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Irene Ruddock

'Salt Flats' by Fred Mendelsohn

By Irene Ruddock

Living right here among us is Fred Mendelsohn, a modern-day Renaissance man — neurologist, philanthropist, author, musician and artist. Residing in Port Jefferson with his wife Sunny, Fred has recently retired and is now devoting his time to oil painting.

Artist Fred Mendelsohn

After a lifetime of being a neurologist, what inspired you to devote your time to art?

Before enrolling in the sciences, I went to college on a music scholarship where I became enamored by the French horn, the instrument that “sings”; however, after surgery on my throat, I could no longer play, so for creative release I began my artistic journey.

Was there an artist who inspired you the most?

I would have to say that it was my first teacher, my neighbor, who was a professional artist and illustrator, took me under his wing at age 10, teaching me drawing and prospective, thus illustrating the profound effect a teacher may have on a child.

With whom have you studied?

Locally I studied with colorist Christian White, in New York at the Art Student’s League with Robert Cenedella and at the Art League of Long Island with Nanette Fluhr and David Peikon. I learned something of value from each of them.

‘Lake Como,Villa Balbianello’ by Fred Mendelsohn

How would you describe your art and what is your ultimate goal?

I think of myself as a truth seeker. I want to create an original work that emulates Mother Nature in a painterly fashion, rendering art that captures the effects of atmosphere through color and light. My goal its to effortlessly paint what I envision in my mind’s eye.

Where do you enjoy painting?

The bucolic fields and waterways of the North Shore and the hills and villages of Italy are sources of inspiration to me.

What art period has influenced you the most?

The Impressionists have had an effect on me because of the way they depicted shimmering colors: color within color, color within shadows, colors within water and sky.

‘Gabrielle Cot’ by Fred Mendelsohn

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

The most emotionally gratifying moment was successfully operating on a 10-year-old with an aggressive brain tumor. Having patients like him survive is the most rewarding thing that can happen to a doctor.

You are also an author who has won the Reader Views Literary Award for your book. What is it about?

The book is called “A Doctor’s Journey,” a compilation of true stories about my medical experiences that touched me in such special ways that I wanted to share them with others.

What exciting art events do you have planned for your future in art?

I am exhibiting my paintings in the Winter Exhibition at Art Blend Gallery in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. Snow birders are invited to attend! My paintings were accepted for exhibitions at ArtHamptons in July and at the ArtExpo in New York City in April.

Locally you can find my work in Expressions Gallery, LIMarts exhibitions and at the Setauket Artists Annual Exhibition. I am especially honored to be asked to donate a painting “that will enlighten and uplift patients and visitors alike” for the new wing at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital. You may see my work by visiting www.artistfredericmendelsohn.com.

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Above, 'Giverney #1' by Reneé Caine

By Irene Ruddock

Dear Readers, Welcome to our newest column in Arts & Lifestyles! Long Island is home to many wonderful and talented artists. Each month we will feature a local artist who will share his or her favorite paintings as well as their own personal story.

’Art is not what I do, art is who I am.’
— Renee Caine
‘In the Moment’

Holbrook resident Reneé Caine has shown her work around Long Island for the past 20 years, most notably with the Huntington Arts Council, East Hampton Guild, Catherine Lorillard Art Club and the Watermill Museum. For the past eight years, she has exhibited with the Setauket Artists at the Setauket Neighborhood House and is a member of LIMarts. Currently, Caine is Artist of the Month at the LIMarts latest exhibit at The Long Island Museum’s Visitors Center titled Inspired By …, which is on view through Jan. 29.

What is your background in art?

I have drawn, painted or created some form of art my entire life. I received my bachelor’s of fine arts from Dowling College with a major in art education and a master’s of arts liberal studies with an emphasis in art from Stony Brook University. I have explored all types of medium including watercolor, gouache, oil, acrylic, chalk, oil pastel, pottery, clay sculpture, printmaking, soap stone carving and bronze casting.

I taught art to grades K-12 in several districts with the last 18 years of my career teaching in the Three Village school district. When I taught, I let my students know that I was a working artist and they loved to see my work. It is rewarding to see students show up at my exhibits! I have even been critiqued by a few of them using the skills I taught them!

‘Peconic River’

Who influenced you to become an artist?

My grandmother was a respected watercolorist in St. Paul, Minnesota, so I think some of my talent is genetic. For years, I followed in her footsteps painting in watercolor, but now I am painting in oils.

What is your motivation?

Picasso once said his art “was like a visual diary.” That is exactly how I feel about my work. My paintings are a reflection of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen that has caught my eye or spoken to me. When I paint, I want to draw the viewer into my “Ah” moment. I am showing the viewer what caught my eye: color, light, shadow, contrast and textures in everything around us.

