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Joseph Rotella

The Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson invites the community to view its latest art exhibit in the Meeting Room titled Celebration of Art/Coming Out of the Pandemic by artist Joseph Rotella through the month of December. The exhibit will feature landscape and floral narratives which were all created during the pandemic. For more information, call 631-473-0022.

By Tara Mae

After a 3 year absence, Local Color returns to Gallery North, a proclamation of the connection between art, artist, and community. On view from Aug. 19 to Sept. 26, the exhibit is presented in conjunction with the North Shore Artists Coalition and includes a reception and Open Studio Tour. 

The beautiful show features artists whose work is both universal and local in impact, meaning, and appeal. 

“[Executive Director] Ned Puchner and I decided to bring Local Color back this year and re-envision it to show through these artists what local culture is about. The exhibit is defining the role artists play in shaping identity of community and showing diversity of how artists define community: creating culture, creating beautiful and impactful work, adding to the identity through their outreach, etc,” said curator Kate Schwarting. 

The show’s art is as varied as its interpretation of theme, featuring oil and acrylic paintings, photography, sculptures, and digital renderings. Thirty artists, from St. James to Mount Sinai, will be featured including Kelynn Alder, Arts.codes (Margaret Schedel and Melissa Clarke), Fred Badalamenti, Joan Branca, Sheila Breck, Pam Brown, Nancy Bueti-Randall, Sue Contessa, Micheal Drakopoulos, Paul Edelson, Peter Galasso, Han Qin, LoVid, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Jim Lecky, Jim Molloy, Carlos Morales, Patricia Morrison, Patricia Paladines, Mel Pekarsky, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Joseph Rotella, Angela Stratton, Mary Jane van Zeijts, Lorraine Walsh, Annmarie Waugh, Marlene Weinstein, and Christian White.

“What is so special about this exhibition is that each artist brings a different thing to the exhibition,” explained Schwarting. “A plein air painter captures the essence of a familiar location and allows us to see it in different light; someone else [deals] with a scientific topic that is so difficult to comprehend, but creates art that enables us to know through physical form and visual cues.”   

Several of the participants are also activists who champion social, technological, and environmental awareness and change through their art. 

According to Schwarting, a number of the artists were recruited through the gallery’s association with the North Shore Artists Coalition, while others were invited by her and Puchner. 

Pam Brown, a sculptor who lives in Stony Brook and co-founder of the coalition, helped facilitate the partnership between the group and the gallery. Her piece, Armour, is a sculpture fabricated out of sheet metal, wire, boar bristles, and vinyl. Brown’s efforts in facilitating the relationship between Gallery North and the North Shore Artists Coalition reflect the connection she sees between art and community outreach. 

“Community engagement creates an opportunity for the arts and artists to be seen by their communities — it initiates new ways for the public and artists to build connections between different groups. It brings together communities so they can articulate their own history and culture and to acknowledge that art is taking place in a larger context,” she said. 

For artist Doug Reina of Stony Brook, who has exhibited at Gallery North in the past, showing his work in Local Color is reconnecting with a “fun, summertime tradition.” 

“My work is about sharing the interesting, touching, emotional, funny, beautiful, sad human things that mean something to me with the viewer,” said Reina. His oil painting, titled Boys Night Out, depicts 4 teenage boys sneaking out of the house on a summer night. “The painting is based on real life experiences we had when our son was that age,” he explained.

Interpersonal connection is a recurring subject of the show’s art. This focus extends outward into explorations of our interactions with and responsibility to the world-at-large.

Han Qin of St. James will be entering her cyanotype on paper, White Goddess, which incorporates digital photo editing, drawing, and papermaking. It was inspired by two poems: “The White Goddess” by Robert Graves and “Quiet Night Thoughts” by Li Bai. 

“I started the White Goddess series during my pregnancy and have been developing it until now. Poetry and life experience are the main inspirations. The idea behind the artwork becomes a shared experience that brings people together,” she said.

“We as a people have a long continuous personal storyline. Artwork is the moment on the storyline. My moment connects with others’ moments in their individual storylines; thus, a web of emotional connections builds up. That is a community, too,” said Qin.

Such cultural connections are enhanced through community involvement. In this spirit, exhibiting artists of Local Color will also be featured in an Open Studio Tour hosted by the North Shore Artists Coalition and Gallery North on Sept. 25 and 26, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. 

