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Holly Gordon

'Lures' by John Ellsworth
Three artists present a seaworthy exhibit at Huntington gallery

By Rita J. Egan

Photographers Holly Gordon, John Ellsworth and Jeff Urquhart are celebrating the end of summer with their latest exhibit, A Boating pARTy, at Huntington’s fotofoto gallery. The show, which opened yesterday, will run through Sept. 23.

Gordon met Ellsworth years ago when he purchased one of her photos, “Foggy Harbor,” and Ellsworth introduced her to Urquhart, whom he met at a photographer’s seminar. Gordon, a fotofoto gallery photographer, said the friendships flowed, and their nautical artwork perfectly complements each other.

“We’re three different sets of eyes and souls who see and respond to the water and boating so differently,” said Gordon.

‘Kayaks at Bay’ by Holly Gordon

While she is not an active boater, the photographer and former teacher said she enjoys being on the water and has seen a lot of the world from a boat. Gordon has captured many of her photographs both locally and in places such as Antarctica and the Galapagos while on various types of vessels, including in a raft while on the Amazon River.

The photographer said when she was younger she would gravitate to areas that had water, and she would look to see how the water’s reflection affected colors and shapes. “Being on the water, and looking at water, has always given me a sense of serenity, or calm,” Gordon said. “To me, it’s a very nurturing rhythm. I know water can also be very powerful and cause a lot of problems and trouble, but my connection with water has always been one that’s been very soothing as well as creative.”

Ellsworth said he sees the beauty in everyday things and looks for unique compositions. Among the photographs he submitted for the exhibit is “Recovered Assets.” The piece features two dinghies filled with lobster markers that floated to shore and were collected by residents of Asharoken who gifted them to a Northport bay man. Ellsworth said to him they looked like beautifully colored candy. “I like to look at items that people walk by and don’t see the beauty in them.”

A former Northport resident, Ellsworth now lives in Maryland and said he has owned various boats in his lifetime and always had an affinity to water. He was a Navy quartermaster petty officer on a destroyer in the early 1960s, and in the 1970s, he traveled by sailboat from Florida to Belize and Guatemala. It was during graduate school that he began taking classes that involved photography and the part aesthetics play in it.

“I was trying to understand, and I don’t know if I ever will, why people are moved by certain images, and what are the dynamics of art that speak to people,” Ellsworth said. “I thought if I could understand that it would make me a better photographer, and it has in terms of composition and understanding the dynamics of subject matter.”

Ellsworth said sometimes he can take 20 to 200 photos to get one he likes. “There’s a feeling you get when you get a good image,” he said. “Your whole body resonates with the scene when you click that shot.”

‘Chasing the Fleet’ by Jeff Urquhart

Urquhart, a former Verizon worker who is now a finish carpenter/project manager in Huntington Village, said he loves to sail and kayak. Like Ellsworth he’s owned different boats through the years and finds the water to be a great escape.

The photographer said he has taken photos from schooners, leaned over boats and been on the water during foggy weather to get that coveted shot. Even though he’s taken photos for more than 50 years, Urquhart said it’s only been the last few years that he has learned the intricacies that speak to the public. “There’s a very fine line between taking a picture and making a picture, and I stepped over that line, and I’m now creating pictures instead of just documenting family birthdays and holidays,” he said.

Urquhart said water has been a part of his life since his family moved from Kansas City, Missouri to Long Island when he was a child. “It just feels right,” Urquhart said. “It just feels where I need to be.”

Having learned the compositional aspects of photography, he said there is so much to capture on the water and look at on a boat. “An older wooden schooner lends itself to texture and mechanical aspects that people often overlook or take for granted,” he said.

Urquhart will focus on a specific piece of a vessel and said, when taken in color and taken out of context, it can become crisp and something to admire. Even anchors and lines in a boatyard capture his eye. “It just speaks to me as rough, ready to go, security in the fact that it’s a heavy anchor, heavy rope, it’s not going to suffer any damage,” he said. “It’s the implied security. It’s the implied peace of mind.”

Urquhart is hoping the exhibit will inspire art lovers to visit the places he has and photograph them. “Experience what I’ve experienced,” he said. “Or, if they’ve already done that, and if they don’t have a memory or memento of that trip they took, maybe what I have would satisfy the need.”

Ellsworth’s creative mission is for exhibitgoers to look at things differently whether walking along a shore, boatyard or town. “I [hope they] look at common things in an uncommon way whether a photographer or not, and to enhance one’s viewings when they’re walking, when they’re bicycling, when they’re driving but mostly when they’re walking,” he said.