How would you describe your art?

I am a realist. My work is representational. I want the viewer to experience what I felt when I saw “It.” Although realistic, I still use “artistic license” to make changes. I do not try to improve on mother nature, but at times try to clean up man’s debris. My paintings are calm, restful and peaceful and I invite the viewer to step into my world to escape for a while. However, there are times that I wish to experiment with contemporary genres such as “Hello,” which won an award at a LIMarts exhibit titled I’ve Got the Music in Me.

‘Parisian Door, Number 4,’

Do you have any early memories of your art?

My first painting I ever sold was a nine by twelve oil pastel of a horse grazing in a field. I was in ninth grade when the secretary in the office wanted to buy it. She paid me $20 saying, “You will sell many of your paintings in your life, but you will always remember the first one you sold.” She was right as that experience was a wonderful incentive and affirmation for a child.

Do you have a favorite painting?

I remember the day I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw Johannes Vermeer’s “Young Woman with a Water Jug” painted in 1632. Having seen it only in textbooks, I was surprised by how small it was. Although small, I found it was powerful. Vermeer’s use of light so astounded me that it remains my favorite painting to this day.

Where is your favorite place to paint?

I am quite sure that Giverny, France, is now and will remain the most motivating place I’ve ever been. While walking through Monet’s home and gardens, I felt almost transformed to another time. As I was processing all the beauty surrounding me, I felt the enormous energy there.

What is your process when painting?

When something inspires me I take many photographs of the subject from different angles and with different lighting; then I visualize the composition in my head. It is not unusual for me to think about a painting for a couple of months before I paint it.

What is your vision for your future in art?

I feel my talent is God-given, therefore, it is my wish to develop it to the fullest. I want each painting to be an improvement over the last one. With each painting I learn something new. Growth is my quest! Keep growing, keep learning is my motto! Since I retired, I am devoting myself to my art full time and immersing myself into the art community. In the new year, I am especially looking forward to working with Neil Watson by becoming a member of the steering committee for LIMarts.

What are your other interests?

Outside of my devotion to my husband, daughter, son and three adorable grandsons, I’m an avid gardener. My property is my living sculpture. I have color from early April to late November. I have nooks, crannies and brick walkways I designed and put in myself. My vegetable garden feeds my family all summer and growing an abundance of cucumbers supplies us with pickles that we enjoy all winter. When I’m not gardening, I can be found painting in my garden! I will continue to grow as art is not what I do, art is who I am.

'The Red Rocker' by Laura Westlake will be on view at the exhibit

By Irene Ruddock

As autumn rolls around, people start to think of the comforts of home: a cozy fireplace, baking and perhaps redecorating their homes. What better way to perk up a home than to bring in some beautiful art to soothe the soul?

Now in its 36th year, the Setauket Artists’ Exhibition, featuring the works of over 40 artists, will return to the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket from Oct. 23 to Nov. 17 with viewing daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show will be judged by respected watercolorist and juror Lucy Taylor of the Art league of Long Island.

‘Fall Colors at Stony Brook’ by Lana Ballot
‘Fall Colors at Stony Brook’ by Lana Ballot

The artists

Lana Ballot

Rina Betro

Sheila Breck

Renee Caine

Al Candia

Gail Chase

Anthony Davis

Jeanette Dick

W.A. Dodge

Paul Edelson

Stu Gottfried

Donna Grossman

Melissa Imossi

Laurence Johnston

Anne Katz

Flo Kemp

Karen Kemp

Michael Kutzing

John Mansueto

Jane McGraw-Teubner

Terrance McManus

Eleanor Meier

Fred Mendelsohn

Jim Molloy

Muriel Musarra

Iacopo Pasquinelli

Paula Pelletier

Denis Ponsot

Joan Rockwell

Robert Roehrig

Irene Ruddock

Eileen Sanger

Carole Link Scinta

Sungsook Setton

Barbara Siegel

Patricia Solan

Angela Stratton

Mary Jane van Zeijts

Annemarie Waugh

Laura Westlake

Marlene Weinstein

Patricia Yantz

Reinforcing the group’s motto — “Art for a Lifetime” — the artists strive to provide art that has a meaningful impact on the viewer. It is art that invites you to breathe softly, to take a walk down a hidden path, put your feet into the cool waters or sit in a rocker on the porch enjoying the last days of summer. (See Laura Westlake’s “Red Rocker.”)

