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Joseph Weinreb

By Melissa Arnold

If you think back to your childhood, it’s likely you can recall moments when you were captivated by something external, like animal shapes in the clouds, or internal, like a daydream. You probably played dress-up, or with dolls or LEGOs, or fell in love with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Disney movies.

There’s an almost universal tug we share toward things outside of the ordinary — we are drawn to dreams, fantasies, and sometimes other worlds.

Allison Cruz, executive director of the Smithtown Township Arts Council and Mills Pond Gallery in St. James, has invited artists from around the country to explore their inner worlds with a new exhibit called Imagination.  

It’s a little different than the gallery’s usual showings, but Cruz is excited to expose visitors to artistic expressions that might be unfamiliar.

“I’ve had this idea for a long time. I’m personally a fan of realism, but over time I’ve really started to appreciate imaginative realism — art about things that don’t yet exist, or might exist in the far future … fantasy, science fiction, absurd humor, escapism,” said Cruz. “It seems like there’s been a greater interest in those subjects among artists as well, so it feels like the right moment to do this. A lot of the artists have thanked me for giving them an opportunity to explore a different side of themselves. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by what they see.”

The exhibit includes the work of 62 artists and a total of 81 selected submissions in a variety of styles and mediums. Their art combines personal narrative, pop culture characters and more to speak about the stories that fill our times. Taken together, the exhibit reveals the inner workings of the artists’ minds, from the complex to the humorous and even outlandish.

Manhattan native David H. Reuss is serving as juror for Imagination. Reuss has a long history with the Mills Pond Gallery — he studied there years ago under Marvel Comics illustrator John Buscema, and later connected with Cruz through art collector Tim Newton of the renowned Salmagundi Club. 

With a background in both fine art and illustration, Cruz thought Reuss was the perfect fit for the exhibit’s themes.

“David is on the board of the Society of Illustrators but also teaches realism painting, so he straddles both worlds. He loves the gallery and has the background that was needed to appreciate imaginative work. He really personifies what we were hoping to accomplish,” she said.

Reuss reviewed nearly 300 submissions during the selection process, considering how well each one fit the theme and how his selections would work together on display. He said he was “extremely impressed with the high-level talent” of the chosen artists, adding that their art could easily appear in any major city.

“I’ve done a lot of surreal and fantastical work, and some of the submissions even leaned into illustration, so I was excited to get involved,” he said. “Everything that comes from an artist’s mind is imaginative, but this exhibit pushes those definitions a bit more — mythological concepts, abstracts, fantastical elements — to explore more of what imagination means to others.”

Keep your eyes open for the little details as you appreciate the exhibit. A painting of a cityscape could be hiding a fairy friend. An abstract design might reveal a face. An animal could change its appearance if you look long enough. What will your imagination reveal to you?

“People might not understand or like everything they see here, but art is just another way to learn about new concepts and ideas. I feel that I have a responsibility to bring all kinds of art to our communities,” Cruz said. “Art speaks with many voices, even ones you’ve never heard before. Give this exhibit a try.”

Participating  Artists: 

Marianne Andresen-Magin, Christopher Aoki-Kalin, Lyrin Bailey, Ellen Chadwick, Danny Ciampa, John Darby, Jennifer DeMory, Bernadette Denyse, Kirsten DiGiovanni, Sheryl Renee Dobson, Michael Drakopoulos, Stuart Friedman, Jacques Garant, Candace Gely, Maureen Ginipro, Jared Glennon, Casey Greene, Jan Guarino, Christopher Hanson, David Herman, Tyler Hughes, Julia Jenkins, James Kelson, Myungja Anna Koh, Anna Laimo, Christopher Lauto, Wendy Hope Leiser, Mark Levine, Matthew Manthe, Diana Martocci, Antonio Masi, Avrel  Menkes, Cindy  Miller, Laura  Minet, Angie  Nicholes, Eileen Palmer, Robert J. Polito, Arthur Poore, Kurt Thomas Pope, Shay Poppers, William Randazzo, Bernice Rausch, William Reed, Noah Richardson, Rachel Rossier Ryan, Jairid Rossow, Amelia Rozear, Lynda Sandoval, Barret Schumacher, Marcie Serber, Sydney Shurgin, Greg Sinibaldi, Echo Song, Lisa Stanko, Megan Stephenson, Judy Stone, Angela Stratton, Ashley Thorbjornsen, Linda Trope, Joseph Weinreb and Doug Zider.

Imagination will be on view at the Mills Pond Gallery, 660 Route 25A in St. James from July 13 to Aug. 11 The public is invited to meet the artists and view the exhibit at an opening reception on July 13 from 1 to 4 p.m. Regular gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

Art is in full bloom at the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond Gallery in St. James with its latest exhibit, Flower Power. The unique show, which runs from June 1 to 29, flows through four gallery rooms and the center hall gallery on the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion.

