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The Heckscher Museum of Art

'Untitled' by Bill Shillalies

By Heidi Sutton

“Conjoined” by Elizabeth Heaton of Amityville

The Long Island Biennial returns to The Heckscher Museum of Art with fervor this year as the fifth edition of the exhibition offers Long Island’s top artists the opportunity to share their artwork with the Huntington community and beyond. The juried exhibit opened on Aug. 4 and will run through Nov. 11. 

Contemporary artists who live in Suffolk and Nassau counties and who have specialized training in art were invited to submit artwork created within the past two years. The result is twofold: providing artists the opportunity to showcase their work to a broad audience in a unique and exciting space and allowing art lovers to see snapshots of what is happening artistically on Long Island.

The brainchild of former curator Kenneth Wayne, the first biennial opened in 2010 in conjunction with the museum’s 90th anniversary. Now, eight years later, the juried exhibit has grown in popularity, receiving a record 351 submissions this year, with 52 works representing communities from New Hyde Park to Montauk selected for the show. Of those selections, 38 of the artists were first-time exhibitors.

‘Wafting Bubinga; by John Dino

This year’s judges — Christine Berry of Berry Campbell Gallery in New York City; Robert Carter, professor of art at Nassau Community College in Garden City; and Bobbi Coller, an independent art historian and curator — were tasked with selecting six winners, which were announced on Aug. 8. 

“The art world needs as many venues as possible for new artists; this is so important and very much appreciated,” said Carter, who was impressed with this year’s submissions. “The artist entries were surprising in how they varied in media use and subject matter — touching on nature, social issues and more.”

Mediums included oil, acrylic, pastel, woodcut, watercolor, sculpture, mixed media, ceramic, bronze, embroidery, tempura, sculptures, photographs, prints and more.

“Buttermilk Falls,” woodcut on paper, by Beth Atkinson of Northport; “Abrasha in Port-au-Prince,” oil on canvas, by Peter Beston of East Quogue; “Wafting Bubinga #2,” carved wood, by John Cino of Patchogue; “Conjoined,” pastel and water on paper, by Elizabeth Heaton of Amityville; ‘Untitled,” ceramic/bronze, by Bill Shillalies of Massapequa; and “Slight Disturbance,” acrylic on clay surface, by Frank Wimberley of Sag Harbor rose above the competition to receive Awards of Merit.

According to museum’s curator, Lisa Chalif, the Long Island Biennial “is about the creativity that surrounds us on Long Island. The show is extremely diverse in terms of medium and subject and style. It is just very appealing — there is something for everyone here.”

‘Abrasha in Port au Prince’ by Peter Beston

The exhibit spans two of the four galleries at the museum. The adjoining exhibits include The Tile Club: Camaraderie and American Plein-Air Painting (through Nov. 4) and Surface Tension: Pictorial Space in 20th Century Art (through May 5, 2019).

“Long Island is teaming with talented artists and the museum is pleased to bring this fact to the public’s attention,” said Executive Director and CEO at The Heckscher Michael W. Schantz in a recent email, adding, “A high quality juried exhibition, such as the Heckscher Museum’s Biennial, remains one of the best ways of doing so.”

The Heckscher Museum of Art, located at 2 Prime Ave., Huntington is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

In conjunction with the Long Island Biennial, several related programs are scheduled at the museum:
‘Slight Disturbance’ by Frank Kimberly

Exploring Art … Making Memories

A guided tour and activity for those living with dementia and their care partners will be held on Monday, Aug. 20 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Members pay $8; nonmembers $10; care partners are free.

Gallery Talk

Meet Long Island Biennial artists John Cino, Rachelle Krieger and Alisa Shea at a gallery talk on Sunday, Sept.16 from 1 to 3 p.m. Members are free, nonmembers pay $5.

DRAW OUT! With Biennial Artists

Join The Heckscher Museum and its 2018 Cultural Partners for this free Community Arts event on Sunday, Sept. 23 from noon to 4 p.m.  (rain date Sept. 30). See demonstrations and meet Biennial artists Mario Bakalov, E. Craig Marcin and Inna Pashina. Hear live music, sketch a model, paint en plein air and much more.  