The Setauket Artists revel in capturing the beauty of our local scenes such as Carol Linke Scinta’s atmospheric “Gamecock Cottage,” Patricia Yantz’s soothing “West Meadow Wonder,” Barbara Siegel’s nostalgic “Sound View Pavilion” or Rina Betro’s “Sweet Caroline” — an oil painting of the beloved and historic Caroline Church.

Collectors of Anne Katz’s and Paula Pelletier’s watercolors will enjoy their luminescent, pastoral paintings while others will seek out Stu Gottfried’s pastels that define the hustle and bustle of city life. 2016 Honored Artist Robert Roehrig will lead you to stroll along Long Island’s South Shore delighting you with a stunning sunset, Jeanette Dick will charm you with her alluring “Geisha,” and Renee Caine will guide you through the elegant splendor of “Monet’s Giverny.”


In a contemporary turn, view Annemarie Waugh’s “Avenue of Trees,” which is magically childlike and truly a breath of fresh air. The Setauket Artists are joined for the first time by the well-known oil painter W.A.Dodge who will display his stunning “Orange Rhymes with Blue,” and Denis Ponsot, instructor of watercolor at the Art League of Long Island, whose painting of “The Red Canoe” will make you want to grab the oars and paddle away.

Portraitist Terrance McManus captures the sweet innocence in “Island Boy” and the warmth and wisdom emanating from “The Professor.” Other well-known artists joining the group for the first time are the renowned oil painters Laurence Johnston and John Mansueto and pastel painter Lana Ballot, instructor at the Atelier at Flowerfield. The Setauket Artists are honored to have as our guest artist, master watercolorist and former judge Antonio Masi, famous for his paintings of New York City bridges.

Several artists have donated paintings to be raffled off including 2015 Honored Artist Jim Molloy who will contribute his giclee painting, “Turning Tides,” with proceeds to benefit the organization. Fred Bryant of Bryant Funeral Home in Setauket will once again sponsor the exhibit. Fred, patron of the arts, has generously contributed to the art group for ten years leading it to the professional organization that it is.

An opening reception will be held on Sunday, Oct. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. at which scholarships will be awarded to three local students, Daniela Winston and Lexie Buynoch for art and Jacob Henretta for science in memoriam of recently deceased Setauket Artists Michael R. Kutzing, David Smith and Flori Sternlieb. If you miss the first reception, you may join Setauket Artists for their free evening wine and cheese reception on Friday, Nov. 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. where many new affordable paintings will be featured just in time for the holidays. Entertainment will be provided by singer Caterina Dee whose lilting and sultry voice made the evening complete last year.

For additional information, visit www.setauketneighborhoodhouse.com, Setauket Artists on Facebook or call 631-365-1312. Irene Ruddock is the coordinator of the Setauket Artists.

Setauket Neighborhood House. File photo

By Irene Ruddock

The Setauket Neighborhood House will host its annual Taste of the Neighborhood fundraising event on Friday, May 13, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Local restaurants, including Fratelli’s, O Sole Mio, Country House, Three Village Inn, Curry Club, Chick-fil-A, Fifth Season, Bliss, Setauket Gourmet Deli, Mario’s, Old Field Club, Setauket Pastaria, Luigi’s, Villa Sorrento and Elegant Eating, will provide their signature dishes accompanied by beer or wine compliments of the SNH.

Live music by members of the Ward Melville High School Jazz Ensemble will enliven the atmosphere, providing a joyful backdrop for all in the local community to re-connect after a long winter while supporting this fundraiser.

Contributing to the festivity of the evening by setting up and serving will be members of the High School Key Club. Raffle baskets, complied by SNH board members with numerous gift certificates from local businesses, will tempt all to purchase tickets. Drawings will be conducted that evening, but you don’t have to be present to win.

Artists Joan Bloom, Anne Katz and Paula Pelletier, all members of the Setauket Artists, will be exhibiting their work as well as each donating an original painting for the raffle. Paintings will be for sale for several weeks after the event, which will give people time to view the exhibit. (Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but call 631-751-6208 for details and gallery hours.) All proceeds from the raffle baskets and sale of paintings will go directly to the Setauket Neighborhood House.

The Setauket Neighborhood House originally was built in the early 1700s. In 1820, it was moved from its Conscience Bay site in Setauket to its present location by Dr. John Elderkin. When passed on to his son John in 1836, the rooms, now known as the Victorian Parlors and the Board Room, were added. The house then became known as Ye Old Elderkin Inn. Besides being an inn, the house also had a general store, post office, bank and library in the building. John Ederkin’s wife, Renelcha, was a woman of great refinement and energy. She oversaw the inn, which was noted for its hospitality and fine food with many famous people stopping there. During the 1860s, the inn serviced a stagecoach line from Setauket and the Lakeland Railroad Deport near Ronkonkoma.

