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Ellen Hallie Schiff

Two person show explores color and chance through sculpture and abstract painting

By Tara Mae

Kicking off 2022, Gallery North explores the beauty born of controlled chaos and how that informs the power, impact, and usage of color through the raku sculptures of Gina Mars of Huntington and the abstract oil paintings of Ellen Hallie Schiff of Glen Cove in an exciting exhibit titled Chroma-Tenacity. The show opens Jan. 13.

Although Mars has a long-standing relationship with Gallery North, it is Schiff’s first exhibition at the gallery, and the pairing provides a unique opportunity for the artists to showcase their work in a way rarely seen, according to Executive Director Ned Puchner. The mixed media display, featuring approximately 53 pieces, was a calculated departure from the gallery’s standard procedure. 

“I am excited to see 3-dimensional work shown at the same time as 2-dimensional work. Often, we segment those things: the former in the gift shop, the latter in the gallery. I love the interplay between 3-D and 2-D; it’s important to me,” he said. 

Despite their different modes of expression, Mars and Schiff’s work shares certain commonalities that are interwoven into overall continuity and themes of Chroma-Tenacity.

“It really has to do with them trying to experiment and stay driven towards the goal of creating something beautiful that contains chaos. The exhaustion that comes with uncertainty runs through how we live right now and also this work,” said Puchner. 

This notion of tranquility in turbulence and meaning in mayhem are continuous themes of Mars and Schiff’s art, from concept to creation, reflected in the process and the final product.

“Control and chance are elements in both of their work. Both artists focus on the importance of color, attention to detail, and creating refined pieces. Gina’s sculptures focus on understanding the chemistry that exists within the glazes and surface texture, yet allowing them to have this spontaneous reaction. Ellen’s work involves destroying things to build them back up,” said curator Kate Schwarting.

Mars primarily works in raku, a sculptural style that involves rapidly firing pottery or sculpture. Her decorative and functional pottery is removed from the kiln at 2000 degrees and put in a covered container with combustibles (Mars likes to use pine needles and newspaper). The smoke interacts with the glaze and creates all different colors. 

Mars makes her own glazes, either color or crackle, which is a white glaze that, upon being taken out of kiln, shrinks in the air causing cracks. When the sculpture is put into the bin, the smoke gets into the cracks and makes incredible hues. 

Her pottery features iridescent glazed bodies and crackle glazed lids.  

“I love to go bold with my work and with color, push the limits of creativity, mixing different mediums. I may use different kinds of glaze firings, or different kinds of materials,” said Mars. “I like to take a lot of risks and [create] the vision that I see in my head; I don’t let anything influence me but my own ideas.”

Schiff is also open to the experience of creation informing her art, rather than adhering to a preconceived plan. Her work captures not only what is there but what is left behind as she applies layers of paint and then scrapes them away to form her works. 

While experimenting with different markings, Schiff has sought to expand her color palette in the past year. 

“I am interested in exploring. I try to really be open to what is happening on the canvas, what may occur, what I may explore with. I am intentional but I am also open to what may happen. I’m starting with the paint, I’m not starting with a narrative. Narrative may develop from putting the paint on the canvas. My work is about color and intention,” she explained. 

This shared willingness to play around with colors, tones, and forms is what first drew Schwarting to assembling this joint exhibition. 

“Gina started branching out in the past year [with] new motifs, materials, and experimenting with her process. I was really drawn to the sculptural elements and the dark surfaces that become luminous. Ellen’s art also evolved — it got brighter. The attention to texture and color is what really stood out to me: earthy, weathered, worn, but with incandescent color. Gina’s art has a very similar feeling to what Ellen has in her paintings. The breadth, range, and simultaneous cohesion of this exhibition make it a truly unique experience and one we are excited to share.”

Exhibition-related programming will include an ArTalk on Location, featuring both artists, to be published on YouTube on Feb. 3 and a one-day pottery workshop with Gina Mars in the Studio on Feb. 4 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.


Stan Brodsky in his studio. Photo by Peter Scheer

By Melissa Arnold

For Stan Brodsky, painting was so much more than just a skill or even a career. It was a language, a love affair, a truly sensual experience. The artist shared those feelings openly with students over the course of a renowned teaching career that spanned more than 50 years. 

