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Mills Pond Gallery

'Matinee' by AM DeBrincat, oil and acrylic paint and transfer print on canvas

By Melissa Arnold

In the coming weeks, Mother Nature will show us both sides of her personality as the cold darkness of winter melts into colorful spring. It’s a time of opposites, with life and death at the center of it all.

The Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond Gallery in St. James is reflecting on these themes with its newest fine art exhibition, In the Garden of Eden: Artist Reflections, on display now through April 14.

‘Mirror’ by Yvonne Katz

“Each artist I selected helped tell a story for me — the origin of choice, good and evil, light and darkness, the origin of creation,” said guest curator Melissa Masci, who developed the concept for the exhibit. “The premise of this show is that there’s balance to every aspect of life, in the experiences we have and the decisions we make that define us. There’s a duality at play — you can create something incredibly light and beautiful from the darkest experiences.”

It is the first time that STAC director Allison Cruz has invited a guest curator to the gallery, and while she admits it wasn’t easy to hand over the reins, she knew Masci’s vision had to be shared.

Masci, a Seaford resident, is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Her career has led her from designing women’s apparel and store window displays to teaching art classes for children. Cruz invited her to teach at the St. James gallery, and they’ve built a fierce friendship since.

“Melissa visited the gallery just by chance about seven years ago, and we struck up a conversation,” Cruz recalled in a recent interview. “She fell in love with the space — the light and the spirit of it. And she’s such a genuine and creative person.”

The unique exhibit, which fills four gallery rooms and the center hall gallery on the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion, will feature the works of eight artists using a variety of mediums and styles, including oil, acrylic, mixed media and sculpture.

All of the artists are contemporary, and the majority are local to Long Island. Masci aimed to choose artists from a mix of backgrounds and experiences to expose visitors to something new, she said.

‘Ode to Giuseppe Sanmartino’ by Nicholas Frizalone

Brooklyn-based painter AM DeBrincat creates layered works on canvas, blending painting, digital photography and even printmaking for a unique style. She uses images pulled from online searches and Xerox transferring for her pieces, which explore how we create a sense of self in the digital age. “I have always felt compelled to make art, ever since I was young. I’m not sure why, but it’s always been such a strong impulse and brought me joy, so I don’t over analyze it – I just go with it,” she said.

Nicholas Frizalone of Lake Grove attended Stony Brook University and Long Island University before becoming an art educator and creator. He paints, draws and creates prints that explore the implication of language in art. “Through the use of painting, drawing, and printmaking, I wish to investigate the implications of language in art, and communicate in a way words will never be able to accomplish,” he said.

Jennifer Hannaford is more than just an artist ‒ the Port Jefferson resident is also a forensic scientist. To get in touch with her creative spirit, Hannaford began to create artistic mug shots using her fingerprints. Working primarily in oils, she enjoys exploring themes that include life, ascension and balance.

Ashley Johnson of Buffalo works with ceramics, collage and photography but expresses her creativity most through stippled ink drawings and large-scale ink paintings. “Creating art is a therapeutic way for me to work through my emotions … to dig deep and explore my trauma, joy, confusion, anger, love, and anything else I need to release,” she said.

Smithtown artist Yvonne Katz believes art is the “elixir that allows us to fluidly slip and break the threshold of all boundaries.” She loves working with oil and bronze because there is a maneuverable interaction with these mediums, as if the materials collaborate in the process of realizing the results.

‘Flower Puzzle’ by Neta Leigh

Neta Leigh is a surreal-impressionist photographer from Locust Valley. Inspired by the sights and locales that surround her daily life, Leigh is most drawn to photograph in natural light during times of fog, clouds, snow or rain. She also enjoys photographing fruit and flowers in her dining room before and after destruction.

Peter Bragino of Copiague is a multidiscipline, mixed-media artist, designer, treasure hunter and soul searcher. “In the same way we build layers in life to become who we are as human beings I allow my creations to take on the same life, the same layering, the same history. This process naturally led me to a mixed-media workflow where any medium is a viable medium to complete the formation of the life that the creation would like to take,” he said. Bragino will be collaborating with artist Kevin Corcoran for this exhibit.