The Heckscher Museum of Art was founded in 1920 by philanthropist August Heckscher and is listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. The museum’s permanent collection comprises more than 2,500 works from the 16th to the 21st centuries. 

Council members Mark Cuthbertson, Joan Cergol and Ed Smyth, center, pose with art students and their teachers in front of the Heckscher Museum on May 4. Photo from Town of Huntington

In conjunction with the Town of Huntington’s 18th annual Tulip Festival, intermediate and middle school students within the Huntington Township were invited once again to enter the annual Tulip Festival School Art Contest. 

The event was sponsored by the Town of Huntington, NEFCU, Huntington Arts Council and the Heckscher Museum of Art.

By Laurel Bonn of Finley Middle School

This year’s theme was Huntington in Bloom. Students were encouraged to independently interpret the theme and create personal reflections of springtime in Huntington. The winning artwork was selected by a jury comprised of artists and art professionals and was displayed at the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park during the Tulip Festival last Sunday. 

Laurel Bonn of Finley Middle School was awarded the Carolyn Fostel Best in Show award, given in honor of the late Ms. Fostel. Fostel was instrumental in planning and securing sponsorship support of the initial Huntington Tulip Festival in 2001 and continued to be active in these capacities on the Festival Committee until she passed away in 2011.

By Shivaangi Salhotra of the Long Island School for the Gifted

Shivaangi Salhotra of the Long Island School for the Gifted received a Showwide Honorable Mention. 

Three winners from each grade level were honored at the event, with the first-prize winner receiving a $50 gift card courtesy of NEFCU.

Third-grade winners: First Place — Isla McAlister, Second Place — Alexa Blumo, Third Place — Sophia Marino.

Fourth-grade winners: First Place — Nina Corbett, Second Place — Lily Kramer, Third Place — Grace Lu, Honorable Mention — Megan LaMena, Honorable Mention — Avery Veter Walsh.

Fifth-grade winners: First Place — Grace Schoonmaker, Second Place — Sameera Chaudhry, Third Place — Andrew Vitale.

Sixth-grade winners: First Place — Caterina Dottino, Second Place — Hannah Stark, Third Place — Gabriella Messing.

Seventh-grade winners: First Place — Emily Gershuny, Second Place — Elisa Kong, Third Place — Stephanie Wickey.

Eighth-grade winners: First Place — Si Yue Jiang, Second Place — Jennifer Zhu, Third Place — Lily Chai.

Art teachers also received $50 for each student whose art was chosen as the best of the grade for use in purchasing art supplies, also courtesy of NEFCU.

To see images of all the entries, visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

Jan Staller, ‘Water Purification Plant,’ Hempstead, Long Island, 1991, Heckscher Museum of Art

By Kevin Redding

Heavy metal is coming to Huntington’s Heckscher Museum of Art this month. Not in the form of head-banging music but the photography of Jan Staller — a Long Island native whose large-scale shots of industrial landscapes, urban infrastructure, neglected buildings and construction materials have been subjects of beauty and acclaim for almost 40 years. 

From April 21 through July 29, nearly two decades of Staller’s career will be on display at Heckscher’s Heavy Metal: Photographs by Jan Staller exhibition, which will feature more than a dozen of his “monumental photographs,” a three-channel video of his work and an in-depth discussion with the artist himself on May 10 at 7 p.m. 

Jan Staller, ‘Pile of Rebar,’ Flushing, Queens, 2007, on loan by the artist

Staller, who moved to Manhattan in 1976 after gathering up degrees at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts and Maryland Institute, rejected the trend among photographers at the time to journey across the country in search of subjects and instead began capturing his immediate surroundings. A deteriorated highway along the Hudson River. Buildings in ruin. Unfamiliar architecture. All with a focus on pattern, geometry, line color and light — both natural and artificial. 

Staller has said of his unique work that he “looks for the sculptural, formal and lyrical qualities of objects that are not always thought to warrant contemplation.”