Several months ago, the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills began to prepare Stan Brodsky and Friends, a springtime exhibit celebrating Brodsky’s work along with nearly 30 of his dearest friends, many of whom were former students and mentees.

‘Woman in a Car,’ oil/acrylic on canvas by Doug Reina

On March 30, just two weeks before the exhibit’s scheduled opening, Stan Brodsky passed away at the age of 94. He had continued to work and teach until the final weeks of his life, just as he wanted it. Brodsky’s students noted that the World War II veteran tried to retire a few years ago, but he couldn’t stand being away from doing what he loved. 

The Art League is moving forward with the show as planned, with the exhibit running from April 13 to 28. A reception on April 14 at 3:30 p.m. will allow the artists and those who loved Brodsky to honor his life and legacy.

Participating artists include Ennid Berger, Susan Bird, Susan Canin, Denise DiGiovanna, Simon Fenster, Stuart Friedman, Peter Galasso, Lenore Ann Hanson, Ginger Balizer-Hendler, Caroline Isacsson, Vincent Joseph, Deborah Katz, Marceil Kazickas, Denise Kramer, Barbara Miller, Catherine Morris, Pamela Long Nolan, Dianne Parker, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Fran Roberts, Susan M. Rostan, Ellen Hallie Schiff, Laura Powers-Swiggett, Janice Sztabnik, Lois Walker and Hiroko Yoshida.

Stan has touched so many lives, inspiring them to pursue their passions,” said Susan Peragallo, coordinator and curator of the Art League’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery. “The exhibit will be a chance for everyone to celebrate him — the 27 artists in the show are only a small segment of those who were influenced by him over the years.”

A master abstract expressionist, Brodsky studied photojournalism and fine art before receiving a doctorate in art education from Columbia University in 1959. Originally from Greenwich Village, he moved to Huntington in 1965. Most of his teaching years were spent at Long Island University’s C.W. Post Campus in Brookville, and a collection of his notes and sketches from 1951 to 2004 can be found at the Smithsonian Institution.

‘Superficial Information,’ oil on canvas by Marceil Kazickas

Brodsky’s relationship with the Art League began in the late ’90s when he became an instructor. The classes were small in the beginning, with just five students enrolled in 1994, but grew rapidly, and eventually people had to be turned away from lack of space. “It’s not so much that he was popular, but he was inspiring and generous in his critiques, and people really responded to that,” Peragallo said.

Peter Galasso of Setauket remembers that Brodsky could often be found in the same way over the years as students arrived for class — sitting at his desk, usually eating an egg sandwich, always poring over an art history text.

“He had a contagious passion, and was constantly reading and continuing to study,” said Galasso, who began studies under Brodsky 20 years ago, eventually becoming a friend and traveling companion. “He was always looking to travel somewhere new or different. He wanted to be inspired by the local color of a place.”

Susan Rostan of Woodbury remembers entering Brodsky’s classroom for the first time while pursuing a master’s in fine art. Brodsky arranged the students in a circle and asked each one to introduce themselves. When it was her turn, Rostan simply told him, “I’ve heard I’m either going to love you or hate you, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”

‘She Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve …,’ mixed media by Susan Canin

Many years later, Rostan was sitting in a different class of Brodsky’s, this one at the Art League. But she was stunned by the striking realization that nothing had changed: He still wore the same striped sweaters and paint-splattered jeans. She painted a full-length portrait of him that day that will appear in the exhibit.

“He taught us as much about ourselves as he did about painting,” said Rostan, who is now working on a biography of Brodsky. “He was an unusual teacher in that he approached his students as equals and opened himself up to be vulnerable and form friendships with them, which allowed him to encourage them particularly well.”

Brodsky’s friendship and deep encouragement were beloved by so many of his students, said Doug Reina of Setauket. In fact, some of them continued to take his classes for decades just to spend more time with him.

“Stan had this ability to make you feel special. He was genuinely curious about you, and that means a lot,” Reina said. “In the old days before taking his classes, I would look at a scene and just try to copy it. But through him I learned to paint in a way that also expresses how I feel about the subject and the sensuousness of the paint itself. Stan painted with his own language and created something truly unique for the world.”

Stan Brodsky and Friends will be on view at the Art League of Long Island’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, 107 E. Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-462-5400 or visit www.artleagueli.net