“I’m always looking for something unique to bring into the gallery – not just landscapes or realism or abstracts all the time,” said Cruz. In regards to the exhibit, “I had only seen a few of the pieces initially. But the themes in it are so evident, strong and beautiful. It’s unlike anything else in this area, and I think people will really enjoy the experience.”

The community is invited to an opening reception on March 16 at 5:30 p.m.

The Mills Pond Gallery is located at 660 Route 25A, St. James. Hours are Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Visit www.millspondgallery.org or call 631-862-6575 for more information.

By Heidi Sutton

For almost a month now, the Mills Pond House Gallery has been exhibiting the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s annual Member Artist Showcase, a unique exhibit featuring the original artwork of 61 STAC member artists. The juried show will run through Dec. 2 and most of the works are available for purchase.

While typically a juror or curator selects works for an exhibit, the Member Artist Showcase allows the artists to choose what piece they would like to display, which is most likely their favorite or a new piece they want to debut.

“I always like the member show but this is a pretty member show and very eclectic,” said STAC director Allison Cruz during a recent guided tour. “I’m proud of these artists,” she said, adding that there are many new members this year.

It is also a very diverse show, with many different types of medium represented including oil, acrylic, watercolor, solarplate etching, photography, charcoal, pastel, torn paper collage, colored pencil and mosaic sculpture.

Exhibiting artists, which hail from 33 communities across Long Island as well as North Carolina, Alaska and Maryland, include Amal, Chris Ann Ambery, Ross Barbera, Shain Bard, Karen Bennett, James Berger as well as Barbara Bilotta, Renee Blank, Kyle Blumenthal, Renee Caine, Susan Carney, Linda Ann Catucci, Carol Ceraso, Jane Corrarino, Donna Corvi, Donna Crinnian, Bernadette De Nyse, Julie Doczi, Paul Edelson, Vivian Gattuso, Maureen Ginipro, Rhoda Gordon, Justin Greenwald, Diann Haist, Diane Henderson, Katherine Hiscox, Donna Howard, David Jaycox Jr, Anne Katz, Kathee Shaff Kelson, Lynn Kinsella, John Koch, Liz Kolligs, Susan Kozodoy-Silkowitz, Frank Loehr, Terence McManus, Frederic Mendelsohn, Margaret Minardi, Karen George Mortimore, Diane Oliva, Eileen W. Palmer, Sean Pollock, Lynne Rivellese, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Michael Sauer, Lori Scarlatos, Joan Schwartzman, Ken Schwartzman, James Scovel, Gisela Skoglund, Mike Stanko, Gunter Stern, Nicholas Valentino, Adriann Valiquette, Sherona Varulkar Kelley, Mary Ann Vetter, Pamela Waldroup, Nancy Weeks, Constance Sloggatt Wolf and Patty Yantz.

This year’s juror of awards was Dawn Lee, art curator of the Omni Gallery in Uniondale, professor and chair of the art department at St. Joseph’s College and coordinator of the artist-in-residency program at Fire Island National Seashore. 

Tasked with choosing four winners, Lee picked Ross Barbera’s “Johnston Canyon, Alberta Canada,” Kyle Blumenthal’s “Looking Within,” Julie Doczi’s “Winter Morning” and Liz Kolligs’ “Rider at Old Field Farm.” These winners will be invited to participate in a future Winners Showcase. 

Lee also selected four Honorable Mentions including Diann Haist’s “Chicken Minder,” David Jaycox Jr.’s “Meadow View,” Frederic Mendelsohn’s “Mustard Field” and Pamela Waldroup’s “Imperial Staircase, Manor House, Bayard Cutting Arboretum.”

The Mills Pond House Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Member Artist Showcase through Dec. 2 (closed Nov. 21 to 25). The gallery is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

'Gamecock Cottage Stony Brook' by Linda Ann Catucci

By Heidi Sutton

‘Off Duty’ by Robert Roehrig

The lazy days of summer are finally upon us, a perfect time to drop by the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond Gallery to check out its annual juried summer exhibition, Capturing the Spirit of Long Island.