This ability to zero in on the unseen and passed-by in the urban setting, and capture the gradual development of Manhattan over time, has brought Staller’s work to the pages of Time and Life Magazine, Forbes and The New York Times and inside the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan and the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Since the 1970s, he has taken his camera across the country and world and was chosen to photograph on the sets of such films as “12 Monkeys” and “Fargo.” The latter’s snowbound setting was a natural fit for Staller, whose snapshots of blizzards in empty New York City in the ’70s and ’80s are among his most famous. He has also had two monographs of his photographs published — “Frontier New York” and “On Planet Earth.”

“Jan’s photographs show us our ordinary, everyday surroundings in a way that many of us do not perceive them,” said Lisa Chalif, the museum’s curator, who first met Staller during an exhibition in 2009 titled Long Island Moderns, highlighting local artists from painters to photographers to architects. “He makes me stop and see things differently. You see the beauty there and most of us are not able to look and isolate the formal structures necessarily in those sights. You can see all the color in the rusted steel. I didn’t always see that but he helps me see that.”

She continued, “Staller perceives in existing manufactured forms, seen in random industrial settings, a serene beauty that he isolates with his camera, discerning order in chaos, beauty in decay and a sense of mystery within the ordinary.”

In a recent interview, Staller, who grew up primarily in Sag Harbor, said he became infatuated with photography at an early age as his father pursued the art as a hobby, dark room in the house and all. By the time he was 13, he had his own 35mm camera and was snapping pictures of the garden and nature. A couple of years later, at 15, he started developing his own prints with the aid of a dark room he built at school. 

Looking back at his long career, Staller said the common thread in all his work is an “ephemeral” subject matter.

“Things in transition are, for at least in the moment that I’m there, of particular interest,” he said. “I think that’s something I’ve always been captivated by. But if you look at my work over the years, you can see there’s a gradual [inclination] to get closer in on the subject matter, a lessening of the contextual details and a greater emphasis on the thing itself. Until the thing itself is the only issue being explored, such as these photographs made of construction materials … ” 

The photographer, who still resides in Manhattan, said he was looking forward to the exhibition and gauging the public’s response to his work. “I think that being an artist, we’re exploring some ideas and are hoping to impart those to others,” he said. “So when people understand that in a very clear way, that’s probably the most gratifying thing.” 

Staller continued, “I often quip that we artists are all wannabe cult leaders, in the sense that we think that we have this vision of the world and art is something that is affirmed by a consensus or not. So it all depends on who or how many people are affirming the work. A show at The Heckscher Museum is an affirmation and one that I’m very satisfied with.”

The Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington will present Heavy Metal: Photographs of Jan Staller from April 21 to July 29. The community is invited to a Gallery Talk on Thursday, May 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. $5 per person, members free. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.Heckscher.org.

Photos courtesy of The Heckscher Museum

‘Rush’s Lancers’ by Winslow Homer, 1886; Courtesy of the Mort Kunstler Collection. Image from The Heckscher Museum of Art

By Ellen Barcel

Two related exhibits have opened at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington: Normal Rockwell and Friends: American Illustrations from the Mort Künstler Collection (through March 5, 2017) and Mort Künstler: The New Nation (through April 2, 2017). Related in theme (American artists and subjects), related in exhibit time and related through American artist Mort Künstler himself, the duel exhibits complement each other perfectly.

Norman Rockwell and Friends

Norman Rockwell’s ‘A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!’ (aka ‘World of Charles Dickens’), 1937; Mort Künstler Collection. Courtesy Norman Rockwell Family Agency. Image from The Heckscher Museum of Art
Norman Rockwell’s ‘A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!’ (aka ‘World of Charles Dickens’), 1937; Mort Künstler Collection. Courtesy Norman Rockwell Family Agency. Image from The Heckscher Museum of Art

Mort Künstler, an American artist himself, has long collected the works of late 19th century and early 20th century artists/illustrators. The current exhibit at the Heckscher (Norman Rockwell and Friends) highlights Künstler’s collection and is unique because this is the first time these works are being shown to the public. The 75 pieces on display, such a broad variety of artists, represent 39 artists including Edwin Austin Abbey, Howard Chandler Christy, Dean Cornwell, Charles Dana Gibson, George Gross, Winslow Homer, J.C. Leyendecker, Thomas Lovell, Maxfield Parrish, Howard Pyle and, of course, Norman Rockwell.