Gordon has chosen 30 pieces of art in canvas, metal and traditional mat frame and glass for the exhibit. She said the photographs represent the Huntington area, Nova Scotia, Maine and Martha’s Vineyard. Gordon said these places as well as others in the world are connected by water.

“Sometimes I think in terms of Mother Earth, and the water is her blood flowing through all of her veins and arteries and it encircles the whole planet,” Gordon said.

A Boating pARTy exhibit will be docked at the fotofoto gallery, 14 West Carver St., Huntington, until Sept. 23. A public reception to meet the photographers will be held on Sept. 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.fotofotogallery.org or call 631-549-0448.

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'Prepping for the Race' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon

By Rita J. Egan

When two talented artists work together, the result can be picture perfect. Such is the case with watercolor artist Ward Hooper and photographer Holly Gordon, who shortly after meeting almost three years ago formed The Brush/Lens Project.

Currently, art lovers and travelers alike can enjoy the result of this artistic duo’s immense talents as well as inspiring friendship. Eight pairings of the artists’ paintings and photographs are on display at the Atrium Gallery at Long Island MacArthur Airport in an exhibit presented by the Islip Arts Council.

In addition to the art show, the two will host a slide show and talk at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library Aug. 23. The event will allow art aficionados the chance to ask Hooper and Gordon about their collaboration as well as their process for perfectly pairing their works of art.

The alliance began on social media after a mutual friend introduced the two. Gordon said she looked at Hooper’s work online and found he had painted similar sites and themes that she had photographed. She realized the two not only shared an interest in creating art but also an appreciation of the landscapes of Long Island.

'Dove-Torr House' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Dove-Torr House’ by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
'Dove-Torr House' by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Dove-Torr House’ by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon

“For the past 50 years we have been destined to connect, because we have so been living parallel lives independently, and so three years ago they converged,” Gordon said.

A painting of Hooper’s that he created of Long Island City during his commuter days from Northport to Manhattan especially stood out to the photographer. The image reminded her of a photo she had taken along the New Jersey Turnpike, and she posted it to Hooper’s Facebook page.

When Gordon was preparing for a tulip photography exhibit, while Hooper was teaching how to paint the flower at an art class in his home, the artists experienced a bit of synchronicity once again. Noticing a number of similarities in their lives and work, the two decided it was time to meet in person.

The pair said they began meeting every Tuesday, and Hooper would have an itinerary of places to visit as well as a route planned out. They started in Northport at a Victorian house off Woodbine Avenue and then branched out east, according to the painter. “So every Tuesday, it was an adventure,” Gordon said.

At first Hooper would stay by the car or sit on a bench while sketching. Gordon said he would instruct her as to where to go to capture interesting images based on his memories from past excursions with fellow artists, some of the trips made as long as 20 years ago.

“It was very nostalgic to me, remembering fond memories of those outings with friends who are no longer around, so it was very special. And being there with Holly, she was looking at it with fresh eyes, so I was so anxious to see what Holly came up with every week,” Hooper said.

When they began presenting their work under The Brush/Lens Project name, Gordon would photograph spots based on existing paintings of Hooper’s if she didn’t already have an image. Hooper said he hadn’t painted for years when he met the photographer due to the passing of his wife, Dolly, and being her primary caregiver.

“When this lady dropped into my life, it was very special and wonderful at exactly the time it was truly meaningful to me. And here we are,” the painter said. Gordon said she understood his pain but also knew the healing power of creativity. After suddenly losing her husband of 20 years in 1996, the photographer said she had held onto her camera like a life preserver to come to grips with her loss.

Hooper quickly became inspired to paint again and recently has created new work to pair with Gordon’s. “Creativity is a blessing. I can’t imagine a life without creativity,” the painter said. Gordon has noticed the difference the collaboration and friendship has made in both of their lives. “He really in many respects has given me a crash course on the earlier part of his life, and he has taken me into his world, and it’s really expanded what I am doing today creatively, but it also has given Ward an enormous verve and enthusiasm to move on and do new things,” she said.

When it comes to Hooper’s paintings, Gordon said, “His paint brush is jumping and dancing all over the place. It is ageless. It is just filled with so much vitality and verve.” The admiration is mutual as Hooper describes Gordon as “an amazing photographic artist” whose work is easily recognizable due to her unique, “imaginative stamp” she puts on each of her photographs. He said of her work, “It jumps off the wall and dances.”

