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Susan Peragallo

Stan Brodsky in his studio. Photo by Peter Scheer

By Melissa Arnold

For Stan Brodsky, painting was so much more than just a skill or even a career. It was a language, a love affair, a truly sensual experience. The artist shared those feelings openly with students over the course of a renowned teaching career that spanned more than 50 years. 

Several months ago, the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills began to prepare Stan Brodsky and Friends, a springtime exhibit celebrating Brodsky’s work along with nearly 30 of his dearest friends, many of whom were former students and mentees.

‘Woman in a Car,’ oil/acrylic on canvas by Doug Reina

On March 30, just two weeks before the exhibit’s scheduled opening, Stan Brodsky passed away at the age of 94. He had continued to work and teach until the final weeks of his life, just as he wanted it. Brodsky’s students noted that the World War II veteran tried to retire a few years ago, but he couldn’t stand being away from doing what he loved. 

The Art League is moving forward with the show as planned, with the exhibit running from April 13 to 28. A reception on April 14 at 3:30 p.m. will allow the artists and those who loved Brodsky to honor his life and legacy.

Participating artists include Ennid Berger, Susan Bird, Susan Canin, Denise DiGiovanna, Simon Fenster, Stuart Friedman, Peter Galasso, Lenore Ann Hanson, Ginger Balizer-Hendler, Caroline Isacsson, Vincent Joseph, Deborah Katz, Marceil Kazickas, Denise Kramer, Barbara Miller, Catherine Morris, Pamela Long Nolan, Dianne Parker, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Fran Roberts, Susan M. Rostan, Ellen Hallie Schiff, Laura Powers-Swiggett, Janice Sztabnik, Lois Walker and Hiroko Yoshida.

Stan has touched so many lives, inspiring them to pursue their passions,” said Susan Peragallo, coordinator and curator of the Art League’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery. “The exhibit will be a chance for everyone to celebrate him — the 27 artists in the show are only a small segment of those who were influenced by him over the years.”

A master abstract expressionist, Brodsky studied photojournalism and fine art before receiving a doctorate in art education from Columbia University in 1959. Originally from Greenwich Village, he moved to Huntington in 1965. Most of his teaching years were spent at Long Island University’s C.W. Post Campus in Brookville, and a collection of his notes and sketches from 1951 to 2004 can be found at the Smithsonian Institution.

‘Superficial Information,’ oil on canvas by Marceil Kazickas

Brodsky’s relationship with the Art League began in the late ’90s when he became an instructor. The classes were small in the beginning, with just five students enrolled in 1994, but grew rapidly, and eventually people had to be turned away from lack of space. “It’s not so much that he was popular, but he was inspiring and generous in his critiques, and people really responded to that,” Peragallo said.

Peter Galasso of Setauket remembers that Brodsky could often be found in the same way over the years as students arrived for class — sitting at his desk, usually eating an egg sandwich, always poring over an art history text.

“He had a contagious passion, and was constantly reading and continuing to study,” said Galasso, who began studies under Brodsky 20 years ago, eventually becoming a friend and traveling companion. “He was always looking to travel somewhere new or different. He wanted to be inspired by the local color of a place.”

Susan Rostan of Woodbury remembers entering Brodsky’s classroom for the first time while pursuing a master’s in fine art. Brodsky arranged the students in a circle and asked each one to introduce themselves. When it was her turn, Rostan simply told him, “I’ve heard I’m either going to love you or hate you, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”

‘She Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve …,’ mixed media by Susan Canin

Many years later, Rostan was sitting in a different class of Brodsky’s, this one at the Art League. But she was stunned by the striking realization that nothing had changed: He still wore the same striped sweaters and paint-splattered jeans. She painted a full-length portrait of him that day that will appear in the exhibit.

“He taught us as much about ourselves as he did about painting,” said Rostan, who is now working on a biography of Brodsky. “He was an unusual teacher in that he approached his students as equals and opened himself up to be vulnerable and form friendships with them, which allowed him to encourage them particularly well.”

