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Ward Hooper

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'Prepping for the Race' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon

By Rita J. Egan

When two talented artists work together, the result can be picture perfect. Such is the case with watercolor artist Ward Hooper and photographer Holly Gordon, who shortly after meeting almost three years ago formed The Brush/Lens Project.

Currently, art lovers and travelers alike can enjoy the result of this artistic duo’s immense talents as well as inspiring friendship. Eight pairings of the artists’ paintings and photographs are on display at the Atrium Gallery at Long Island MacArthur Airport in an exhibit presented by the Islip Arts Council.

In addition to the art show, the two will host a slide show and talk at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library Aug. 23. The event will allow art aficionados the chance to ask Hooper and Gordon about their collaboration as well as their process for perfectly pairing their works of art.

The alliance began on social media after a mutual friend introduced the two. Gordon said she looked at Hooper’s work online and found he had painted similar sites and themes that she had photographed. She realized the two not only shared an interest in creating art but also an appreciation of the landscapes of Long Island.

'Dove-Torr House' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Dove-Torr House’ by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
'Dove-Torr House' by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Dove-Torr House’ by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon

“For the past 50 years we have been destined to connect, because we have so been living parallel lives independently, and so three years ago they converged,” Gordon said.

A painting of Hooper’s that he created of Long Island City during his commuter days from Northport to Manhattan especially stood out to the photographer. The image reminded her of a photo she had taken along the New Jersey Turnpike, and she posted it to Hooper’s Facebook page.

When Gordon was preparing for a tulip photography exhibit, while Hooper was teaching how to paint the flower at an art class in his home, the artists experienced a bit of synchronicity once again. Noticing a number of similarities in their lives and work, the two decided it was time to meet in person.

The pair said they began meeting every Tuesday, and Hooper would have an itinerary of places to visit as well as a route planned out. They started in Northport at a Victorian house off Woodbine Avenue and then branched out east, according to the painter. “So every Tuesday, it was an adventure,” Gordon said.

At first Hooper would stay by the car or sit on a bench while sketching. Gordon said he would instruct her as to where to go to capture interesting images based on his memories from past excursions with fellow artists, some of the trips made as long as 20 years ago.

“It was very nostalgic to me, remembering fond memories of those outings with friends who are no longer around, so it was very special. And being there with Holly, she was looking at it with fresh eyes, so I was so anxious to see what Holly came up with every week,” Hooper said.

When they began presenting their work under The Brush/Lens Project name, Gordon would photograph spots based on existing paintings of Hooper’s if she didn’t already have an image. Hooper said he hadn’t painted for years when he met the photographer due to the passing of his wife, Dolly, and being her primary caregiver.

“When this lady dropped into my life, it was very special and wonderful at exactly the time it was truly meaningful to me. And here we are,” the painter said. Gordon said she understood his pain but also knew the healing power of creativity. After suddenly losing her husband of 20 years in 1996, the photographer said she had held onto her camera like a life preserver to come to grips with her loss.

Hooper quickly became inspired to paint again and recently has created new work to pair with Gordon’s. “Creativity is a blessing. I can’t imagine a life without creativity,” the painter said. Gordon has noticed the difference the collaboration and friendship has made in both of their lives. “He really in many respects has given me a crash course on the earlier part of his life, and he has taken me into his world, and it’s really expanded what I am doing today creatively, but it also has given Ward an enormous verve and enthusiasm to move on and do new things,” she said.

When it comes to Hooper’s paintings, Gordon said, “His paint brush is jumping and dancing all over the place. It is ageless. It is just filled with so much vitality and verve.” The admiration is mutual as Hooper describes Gordon as “an amazing photographic artist” whose work is easily recognizable due to her unique, “imaginative stamp” she puts on each of her photographs. He said of her work, “It jumps off the wall and dances.”

'Race Day' by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Race Day’ by Ward Hooper. Image from Holly Gordon
'Prepping for the Race' by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon
‘Prepping for the Race’ by Holly Gordon. Image from Holly Gordon

Immediately after their exhibit at the airport, The Brush/Lens Project paintings and photographs will be on display at the Islip Town Hall Rotunda Gallery, 655 Main St., until Oct. 5. The painter and photographer hope local residents will take the opportunity to view their different interpretations of local areas and maybe see Long Island landscapes in a different way.