'Race Day' by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Race Day’ by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
'Prepping for the Race' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Prepping for the Race’ by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon

Immediately after their exhibit at the airport, The Brush/Lens Project paintings and photographs will be on display at the Islip Town Hall Rotunda Gallery, 655 Main St., until Oct. 5. The painter and photographer hope local residents will take the opportunity to view their different interpretations of local areas and maybe see Long Island landscapes in a different way.

“We put ourselves out there for all to see and hopefully they’ll come away with an interesting visual experience,” Hooper said. Gordon added, “I hope that they will see more clearly themselves. Take more time to see and appreciate what’s out and in front of them, because so often people are just so scattered that they don’t focus. And, also to see how wonderful creativity is, because here are two people who can look at the same subject but be affected to respond to it differently.”

The Brush/Lens Project exhibit will be on display at the Atrium Gallery at Long Island MacArthur Airport, 100 Arrival Ave., Ronkonkoma, until Aug. 30. Hooper and Gordon’s talk and slide show takes place Aug. 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library, 1 South Country Road, Brightwaters. To reserve a spot for the free event, call 631-665-4350.

For more information on The Brush/Lens Project, visit www.brushlensproject.com.

Ward Hooper and Holly Gordon display similar pieces of art — from left, a painting and a photograph — both titled ‘The Boys of Summer.’ Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

When photographer Holly Gordon was asked to describe her relationship with painter Ward Hooper, she relayed a Hopi Native American tale about a paralyzed clown and a blind mudhead who are only able to flee their village when disaster strikes by individually compensating for what the other lacks: the mudhead provides mobility by carrying the clown on his back and the clown provides direction by acting as a set of eyes for the mudhead. “[Ward] was opening up my eyes, and I was using my camera to bring him the visions,” said Gordon. “There’s really such a synergy between us.”

For Hooper and Gordon, who met on Facebook through a mutual friend and typically get together once a week, the term “synergy” applies to both life and art, realms which, according to Gordon, are often indistinguishable from one another. Hooper plays the role of navigator for Gordon, who drives them both to diverse locations along the north shore of Long Island, including Huntington, Northport, Centerport, Kings Park and Cold Spring Harbor, some of which Hooper “hasn’t been to in 20 years.” The result is individual reinterpretations of the same settings made more complete by access to each others pre-existing work.

Sometimes Hooper’s paintings provide the initial inspiration, and other times Gordon’s photographs play this role. “That’s the beauty of our collaboration,” said Hooper. “Holly would show me something and challenge me to create something compatible with what she selected.”

“[When using Ward’s painting as the initial artistic reference] I knew that I was going to have to stretch my vision and stretch my technical skills to make my work even more fluid than it was previously,” said Gordon. “Art is usually a solitary thing, and among some artists you find a certain competition, but Ward and I have just been so supportive in sharing and helping each other grow and evolve and develop and create. It’s been an absolutely magical experience.”

52 of the artistic results of this experience — pairing the new photographic art of Gordon with the watercolor paintings of Hooper — will be on display at the Art League of Long Island’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, from Aug. 8 to 23, in an exhibit appropriately titled The Brush/Lens Project.

“We’re hoping that viewers will be inspired,” said Gordon, “that they will come to see and appreciate the beauty that is right here on Long Island [by viewing art that was largely created in and inspired by Long Island].”

The exhibit will highlight versatile pieces of art, arranged in 26 sets, which encompass all four seasons and a variety of subjects. “We overestimated the number of pieces [that we would be able to include in the exhibit],” said Hooper. “Between the two of us, we have nearly 100 years of art,” continued Gordon, “there’s a book here.”

Both Hooper and Gordon are grateful that they have been afforded the opportunity to work with one another and plan to continue to do so in the future: “When you put yourself out there and you’re not afraid to share and interact, there’s so much beneath the surface to discover,” said Gordon, on her rewarding decision to reach out to Hooper. “Art brought [Holly and me] together,” Hooper emphasized. “We think, on many levels, the same way.”

With Gordon in the driver’s seat and Hooper as navigator, there’s no telling where their artistic visions will lead them next. “There’s no end to this journey. There’s no road map,” said Hooper. “We’ll just see where it takes us.”

The Art League of Long Island is located at 107 E. Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Hours are Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The community is invited to an art reception on Aug. 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. The artists will take part in a Gallery Talk on Aug. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.net.