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Irene Ruddock

Above from left, Paloma Papageorge, Jaden Chimelis, Irene Ruddock and Will Boonin
Honored Artist Muriel Mussara.

ART FOR A LIFETIME The Setauket Artists’ Exhibition, now in its 37th year, held an opening reception at the Setauket Neighborhood House on Oct. 22. Longtime member Muriel Mussara was this year’s Honored Artist, an award chosen by her peers, while art scholarships in memory of artists JoAnn Coaine, Burton Woods and Andrew Schmitt were awarded to Setauket Elementary School students Paloma Papageorge, Jaden Chimelis and Will Boonin. Coordinated by Irene Ruddock, the exhibit, which features the works of over 40 artists, will run through Nov. 20 with viewing daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photos by Marlene Weinstein

'Back Porch Pumpkin' by Al Candia

By Irene Ruddock

Artist’s statement:  I hope that my paintings create a deeper sense of the relationship between ourselves and the splendid world in which we live, and are moving through too quickly. — Al Candia

 

Al Candia

Al Candia, a Stony Brook resident, has been interested in art since childhood. He began painting seriously while teaching English at Commack High School, continuing his studies of art at Stony Brook University. His workshops and private study included courses with many noted artists, including Joseph Reboli. Candia has become an award-winning artist exhibiting extensively in galleries all over Long Island. Chosen as Honored Artist by the Setauket Artists in 2015, Candia is October’s Artist of the Month at The Long Island Museum.

Can you elaborate on your artist’s statement?

I concentrate on the immediate world around me. I try to avoid “grand” subjects and tend to focus on the common, ordinary things that I find meaningful, but that we are sometimes too busy to notice: a farm fence in an open field, ancient beach chairs frozen in the snow, a jetty marching down into the ocean, flowers stuck in an old bucket, a small pumpkin on the steps.

How did you learn to paint?

The most important teacher is “the doing.” I can’t tell you how many acres of canvas I went through to arrive at a level where I began to consider myself as an artist.

It has been said that your paintings ‘touch the heart’ and are soulful. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps by going through life so fast, people might secretly yearn for a simpler way of life. They may enjoy slowing down a bit to “take a breath” and see the ordinary and realize it can be extraordinary.

You were an English teacher for 36 years before becoming a full-time artist. How did teaching influence your work?

For me, there is wonderful connection between fine art and literature. Writers and poets deal very much in the creation of images. An image can haunt us, fill us with joy. It is what makes a written work alive and vivid. It is what made me want to become a painter. I would see something — a broken seashell, a window in the late afternoon shadows — that would move me deeply and would be heavy with meaning. I very much wanted to celebrate that in a painting.

‘Back Porch Pumpkin’ by Al Candia

How do you find inspiration for a painting?

Robert Frost said that a poem begins with a lump in the throat. He was talking, of course, about being moved or shaken by something — an idea, an experience, an object — that needs to be expressed. That is true for me also. Recently, I came across a pumpkin on the worn steps of a back porch. I was so taken with this simple object that hardly anyone would see. I thought of the person who placed it there out of a some personal gesture. I thought it would make a touching painting that reveals some small aspect of our humanity.

What is your method?

I usually begin with a bunch of photos. I take these back to my studio and begin to work up a drawing idea for the painting. This is an important step where you design the composition, simplify, arrange the elements, and begin to think of color and light. From there, I proceed as many oil painters do by washing the canvas with a thin mixture of warm color diluted with mineral spirits. Next I begin to lay in the large shapes. Essentially I am carrying on a dialogue with the canvas, finding out what is working and what is not.

Why have you chosen oil painting over other mediums?

I think the medium choose me. It somehow fits my personality. Oil painting is slow moving and deliberate. It often will take a few days to allow the painting to dry before moving on to the next step. During these intervals the painting is percolating in my brain, trying to make the painting as good as it possibly can be. I compare it to a child with a wind up toy, winding that toy as tight as possible in order to release it to its maximum effect.

What is the biggest difficulty you encounter in the creation of a painting?

After working with a painting for a couple weeks, you can lose the sense of it, you lose perspective. You can begin to doubt yourself: did I make all the right decisions, is the color just right, did I overwork it, does it still capture what you set out to do? At this time, for me, it is important to have honest feedback from others. My wife is an important part in keeping me on track.

‘Hydrangeas in a Bucket’ by Al Candia

After all that work and effort, it must be difficult to let a painting go.

Not at all. I love the entire process of painting from the initial moment of finding a subject, to creating a design, through the struggle of execution. And hopefully someone will come along and appreciate the painting enough to buy it and hang it in their home. For me that completes the cycle, and the painting begins its life.