When Dr. Elderkin died in 1885, the house was passed on to his niece, Julia, and then on to Julia’s niece Augusta Elderkin and her husband, Captain Beverly S. Tyler. The Tylers named their inn The Lakeside House and it operated until 1917.

The Old Field industrialist, Eversley Childs and his wife Minnie, purchased the property in May of 1917 and together with an endowment presented it to the community. The Childs also provided funds for the addition of the present-day Ballroom. The Setauket Neighborhood Association was formed to maintain and preserve the house, and it has since served as a community meeting place.

Tickets for this event may be purchased for $30 online at www.setauketnh.org or at the door for $35. Checks may be sent to P.O. Box 2192, Setauket, NY 11733. Please join them at this wonderful community event to raise money for the maintenance and preservation of one of our most beloved community treasures — The Setauket Neighborhood House!

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Mary Jane van Zeijts photo by Irene Ruddock

By Irene Ruddock

Award-winning artist Mary Jane van Zeijts recently opened her own studio/gallery, Studio 268, at 268 Main Street in Setauket to display her work and teach art. I recently sat down with Mary Jane to share her thoughts on her art and her new adventures.

Irene: I know you recently moved back to Stony Brook from New Jersey. What made you move back?
Mary Jane: I missed the people, the art community, the silvery Long Island light that’s so special, but mostly I missed my friends! My children spent their first 11 years here so it is home to them, too. It confirms my belief that the Three Village area is a great place to bring up children. My son is in the Stony Brook School, which he loves. So many good things have happened to me since I’ve been back that I feel my life is going in a new and exciting direction. I never tire of things to paint here such as Avalon Park, [Frank] Melville [Memorial] Park and West Meadow Beach. The landscape is so varied that I am forever inspired to create.

I: You just renovated a house in Stony Brook that was on the Three Village Historical Society’s house tour. The decor of a house tells a lot about the owner. Tell us about it.
MJ: It’s really just things I’ve collected that are meaningful to me: a table from my parent’s blacksmith shop in Holland, Dutch wooden shoes, an antique clock, and paintings and sculptures from fellow artists. I like an uncluttered, clean design that lets me breathe, yet I yearn to be surrounded by things that touch my heart and are a part of my heritage.

I: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
MJ: Growing up, I was always involved with drawing and painting. I started teaching at age 16 at the Gifted Child Society where I realized that I loved working with young people. I received my bachelor’s degree in fine art from the Maryland Institute College of Art and earned my masters in art education from NYU.

I: Can you describe what you are trying to say when you paint?
MJ: It’s more about feelings than what I actually see and the desire to have those feelings come through the painting. Pastels allow me to do that because they are so immediate. You feel it and you can just put it down before it is lost. You don’t have to mix the paint, or wait for anything to dry. Creating is all about problem solving. It’s a great way to be aware of what’s around you, to interact with and observe nature, to create something that acknowledges the beauty everywhere. When someone buys my work, my wish is to make them happy and to have that painting “speak” to them.

I: Art is different to every artist. What is art to you?
MJ: Art allows you to be quiet with yourself, it centers you, and gives you an awareness of yourself. I believe art is one of the highest form of communication — a universal language that evokes emotions. One experiences art on a deeper level.

I: You have spoken about your family. What are they like?
MJ: My parents are Dutch. They are straight-forward, practical, no nonsense people who love family and traditions. They, like most Dutch people, love the water, the great outdoors and adventure. They have a very strong work ethic.
My great-grandparents were active in the Dutch underground in World War ll. They hid and moved Jewish families through Holland. I treasure a tea box given to me by a man who was saved by my family. I look back and hope this generation will be as strong, principled and loyal as they were. I hope this strength and bravery will go forward and will not be lost.

I: What is the best advice you have ever received?
MJ: My dad always gave the best advice. He said that “If someone says that you are not capable of doing something, you need to ignore them and try to do it anyway.” He said, “Just do the right thing and every else will fall in place.”

I: Tell me about your three children. What are they like?
MJ: Everyone says that they were brought up well, but their goodness and specialness doesn’t come from anything I did. They are better than I am. I have learned from them to try to handle life with grace and faith.

I: What would be your advice to them?
MJ: I would tell them to trust in themselves and let their faith guide them.

I: You have just opened your studio and gallery. What is your vision for that?
MJ: I am thrilled to fulfill my lifelong dream of having my own studio to share my art with the community. I want it to be a comfortable space where children and adults learn, guest artists show their work, and people feel free to just stop by and say hello. My vision is to make the studio a joyful place of creativity and excitement where all are welcome!

