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abstract art

By Tara Mae

Abstract art invites an audience to use its imagination and interpret meaning. 

Gallery North’s newest exhibit, Laminar Rituals, celebrates the creation and explores the impact of mark making and non-objective art through the works of artists Sue Contessa of St. James and Anne Raymond of East Hampton. The show opens today, April 8.

Featuring Contessa’s acrylic paintings and Raymond’s monotypes and oil paintings, the title of the exhibit refers to their artistic styles, which incorporate transparent or translucent layers of paint that laminate, protect, and enhance their marks and brushstrokes. 

“Both artists really work in a very intuitive manner … Sue’s work is really about the experience the viewer has in front of the [art]. Anne is much more interested in transient qualities we find around ourselves — things like change in weather patterns, changes in light over the course of the day … trying to capture those fleeting moments around us,” said Gallery North Executive Director Ned Puchner. “I think when put together, this exhibit is really presenting records of our experience out in the world.” 

Rather than seeking inspiration from outside sources, Contessa finds meaning in the methodology of crafting her art. She uses acrylic paint and occasionally graphite pencil to build marks on the canvas. This technique creates a perceived visual depth to her paintings.

“The work is about repetition … The paintings are more about formal art issues, and the repetition allows for that form of meditation that I always hope will happen. I just have to trust my process. I tend to work rather thinly and transparently, so you are always seeing something from underneath, which impacts each layer,” said Contessa.

For Raymond, the development of her palette is an essential part of her creative process. “I work from a palette based on what I feel like at the time. If I don’t like it, I completely change it,” she said. “I float back and forth between doing monotypes and painting. I think this helps me stay fresh.”

Raymond uses plexiglass plates for her monotypes, making unique single prints with oil-based, pigment-rich, lithography inks. Unlike oil paint, the inks dry fairly quickly so Raymond is able to produce a few in a single session. 

The process of working in these mediums is different, but its influences are largely the same. Her art, although abstract, is impacted by the natural world. 

“Almost all of my work has reference to landscape, seascape, or sky. I feel really lucky. The beauty of Long Island is my muse,” Raymond said. 

Classically trained, Contessa and Raymond each studied art in college and then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. They worked in traditional, realistic mediums like figure drawing and still life before becoming abstract artists. 

After taking classes at the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills, Contessa was asked to teach figure and basic drawing classes there. 

“I have a background in realistic painting, but it wasn’t satisfying for me. It wasn’t what I wanted to paint. I wanted to paint something that didn’t exist before,” Contessa said. “When you create an [abstract] painting, it is something that you created. The reason for doing it in the first place is that I don’t know what it’s going to look like.”  

Raymond worked as an illustrator, for a newspaper, and in the travel industry before fully transitioning to a career as an abstract artist. “When I was studying, I did a lot of live drawing … I appreciate the skill, but it was not exciting in the way that working abstractly is. While working as an illustrator, I was already doing abstracts … I think it is creatively engaging to invite surprise into your process,” she said. 

Their complementary mindsets about composing abstract art is part of what initially inspired Puchner to pair their art for an exhibit. “I saw common features with both of them,” he said. 

It is the first show that Contessa or Raymond have done since the pandemic began. The exhibit is part of Puchner and Gallery North’s ongoing effort to introduce patrons to the work of local artists and provide the local artists with additional exhibition possibilities. 

“I’m really trying to present more artists and give more artists more opportunities to show. I have fun trying to create these pairings and expose our audience to more local artists,” Puchner added. 

Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket presents Laminar Rituals through May 16. The exhibit will be open to the public during the gallery’s normal hours, Wednesdays to Saturdays from 11 a.m to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. All onsite events are socially distanced and masks are mandatory for entry.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Raymond will lead a monotype workshop for a class of up to six people at the Studio at Gallery North on April 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Contessa and Raymond will participate in a Virtual ArTalk on April 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

For more information, to register for these programs, or to learn more about Laminar Rituals and other upcoming exhibits, visit www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676. 

 

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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.