Beside the Visitor’s Center at The Long Island Museum in October, where can we see your work?

I will be exhibiting at the Setauket Neighborhood House in the 37th annual Setauket Artists exhibit from Oct. 22 to Nov. 20. People are always welcome to visit my studio by appointment. You can contact me by visiting my website at www.alcandia.com.

'Autumn Light' by Lana Ballot
An autumn tradition returns to the North Shore

By Irene Ruddock

Now in its 37th year, the Setauket Artists’ Exhibition, featuring the works of over 40 local artists and artists from all over Long Island, will return to the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket from Oct. 22 to Nov. 20 with viewing daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, Oct. 22 from 1 to 4 p.m.

‘Long Island Sunset’ by Eileen Sanger

Participating artists this year include Lana Ballot, Ross Barbara, Eleanor Berger, Robert Berson, Rina Betro, Sheila Breck, Renee Caine, Al Candia, Gail Chase, Anthony Davis, Julie Doczi, Jeanette Dick, W.A. Dodge, Paul Edelson, Stu Gottfried, Donna Grossman, Peter Hahn, Melissa Imossi, Laurence Johnston, Anne Katz, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Michael R. Kutzing, John Mansueto, Jane McGraw Teubner, Terry McManus, Eleanor Meier, Fred Mendelsohn, Muriel Musarra, Genia Neuschatz, Iacopo Pasquinelli, Paula Pelletier, Denis Ponsot, Joe Reboli, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Eileen Sanger, Carole Link Scinta, Sungsook Setton, Barbara Siegel, Patricia Sloan, Angela Stratton, Marlene Weinstein, Laura Westlake and Patricia Yantz.

‘From Here You Can Almost See the Sea” by Iacapo Pasquinelli

The distinguished judge this year is David Peikon, a “contemporary realism” oil painter who is an instructor at the Art League of Long Island. Peikon has had over 18 solo shows and his work is in corporate and private collections throughout the world.

Each year, the Setauket Artists honor a special artist who’s work is admired and who has contributed greatly to the show. It is an award especially appreciated since it is chosen by one’s peers. Muriel Musarra, a watercolorist and oil painter and a member of the Setauket Artists for 37 years, is this year’s choice. Her work is in many collections and exudes a certain quiet peacefulness that has charmed the community for years.

The three paintings being offered for the raffle this year are the following: “Giclee of Giverny #1” by Renee Caine, a recent Artist of the Month recipient for LIMarts; “An Afternoon in Tuscany,” an original pastel by Donna Grossman, instructor of drawing and oil painting at The Atelier in Saint James; and “Nissequogue Overlook,” an original acrylic by John Mansueto, a well-known painter from the South Shore.

Fred Bryant of Bryant Funeral Home has generously offered to be the Setauket Artists sponsor again. The artists applaud Bryant’s loyalty by providing funds that have made the exhibit more professional.

‘One Daisy’ by Angela Stratton

This year, the Setauket Artists introduce their new website, www.setauketartists.com. We invite you to take a look and sign up to join our mailing list. The website will tell you about the 37-year-old organization called Setauket Artists: its history, artists, paintings, Children’s Scholarship Fund, and our newest feature, art consultation.

Art consultation is designed to create a personal relationship with buyers who may want to purchase a piece of art but are unsure of where to begin to obtain art that best suits their surroundings. After suggesting many paintings, we will bring the actual paintings to your home or office where you will see the artwork in its environment, with no obligation to purchase. Art consultation is available all year long; we look forward to providing you with affordable paintings that truly fit your needs and our motto: Art for a Lifetime.

‘Setauket Bridge’ by Muriel Musarra

The Setauket Artists will continue their art scholarship fund for children in the Setauket schools, presenting these awards at the reception opening. This year’s recipients of the awards for drawing and painting are Will Boonin in memory of Setauket Drawing Group member Andrew Schmitt, Jaden Chimelis in memory of Setauket Artist Burt Woods and Paloma Papageorge in memory of artist JoAnn Coane, given by her husband Jim Coane.

If you miss the first reception, join the Setauket Artists for a free wine and cheese reception on Friday, Nov. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. where music will be provided once again by singer Caterina Dee.

For additional information, visit www.setauketneighborhoodhouse.com, Setauket Artists on Facebook or call 631-365-1312.

Irene Ruddock is the coordinator of the Setauket Artists.

