By Melissa Arnold
Horses, whether ridden, raced, bred or simply beloved, have long been a part of Long Island’s culture. From the Belmont Stakes in Nassau to the Smithtown Hunt and the Old Field Farm in Suffolk, the majestic animals hold a special place in the hearts of many.
Among them was the late artist Joe Reboli, whose 30-year career was defined by bringing both famous places and ordinary views of the Three Village area to life with great care and realism.
The Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook was founded in 2016 to celebrate Reboli’s life and honor the history of the place he called home. Since then, the center has created a number of exhibits blending Reboli’s work with local artists as well as artifacts from Long Island’s past.
On Tuesday, the center opened an exciting new exhibit, Artistry: The Horse in Art, which will focus on horses and their environment through a variety of mediums. Among the Reboli works in the exhibit is “The Stable Door,” an oil-on-canvas painting.
“Joe had a way of capturing this community that evoked such wonderful feelings from people,” said Reboli Center co-founder Colleen Hanson. “His painting of a stable door in our exhibit was done for [the late publisher] John McKinney. Joe’s ability to paint white was just astounding — there is more to the color white than many people realize; there are so many shades and hues in it and he captured them all.”
In addition to work from Reboli, the exhibit will highlight three other main artists. Roberto Dutesco, a Romanian-born Canadian artist, is well known for his fashion photography. But in 1994, Dutesco began to explore nature photography with a trip to Sable Island, nearly 200 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. There he photographed the island’s breathtaking wild horses. He has returned to the island six times since then with the goal of inspiring greater conservation efforts through his work.
Dino Rinaldi is a Port Jefferson native whose winding career has taken him from illustration to advertising and finally painting full time. As a teen, Rinaldi recalls opening up an issue of the local newspaper and seeing a painting of gasoline pumps by Reboli.
“I looked at it and thought, someday I want to be able to paint like that. It moved me,” said Rinaldi, who now lives in Setauket with his wife and daughter. “To be able to create art for a living is a dream come true.” Keep an eye out for “Zidette,” Rinaldi’s graphite powder-and-pencil drawing.
Elena Hull Cournot, who originally hails from East Setauket, now provides creative arts therapy in the West Village and owns a studio in Brooklyn. Horses are a mainstay of Cournot’s work, who is known for her large commissioned paintings of horses and soulful works created during her time as an artist in residence at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. Like storytellers who seek to capture the personal essence of their subjects, Cournot strives to spend time with each horse she paints. One of those horses was “Indie,” whose oil-on-canvas portrait is featured in the gallery.
The center’s history gallery will focus on events and places that include horses in a prominent role. The Smithtown Hunt is the only surviving foxhound hunt on Long Island. While it was originally a live hunt when it was first held in 1900, it is now exclusively a drag hunt. The Old Field Farm was built by Ward Melville in 1931 and continues to be a hot spot for the equestrian community.
“Every year, we sit down and talk about what kind of exhibits we’d like to have. We look at different community events that are going on, and then work to determine the artists we might feature and a theme based around that,” Hanson explained. “This is such an interesting and fun show — there are so many people who love horses and have owned or ridden them at some point. They are beautiful, intelligent creatures that have a wide appeal.”
Hanson also joked that her own history was a factor in the decision. In the decade she spent as the director of Gallery North in Setauket, not a single exhibit featured a horse. Thanks to this exhibit, she’s now hung more than 30 horse paintings, drawings and photos.
The center will hold several special free events during the exhibit’s run, each coinciding with Third Friday activities in the area. Dino Rinaldi and Roberto Dutesco will be at the center Aug. 17; Leighton Coleman, Sally Lynch and Edmunde Stewart will be welcomed on Sept. 21; and on Oct. 19 there will be a screening of the documentary “Snowman,” which tells the story of a simple workhorse saved from the slaughterhouse by a Long Island man. Snowman went on to become a national show jumping champion.
See Artistry: The Horse in Art through Oct. 28 at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook. Admission is free. For information, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org.