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Ned Puchner

By Melissa Arnold

The holiday season is fast approaching, and it’s time to start thinking about that shopping list. But before you visit those online retailers and big box stores, consider supporting local businesses hit hard by this year’s closures and safety restrictions.

In the Three Village area, Gallery North has teamed up with their neighbors at The Jazz Loft and Three Village Historical Society for a festive holiday experience that has a little something for everyone on your list.

Each year, Gallery North celebrates local artists with Deck the Halls, a group exhibit and art sale. Now through Dec. 20, visitors can admire the work of more than 70 artists covering a variety of subjects and media. The sale includes over 100 pieces of art, with a range of prices making it easy to find a unique gift that fits any budget.

This year, Gallery North executive director Ned Puchner was eager to put together a larger, yet safe and festive event that could bring the community together again.

“Frankly, a lot of people are still understandably concerned about going out and shopping,” said Puchner. “We had a lot of success with the Farmers and Makers Markets over the summer, and one of our board members joked that while she didn’t do hot weather, she’d volunteer in a heartbeat for a winter event.”

The idea grew from there. Puchner reached out to Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, and Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft, brainstorming ways they could collaborate.

They were inspired by the beautiful, timeless holiday markets in New York City, and decided to transform the historical society grounds into a marketplace of their own. The outdoor marketplace will open for four Saturdays after Thanksgiving, allowing local artists and vendors to set up shop in a festively decorated atmosphere.

Browse the gallery store for paintings, photography and sculptures, then shop outdoors for handcrafted pottery, jewelry, wood and metal creations, clothing, glassware, spice blends and much more.

Along the way, grab a bite to eat and some dessert or warm up with a hot drink from local food trucks.

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve been encouraging people to shop local and support local businesses as much as possible, because everyone is struggling. We can’t help everyone, but we all have ways we can chip in,” said Healy. “[The local organizations] have a great rapport, and we’re always looking for new ways that we can support one another.”

The Jazz Loft’s Equity Brass Band will perform a wide selection of New Orleans jazz standards along with jazzed-up versions of holiday classics. You’ll find them playing in their tent and parading through the grounds on market days as weather permits.

Over the summer, you may have seen the band marching through the streets on one of their Spirit Tours — musical appearances meant to uplift the community and provide cultural enrichment in a time where entertainment has been difficult, if not impossible.

“There’s been a blessing in all this — because we [musicians] are all out of work, people that normally don’t have the time to come and work with us are suddenly free. We’ve had great camaraderie develop from this experience,” Manuel said. “Jazz has always been the soundtrack of America. People have come up to us extremely moved to hear music after being cut off from art for nearly a year.”

At the core of the exhibit and holiday market is the desire to bring a little normalcy and good cheer to the season.

“It’ll give you a little taste of the holiday season while keeping people safe and socially distanced. It also supports local artists, musicians, chefs and entrepreneurs during a time that has been devastating for people who earn their livelihoods performing and creating,” Puchner said. “We want to renew our connection with the community and restore a spirit of togetherness. We’re all still here.”

The Deck the Halls exhibit is on display through Dec. 20 at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. A virtual reception will be held via Zoom on Nov. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Participating artists for the Deck the Halls exhibit include:

Lucia Alberti, Kelynn Alder, Andrea Baatz, Fred Badalamenti, Steve Behler, John Benevento, Joan Branca, Sheila Breck, Nancy Bueti Randall, Natalie Butkevich, Esther Marie Caponigro, Donna Carey-Zucker, Joseph Cooke, Jody Cukier, Linda Davidson-Mathues, Julie Doczi, Daniel Donato, Michael Drakopoulos, Paul Edelson, Patty Eljaiek, Lily Farah, Meagan Flaherty, Kimberly Gerber, Ray Germann, Helaine Goldberg, Holly Gordon, Larissa Grass, Jan Guarino, Anne Katz, Marceil Kazickas, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Julianna Kirk, Randy Kraft, Barron Krody, Jillian Kron, Charles Lembo, LOVID, Mary Lor, Kathleen Massi, Michael McLaughlin, Meagan Meehan, Eleanor Meier, Olivia Menghini, Jim Molloy, Riley Mulligan, Annette Napolitano, Rhoda Needlman PSA, Gail Neuman, Susan Oliverio, Cynthia Parry, Mel Pekarsky, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Brianna Sander, Oscar Santiago, Lori Scarlatos, Kate Schwarting, James Slezak, Judith Stone, Angela Stratton, Schery Markee Sullivan, Paul Thomas, Joanne Touch, Joe Ventimiglia, Mary Waka, Marlene Weinstein, Gil Yang, Patricia Yantz, Nicole Zinerco, and Stanley Zucker.