“We put ourselves out there for all to see and hopefully they’ll come away with an interesting visual experience,” Hooper said. Gordon added, “I hope that they will see more clearly themselves. Take more time to see and appreciate what’s out and in front of them, because so often people are just so scattered that they don’t focus. And, also to see how wonderful creativity is, because here are two people who can look at the same subject but be affected to respond to it differently.”

The Brush/Lens Project exhibit will be on display at the Atrium Gallery at Long Island MacArthur Airport, 100 Arrival Ave., Ronkonkoma, until Aug. 30. Hooper and Gordon’s talk and slide show takes place Aug. 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library, 1 South Country Road, Brightwaters. To reserve a spot for the free event, call 631-665-4350.

For more information on The Brush/Lens Project, visit www.brushlensproject.com.

‘Boothbay Harbor,’ watercolor by Ward Hooper. Photo from Northport Historical Society

By Rita J. Egan

Ward Hooper and his wife Dolly, who passed away in 2012, were a rare couple because both were exceptionally talented and accomplished. To celebrate decades of the couple’s creative contributions to the Village of Northport as well as their involvement in the community, the Northport Historical Society is currently running the exhibit, Sharing a Creative Life: Dolly and Ward Hooper.

Terry Reid, collection consultant and member of the exhibit committee at the historical society, said, “It’s sort of a retrospective celebration of Dolly and Ward’s creative life. It’s a thank you from Northport for all of their years of creativity and community service.”

The exhibit is what Reid calls a “full-circle moment” for her. When she started out at the historical society, she was fortunate to work with both Dolly and Ward, who were board members and curators for 35 years. She was happy once again to work with Ward on this show. “I learned from Ward and Dolly when I started 10 or 12 years ago. They taught me what I know now,” she said.

‘Renaissance Lady’ by Dolly Hooper. Photo from Northport Historical Society
‘Renaissance Lady’ by Dolly Hooper. Photo from Northport Historical Society

The exhibit displays the couple’s individual as well as joint achievements and demonstrates how they integrated their creativity into Northport, according to the consultant. On one side, the cabinets feature Ward’s achievements, which include graphic designs for many well-known brands, and features on the other side are Dolly’s dress designs and dolls she created. In the middle, the displays show what the couple accomplished together, including their work at the society.

Ward’s watercolors

The pieces on display come from the Hoopers’ personal collection, and the exhibit includes 24 of Ward’s watercolor paintings, too. In addition to being a former graphic designer, Ward is a watercolor painter who taught at the Art League of Long Island for 12 years. He is currently collaborating with photographer Holly Gordon on a new artistic venture called the Brush/Lens Project.

Also featured in the exhibit is the society’s dollhouse, which is a permanent fixture at the museum due to Dolly’s involvement in decorating the house with furnishings and miniature dolls.

Reid said Dolly, who began her career dressing store windows along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, loved designing and collecting dolls, even though growing up during the Depression she never had one of her own. Among her creations on display are ones she made out of Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottles. The figures inspired the company to create a calendar featuring the dolls, which turned out to be one of their most successful advertising campaigns, according to the consultant.

Ward and Dolly were avid antique collectors, and the designer in the ‘70s opened the Trolley Tracks Antique Shop in Northport, according to Reid. She also created many one-of-a-kind bridal gowns and especially loved Victorian dresses. “She could really bring a dress to life,” the consultant said.

Reid said Ward and Dolly not only contributed culturally to the village but also were actively involved in the community. In addition to working with the historical society as curators from 1974 to 2009, they were also involved with the Northport Architectural Review Board as well as the village’s chamber of commerce. Ward even designed the chamber’s logo. In addition, Dolly helped make wreaths that were displayed along Main Street during the Christmas season and started the Miss Northport Pageant in the ‘80s.

Ward Hooper photo from Northport Historical Society
Ward Hooper photo from Northport Historical Society

Ward, who attended the exhibit’s opening reception on April 3, was appreciative of all his friends who attended the event. “This is really rewarding to see so many people turn out here today. Dolly passed away four years ago, and she would have truly loved it,” he said.

The artist was especially pleased to see Bill O’Brien, a former director of the Northport Historical Society, and Dick Simpson, also a former director as well as the museum’s founder. Ward said he not only worked with the two during his days on the board at the society but also with Dick in Manhattan early in their careers, and the two along with Dolly were curators together for many of the early exhibits at the society’s museum.

Creative power

The artist said when Simpson told the couple “to come out to the North Shore” to visit him, they liked what they saw and in 1969 moved from the city and bought a converted barn in Northport. The couple, who had met in the early ‘50s at Willoughby’s Camera Store, was married since 1953.

