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Smithtown Township Arts Council

‘Sinking Feeling’ by Margaret Minardi. Image from STAC

By Susan Risoli

‘One Nation Under Surveillance,’ fiberglass and epoxy, by Anthony Freda. Photo from STAC

When the everyday state of things starts to look different, what happens then? Who defines what’s “real” and what isn’t? Visitors to the Connecting Art to Life exhibit, which opens this Saturday at the Mills Pond House Gallery in St. James, may find themselves asking these questions.

And that’s just fine with Smithtown Township Arts Council Executive Director Allison Cruz, who said in a recent interview she hopes the exhibit, which features the work of artists Margaret Minardi and Anthony Freda, will start a conversation about the meeting of life and art.

This is the first time Cruz invited only two artists to be part of a Mills Pond show. She was moved by the determination of these two to keep on expressing themselves through their individual projects. “Anthony and Margaret teach and have families,” Cruz said. “Yet they both said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter how busy I am. I have to make art.’”

Cruz came up with the show’s title Connecting Art to Life, inspired by the ways Freda and Minardi take isolated aspects of daily living and translate that into something to which people can respond. It’s a process similar to the purpose of an art space, she said. “I think people are intimidated by the thought of going to an art gallery,” Cruz explained, “but really it’s a place to get information about what’s going on in your world right now.” Take it all in, “then do with it what you will.”

Margaret Minardi

Artist Margaret Minardi

 

Margaret Minardi’s world changed through her desire to become pregnant. She adopted two children after a personal journey that resulted in an infertility diagnosis. Her series of pieces in the Mills Pond House Gallery show were inspired by Minardi becoming a mother.

The works were rendered in colored pencil some years ago, after she discovered she could no longer use oil paint because she’d become allergic to it. She turned the potential setback into a mission to continue with colored pencil, “even though I didn’t know if I could erase, or blend color over color. Hour after hour I practiced.” These days, her media include collage and acrylic paint, she said.

Growing up in Trinidad left Minardi with lasting memories of “the specific color of water in the Caribbean.” Her pieces on exhibit at the Mills Pond House are done in aquamarine blue, and many of the figures “are in fishtanks, or some water situation.” The work juxtaposes realism with expressionism, presenting a story through many layers. The artist invites her viewers to interpret what’s going on beneath the surface of her pieces.

Minardi is about to retire after 30 years of teaching drawing and painting in the Northport-East Northport school district. “I’ve been so lucky,” she said. “I get to be around art from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep.” She doesn’t always know what a project is going to turn into and is sometimes surprised by the result, she said, “but it’s just important that I keep my pencil on the paper at all times. If you keep your hand moving, it becomes something important that comes from deep within.”

Anthony Freda

‘Solution’ by Anthony Freda

Anthony Freda’s 28 pieces in the Mills Pond House Gallery show are collage, his own paintings on found surfaces, limited edition prints and sculpture. As a Mount Sinai resident who grew up in Port Jefferson, he wanted to connect with a local art community and said this show seemed a good way to do it. Freda, an editorial illustrator and adjunct faculty member for the Fashion Institute of Technology, said throughout his career “I try to be honest and think about how I can best represent that with my art.”

Freda is drawn to themes of war and peace, freedom, civil liberties and encroachments upon them. “Things that impact society as a whole and impact me personally are things I want to comment on,” he said. Bombs, birds, pinup girls, reassuring American ephemera repurposed with contemporary social commentary, all can be found in his work. Humor infuses many of his pieces.

News about current events can be “provocative and emotional,” Freda said, and he’s trying to bring it all together and process it. “We’re all bombarded with memes, and disparate ideas, and news,” he said, so people will bring their own ideas when they see his work. Though some people avoid the news, saying it overwhelms them, Freda’s commentary continues. “Sometimes the truth is not popular,” he said. “Sometimes my work is not popular, but that’s almost irrelevant.” For him, it’s about defining the era he lives in, “in the way I want to define it, while trying to be honest and objective.”

The Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond House Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James will present Connecting Art to Life from April 22 through May 13. There will be an opening reception April 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

‘Lily,’ Oil on Linen Board, by Daniel van Benthuysen of Huntington

By Talia Amorosano

On the sunny afternoon of Saturday, June 18, in conjunction with the beginning of summer, the juried art exhibition, Of a Botanical Nature, organized by the Smithtown Township Arts Council, opened at the Mills Pond House in St. James. For the first time this year, the general public was afforded the opportunity to immerse themselves in a gallery full of art representative of the intricacies of local and nonlocal flora. 

‘Camellia,’ Watercolor, by Lynn Kinsella of Brookhaven
‘Camellia,’ Watercolor, by Lynn Kinsella of Brookhaven

The exhibit, which will run through July 20, features 60 works of art from 49 artists, 22 of whom hail from various nonlocal areas of the country including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and California. The remaining 27 represent the Long Island and New York City area. 

The artists
Mark Attebery
Ross Barbera *
Arthur Bernstein *
Stephen Brucker
Carol Ceraso *
Lisa Conway
Caryn Coville *
Debra Crawford
Audry Deal-McEver
Granville C. Fairchild *
Margaret Farr
Beverly Fink
Ingrid Finnan
Kathy Folino
Elizabeth Fusco *
Janice Marie Gabriel *
Kristine Gaier
Kelsey Gallagher
Vivian Gattuso *
Maureen Ginipro *
Patricia Greenberg
Stella Grove
Jillian Hauck *
Katherine Hiscox *
Kathleen Hollan
David Jaycox Jr. *
Lynn Kinsela *
Amanda Lebel
Katherine Lechler *
Madeline Lovallo
Patricia Luppino *
Louis R. Mangieri *
Lucy Martin
Kelly McLeod
Gary Mulnix
Lois Perlman
Pat Proniewski
Judith Scillia
Irene Paquette Tetrault *
Monica Ray *
Lynne Rivellese *
Robert Roehrig *
Alisa Shea *
Gisela Skoglund *
Gunter Stern *
Susan Tango *
Daniel van Benthuysen *
Camille Warmington
Sharon Way-Howard *
*Long Island artists

The works that appear in the show were chosen by Juror Wendy Hollender, a botanical artist, illustrator and author who currently instructs botanical drawing classes at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. An accomplished illustrator, her work has been published in The New York Times and Good Housekeeping magazine and exhibited at the Royal Botanical Gardens in the UK and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 

Regarding Hollender’s selection process, the executive director of STAC, Allison Cruz, said, “She really picked a broad range of artwork based in reality. She was looking more for realism, but she did take a couple of pieces that are more abstract.” Accordingly, Hollender awarded first and second place to artists whose works exemplify a command of a photorealistic style of portraying traditionally botanical subjects: respectively, Colorado-based artist Patricia Greenberg for her pencil drawing, “The Flower Loves the Rain,” and New York City-based artist Ingrid Finnan for her color illustration, “Blue Hubbard Squash.” These two artists will go on to participate in a winner’s show next year,  which will also be held at the Mills Pond House.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Margaret Farr for various botanical illustrations, Gary Mulnix for a larger-than-life wooden sculptural representation of “Lupine” and Lois Perlman for a richly saturated color illustration of a “Parrot Tulip.”

‘Cactus Flower,’ Oil on Canvas, by Louis R. Mangieri of Mount Sinai
‘Cactus Flower,’ Oil on Canvas, by Louis R. Mangieri of Mount Sinai

According to Cruz, this exhibit features a particularly wide range of artistic mediums. In addition to two-dimensional works in watercolor, acrylic, oil, wash on paper and colored pencil, the show includes six three-dimensional sculptural works made of bronze, black walnut wood, glass mosaic, steel and clay, among other materials.

Subject matter depicted ranges from close-up, scientific-looking views of individual flowers or plants with monochromatic backgrounds (Kelly McLeod’s “Wilted Alstroemeria,” Kathleen Hollan’s “Autumn Leaves”), to still life images of staged indoor plants (Katherine Hiscox’s “From the Garden,” Granville C. Fairchild’s “Reaching to Heaven”), to garden landscapes (Pat Proniewski’s “Morning Azaleas,” Carol Ceraso’s “Spring Affair”), to abstract representations of natural subjects (Lisa Conway’s “Grey Swan,” Arthur Bernstein’s “Sprout”).

