By Rita J. Egan
The days are becoming chillier, but that hasn’t stopped the Port Jefferson Free Library from celebrating the beauty of the great outdoors. The library is currently hosting the exhibit Slices of Nature/Phase 3, featuring the plein air paintings of Mount Sinai resident Joseph Rotella.
Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian, said it’s the third time the library has displayed Rotella’s artwork. Filosa said the painter’s past shows have done well, and the exhibit allows visitors to experience the beauty of both plein air painting and Rotella’s artistic interpretation of local landscapes. “I hope that they’ll enjoy the scenes, and since most of the pictures are of Long Island scenes, I hope it will also give them a better appreciation of where they live,” Filosa said.
Raised in Brooklyn, Rotella spent 28 years of his career as an art teacher with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). During this time, the artist said he did very little painting of his own and concentrated on teaching. When he retired in 2008, he was finally able to pursue painting steadily and become a professional artist, something he aspired to since a child. “It’s a full-time passion,” he said.
Working with acrylics and sometimes with oil paints, Rotella’s artwork represents his interpretation of Long Island landscapes and seascapes. Since 2010, he has exhibited his work in both New York and South Florida in shows such as the Hampton Bays Outdoor Show and Patchogue Arts Council Summer Member Show.
The artist said he considers himself a Post-Impressionist. “I’m interested in expressing myself more so than the impressionist artists do. I’m trying to capture light in the moment, but I am also trying to give a feeling of emotion in my brushwork and so forth,” he said.
Rotella prefers plein air painting where one paints landscapes outside and interprets what they see physically in front of them as opposed to a scene captured in a photograph. Shortly after he retired, he moved to Mount Sinai and visited Gallery North in Setauket on a day when the Joseph Reboli Wet Paint Festival was taking place. “One day I went to Gallery North, and I saw people working outside, and I said, ‘Wow that’s just what I do, and what I want to do,’” he said.
He spoke to Esther Marie at Gallery North, who said he was more than welcome to participate in the plein air festival in the future, and in 2012, he did just that. Rotella said he also has contributed to art shows at the gallery since then.
When it comes to summing up his work, the painter said his artist statement on his website relays his mission best. The statement begins with: “In my work I try to capture the atmospheric conditions in terms of light, tone and color. I paint what I see and try not to compromise color. I am concerned with some details but do not obsess over them. I paint the surface tones as I see them trying to be fluid and spontaneous with my brush strokes.”
The artist is pleased to display his paintings at the Port Jefferson Free Library once again. He said a few years ago he attended an art critique there and noticed artwork hanging on the walls of the meeting room. He approached the librarian at the desk and discovered all he had to do was schedule a date in order to exhibit his own paintings.
Rotella said he chose large works of art for this exhibit, with some measuring as much as 30 by 54 inches. While the paintings won’t be available for sale at the library, interested buyers can contact Rotella directly. The painter hopes library patrons come away from the exhibit with a different perspective of nature. “I’ve gotten many comments from people saying that my artwork makes them feel good because of the way I paint the scenes of nature. And that’s one thing, just to get a sense of nature, and how an artist interprets nature and sees nature, so that they can feel good about nature,” Rotella said.
“Maybe begin to look at nature in a different way; begin to start looking at nature and seeing what nature has to offer. Nature is beautiful. That’s what I would like them to get out of it — getting a good feeling from my work and appreciating it and feeling good about what they see.”
The exhibit will be on display in the meeting room of the PJFL, located at 100 Thompson Street, until Nov. 28. For more information on Rotella and his paintings, visit www.rotellafinearts.com.