In a recent phone interview, Künstler remarked that of the many artists he collected, he knew several personally. Thomas Lovell was “almost like a mentor” to him and George Gross “really was my mentor,” adding, “I did have the pleasure of talking to Norman Rockwell on the phone.”

Künstler’s collecting goes back to at least 1972 “or earlier,” he commented, over four decades of seeking out the best illustrators of the early 20th century. Why these particular artists? “I liked the work,” he said, from when he was in art school. Künstler stated that many of the artists were members of the Society of Illustrators, a professional organization founded in 1901. Gibson was one of its early presidents. Included in the nine founding artists were N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle, both in the current exhibit. The heyday of the society’s art shows was during the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression of the 1930s.

“All were illustrators,” said Künstler. “There was no TV (back when they were working). The only visuals that people got were out of magazines and newspapers. Visually, they were the ones who created the fashions. Charles Dana Gibson was the creator of the Gibson girl.” She was recognized as the personification of feminine beauty in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “The illustrators were idolized like movie stars. They reached out to thousands of people. They were the superstars of that era.”

Why the exhibit now? “I got to know Michael Schantz, executive director at the Heckscher Museum, well. He came to lunch, visited, loved the collection. … It was time to let it go out,” said Künstler.

“One of the extraordinary things about this is that both the Künstlers allowed us to take everything off their walls, from the house. It was just an extraordinary gesture. It speaks so well of the relationship between this museum and the Küntslers,” said Schantz. “I met with him quite a few times. I recorded him for hours and hours — a record of the interesting stories, the hunt for the works, where he found them and how he found them.” He added that some of these stories are related in the information cards in the exhibit.

Mort Künstler: The New Nation

The museum also has a related exhibit, Mort Künstler: The New Nation, featuring Küntsler’s most recent work including his paintings of the early years of the United States. Künstler, who is particularly known for his Civil War paintings, reflected that his interest in American history came about because “almost all of my work was commissioned,” and frequently those commissions related to American history.

Above, ‘Washington’s Crossing: McKonkey’s Ferry, Dec. 26, 1776,’ 2011; oil on canvas, 33 × 50 in., from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Suozzi. Image courtesy of The Heckscher Museum
Above, ‘Washington’s Crossing: McKonkey’s Ferry, Dec. 26, 1776,’ by Mort Künstler, 2011; oil on canvas, 33 × 50 in., from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Suozzi. Image courtesy of The Heckscher Museum

“My book, ‘The New Nation’ [‘The New Nation, The Creation of the United States in Paintings and Eyewitness Accounts’] will act as the catalogue of the show,” said Künstler. “I did some of the work for the bicentennial in 1976,” then did additional paintings, he said. The book, with text by American military historian Edward G. Lengel and David H. Fischer, will be available at the museum. Künstler, who has published 10 books of his art work, now also has a children’s book series as well, “based on my paintings.” Themes of the four books include the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Wild West and World War II. The works are written by well-known historians (particularly James “Bud” Robertson) for children ages 10 to 15.

Howard Shaw, president and director of the Hammer Galleries in Manhattan, has known and worked with Künstler for more than 25 years. “Mort is considered the country’s leading historical artist,” said Shaw. “Not only has he incredible technique but he does enormous research so that even the smallest detail is accurate.” Shaw went on to relate an incident where Künstler was researching information with a number of historians for a painting he was doing. Only one was able to get back to him “one or two hours before the opening of the show. With the painting on the gallery wall, Mort repainted that particular part of an insignia,” so that it would be historically correct.

Shaw observed the joy that goes into Künstler’s work. “He told me if it ever feels like work, ‘I’ll stop doing it.’ Over 70 years he hasn’t felt he’s had a job.”

A gallery tour and talk with Mort Künstler will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the museum (inclement weather date is Jan. 19). Members are invited to attend free, for nonmembers there is a $5 charge.

The Heckscher Museum of Art, is located at 2 Prime Ave., Huntington. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day). For further information, visit www.heckscher.org or call 631-351-3250.

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