Gallery North’s Still Life captures fleeting beauty

Gallery North’s Still Life captures fleeting beauty

‘Ziggy Flame Crest,’ oil on board, by Laura Westlake

By Ellen Barcel

Gallery North in Setauket will open Still Life on May 13, an exhibit by nearly two dozen artists both local and farther afield, many from New York City. While some feel that still lifes are static, they’re really not. There’s always the question, “What’s going to happen next?” said Judith Levy, executive director of Gallery North, with “the implied action to follow.”

‘Sunflowers’ by Robert Jessel
‘Sunflowers’ by Robert Jessel

Artist Bruce Lieberman, a member of the Artists Advisory Council of the gallery, said the idea for the show came about when he met Lennart Anderson, an old mentor and friend at an opening.

“He is a great painter and I thought it would be wonderful to show him and the circle of artists, ex-students and friends, those associated with him,” said Lieberman. “Sadly, Lennart passed away and his work became unavailable to us, but the idea remained, morphed and drifted away from Lennart as the driving force. But not really. He still lingers and lingered in the back of my mind throughout the process.”

Added Lieberman, “The director’s vision is to return to the idea of exhibiting the best, most interesting work she can … Judith had a major role in curating the show but the painters I picked are artists I know or whose work I have known and/or been impressed by.”

Some of Lieberman’s works will be shown, including “Blue Eggs and Ham,” “Green Pineapple Shell and Blueberry” and “Cat on an Ocean Table.” He said, “My work is … based on perception but in no way is meant as a mere depiction of reality … I’m interested in how paint lays down and how paintings are constructed — the abstraction inside the work. They usually begin with or contain some symbolism, a story, an idea. Embedded into the still life, this personal symbolism, or narrative falls away as I work.”

'Blue Eggs and Ham’ by Bruce Lieberman
‘Blue Eggs and Ham’ by Bruce Lieberman

Pieces in the show range in size from tiny to quite large. Liz Kolligs of Old Field, known especially for her paintings of horses, has some tiny still lifes just “six to seven inches. They’re of desserts — you want to eat every one of them,” said Levy.

Looking at contemporary artist Robert Franca’s “Bananas,” one a half-eaten banana and a skin, the other a whole piece of fruit, asks the question: ‘Who’s going to eat the second one?’

But there are interesting backstories as well. Franca, who also has two other paintings in the show, “Cantaloupe” and “Apples,” said, “I began the series of fruits/vegetables/food simply enough around 10 years ago. Looking down at the breakfast table one morning, I was suddenly struck by the way the half eaten banana was left on the plate, and the quality of the light, and the fact that I couldn’t have ‘arranged’ it better. When I brought it up to the studio to paint, it looked even better.”

Franca noted the challenge of time imposed by a “perishable subject emphasized the need for economy and expediency in my approach.” He added that at the time of year he was painting, the days were long. “I found I could start painting by 8 a.m. and finish a painting by 5 or 6 p.m. ‘Perception’ is my touchstone. The visual pleasure, the experience of seeing beauty and why it is often fleeting is a mystery worth exploring to me.”

Local artist Eleanor Meier will have two of her watercolors in the show, “Dutch Plate and Tulips” and “Hydrangeas from the Garden.” They have an interesting backstory as well. “The two watercolors that Judith selected,” Meier said, “are of a blue glass water pitcher — a gift from my grandson. They are both about reflections and family memories, because of the objects included.”

‘Bananas’ by Robert Franca
‘Bananas’ by Robert Franca

Meier noted, “they are painted from life, using layers of glazes to deepen the color and yet to emphasize the transparency of the paint. My style revolves around doing the underlying drawing (my passion) carefully and accurately. Then the painting is sheer fun.”

Abstract expressionist Robert De Niro Sr. (1922-1993) will be represented in the show as well. The father of actor Robert De Niro, he married artist Virginia Admiral and moved to a loft in New York’s Greenwich Village, a mecca for artists and writers of the time. In addition to solo exhibits, De Niro’s work is in a number of museums and private collections.

Other artists in the exhibit include Amy Weiskopf, Angela Stratton, Christian White, Don Perlis, Fred Badalamenti, Jacqueline Lima, Joseph Podlesnik, Laura Westlake, Lois Dodd, Mel Pekarsky, Nancy Bueti Randall, Oscar Santiago, Paul Resiki, Randall Rosenthal, Robert Jessel, Robert Kogge, Stephen Brown and Susan Jane Walp.

“Local artists are happy to be in the exhibit … people from the city are happy to be showing in new areas. It’s an exchange. The whole idea is a group of artists from various places … new artists, new techniques,” said Levy, adding that in addition to paintings there will be work from a photographer as well as a three-dimensional sculptor. This is a sharing of “new ideas and new techniques.”

Still Life will run from May 13 through June 19. The opening reception, to which all are invited, will be held on Friday, May 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. An ArTalk will be held on Saturday, May 21, from 3 to 5 p.m. during which some of the artists will be on hand to discuss their work. Both events are free and open to the public, but donations are always welcome.

Gallery North is located at 90 North Country Road in Setauket. For further information, please call 631-751-2676 or go to

This version adds the rescheduled date of the ArTalk at Gallery North.