However, all of the pieces in some way reflect the organic spontaneity of life in the natural world within the ordered structures of scientific classification, together forming a show that fosters an appreciation for the small examples of natural beauty that often go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives.

Cruz said, “There are a lot of watercolors by the nature of most of the flower illustrations, but it really is a broad range … I have everything in this show except photography and digital art. It’s a beautiful mix of media.”

The Smithtown Township Arts Council will present Of a Botanical Nature at the Mills Pond Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James through July 20. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. (closed July 3). Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

‘Dahlia Sunrise,’ Transparent Watercolor, by Alisa Shea of Northport is on view at STAC’s Of a Botanical Nature exhibit
‘Dahlia Sunrise,’ Transparent Watercolor, by Alisa Shea of Northport is on view at STAC’s Of a Botanical Nature exhibit

‘The Missing Piece’ by Alisa Shea

By Talia Amorosano

“Strength is what appeals mostly to me in art. The work can be any medium, style, subject or size; however, in the end, the work must have power.” These words were spoken by David H. Reuss, an experienced illustrator, fine artist, comic artist, and writer — all occupations which have made him more than qualified to serve as juror for the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s upcoming 37th Annual Juried Fine Art Exhibition at the Mills Pond House in St. James, appropriately entitled “Power and Strength in Art.”

Reuss’s emphasis on powerful art may be connected to his admiration for the late comic book artist, John Buscema, well known not only for depicting physically strong Marvel comic book characters like Thor and Conan the Barbarian, but for his punchy, bold, and romanticized visual style. Regarding what he learned from taking art classes taught by Buscema at the Mills Pond House, Reuss said, “the infusion of power and strength in my work is the most consistent lesson I was taught by [Buscema] and it was what I was seeking in the works that I juried for this show.”

‘Lovers in 5th Avenue’ by Cesar Delos Santos
‘Lovers in 5th Avenue’ by Cesar Delos Santos

Reuss did not have to look far to find powerful artwork, as among the 40 artists whose work will be featured in the show, 28 are from Long Island and 5 are from New York City. However, this particular show does shine a wider light on American art, as six of the featured artists hail from places throughout the country as wide-ranging as Florida (Linda Trope) and California (Tonya Amyrin Rice). According to Executive Director of STAC, Allison Cruz, this national sphere allows local artists to “get their work under different eyes” and gives national artists the opportunity to exhibit in a desirable place. “The epitome of being in the contemporary art world is to exhibit in New York,” Cruz said.

As variable as the homes of the artists are the mediums which they use — acrylic, watercolor, oil, pencil, pastel, and ink are just some of the mediums highlighted in this show. Cruz said, “[Reuss] has selected a very wide variety of art. There’s no central theme except for strength of the piece, that it could just draw the viewer in. Whether you loved it or you hated it, you looked at it.” Though different mediums and styles make each artist’s work unique, each piece exhibited does have an essence of strength. How this strength is achieved and depicted, however, varies.

Some artwork, like David Herman’s acrylic painting, “Revolt, Seyithemba” and Eleanor Himel’s oil painting, “Morning Walk,” showcase vibrant contrasting colors contained by bold, solid shapes, while other pieces, like Cesar Delos Santos’ oil painting, “Lovers in 5th Avenue,” and Emilie Lee’s oil painting, “Fortitude,” dramatically display subjects with emotion-wrought facial expressions. Still other pieces carry a subtler power. Eric Chimon’s watercolor landscape, “Chesapeake Bay Boat,” uses a color scheme of muted blues and grays and elicits a quiet sense of dread, evocative of the calm before a storm.

Regarding the artists, Cruz said, “We have a lot of new artists in this show who I’m not familiar with, and to me, that’s the best thing. It’s always nice for local artists to be able to associate with artists who have never been here before. I think it’s good for Suffolk County, good for Long Island, and good for the artists. It’s a win-win-win.”

“Power and Strength in Art” will be on view at the Mills Pond House Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James, from June 27 to July 22. The gallery is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. (closed on July 4 and 5). The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, June 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. to meet the artists. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

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