled Master of Illusion: The Magical Art of Gary Erbe, the exhibit spotlights the engaging oil paintings of the artist who coined the term “levitational realism” to describe his work.

‘Those Amazin’ Mets,’ 2006, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cusenza
‘Those Amazin’ Mets,’ 2006, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cusenza

A native of Union City, New Jersey, Erbe has been painting professionally for over 40 years. Originally working as an engraver, he made the decision while in his mid-twenties to pursue painting full time. The museum’s exhibition traces the career of the self-taught artist from his early trompe l’oeil works to his more recent paintings that focus on juxtaposed objects and the dynamics of composition, form and structure.

Erbe explained levitational realism as an illusionistic depiction of objects where they seem to hover in space. “I studied the nineteenth century trompe l’oeil works of artists like [William] Harnett and [John F.] Peto,” he said, “but I wanted to be original. I wanted to create an atmosphere surrounding subject matter where it seemed to be floating in space, but at one point I realized that trompe l’oeil had its limitations. I wanted to add new elements of abstraction. I wanted the work to be about ideas, about something I envisioned that was familiar but did not exist in reality.”

Erbe’s subjects are inspired by popular culture and range from nostalgic images of childhood pursuits and national pastimes to American jazz and the golden age of 1950s radio, television and film, to American history, nationalism and contemporary social issues. “The rules of trompe l’oeil do not allow for human figures,” he said. “You can’t fool the eye if a person is in the work. So I occasionally will use silhouettes to give the feeling of a human presence.”

‘The Big Splash,’ 2001, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cusenza
‘The Big Splash,’ 2001, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cusenza

Lisa Chalif, the Heckscher Museum’s curator, noted that “Mr. Erbe’s impeccable skill imbues familiar objects with a heightened realism that evokes the pristine, otherworldly clarity of surrealism. Painted from carefully crafted constructions of objects belonging to our shared American experience, Erbe’s work is at once aesthetically complex and profoundly engaging to all.” She added, “I have come to admire the artist’s gracious and generous spirit as much as his remarkable work. The museum is sincerely grateful to the private and institutional collectors who have entrusted us with their paintings, sculptures and constructions. Mr. Erbe’s collectors are passionate about his art, and we are honored to share their works with a larger audience.”

Via extensive solo exhibitions, Erbe’s work has been presented throughout the United States, and he has garnered numerous honors and awards. He has exhibited internationally and participated in a group show, American Art on the Brink of the 21st Century, organized by Meridian International in Washington, D.C., that traveled for two years in the Far East. Erbe’s works hang in a number of museums across the country and can be found in many public and private collections throughout the world. He currently maintains a studio in Nutley, New Jersey.

The Heckscher Museum of Art, located at 2 Prime Ave. in Huntington, will present Master of Illusion: The Magical Art of Gary Erbe through Aug. 28. Meet the artist on Sunday, May 22, from 3 to 4 p.m. as he leads a gallery tour exploring his artwork and creative process. Registration is recommended.

For further information, call 631-351-3250, or visit the museum website at  www.heckscher.org.

‘The 50’s,’ 1991, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, from the collection of Ira W. Kent
‘The 50’s,’ 1991, oil on canvas, by Gary Erbe, from the collection of Ira W. Kent

Miriam Schapiro’s ‘Berthe Morisot & Me,’ early 1970s

By Melissa Arnold

For the past 95 years, the Heckscher Museum in Huntington has worked to exhibit its varied permanent collection in new and interesting ways.

Audrey Flack’s ‘Lady Madonna,’ 1972
Audrey Flack’s ‘Lady Madonna,’ 1972

For the next few months, the museum is highlighting the contributions of female artists in an exhibit entitled You Go Girl! Celebrating Women Artists. Selected from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibit will feature 50 women artists from the 19th century through today.

The theme is the latest dreamed up by museum curator Lisa Chalif.

“We wanted to select a group of art that showcases women artists in particular,” Chalif said. “We have art from more than 100 women artists at the museum, but they are only a small percentage of the overall collection.”

Chalif added that many women have faced “significant obstacles” to their success in the visual arts, including getting into galleries.

Museum visitors will have the chance to explore art in a variety of mediums, including print, photography, painting, sculpture and mixed media. The majority of the selections are contemporary and 20th century works and are split into two rooms — one for representational art and the other for abstract art.

Chalif noted that while the exhibit focuses on women’s art, it is not a feminist exhibit. The artists explored subjects of all kinds. “We have a lot of landscape-based work — I think that’s really characteristic of our collection as a whole, and I think that has a lot to do with our location,” she said. “People that live on Long Island are often drawn to the landscape here. There are a lot of abstract styles as well. There is something here that will appeal to everyone.”

Among Chalif’s favorites are works from feminist artist Miriam Schapiro, who founded one of the first feminist art schools in the 1970s, and super-realist painter Audrey Flack’s “Lady Madonna.” “It’s nice to have [a Madonna in the exhibit] because it refers to the most recognized woman in history,” Chalif said.

Elaine de Kooning’s ‘Black Mountain #6,’ 1948
Elaine de Kooning’s ‘Black Mountain #6,’ 1948

Many of the artists in the exhibit lived on Long Island or are still in the area today, including Emma Stebbins, Jane Wilson, Barbara Roux, Janet Culbertson and Berenice Abbott. “We were able to have [some of the living artists] come out for the opening,” Chalif said. “They have expressed how thrilled they are to be featured along with artists they’ve had as mentors or personal favorites. It’s gratifying for them and for me.”

Other artists include Elaine de Kooning, Dorothy Dehner, Audrey Flack, Jane Hammond, Mary Nimmo Moran, Georgia O’Keeffe, Betty Parsons, Miriam Schapiro and Esphyr Slobodkina.   

The Heckscher Museum is also displaying two simultaneous exhibits. The first, entitled Men at Work, focuses on depictions of men doing all kinds of jobs, from construction to academia and religious life. William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, George Grosz, John Rogers, Emma Stebbins and John Sloan are among the featured artists.

The other, called Street Life, depicts life in New York City — its work-a-day life, shopping avenues and iconic transportation system in photographs. Featured artists include Berenice Abbott, N. Jay Jaffee, Martin Lewis, John Sloan, Garry Winogrand, among others.

You Go Girl! will be on display through April 3, while Men at Work and Street Life will be displayed through March 27.

The Heckscher Museum of Art is located at 2 Prime Ave., Huntington. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

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