The Holiday Market will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket and Gallery North. Please note: Masks and social distancing will be required, and there will be no public restrooms.

For questions about the market or to register as a vendor, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org/holiday-market.

 

By Melissa Arnold

For decades, Carmela Kolman labored over canvas and paper to capture the world through her eyes. Painting was her greatest passion, and coupled with great talent, it carried her work to galleries across the United States.

But it wasn’t always easy. Kolman also had Marfan syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder that can affect the entire body. In daily life, she struggled with her eyesight, and ultimately died from complications of the condition in 2018. She was 57.

In recognition of Kolman’s extensive career and her contributions to the local art community on Long Island, Gallery North in Setauket is hosting a retrospective exhibition titled Visions. The solo exhibit features 17 pieces that reflect much of Kolman’s career, from her early days as a student to the final years of her life.

Painting was Kolman’s first love from an early age, even though she was blind in one eye and her vision was severely impaired in the other. In an artist statement from Aug. 2016, she wrote: “I painted constantly, with my face pressed close to the canvas. I would have to really look and study things to make them out … I could not recognize something more than three feet from me ­­— Blue eyes? I didn’t even know what blue eyes were … My vision was blurry, and I painted what I saw.”

Despite her difficulties, Kolman pressed on. She received a bachelor’s degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), then attended Yale for a master’s degree in painting. Her cloudy painting style earned her high praise, even as she dealt with constant self-criticism and frustration.

It was during her time at RISD that Kolman met John Rizzo, who attended nearby Brown University. The pair wouldn’t get acquainted until much later at a party hosted by a mutual friend in Chicago, but Rizzo called the experience a work of fate. They married in 1989.

“I’m a professor and economist with zero artistic talent,” joked Rizzo, who shared 28 years of marriage with Kolman. “We were an unlikely couple, for sure. I think our friends were surprised at how we took an interest in one another. But she was an incredibly tender-hearted person, very open and empathetic.”

At 22, Kolman had cataract surgery, catapulting her vision from a cloudy haze to an overwhelming perfection she didn’t know how to process. She stopped painting for several years, only starting again while recovering from a cardiac incident. From then on, she sought to integrate the impressionistic blur of her early work with the realism that came along after her eye surgery.

Gallery North’s Executive Director Ned Puchner didn’t have the chance to meet Kolman, but worked closely with Rizzo to choose work that reflected every season of her life and artistic style.

“These paintings capture something about reality that goes deeper than what we see,” Puchner said. “[Carmela] was influenced by the impressionists and the Fauvists, and would focus on singular objects over and over again in an almost meditative way. I’m really impressed by the attention to detail. Her work is breathtaking.”

Rizzo noted that Kolman preferred still life portraits, especially of fruit and flowers. Today, one of the rooms in his Port Jefferson home has rose-themed decor, with her rose paintings hung all around.

“She liked to play with different kinds of light, shading and shadow, and still life allowed her to control those elements carefully,” he explained. “It’s hard to choose a favorite painting, but I love all of the rose portraits. How many people can say their wife left beautiful oil paintings to remember her by? They help me to feel close to her.”

After her death, Gallery North approached Rizzo with an idea: Why not establish a fellowship in Carmela’s name, allowing other artists the time to create while sharing their expertise with others?

The Carmela Kolman Fellowship in Fine Art program will award one artist per year 10 weeks of studio time at the gallery. In addition to pursuing their artistic practice, the fellows will also teach workshops, help to organize community programming, or assist with classes as needed. The first fellow, Meagan Flaherty, will exhibit her work in 2021.

Carmela Kolman: Visions will be on view at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket from Oct. 8 to Nov. 8. Admission is free. The gallery is currently open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. A virtual reception will be held via Zoom on Oct. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

Images courtesy of Gallery North

Above, a painting of Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket by artist John Koch at a previous Wet Paint Festival. Photo courtesy of Gallery North

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a tough season for the plethora of local events that have either been canceled, postponed or restructured. Thankfully, technology like livestreaming and video chat have made it possible for some events to go on as scheduled, albeit a bit differently.