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'Johnston Canyon' by Ross Barbera

By Irene Ruddock

Ross Barbera, a graduate of Pratt Institute, is known for his representational acrylic paintings on canvas, watercolors on paper, original jewelry and digital and abstract art. Presently teaching at St. John’s University in the Art and Design Department in Queens where he was chairman for three years, Ross continues to win many juried awards and prestigious grants to pursue his prolific art career.

You were born and raised in Brooklyn, yet all of your paintings, and even much of your jewelry, are depictions of some aspect of the rural landscape. How did that come about?

I spent my summers at my family’s homes in Smithtown and Peakville, New York, and it was during these summers away from the city that I discovered the world of the natural landscape. They were welcome retreats from the city where everything was different: night times were cool, the air smelled clean. I was surrounded by deep forests, ponds and running streams. I was particularly attracted to the interplay of sunlight on flowing water. Nature became the primary inspiration for my paintings ever since then.

Much of your work is representational, yet you also paint in the abstract. What is your inspiration for your abstract work?

Although representational landscape painting has dominated my artistic direction, I discovered abstract, luminous worlds by observing pond surfaces and ice formations “close-up.” For me, this was the hidden world beyond the visible world that has provided the inspiration for my abstract paintings.

Water Lily Watercolor Pendant by Ross Barbera

You have an interesting process in watercolor painting that you teach in your classes and workshops. Can you tell us about this?

I have been experimenting with methods that enable me to retain the look of watercolor painting while achieving painted surfaces comparable in strength to acrylic on canvas; this eliminates the need to protect the painting by framing it behind glass. The first step in this process is to bind the watercolor paper to stretched canvas with a thick polymer gel medium. The finished watercolor painting is then protected with multiple layers of acrylic varnish, and for the top layer I apply a few coats of a removable UV protecting varnish.

Some of the background of your paintings have a stained glass effect — clean, clear, translucent and filled with saturated color. How do you achieve that?

I’ve always worked hard to give my paintings a quality of light, in the belief that good landscape painting needs to communicate a feeling of atmosphere; I never complete a painting until I feel it projects a strong quality of sunlight. Regarding my watercolor paintings, I believe the natural transparency of the watercolor medium contributes to a clean, translucent image. I do not apply watercolor paint with sable paint brushes. I predampen the color shape to be painted with a paint brush and clean water. Next, using needle dispenser bottles that have been filled with premixed watercolor to the consistency that I require for painting, I apply multiple colors into the predampened area, and I permit the colors to freely intermix and blend without working into them with a brush. This method of paint application results in clean, clear and beautifully translucent color shapes, and I believe the effect is further enhanced by the application of the final, protective layers of varnish.

‘Glacier’ by Ross Barbera

How does your digital work influence your art?

My wife Bonnie bought me my first tablet where I downloaded a drawing app. I was instantly addicted! I eventually downloaded a painting app and loved the convenience of digital plein air painting. Next, I began to export my digital paintings to my computer so I could continue to develop them in Photoshop. I restrict myself to basic brushes that come close to what I use in my acrylic on canvas paintings, and I do not use any effects or filters. I intend my digital paintings to be characterized by the same painterly quality that you would see in my paintings on canvas.

How did you become interested in creating jewelry? Can you describe how you incorporate your watercolors into your jewelry?

I started making jewelry when I was a graduate student at Pratt Institute. My early jewelry was created mostly in sterling, and I often incorporated enamels to add color. I am now using a wide range of different types of paper and wood and eventually discovered the limitless possibilities of building pendants, earrings, bracelets and hair pieces with layers of watercolor paper. I like building up layers on 140-pound Arches watercolor paper, and painting directly onto the surface with watercolor and acrylic paints. I coat the jewelry with multiple layers of acrylic varnish, and the final process involves heating the finished piece in an oven at 150°F, which hardens the varnish process.

What is the focus of your recent work?

I visited the Canadian Rockies with the intent of photographing the mountain glaciers and rivers for a new series of acrylic paintings that would be dedicated to the disappearing glaciers. I plan to continue in my effort to capture the diversity of the North American landscape in painting and will visit national parks throughout the United States and Canada for this purpose.

Where can we see your artwork?

I currently have an exhibit featuring my paintings and jewelry at the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station through the month of September. I also currently have a painting on exhibit in the juried show Colors of the Night at the Mills Pond House Gallery in St. James until Sept. 30. My paintings and jewelry can be viewed at any time by visiting www.rossbarbera.com, and my instructional videos can be found on my YouTube channel Realisticart. My jewelry can be purchased directly from my website, www.paperpendants.com.