Simpson, who traveled from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to attend the opening reception, said he hopes that everyone who visits the museum will see “the creative power these two people had.

“If you are creative, you can go in all different directions. That’s what so wonderful about the creative person and these two were very creative,” Simpson said.

O’Brien remembered visiting the Hoopers at their home and said Dolly was always working on a project. “She was a very creative woman and she was always on the go,” he said.

The former director was pleased with how the exhibit turned out. “I think the exhibit was aptly named because even though they were married, they each pursued their own creative abilities on their own stage, and then they always supported each other,” O’Brien said.

Ward and Dolly’s daughter Laura Jean Wilson was also on hand for the reception and loved that both her mother’s designs and father’s artwork were on display together. “To see everything here is beautiful. It’s well done; a lot of good memories,” Wilson said.

When it comes to what she hopes exhibit goers will discover during a visit to the museum, Wilson said, “Just how creative they were, the talent, how they worked so well together, had a lot of similar interests, and how they loved Northport. Just to see the different collaborations between the two … they loved what they did.”

Sharing a Creative Life: Dolly and Ward Hooper will be on exhibit at the Northport Historical Society, 215 Main Street, Northport, through Aug. 31. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.northporthistorical.org or call 631-757-9859. To find out more about the Brush/Lens Project, visit www.brushlensproject.com.

Ward Hooper and Holly Gordon display similar pieces of art — from left, a painting and a photograph — both titled ‘The Boys of Summer.’ Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

When photographer Holly Gordon was asked to describe her relationship with painter Ward Hooper, she relayed a Hopi Native American tale about a paralyzed clown and a blind mudhead who are only able to flee their village when disaster strikes by individually compensating for what the other lacks: the mudhead provides mobility by carrying the clown on his back and the clown provides direction by acting as a set of eyes for the mudhead. “[Ward] was opening up my eyes, and I was using my camera to bring him the visions,” said Gordon. “There’s really such a synergy between us.”

For Hooper and Gordon, who met on Facebook through a mutual friend and typically get together once a week, the term “synergy” applies to both life and art, realms which, according to Gordon, are often indistinguishable from one another. Hooper plays the role of navigator for Gordon, who drives them both to diverse locations along the north shore of Long Island, including Huntington, Northport, Centerport, Kings Park and Cold Spring Harbor, some of which Hooper “hasn’t been to in 20 years.” The result is individual reinterpretations of the same settings made more complete by access to each others pre-existing work.

Sometimes Hooper’s paintings provide the initial inspiration, and other times Gordon’s photographs play this role. “That’s the beauty of our collaboration,” said Hooper. “Holly would show me something and challenge me to create something compatible with what she selected.”

“[When using Ward’s painting as the initial artistic reference] I knew that I was going to have to stretch my vision and stretch my technical skills to make my work even more fluid than it was previously,” said Gordon. “Art is usually a solitary thing, and among some artists you find a certain competition, but Ward and I have just been so supportive in sharing and helping each other grow and evolve and develop and create. It’s been an absolutely magical experience.”

52 of the artistic results of this experience — pairing the new photographic art of Gordon with the watercolor paintings of Hooper — will be on display at the Art League of Long Island’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, from Aug. 8 to 23, in an exhibit appropriately titled The Brush/Lens Project.

“We’re hoping that viewers will be inspired,” said Gordon, “that they will come to see and appreciate the beauty that is right here on Long Island [by viewing art that was largely created in and inspired by Long Island].”

The exhibit will highlight versatile pieces of art, arranged in 26 sets, which encompass all four seasons and a variety of subjects. “We overestimated the number of pieces [that we would be able to include in the exhibit],” said Hooper. “Between the two of us, we have nearly 100 years of art,” continued Gordon, “there’s a book here.”

Both Hooper and Gordon are grateful that they have been afforded the opportunity to work with one another and plan to continue to do so in the future: “When you put yourself out there and you’re not afraid to share and interact, there’s so much beneath the surface to discover,” said Gordon, on her rewarding decision to reach out to Hooper. “Art brought [Holly and me] together,” Hooper emphasized. “We think, on many levels, the same way.”

With Gordon in the driver’s seat and Hooper as navigator, there’s no telling where their artistic visions will lead them next. “There’s no end to this journey. There’s no road map,” said Hooper. “We’ll just see where it takes us.”

The Art League of Long Island is located at 107 E. Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Hours are Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The community is invited to an art reception on Aug. 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. The artists will take part in a Gallery Talk on Aug. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.net.

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