For the past 16 years, the Wet Paint Festival has given Three Village residents and visitors an up close look at the creative process of local artists as they work. The event was founded to honor the memory of beloved Long Island painter Joe Reboli, who died in 2004.

But inviting artists and community members to gather for creative fun and conversation doesn’t exactly fit in this quarantined, socially distant time. So what to do?

It’s been a baptism by fire of sorts for Ned Puchner of Gallery North in Setauket, which has sponsored the event from its beginnings. Puchner, who became the gallery’s executive director in December, was looking forward to his first Wet Paint Festival. Now, he’s been called upon to dream up an alternative.

“It’s been one of those unique experiences where you get to know people really fast,” Puchner joked. “But I’ve also learned very quickly how much support there is here for the arts and the art community, even despite the pandemic and its challenges. It’s been very encouraging for me to see that outpouring.”

Originally founded by former Gallery North director Colleen Hanson and the Reboli family, the Wet Paint Festival invites artists from Long Island and beyond for a relaxed weekend of plein air (outdoor) painting. The artists paint at the same location from vantage points of their choosing, allowing each put their own spin on well-known scenes and landmarks.

In the past, the festival has been held at West Meadow Beach and the adjoining Old Field Farm, Frank Melville Memorial Park, the Stony Brook railroad, the Thompson House, and Avalon Park & Preserve, among other places.

This year’s event will celebrate each artist’s originality as Wet Paint goes virtual. Painting sessions will be either livestreamed online or pre-recorded from a location the artist selects, whether it’s their own backyard or a public spot. During each session, the artist will talk about their creative process and take questions from viewers, just as they would in person.

To accommodate for the new format, the artists will paint for an entire week, from July 18 through July 25. The completed artwork will then be on display on the Gallery North website throughout the month of August.

The virtual festival is the latest in Gallery North’s ongoing effort to provide engaging online experiences during the pandemic.

“We had the Wet Paint Festival completely planned and were starting to gather sponsors and registrants when we had to close the gallery on March 14. When we closed, we decided to postpone the event, not realizing how long we would be unable to function and be outside,” Puchner explained.

“As time went on, we took it as an opportunity to get creative not only with Wet Paint, but with everything we do,” he said. The gallery began to share daily art activities, host “virtual open studio” events, film screenings, lectures, and opportunities to give and receive feedback on work in progress. As the staff grew more comfortable with video chat platforms such as Zoom, they knew they had to find a way to present the Wet Paint Festival, too.

Angela Stratton of Selden has enjoyed painting at the festival for the past 15 years, and while she’ll miss the connection and camaraderie of the typical event, she’s excited to see what comes of the online version.

“I’m the kind of person that likes to be outside anyway, so getting to paint at the same time is really a double treasure,” said Stratton, an oil painter. “Of course, there can be issues with painting outdoors ­— the sun goes in and out, it can be windy, it can rain — but it gives you the real depth of color you just can’t get from a photo.”

Stratton is still up in the air about where she’ll be painting, but she enjoys the challenge provided by the Old Field lighthouse.

Annette Napolitano, a realist painter who works in both watercolor and oil, would normally go out once a week to paint with a group of friends. She’s participated in Wet Paint for several years now.

“The first time I did the festival, I was so excited to be with the other artists, all of us working in the same place. The world is so big, and it can be a challenge to grab just a piece of it,” said Napolitano, of Rocky Point.

“I think bringing the festival online is a good solution because it’s like a pop-up event — people can come and go as they please. It’s also nice that we have a whole week to work, and it’s going to be fun to see people share their work from different parts of Long Island,” she said.

Puchner hopes that the event will inspire creativity not only in the participating artists, but people at home as well.

“At the center of the arts is expression. Everyone has had different experiences during the pandemic, but it has been significant for all of us,” he said. “There’s a fundamental need to discuss how we’re feeling, and the arts are a safe space for expression of all kinds.”

Livestreamed and recorded artist visits will be available for public viewing the week of July 27 at www.gallerynorth.org. Then, all completed works will be on the site for viewing and purchase throughout the month of August, with commissions split equally between the artist and the gallery. A virtual reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Aug. 8 via Zoom; registration is free but required.

For further information, visit www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.

*Article from TBR News Media’s Summer Times 2020, free on newstands today.

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Ned Puchner stands in Gallery North’s gift shop. Photo by Rita J. Egan

For 2020, Setauket’s Gallery North trustees have set their sights on featuring more Long Island artists and making art appreciation even more accessible to the community. They plan to forge ahead with these resolutions with a new executive director.