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'NSP Docks' by Christian White

By Irene Ruddock

If you only attend one gallery exhibit this summer, make it the stunning collection of new paintings by Christian White showing at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James this month. White is a multitalented artist creating works in stone, watercolor, graphite, gouache, trompe l’oeil, egg tempera and, of course, his ever popular luscious color-saturated oils paintings.

Your exhibit of new paintings has been described as ‘breathtaking.’ Do you have a favorite piece?

These paintings are an attempt to find something new in subjects that I have painted often over my career. I never really have a favorite piece, I am more interested in how the paintings look together, and I am very happy with how these look as a group.

You refer to yourself as a colorist. What is your secret to creating such pure, clean color that exudes light and atmosphere so well? How do you prepare for painting large pieces?

I believe that if one uses color, it should have a purpose, that is, a decorative, thematic and expressive function in the picture. I have no real secrets to my color ideas, except that I have studied the subject a great deal. I do have certain ways of preparing colors in advance when working on large pieces, which are partly influenced by certain modernist and abstract painters.

You have such a remarkable heritage with five generations of famous painters, architects, poets, sculptors, etc. Who do you admire and learn from most in your family line?

I learned a great deal from everyone in my family who I knew personally. It is hard to say which part of one’s education is most important; I believe everything one learns contributes to who you are. I admired my father, Robert White, a great deal and spent much of my youth learning from him by example. I also admired my maternal grandfather, Joep Nicolas, a lot. I studied with him briefly in Holland, as well as with my aunt, Sylvia Nicolas, and a Japanese sculptor named Shinkichi Tajiri. Joep had a facility and imagination that I never felt I would attain, so yes, I admired that very much, but all of them had important lessons to give.

Is there a present-day artist who you hold in esteem and would like to meet?

I think I would say the South African artist, William Kentridge. He has an originality which I find engrossing and magical, and although he uses some modern technology, most of his work is just charcoal on paper, I love that he creates such original work with such a simple medium.

‘Japanese Maple #2’ by Christian White

Which is your favorite art museum? Is there an art museum that you would like to visit but haven’t yet?

For most of my life I would have said: The Frick. But now I probably spend more of my time at MoMA. I would love to see the Prado some day.

Japanese Maple #2 appears to be a joyfully abstract painting that exudes the wonder and brilliance of autumn. Can you explain a bit about your abstract paintings vs. your more traditional approach?

That is one of several paintings where I have tried to bring exterior space and structure forward into the room, like a window moved forward perhaps. I do not exactly consider these paintings abstract, although I have borrowed some ideas from abstract painters, and I suppose there is a certain feeling akin to “action painting” in its execution.

‘Harbor, March’ by Christian White

The painting ‘Harbor, March’ created quite a stir. What do you think makes it so universally inviting?

That painting was based on a smaller study that I did on a very warm, still day in March last year. I was trying to describe the unusual color of the air that day. I am often trying to capture a familiar subject in a new light. I think the scale of this one gives it a more specific mood, perhaps.

It’s hard to surpass your superb draftsmanship. Would you consider an exhibit with just your graphite drawings? Do you draw with your brush while painting in oils?

I consider drawing to be the basic skill and language that artists use to communicate. In recent years I have become more interested in producing drawings as objects of art, so yes, someday I may have an exhibit of just drawings. Am I drawing with the brush when I paint? Absolutely.

‘A Clutch of Daffodils’ by Christian White

You are presently teaching at The Atelier. Can you tell us why you were drawn to teach and exhibit there?

I was intrigued by the idea of a school that would give students solid foundational skills, in an organized studio setting. I think an emphasis on teaching drawing skills (not just copying from two dimensions) is crucial, though difficult, toward making better artists.

You’ve said that you were influenced by the Southampton artist, Fairfield Porter, a friend of your father. What did you learn from him?

He was also very close to my mother (they were both art critics). Mostly I was influenced by his work, his ability to make realism look so much like modernism, his insistence on making every color a design decision and the way he simplified the subject, without making it any less immediate. Those were things I wanted to do as well.

The Atelier at Flowerfield, 2 Flowerfield, Suite 15, St. James will present the exhibition Christian White: Recent Works through Aug. 31. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays. For more information, please call 631-250-9009 or visit www.atelierflowerfield.org.

Above, front and side view of ‘Topo Shift: MacIntyre Range, 2015.’ Its blue/white coloration is derived from winter hiking.

By Irene Ruddock

Winn Rea addresses environmental themes in her sculptures, installations, videos and works on paper. She has exhibited in galleries and museums, both nationally and internationally, being awarded many prestigious grants and awards. Presently, her work is being shown at the Heckscher Museum of Art in an exhibit aptly titled Earth Muse: Art and the Environment. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rea about her latest venture.