Brodsky’s friendship and deep encouragement were beloved by so many of his students, said Doug Reina of Setauket. In fact, some of them continued to take his classes for decades just to spend more time with him.

“Stan had this ability to make you feel special. He was genuinely curious about you, and that means a lot,” Reina said. “In the old days before taking his classes, I would look at a scene and just try to copy it. But through him I learned to paint in a way that also expresses how I feel about the subject and the sensuousness of the paint itself. Stan painted with his own language and created something truly unique for the world.”

Stan Brodsky and Friends will be on view at the Art League of Long Island’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, 107 E. Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.net

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'Blue in Green' by Peter Galasso

By Ellen Barcel

“You rarely see a show of all abstract art,” said artist Peter Galasso, of the Art League of Long Island’s new show, Long Island Abstraction: 2 Generations, on view at the league’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery now through April 15.

‘Accents Red’ by Frank Wimberley

Four artists, Stan Brodsky, Laura Powers-Swiggett, Frank Wimberley and Galasso have filled the gallery with approximately 50 of their abstract works. What else unites these four artists? They are all award-winning artists with strong ties to Long Island. Two, Galasso and Powers-Swiggett were influenced by their mentor, Brodsky. The fourth, Wimberley was added to the exhibit by Galasso.

“I’ve been showing for 25 years. I met Frank [Wimberley] about 10 years ago at a gallery show. I admired his work,” said Galassao in a recent interview. The two became friends and Galasso suggested his work for an exhibit held at the Art League about two years ago. When the concept for the current exhibit was broached, “I told him of my idea of two generations of abstract artists from Long Island …” The idea was very specific. “He could see how this would work.”

Where did the two generations come from? Both Brodsky and Wimberley are in their 90s, the senior members of the foursome. Powers-Swiggett and Galasso, the younger members, were both students of Brodsky. Brodsky was not only a mentor to these two, but many, many others as professor of art at C.W. Post College for over 30 years. In his artist’s statement, Brodsky noted, “I’ve been an exhibiting artist in New York City for more than 50 years — and my passion for painting is a strong now as ever.”

‘Descending Light 2’ by Stan Brodsky

Galasso described Wimberley’s work saying, “I admire his work — movement and color. He uses a lot of acrylic medium, a very thick mixture. It moves spontaneously across the canvas.”

Susan Peragallo, gallery coordinator, said that abstract art is nonrepresentational and “about expressing an idea or emotion using color, line and form.” But what inspires each of these four artists? In his artist’s statement Brodsky noted, “I have traveled extensively absorbing the colors and textures of new landscapes,” and Powers-Swiggett’s paintings are landscape-based abstractions exploring spatial and color relationships. Galasso’s works have been described as “an exploration of feeling, memory and a unique vision …”

Abstract art can be very freeing for both the artist and the viewer. The realist must represent the scene accurately, but the abstract artist uses a scene as inspiration. Said Wimberley in his artist statement, “The abstract painter can commence his drawing or canvas generally with only a preconceived notion, reflection or emotion … he has far less guarantees than perhaps the realist painter or photographer that the finished expression with extended from calculated reason or logic. This for me provides the excitement of taking the theme or feeling from the very first stroke, and following it to its own particular conclusion. It is very much like creating the controlled accident.”

‘Wawapek’ by Laura Powers-Swiggett

While each of the four artists decided which of their works were to be shown, it was Peragallo who decided which paintings would be hung together, making them, “flow together. That was my job. It was sort of like putting a puzzle together. You want the works to speak to each other but one shouldn’t overpower the other. They should gradually draw the viewer into the show.” “It’s a wonderful show, really beautiful,” said Peragallo. “People who don’t normally like abstract art come in and say ‘Wow.’ It’s a happy show, so colorful and uplifting,” she added.

Long Island Abstraction: 2 Generations will be on view at The Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery of the Art League of Long Island, 107 East Deer Park Road, Dix Hills through April 15. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For further information, call 631-462-5400 or go to www.artleagueli.org.

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