With more than 20 years of experience in the arts as curator, manager and administrator for galleries, nonprofits and museums, Ned Puchner took over the role of executive director of Gallery North Dec. 1. The position was previously held by Judith Levy, who recently retired.

“He’s got the whole package, and we’re really excited to have him on board.”

— Nancy Goroff

Nancy Goroff, president of Gallery North’s board of trustees, said a search committee was formed to find a new executive director and dozens of applicants were narrowed down to three for the board to choose from.

She said Puchner had what the board was looking for, with experience producing high-quality art exhibitions and an understanding of running the business of a nonprofit. She described him as personable and community minded, which she believes will help to strengthen connections in the area.

“He’s got the whole package, and we’re really excited to have him on board,” she said.

Puchner said he discovered the nonprofit while job searching online and saw Gallery North possesses some of the same elements as his last place of employment, the Greenville Museum of Art in North Carolina. He said while the staff there was smaller, like the Setauket gallery they would organize various fundraisers throughout the year and worked with the local art community. The North Carolina museum also has other similarities to Gallery North as it has been around since the 1960s and has a university in town.

“It’s really uncanny how I came across Gallery North,” he said. “There were so many various similarities between what I saw in Greenville and what I see in Setauket and the Three Village area.”

Once he visited Gallery North, the new executive director said he was impressed with how casual it was inside with a community feel among the staff and people who visit, where everyone seems to know each other. He added it’s an ideal place to present art in a nonintimidating way as an educational and fun-based gallery.

“I don’t want people to be scared away from the notion of being in an art gallery,” he said.

Puchner said a bonus was that he heard how wonderful the Three Village community was and his research confirmed that. A few weeks after his arrival, his wife, Nancy, and two children, aged 4 and 6, joined him in their new home in Stony Brook. Another plus with moving to New York, he said, is being closer to his family that lives in Piermont, Rockland County. He said his children were excited to hear they would live closer to their cousins and grandparents. His wife, who teaches art history at UNC Pembroke, has been able to continue working for the school by transitioning to online teaching until the end of this year.

As for his first few weeks in the Three Village area, Puchner said he’s been busy helping with Gallery North’s holiday pop-up store and lining up exhibits for the new year. The first exhibit he has helped with is for Paton Miller, an artist from Southampton, which will run from Jan. 17 to Feb. 23. The gallery will host an opening reception for Miller’s exhibit Jan. 16 at 6-8 p.m.

“I don’t want people to be scared away from the notion of being in an art gallery.”

— Ned Puchner

In the future, he hopes to organize a committee to help review work that is submitted to Gallery North. He has been putting together the suggestions of board members and others about artists so that he can review the list and see if the gallery can present the work and if the exhibits will be equitable.

He respects the gallery’s reputation for featuring local artists, and Puchner said he hopes to broaden its vision to also show artists from the East End, Brooklyn and Long Island at large.

“One of the great things about Gallery North is that it’s so rooted in the local area, it’s so community based, it has a very strong history with that and with the artists that it has shown and promoted over the years, and I certainly want to continue that dynamic to something to be really nourished, because there’s a lot of great talent in this region,” the director said.

In addition to his work in Greenville, Puchner earlier in his career worked at the former Luise Ross Gallery in SoHo, where they also trained artists. His interests include folk/self-taught/outsider art, and he said his experience at Luise Ross was one of the things that inspired him to focus on the community-oriented aspect of folk art and self-taught artists.

Goroff said after talking to the president of the board of the Greenville museum, she was impressed to hear about different ways Puchner got the community more involved by reaching out to artists in the area. To complement the museum’s permanent collection, he brought in the work of local artists who produced work that was related to the permanent collection.

“It was something he chose to do when there were other ways that he could have enlivened his exhibitions down there, but he chose to do it by reaching out to the members of the art community so that really spoke to how committed he is to that and how much he values it,” she said. 

Puchner has spent much of his first weeks here by visiting local art centers such as the Wang and Staller centers at Stony Brook University as well as the Reboli Center and Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. He is looking forward to visiting The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery and The Atelier at Flowerfield, both in St. James, in the near future and working with all of them “to try to build on some of the work that all these organizations are doing to create a really vital
and important art community here.”

“I think that’s something that is really vital to helping to create a very family oriented community,” he said. “I want to play a role because I have a family of my own so I want to do what I can to nourish that art community here in the Three Village area.”