Environmental Artist Winn Rea

The exhibit at the Heckscher describes its exhibit as ‘presenting the work of artists who view the earth as muse for contemplation of nature’s beauty and diversity.’ Can you tell us what works you are showing there?

At the Heckscher Museum you can see examples of my topographic relief paintings. They are based on my time in the Adirondack Mountains. I love going to the Adirondacks because I can unplug from the wired world and reconnect with nature.

How does your time in nature translate into your artwork?    

While hiking I “collect” shadows by photographing them. Back in the studio, I construct topographic reliefs based on U.S. Geological Survey maps of the area.  They are built out of 1/8-inch Russian birch plywood that I paint using colors and shadow patterns from the woods. People are fascinated because the reliefs are not solid, they are hollow like sea shells, and the shadow almost fools you into looking over your shoulder for the tree that cast it.

What other ways do you use art to express your interest in the environment?   

All of my works are a meditation on where I fit into the greater scheme of things on the planet. When I make videos, they are about the passage of time in the short term, like how the flow of water in a stream changes over the course of a day, or the long term — as in geologic time — which is explored in my works on paper that are made by evaporation.

In your works on paper, you say that you do not paint in the traditional sense, but tend to them as you would a garden. Can you explain what you mean by that?    

Well, it helps to know my process for the works on paper: first, I sculpt the paper, crinkling it into folds like mountain ranges. Then I flood the paper with pigment, which slowly evaporates leaving marks much like contour lines. So, in effect, instead of pushing pigments here or there with a brush, I work in synchrony with the natural process of evaporation. In gardening terms, I prepare the “soil” (sculpted paper), “water it” (pour pigments), and “harvest” the result — a three-dimensional painting on paper.

Above, ‘Topo-Shift- Upper Saranac Lake’

You are an associate professor of art at Long Island University C.W. Post. What do you wish to get across to your students about how art and the environment are related?

I want to give students confidence in their own creativity and help them cultivate their problem-solving skills through the design process. The reality is, their capacity to imagine and realize new, sustainable ways to thrive is the answer to our planet’s future.

In your world exhibitions, is there one country that you enjoyed the most?

I most enjoyed my travels to Korea especially to the tea farms in the mountains. Here the tea bushes are planted along contour lines that accentuate the form of the mountains. I felt most at home there.

Many artists are looking for longevity in their work, yet you describe much of your work as ‘temporal.’ Why?

I want people to enjoy my work and even collect it in order to have it in their lives, if it brings pleasure to them. But I am not interested in making a commodity.  I want my legacy to be longer lasting in terms of the way my work helps people to think about the world differently and to become more aware of the impact of their everyday choices on the planet.

Above, front and side view of ‘Topo Shift: Cliff Mountain, 2015.’

‘Falling Water’ appears to be one of your most influential and popular installation sculptures. What effect were you trying to achieve?   

In “Falling Water,” I made use of the sculptural and material qualities of our ubiquitous disposable water bottles. Cutting them on a curve releases the energy of a spiral. The clear plastic refracts the light, de-materializing the plastic. In a way, their beauty seduces us into ignoring their treachery — the needless use of petroleum products to package and transport a resource that we have as close as our tap.

What are you working on now?   

I am working on a series of small topographic reliefs that include bodies of water.  I am curious about bathometry (contours of the earth under water) and am exploring that margin between land and sea.

Do you have another exhibit coming up?  

Yes, I have works hanging at Gallery 46 in Lake Placid.  As part of the visual arts extension of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, it is a great location for people to see my work in the context of the land that inspires it.

Can you tell us about your philosophy of life that influences your art?   

The philosophy behind my work can be traced back to time spent hiking with my dad as a young girl.  I loved the smell of the decaying leaves and movement of air amongst the trees. (I think of it now as the woods breathing.) My dad taught me to read the contours of the land while on the trail; back home he showed me where we had hiked on a 3-D topographic map. My dad also taught me about the natural cycle of things, of how the decay of one body feeds the life of another. This informs all my life’s work!

Winn Rea’s work is on exhibit at the Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington through July 30. For more information, visit her website at www.winnrea.com.

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'Exodus' by Terence Netter

By Irene Ruddock

Terence Netter

Terence Netter, who divides his time between Setauket and Saint-Georges-sur-Cher, France, has had an illustrious career that includes teaching, painting and wide-ranging administrative work in the arts. Locally, he is known for his achievements as the first director of the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, and, of course, for the visionary power of his paintings. Honored recently for these contributions by Gallery North, Netter is referred to as a “community treasure.”