“So many Long Island painters find creative inspiration from the local landscape,” explained  STAC’s Executive Director Allison Cruz in a recent email. “Each brings an individual style and vision to their work so each exhibit is unique. Our Island provides endless possibilities for artistic compositions. I always look forward to seeing what hidden treasures the artists uncover!”

According to Cruz, artists were invited to share their artistic vision of any of Long Island’s four seasons and submit art depicting the characteristics of its landscape, weather, wildlife or activities associated with winter, spring, summer or fall. A total of 49 works by 32 artists were accepted into the show and feature a variety of media including watercolor, gouache, oil acrylic, pastel and colored pencil.

‘Cupsogue Coast’ by Adriann Valiquette

The beautiful exhibit fills four gallery rooms and the center hall gallery on the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion.

“I am always amazed by the unique work received for our Long Island exhibits and I have never been disappointed. And what is so wonderful is that each year we have new artists as well. Each show gives us an opportunity to see some new local talent and each year local artists step up with new work,” said Cruz. “We never exhibit the same piece more than once here at the gallery anyway,” she added.

Exhibiting artists include Ross Barbera (Ronkonkoma), Melanie Berardicelli (West Islip), Renee Blank (Holbrook), Renee Caine (Holtsville), Linda Ann Catucci (St. James), Donna Corvi (Flushing), Julie Doczi (Port Jefferson Station), Liz Fusco (Kings Park), Maureen Ginipro (Smithtown), David Jaycox Jr. (Northport), Anne Katz (Stony Brook), Kathee Shaff Kelson (Stony Brook), Jim Kelson (Stony Brook), Lynn Kinsella (Brookhaven), Mary Lor (New York), Joan Rockwell (Stony Brook), Robert Roehrig (East Setauket), Lori Scarlatos (St. James), Gisela Skoglund (Kings Park), Irene Tetrault (Westbury), Adriann Valiquette (Ridge), Mary Ann Vetter (St. James), Nancy Weeks (East Setauket) and Patty Yantz (Setauket).

‘Two Artists Intense Focus’ by David Jaycox Jr.

The executive director is excited to show off this new exhibit. “This is an opportunity to discover or maybe rediscover Long Island,” she said, adding, “viewers will see so much beauty and variety of our island … and sometimes seeing it through someone else’s eye can put you in touch with new places or new ideas you will be inspired to explore.”

The community is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, Aug. 11 at 2 p.m. to meet the artists and view their work. The winners will be announced at that time. 

The Mills Pond Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s juried summer exhibition through Sept. 9. The gallery is open Wednesdays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org. 

‘Golden Grasses’ by Julie Doczi

By Heidi Sutton

The lazy days of summer are still a few weeks away, but inside Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond Gallery the flowers are in full bloom, a warm breeze of salt air tickles your nose, and if you listen closely, you can hear the splashing of water in a pool. There are other sights and sounds as well as you travel from room to room throughout the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion — a Ferris wheel goes round and round at a carnival, children giggle as they play hopscotch on the sidewalk and waves softly lap at a fishing boat tied to a dock.

Now in its 40th year, STAC’s annual Juried Fine Art Exhibition is back with fervor. Aptly named A Summer Song, the colorful show, which runs through June 24, features over 50 original works of art by 45 artists depicting scenes relating to summer. And if one catches your fancy, it may just be available for purchase.

Artists were invited to submit “representational images of summer-related sights, activities, impressions, or atmosphere — as well as surrealistic or abstract evocations inspired by the subject” from “images of sun, sea, surf and verdure to a more melancholy awareness of summer’s last gasp, a prelude to fall.”

And much to the delight of STAC’s Executive Director Allison Cruz, the entries that poured in by local artists from Bay Shore, Brookhaven, Centereach, East Hampton, East Northport, Farmingdale, Hauppauge, Hempstead, Holbrook, Holtsville, Huntington Station, Commack, Montauk, Nesconset, North Babylon, Northport, Patchogue, Port Jefferson, Ridge, Rocky Point, Ronkonkoma, Setauket, Smithtown, St. James and Stony Brook were on point. Artists from as far as Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Vermont answered the call as well.

