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It Takes a Village

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"Remembering Things Past"

Waugh's painting from her exhibit "Across the Pond" looks at how the same language renders different meanings "across the pond."

When it comes to the power of Annemarie Waugh’s art, the writing is on the wall — elegantly scrawled in technicolor chalk on a black cloud of paint that remarkably, though unintentionally, resembles a map of the United States.

Her latest work, “Across the Pond,” features 166 “Britishisms” brought to life in paintings on canvas and with expressions written directly on the walls of the Islip Museum of Art.

It’s all part of the show, “Remembering Things Past,” running at the museum until the end of March.

The small room where her art is displayed is filled with wonderful British idioms, like “snog,” (to kiss), “faff,” (to waste time) and “mucky pup”, (dirty child). My personal favorite is “all fur coat and no knickers” (to have a sophisticated appearance but no substance). They’re the sort of expressions that would make you feel oh, so witty, were you to slip them into your daily conversation. Though, I’m not sure they’d sound nearly as nifty without the equally smart British accent.

Annemarie says the idea for the project began to percolate last Christmas when she was at home in England. The almost clichéd advice, “write what you know,” got her thinking.

“I know England. I know these expressions,” she says.

Inspiration to begin her text series, illustrations of some of these expressions — almost like an onomatopoeia in pencil and acrylic— soon followed. She describes the process as “thinking about the differences of the two countries and finding a visual voice that brings those memories and experiences into the work.”

Before she picked up her tools though, she started with a short story — about a paragraph long — to go with the words. Her first word was “snog.” From there, she went on to do more research in books and dictionaries, rediscovering and uncovering more expressions. She still uses some. Some, she’d forgotten. Her list has grown so much that she is actually compiling it into a book.

Annemarie told me that when she first showed the series in Patchogue last October, she didn’t want to display only paintings, so she had to figure out a way to showcase additional expressions.

“I started thinking of England and chalkboards and schools… chalkboard brings you back to remembering days long ago. It was a natural fit,” she says.

So she started practicing on the chalkboard in her son’s playroom. Though she’d used stencils for her paintings because she thought of her handwriting as “chicken scratch,” the artist says she found chalk freer and less inhibiting.

As the whole concept formed, “It was like another person stepped in and did it for me,” she says.

Installing the chalked portion of the exhibit was a project in itself. Annemarie says she was at the museum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — leaving in time to get her son off the bus —for four straight days.

She painted the wall and wrote the 166 British expressions on one wall and the corresponding “American translations” on another. She very nicely numbered everything so they can easily be matched. On the fifth day, she worked with a proofreader. After all, that is a lot of writing!

Annemarie_definitionsAs Annemarie explains it, evenings were spent going through her lists of expressions to choose which would fit thematically and physically in her piece.

To see how she has managed to perfectly alternate each color — red, pink, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple and white— for each expression, so that the same color is never contiguous, is an impressive and powerful feat.

It’s almost like performance art, because to show the exhibit elsewhere, Annemarie would have to do it all over again!

When I asked her if the thought made her want to take a nap, she laughed. “Oh no! I’d love to do it again!” she said.

“Remembering Things Past,” can be seen at the Islip Museum of Art, 50 Irish Lane, East Islip, through March 29. Viewing is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. Call (631) 224-5402.

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Heart-shaped pancakes straight from the skillet.

​If you’ve ventured into the Valentine’s Day section of Target lately, you probably had to squeeze past other shoppers trying to acknowledge the holiday with sanity. A few heart-shaped cookies here, maybe some chocolates and, of course, cards for the kids to hand out at school. Though the aisle was probably full, there was not yet a sign of mania.

Nevertheless, there are some — and I used to be one of them — who still crumble under the pressure of having to produce an appropriately deep and meaningful display of affection for their sweeties. And in desperation, end up buying — forgettable, or not so forgettable — tchotchkes like heart-bedecked dress socks. But why all the pressure? We could blame the Victorians, who made the practice of sending a card to that special someone de rigeur. But really, there’s nothing wrong with a simple card.

The thing is, little is actually simple these says. And retailers like it that way.

If Valentine’s Day becomes another chance to have a little fun and celebrate our friends, or families, or sweethearts, there’s no reason for people to lose their minds. So, there’s no need to order that Vermont Teddy Bear Christian Grey, equipped with mask and handcuffs. (I kid you not — that bear, in all his three-piece-suit glory, exists. That’s just fifty shades of wrong!)

Instead, think of February 14 as an excuse to have pink-and-red and heart-shaped fun! Like heart-shaped pancakes for dinner. That’s fun, and you don’t even need a mold to make them — unless you want them to be absolutely unquestionable in their heart status, in which case, a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond may be in order. But really, it’s very easy to shape the batter into a heart once it starts to bubble and get a little bit of form on the bottom. And the result really does look more like a heart than not.

Pizza dough is also pretty easy to shape into a heart, and I’ve even seen some with the pepperoni cut into little hearts. Use a heart cookie cutter for sandwiches, and if you go online, you’ll see that people can turn just about any food into hearts. Cookies and Rice Krispy treats look downright pedestrian compared to heart-shaped cinnamon rolls, strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

You name it, there’s a how-to for it. There’s even heart-shaped salad — to offset the chocolates, of course. Or, since we’re all about being low-key, low-stress and fun, buy heart-shaped ravioli, and boom! — you’ve met your heart-shaped quota for the meal.

Homemade Valentines can be fun with stencils, doilies, glitter glue, stickers and construction paper. I admit we went the way of Frozen and Spider Man, but the grandparents, at least, will get something original. In fact, for something a little fancier, you can cut flowers out of tissue paper and stick a Dum Dum lollipop through the center to make an edible flower valentine. But you only have to do it, if you want to.

Are you overdue for a new mix of love songs? (I know it’s a playlist, but mix tapes bring back such good memories.) Besides, what’s more full of emotion than music? (Not a word from you, Kanye). You don’t have to be a fan of Lionel Richie, George Michael or Chicago to have a romantic list, though who can resist their deliciously cheesy ballads? There are so many ways to mix your music — with standards, Broadway duets, or all 60s or 80s or 90s fare. And who says it has to be romantic? With some C and C music factory, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson, you can make it a dance party!

There’s a certain sweetness to the way kids celebrate with corny candy heart expressions and cartoon characters cards. It’s the idea that love of every kind is worth celebrating, especially friendship and appreciation for those who make a difference in our lives.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do on the day marked with a huge heart on the calendar. All that matters is that you don’t wait for that day to arrive to show those around you that you care.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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