Studio 268 will hold a grand opening on Sunday, Dec. 20, from 1 to 5 p.m. Join Mary Jane before or after your holiday shopping to view the art, mingle with fellow artists and enjoy some light refreshments. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information about classes or private appointments, contact Mary Jane at [email protected] or call/text her at 631-220-4529. You may view her art at www.maryjanevanzeijts.com.

From left, Joe Deriso, Dottie Sottichio and Mary Anne Deriso pose at the farm stand. Photo by Irene Ruddock

By Irene Ruddock

For the past 17 years, Ann Marie’s Farm Stand, owned by Mary Anne Deriso and her husband Joe, has been a fixture on North Country Road in Setauket, providing the community with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and friendly conversation.

Season after season, there was always a reason to stop by, whether it was for Ann Marie’s strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry pies, herbs and tomato plants for the garden, a hanging plant for the deck, pumpkins, special goat cheese from an “out east farm,” Christmas trees or just to visit with the goats, bunnies, chickens and Timothy the miniature horse. And who can forget the fresh corn? A summer without fresh-picked corn from Ann Marie’s would be impossible!

It has been the meeting place that Americans so love to find, a place to congregate, almost like a town square. I think we all yearn for that community touch and we surely found it at Ann Marie’s. Artist Al Candia recently commented, “Ann Marie’s is such a wonderful resource to have in the community; there’s a charm to that country farm stand as it is part of the roots of the area. The history of Long Island was always devoted to farming so we all want to hold on to that for as long as possible.”

“It is so inviting and people-friendly that it is like something from a movie about Americana. Ann Marie’s retains the sense of a small-town feel in the finest tradition,” said Assemblyman Steve Engelbright (D-Setauket)in a Dec. 29, 2011, article in the Village Times Herald.

The end of an era is drawing near as the farm stand will close on June 15 to relocate to Port Jefferson Station. The landlord has decided to sell the property.

Stopping in for a visit, I met up with Mary Anne’s daughter Jackie (the farm is named after her third child Ann Marie). “What did you like about living here?” I asked. Jackie replied, “It was very comforting having my parents so close by since our home is right on the property. Living here, you really got to know a lot of people and you always felt like you were a part of the community. When I became a nurse, I realized how many families I knew and were already a part of my life. It made treating them so special to me.”

When I entered the building, I spoke with Dottie Sottichio, who came to Ann Marie’s to work “from the old place [on Old Town Road],” and never left because “I met the two greatest people I ever knew — Mary Anne and Joe Deriso, and now they are part of my family.” Mary Anne says, “Dottie has to stay now because we can’t live without her!” I then sat down with Mary Anne to ask her a few questions about her 17 years in Setauket.

What is the best part of the having the farm stand?
The people! Over the years, the customers have become your friends and they are a part of your everyday life. We developed true friendships — we laughed together, we cried together. We watched all the kids grow up and witnessed the good and the sad parts of their lives. We lived their lives as much as we lived ours. Children who came with their parents now come back to visit and that is always special. They tell us their stories about what they remember about being here. Some are funny, some I can’t tell! But there is such a warmth in my heart for all of them.

What are your fondest memories of the farm stand?
Oh, when the children are playing with the animals and watching my own children grow up here.

What was the biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise was when (in 2011) my aunt called to tell me to look in the [Village Times Herald] paper because there’s a story about me. I asked, “Is it good or bad?” It was then that I learned that I had won “Woman of the Year in Business.” One of my customers even sent flowers. Another surprise is that recently one of our customers insisted on holding the mortgage for us so that we could purchase a little house!

What is it like working with your husband every day?
Working with your husband is “interesting!” Every woman out there knows what I mean! No, honestly, I couldn’t do it without him. We’re a team. He does all the buying and farming and I work behind the desk. It’s been a wonderful journey for us!

What about the other people who worked here?
Well , Tom came to work with us about 20 years ago [at the previous location on Old Town Road] and never left. He’s part of our family now and we visit him often in the Mills Pond Nursing Home in St. James. Claude Riley and everyone who works here usually stay or come back to visit.

What is in your future?
We feel very blessed to have found a new farm stand location at 680 Old Town Road, Port Jefferson Station, right by Jayne Blvd. [The number will be 631-371-6197. The hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.] We will miss our old home and this farm stand, and we really appreciate not only all our customers but the landlord who we had a good working relationship with over the years. They were always there to support us. We are also touched by the benefit art sale that the Setauket Artists are going to have on May 29 and May 30. I hope people come to look at the wonderful art. We are so excited about it. Thanks to everyone for all your years of loyal friendship! Hope to see you at our new farm stand!

Irene Ruddock is coordinator of the Setauket Artists.