By Heidi Sutton
When was the last time you went to an art exhibit? When was the last time you strolled through a gallery, taking in the beauty of a painting, a photograph, a sculpture? Yes, virtual exhibits are a creative substitution but we all know it’s not the same. Thankfully, art institutions on the Island are slowly reopening their doors to the public with fresh and exciting art installations to lift our spirits and grant us a reprieve from the stresses of our daily lives.
On Sept 3, the Reboli Center for Art & History in Stony Brook Village launched their new season with Wild and Wonderful featuring the whimsical art of Vicki Sawyer and on Sept. 12, the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s stately Mills Pond Gallery in St. James introduces a juried fine art exhibition titled Contemporary Realism honoring an art movement in which subjects are painted from everyday life. The massive show highlights the works of 64 artists from 11 states who were asked to submit oil paintings “that captured realism through any approach or style.” Exhibiting Long Island artists represent 18 Long Island communities from Floral Park to Aquebogue.
Allison Cruz, executive director of the Mills Pond Gallery, has been cautiously waiting to present this exhibit to the public and is thrilled to reopen the gallery’s doors this Saturday. “The business of art does not really ‘take a vacation.’ Exhibits, calls for entry, shipping of work, jurying the entries all go on for months ahead of the actual exhibit since our juried exhibitions are national calls for entry. So when the pandemic hit, we were already halfway through the process,” said Cruz. The gallery received 162 submissions for the show.
Originally scheduled for July 11 to August 8, Cruz wisely decided to move the show to September and October “in hopes the gallery would then be open for visitors,” she said.
Precautions have been taken to provide a safe environment for visitors using the guidelines from the New York State Dept. of Health NY Forward site. “Masks and social distancing are required and temperatures are taken upon arrival with a contactless thermometer,” explained Cruz. “We wipe down all high touch surfaces … ie: door knobs, entry ways, any surfaces touched by visitors, with CDC approved anti-viral wipes. We have constructed a plastic barrier for the office and schedule regular cleanings as required.”
Exhibiting artists include Amal, Shain Bard, Karl Bourke, Renee Brown, Charis J Carmichael Braun, Alberto Carol, Linda Ann Catucci, Sarah Ciampa, Aleta Crawford, William Dodge, Daniel Donato, Caro Dranow, Evee Erb, Megan K. Euell, John Fitzsimmons, Cori Forster, Nicholas Frizalone, Elizabeth Fusco, Symmes Gardner, Ashley Gillin, Emily Halper, Seth Harris, William Karaffa, Donna Kunz, Jane Langley, Thomas Legaspi, PJ Marzullo, Liz Jorg Masi, Kerri McKay, Clifford Miller, Joseph Miller, Joseph A. Miller, Indu Ramkumar, Doug Reina, Michele Riche, Audrey Rodriguez, Robert Roehrig, Oscar Santiago, Gia Schifano, Hannah Steele, Daniel van Benthuysen, Diane Varano, Robert Whistler, Janice Yang, and Patty Yantz.
Winners were chosen by juror Max Ginsberg, one of the most respected and highly accomplished realist painters today. The alla prima (painting directly on canvas without a preliminary drawing) oil painter is often praised for his political and social commentaries and for bringing to life on canvas the struggles of everyday people in his New York City home. His fine art has been exhibited and collected widely and has received countless major awards. The artist has taught art for 60 years and offers workshops around the country and abroad in his commitment to inspire today’s artists to master realism painting.
“I was very fortunate to connect with Max Ginsburg. I have never presented an exhibit of Realism here at Mills Pond and in speaking with Max about the exhibit, we both agreed that the show should be open to all styles of Realism since we shared the goal of encouraging artists to continue to pursue this wonderful style of painting,” said Cruz, adding, “[He] is held in such high regard in the art world and many of our entrants expressed that the reason for entering this exhibit was for the opportunity to have their work under the eye and possible selection by Max.”
Preparing for the exhibit has been a joy for the director. “I love this exhibit for many reasons. The art is technically wonderful … there is a wide variety of subject matter and styles … which is a testament to the skills and passion of our juror. He truly selected works based on their artistic quality and skill level, not simply looking for works that were similar to his own style or social realism subject,” said Cruz.
Best in Show ($1200 cash prize) was awarded to “Look” by Joseph A. Miller of Buffalo; second place ($800 cash prize) went to “My Guest, Lorena” by Hannah Steele of Pennsylvania and third place ($400 cash prize) was awarded to “Blue Beauty” by Liz Jorg Masi of Smithtown.
“Christine” by Charis J. Carmichael Braun of Northport; “Shaded Lily Pond” by Aleta Crawford of Manhasset; “The Spanish Poet” by Karl Bourke of Huntington Station; “In the Frontline” by Alberto Carol of Florida; and “Father” by Hannah Steele of Pennsylvania received Honorable Mentions.
Cruz is excited to share this unique exhibit with the public. “Personally I have always believed that art is an essential and valuable component of communication. Think about how people from past civilizations communicated about their lives through cave drawings … What future generations learn about our times will partially be communicated through the art of our times. I was so hopeful that the gallery would be able to open to allow visitors to have an additional way of looking at the world … we have television, radio, internet, and for many, art is another method of exploring contemporary issues in the world.”
The Mills Pond Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present Contemporary Realism from Sept. 12 to Oct. 16. Hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.