Artists were invited to submit art that reflects the beauty and uniqueness of flowers — whether represented in realism, impressionism or even abstraction — and to celebrate their colors, textures, shapes, and the emotions they evoke.

Using acrylic, fiber, ceramic, colored pencil, gouache, ink, mixed media, mosaic, oil, pastel, torn paper and watercolor, 83 artists from 46 Long Island communities as well as NYC, Ohio and Virginia accepted the challenge to produce a beautiful bouquet of original floral-themed works. 

Exhibiting artists include Alacia Stubbs, Angela Stratton, Ashley Thorbjornsen, Bernice Corbin, Carissa Millett, Carmela Taliercio Cohn, Carol Ceraso, Carolanne Goff, Caryn Coville, Catherine Rezin, Christine Verga Maday, Christine Woodring, Christopher Krauss, Dale Luongo, David Herman, Debra Baker, Dominique Treboux, Donna Corvi, Eileen Baumeister McIntyre, Eileen Shaloum, Ellen Ferrigno, Felecia Montfort, Gabriella Grama, Gretchen Smith, James Kelson, Jan Guarino, Jessica Rybak, Joan Gould, Joanne Teets, John Mansueto, Joseph Weinreb, Joyce Bressler, Judith Caseley, Judith Musaro, Judy Stone, Julie Doczi, Karen McClendon, Kathee Shaff Kelson, Kathleen Bart, Kathleen McArdle, Khrystyne Robillard-Smith, Kyle Blumenthal, Linda Ann Catucci, Linda Hartman, Lisa Stanko, Liz Jorg Masi, Lori Scarlatos, Lou Charnon Deutsch, Lynn Kinsella, Maddy Stare, Marcie Serber, Margaret Farr, Mark Levine, Marsha Abrams, Mary Ann Hart, Mary Kiernan, Mary Lor, Mary Waka, Maureen Ginipro, Maureen Palmieri, Myungja Anna Koh, Patricia A. Morrison, Patricia Blasius, Patricia Luppino, Patti Peterson, Paula Sherman, Peter Galasso, Renee Caine, Rima Potter, Robert Roehrig, Sally Anne Keller, Samantha Kenny, Scott Hartman, Sean Pollock, Sharon Pearsall, Sheniqua Young, Stefani Jarrett, Stephen Shannon, Theodora Zavala, Tianzhao Zhao, Tina Anthony, Tracey Alemaghides, and Veronica Lawlor.

The public is invited to an opening reception for Flower Power on Saturday, June 1 from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet the exhibiting artists and view their work.

The Mills Pond Gallery is located at 660 Route 25A in Saint James. Hours of operation are Wednesdays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from noon to 4 p.m. (closed June 16). Admission to the gallery is always free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

Up next at the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond Gallery is Figurative/Narrative, a juried fine art exhibition featuring 58 works from 36 artists from 10 states including CA, FL, MA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, SD, TX, VA and 14 Long Island communities. The show opens June 3.

Through figurative or narrative paintings, artists give shape and character to the stories and people of our lives. Whether real or imagined, their art invites us to connect and engage with their characters and stories. We invite viewers to enjoy the expressions of the portraits or the illustrated scenes and imagine the untold stories of the lives of the subjects.

Exhibition juror Zimou Tan’s exhibit called for entries that celebrate contemporary realism and figurative and narrative paintings. Zimou is an Art Renewal Center Living Master (true masters in the visual arts…training and inspiring the next generation of artists, scholars, and teachers, to protect, preserve and perpetuate traditional painting techniques). Zimou noted that selected artists captured the essence of the human form and communicated compelling stories through their art.

Exhibiting artists include Diana Aliberti, James Xavier Barbour, Joanna Burch, Mónica Carmona, Yen-Ching Chang, Teresa Cromwell, Collin Douma, Christine Dupuis, Andrew Elsten, Ryan Flannery, Connie Gisi, Hank Grebe, Jennifer Hartzler, Gia Horton, Tyler Hughes, Julia Jenkins, Natreka Kelly, Frank Loehr, Avrel Menkes, Drigo Morin, Diane Motroni, Susan Perrish, Kai Lun Qu, William Dunham Reed, Anita Schnirman, Barret Schumacher, Eileen Shaloum, Angela Stratton, Mark Sweeney, Tracy Tekverk, Robert Tuska, Zoë Walker, Joseph Weinreb, Ashley Williams, Ni Zhu and Doug Zider.

Mills Pond Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James presents Figurative/Narrative from June 3 to July 1. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. 

The community is invited to an opening reception on June 3 from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet the artists and view their work. For more information, call 631-862-6575, or visit www.millspondgallery.org.