According to Cruz, a national show is good for a lot of reasons. “There’s so much talent here but I see it as an eye opening experience for [local artists] in a way for them to learn how to grow their art,” she said.

Chosen mediums run the gamut from oil, pastel, acrylic, watercolor and pen and ink to paper lithograph, resin mix media and torn paper collage, stoneware and kiln-formed glass.

The exhibition’s juror was Carol Strickland, an art historian who contributes feature stories on visual art to Art in America magazine. Her articles on culture have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Art and Antiques, MOMUS and Private Journey magazine. The author of “The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern,” Strickland also writes a monthly column on art and politics for www.clydefitchreport.com. 

“The excitement in this exhibit for me was having a juror who has never juried anything out [on the Island] before and whose credentials throw the exhibit into a whole different light,” said Cruz, adding, “There are a lot of new artists this year.  [The juror] attracted a lot of new people.” 

“It was a pleasure to see so many varied responses to the theme, which hit all the notes in terms of sensory and aesthetic interpretations,” said Strickland. “Some were so expressive and lively, I felt a jolt of energy, as if inhaling a big gulp of freshening wind from the seashore. Others captured a more tranquil or pensive mood, inducing contemplation of both summer’s joy and transience.”

Participating artists include Janet Amalfitano, Shain Bard, Jorus Beasley, Victoria Beckert, Marta Beltramo, Renee Blank, Jean Marie Bucich, Renee Caine, Kevin Casey, Frank Casucci, Carol Ceraso, Gerry Chapleski, Donna Corvi, Claudia Cron, Julie Doczi, Anna Franklin, Janice Gabriel, Vivian Gattuso, Maureen Ginipro, Jan Guarino, Katherine Hiscox, Paul Hitchen, David Jaycox Jr., Jim Kelson, Lynn Kinsella, Mary Lor, Jeanette Martone, Frederic Mendelsohn, Joseph Miller, Margaret Minardi, Debra Puzzo, Kate Rocks, Micheline Ronningen, Joseph Santarpia, Stacey Schuman, Kathee Shaff Kelson, Margaret Shipman, Roxene Sloate, Rosemary Sloggatt, Hannah Steele, Rita Swanteson, Alexandra Turner, Nicholas J. Valentino, Adriann Valiquette and Patty Yantz.

While finding the task difficult because “the level of technical skill in the entries was impressive,” Strickland eventually chose a first-, second-, and third-place winner along with three honorable mentions.

First place was awarded to “Summer on the Sidewalk,” pencil and ink on paper, by  Jeanette Martone of Bay Shore; second place went to “Summer Bouquet,” acrylic on canvas, by Renee Blank of Holbrook; and “Eternize #3,” paper lithograph and mixed media by Claudia Cron from Connecticut, garnered third. 

Honorable Mentions include “Driveway of the Artist,” oil, by Frederic Mendelsohn of Port Jefferson Station; “Sight,” charcoal on wood, by Hannah Steele from Massachusetts; and “Golden Grasses,” pastel, by Julie Doczi of Port Jefferson Station.

According to Strickland, she made her final decisions based on presenting “a wide array of different facets of the theme, to show images that varied in media, subject and style,” as well as looking “for works that aroused a response in me.”

For Cruz, Strickland’s presence was an important one for the gallery and the participating artists. “For me personally, it was an opportunity that fits into my line of thinking,” she said. “When I do a juried show and I’m hiring a juror, the point of it is to give the artists a different experience, a different opportunity to have someone with a different background to look at their work.”

 For Strickland, the feeling was mutual. “In all cases, I appreciated each artist’s originality and individual approach to mark-making … and wish all entrants a satisfying future of art making.”

The Mills Pond Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Member Artist Showcase through June 24. The gallery is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

All images courtesy of Allison Cruz

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