As Staller Center director for 19 years, what was your vision for the center?

My goal was to make the center a major showcase for the arts. I am delighted to see how it has grown under the present leadership continuing to ever expand this goal.

What inspired you to evolve into painting landscapes in a minimalist style?

I changed my style of paintings to do works which evoke a sense of peace. When I moved to France, I became a practitioner and devotee of Zen Mediation which is an ancient technique of emptying one’s mind of distractions to enter a zone of peace. It calms your spirit so that you feel at one with the universe. My present painting process is a form of this meditation, and my newer paintings are an indication of this change. I call them “Zenscapes.”

 

‘Sunrise at Low Tide’ by Terence Netter

As a Christian, how do you reconcile Christianity and Zen Meditation?

The tradition of Christianity includes meditation. I was imbued with this through my study with the Jesuits. I find that both are traditions of finding peace in this ever more contentious and noisy world. Prayer and meditation are both ways of searching for the great mysteries of life and both have led me to paint in a peaceful manner.

How are art and religion entwined?

They are very much alike. The great philosopher Hegel said that art is the sensuous expression of the visual, and religion is the imaginative. Art and religion are two different forms of expressing the fact that the human spirit continues to evolve toward the infinite.

You often speak of achieving peace in your paintings. How do you define peace?

St. Thomas Aquinas says that “Peace is the tranquility of order.”

I’ve noticed that you often have the sun or moon in your paintings. What is the significance?

It’s the circle of life. The sun represents male power as exemplified by the god Apollo while the moon is represented by the goddess Venus. If you really want the answer to that, you will have to speak with my psychiatrist!

You also describe yourself as a teacher. What is your goal as a teacher?

I feel more complete as a person in the act of teaching. It is, for me, a way of growing. I teach in order to learn. I want to show students that life is an adventure in an unknown country — it is a “vision quest.” My goal as a teacher is to inspire young minds to open up, remove prejudices, and to set people on the path to finding truth. I encourage the study of the great thinkers who have influenced me such Hegel, Rahner, Kant and Chardin, to inspire the reflection necessary for growth. To grow, you have to be plugged into the spirit of the times — the Zeitgeist!

In your lectures, you talk about the search for the meaning of art through the centuries. What is your definition of the meaning of art?

I believe that art is nature reborn through the free consciousness of the human spirit. Artists create a new world for people to enter. Art is the visual expression of that infinitely evolving human spirit which is why each generation has to create their own vision of art.

Why did you choose the Loire Valley for your second home?

I went there when I was young and decided to take my wife Therese to visit on our 30th anniversary. We bought a little farmhouse and that is where I now do most of my painting. There I was inspired to paint the French Perspectives series and others that express “emotions recollected in tranquility.” My paintings have been described as capturing that special light and perfumed air of the Loire Valley.

You have mentioned that you spend time writing in France. Can you share with our readers what you are writing?

Yes, I am writing my memoirs!

Where can we see your art?

In Setauket, I am exhibiting my selected works at Gallery North (90 North Country Road, Setauket) until June 17 and in New York City I am represented by the Woodward Gallery. I am especially honored to be in many museums and private collections in the States and in Europe.

What do you want the viewer to feel or see when they view your paintings?

I want the viewer’s mind and eye to take a walk beyond the here and now. I hope that they experience that there is more beyond the horizon — the possibility of existence beyond the reach of our senses, even though we can’t see it. Most of all, I wish that they sense the deep peace that I am trying to evoke in my paintings.

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'Grateful' by Lana Ballot

By Irene Ruddock

Lana Ballot, a signature member of the Pastel Society of America is known for her stunning seascapes and coastal scenes, one of which just won first place (‘Grateful’) in The Art Guild of Port Washington Juried Exhibition “America.” Here, she shares her views on her art with us.

What is your heritage and how has it affected your art?

Lana Ballot

I was born in Siberia, Russia, but most of my childhood was spent in Kyrgyzstan, in the south of the former Soviet Union. We lived near a resort area with a large beautiful lake (the second largest mountain lake in the world), beaches and distant mountain views. I remember watching how the lake changes colors depending on the weather, or how the setting sun colors the mountain peaks golden and pink. There I started paying close attention to colors in nature and I’m sure that’s why now, as an artist, I’m so attracted to landscape and seascape as my main subjects.

Where did you study?

It was clear since I was a child that I had some artistic ability, but there were no art schools where we lived. After I came to the United States, I felt that I was given a chance to start over and do what I really love. I enrolled as a studio arts major at Stony Brook and spent years immersed in drawing, painting and learning art history.