“With one piece from each of the selected artists in the exhibit itself, the Open Studio Tour allows for an expanded view of the individual artists,” said Schwarting. 

Gallery North, 90 North Coutry Road, Setauket presents Local Color from Aug. 19 to Sept. 26. Join the artists for an opening reception tonight, August 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. The gallery is open Wednesday 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.

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'Artist Lake' by Joe Rotella

By Rita J. Egan

The days are becoming chillier, but that hasn’t stopped the Port Jefferson Free Library from celebrating the beauty of the great outdoors. The library is currently hosting the exhibit Slices of Nature/Phase 3, featuring the plein air paintings of Mount Sinai resident Joseph Rotella.

Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian, said it’s the third time the library has displayed Rotella’s artwork. Filosa said the painter’s past shows have done well, and the exhibit allows visitors to experience the beauty of both plein air painting and Rotella’s artistic interpretation of local landscapes. “I hope that they’ll enjoy the scenes, and since most of the pictures are of Long Island scenes, I hope it will also give them a better appreciation of where they live,” Filosa said.

'Cedar Beach' by Joe Rotella
‘Cedar Beach’ by Joe Rotella

Raised in Brooklyn, Rotella spent 28 years of his career as an art teacher with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). During this time, the artist said he did very little painting of his own and concentrated on teaching. When he retired in 2008, he was finally able to pursue painting steadily and become a professional artist, something he aspired to since a child. “It’s a full-time passion,” he said.

Working with acrylics and sometimes with oil paints, Rotella’s artwork represents his interpretation of Long Island landscapes and seascapes. Since 2010, he has exhibited his work in both New York and South Florida in shows such as the Hampton Bays Outdoor Show and Patchogue Arts Council Summer Member Show.

The artist said he considers himself a Post-Impressionist. “I’m interested in expressing myself more so than the impressionist artists do. I’m trying to capture light in the moment, but I am also trying to give a feeling of emotion in my brushwork and so forth,” he said.

Rotella prefers plein air painting where one paints landscapes outside and interprets what they see physically in front of them as opposed to a scene captured in a photograph. Shortly after he retired, he moved to Mount Sinai and visited Gallery North in Setauket on a day when the Joseph Reboli Wet Paint Festival was taking place. “One day I went to Gallery North, and I saw people working outside, and I said, ‘Wow that’s just what I do, and what I want to do,’” he said.

He spoke to Esther Marie at Gallery North, who said he was more than welcome to participate in the plein air festival in the future, and in 2012, he did just that. Rotella said he also has contributed to art shows at the gallery since then.

'Lenny Bruno Farms' by Joe Rotella
‘Lenny Bruno Farms’ by Joe Rotella

When it comes to summing up his work, the painter said his artist statement on his website relays his mission best. The statement begins with: “In my work I try to capture the atmospheric conditions in terms of light, tone and color. I paint what I see and try not to compromise color. I am concerned with some details but do not obsess over them. I paint the surface tones as I see them trying to be fluid and spontaneous with my brush strokes.”

The artist is pleased to display his paintings at the Port Jefferson Free Library once again. He said a few years ago he attended an art critique there and noticed artwork hanging on the walls of the meeting room. He approached the librarian at the desk and discovered all he had to do was schedule a date in order to exhibit his own paintings.

Rotella said he chose large works of art for this exhibit, with some measuring as much as 30 by 54 inches. While the paintings won’t be available for sale at the library, interested buyers can contact Rotella directly. The painter hopes library patrons come away from the exhibit with a different perspective of nature. “I’ve gotten many comments from people saying that my artwork makes them feel good because of the way I paint the scenes of nature. And that’s one thing, just to get a sense of nature, and how an artist interprets nature and sees nature, so that they can feel good about nature,” Rotella said.

“Maybe begin to look at nature in a different way; begin to start looking at nature and seeing what nature has to offer. Nature is beautiful. That’s what I would like them to get out of it — getting a good feeling from my work and appreciating it and feeling good about what they see.”

The exhibit will be on display in the meeting room of the PJFL, located at 100 Thompson Street, until Nov. 28. For more information on Rotella and his paintings, visit www.rotellafinearts.com.