Why do you prefer to work with pastels?

‘Sayville Vines’ by Lana Ballot

Pastels are a perfect medium that fits so well in a contemporary lifestyle — it does not require much space or use of any toxic solvents and it’s very portable, which makes it perfect for painting outdoors. Pastels are made of pure powdered pigment that is held together with very little binder, so they have the highest color concentration than any other artist’ medium. The colors in paintings made with pastels will stay brilliant and fresh for centuries!

Where do you teach?

I was fortunate to have been invited to join the group of talented artists teaching at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James. Currently, I offer two classes — a studio Pastel Painting class on Tuesday evenings and a Plein Air with Pastels class on Friday mornings. In addition to these ongoing classes, I teach workshops that are usually focused on a specific subject, like Painting Seascapes with Pastels from Aug. 18 to 20. This June, I’m teaching a week-long Plein Air workshop in Tuscany, Italy — a dream destination for a landscape painter!

‘Stony Brook Sunset’ by Lana Ballot

Tell me about your Tuscany workshop. Can people still sign up for it?

Yes, there’s still time to sign up. This is a painting vacation from June 17 to 24. The group will be staying in a villa in Tuscany, near the beautiful town of Cortona, the filming location for the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Learning in a relaxed atmosphere in a gorgeous setting, while enjoying Italian food and wine will be a wonderful experience.

Do you have a favorite place to paint on Long Island?

Smith Point Beach in Shirley and Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai are my go-to places for seascapes and coastal subjects. It does not matter how many times I’ve walked through the dunes or by the water, I’ll find something new and exciting, because the light is never quite the same. I’m also fortunate to live near the beautiful village of Stony Brook, where I’ve painted in different seasons and weather, and where I’m bringing my plein air students during this spring semester.

Why do you like painting en plein air?

There’s no substitute for learning about color for a landscape artist than to paint outside en plein air. Besides, it’s just great to be immersed in my subject, with all senses engaged.

‘Snow in Cedar Beach Dunes’ by Lana Ballot

Who is your favorite artist?

[John Singer] Sargent is one of the biggest influences on my work for his sense of color and expressive brushwork.

If you had to choose one word to describe your art, what would that be?

Color! That is what most people would mention when they speak about my work. It’s also the brilliant color that is found in, and is so special about, my preferred painting medium — pastels.

Where can we see your work and learn more about your teaching and the workshops?

Visit my website at www.lanaballot.com or call me at 262-347-1176. You may also register for my classes or workshops at The Atelier in St. James by calling 631-250-9009 or by visiting their website, www.atelieratflowerfield.org.

Dating back to the 18th century, The Setauket Neighborhood House has served as a private home, an inn, a post office, a bank and a general store, among others. Today it functions as a community meeting house. File photo

By Irene Ruddock

Now that spring is here, every homeowner wonders how everything in their home is ever going to get repaired. Just multiply that concern many times to imagine the projects needed for the improvement and upkeep of a beloved community treasure — the Setauket Neighborhood House (SNH). In helping to provide funds for projects that are needed to keep this historic building for all the community to enjoy, the SNH will host its 5th annual Taste of the Neighborhood fundraiser on Friday, May 12 from 7 to 10 p.m.

In past years, funds raised from this annual event have helped with the upkeep of the house, parts of which are over 200 years old — rebuilding a beautiful front and back porch, replacing the roof, building chair storage units, purchasing a new furnace and paying bills! This year, the house, which is located at 95 Main Street in Setauket, is in need of a new ballroom floor, a grand undertaking that will enhance the house immeasurably and ensure continued enjoyment and participation by the community. What an exciting adventure that will be! Here is your chance to be a part of it!

‘Shadow Play’ by Irwin Traugot will be raffled off at the event.

On May 12 you will also be given the opportunity to join your neighbors to come together for wonderful food provided by the generosity of 16 of our local restaurants. Taste the signature dishes of Amici Restaurant, Bagel Express, Bliss, Chick-fil-A, Country House, Curry Club, Fifth Season, Fratelli’s, Mario’s, Old Field Club, O Sole Mio, Pumpernickel’s Deli and Market, Setauket Gourmet Deli, Setauket Pastaria, Three Village Inn and Villa Sorrento. Wine and beer will be served along with other refreshments, compliments of the SNH.

Of course, a fundraiser wouldn’t be the same without raffle baskets, so plan on taking a chance on over 15 beautiful baskets donated by community and board members. There will also be plenty of gift certificates from local business owners. A special thanks to Debbie Bryant, who for years has dedicated her time and talent by wrapping and organizing our baskets. Drawings will be conducted that evening, but you don’t have to be present to win.

To add to the elegance of the evening, an art retrospective will feature the paintings of Irwin Traugot. Traugot, a beloved Setauket Artists’ member, has been exhibiting annually at the house for 35 years. The artist will also donate a beautiful painting for the raffle; his other paintings are for sale with a portion of the proceeds going to the SNH. They will be on view for several weeks after the event for all to enjoy. Finally, live music will be provided by music students from Ward Melville High School.

Tickets for this event may be purchased for $30 online at www.setauketnh.org or at the door for $35. Checks are payable to Setauket Neighborhood House and may be mailed to P.O. Box 2192, Setauket, NY 11733. For more information, please call 631-751-6208.

'Avalon Garden' by Sungsook Setton

By Irene Ruddock

Sungsook Setton of Setauket is a watercolor and ink artist whose work bridges East and West and has brought her international recognition. She has exhibited in Canada, Korea, Taiwan, England and the United States. Setton twice won Best in Show at the National Juried Exhibition by the Sumi-e Society of America.

Quote: ‘My work, based on East Asian brush painting and Western artistic innovation, can be seen as expressive abstraction, allowing me to harness the spirit of qi.’

When did you begin painting?

Sungsook Setton

From an early age, I was always drawn to art and painted in the traditional western style. However, I began East Asian water and ink brush painting while revisiting Korea searching for my roots. I studied with Chinese and Korean masters who had me practice one stroke at a time for a month until it was perfect. They taught me that, just as musicians play scales and dancers practice steps, watercolor-ink painters practice the basic strokes to prepare for more intricate work. This began my personal journey to meld traditions of eastern and western art into my art.

What is the most important lesson you learned from your teachers?

One of the most important lessons is to achieve tranquility while you paint. Becoming one with the brush is an essential meditative experience that leads to tranquility. Tranquility then leads to qi, which leads to the transcendence necessary for painting.

Can you tell us more about qi?

It is a life force or energy flow. It is a central Chinese principle — the harmony of yin and yang.

‘Flatiron Building’ by Sungsook Setton

What else influences your art?

The most influential classic book for the Chinese water-ink artist is the Qing Dynasty reference “Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden,” which teaches that polished skills lead to a deeper understanding of the wonders of nature. While engaged in painting landscape, it’s almost a spiritual nutrition for me. Surrounded by nature, my mind is calm and clear, and I can focus on my subject. I then use suggestions in my brushwork to interpret forms in their simplest state. By paring back, I hope to reveal and capture the qi of nature. Brush painting represents the perfect meeting between the qi of the artist and the qi of nature.

What is your best advice for people viewing your work?

When viewing the paintings, look also for the empty spaces as well as the positive spaces. The nonpainted area, called ying, is there to allow you to breathe deeply and to grow and to achieve peace.

You have just written a beautiful book titled “The Spirit of the Brush.” Can you explain why you chose the title?

My brush has taken me on a spiritual journey. With my brush, I feel that I am not only a painter, but a dancer and a musician. I sing songs with my brush and dance with it. It is the goal of every watercolor painter to become one with the brush, so the title “The Spirit of the Brush” is fitting for me.

‘West Meadow Beach’ by Sungsook Setton

Tell me more about the book.

It is a story of my personal journey. It is also a book that teaches others how to achieve water-ink paintings by providing information on brush and paper materials. It is a guide for learning how to incorporate this art form into their own unique work — finding their own path, or dao, to where their brush will lead them.

When you say that you sing songs with your brush, how has that transpired?

I’ve spent a lot of time depicting music in my paintings over the years. I was invited to participate in a multimedia performance Brush Voice. During the performance, my abstract expressionist paintings were projected onto a large screen while the Ardesco group played the music at the Wang Center at Stony Brook University. After that, I have done live performances with a jazz musician.

What is your best advice for artists?

My advice for artists is to remember that nature always has new things to teach you!.

Where can we view your paintings and purchase your new book?

Come visit me at my art studio at 22 Mud Road in Setauket where I also teach. I am exhibiting my paintings at the Art League of Long Island with the Long Island Sumi-e Society member show from April 22 to May 7. The exhibition is called The Fragrance of Ink. “The Spirit of the Brush” is coming out in June and may be preordered on Amazon today — bring it to my studio for signing! Book signing schedules will be announced soon! You may contact me at sungsooksetton@gmail.com or www.sungsooksetton.com.

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