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Ross Barbera

By Heidi Sutton

Do you have a case of the winter blues? A surefire cure is a visit to the Winners Fine Art Showcase, currently on view at the Mills Pond Gallery in St. James through Feb. 15. The gorgeous exhibit features the works of local artists Ross Barbera, Kyle Blumenthal, Julie Doczi and Liz Kolligs, who won the 2018 Members Showcase, along with Cliff Miller who took first place in the 2019 Water, Water Everywhere exhibit. The artists were selected by juror Dawn Lee, art curator of the Omni Gallery in Uniondale, professor and chair of the art department at St. Joseph’s College, and coordinator of the artist-in-residency program at Fire Island National Seashore. An artist reception was held on Jan. 25.

According to STAC’s Executive Director Allison Cruz, the annual exhibit was created over 30 years ago “to allow the public to experience a larger body of work from winning artists.” Each artist chose from 6 to 14 of their favorite pieces to showcase and then Cruz was tasked with the design aspect, filling four gallery rooms and the center hall on the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion.

“That is my favorite part of the show … those days before when I get to spend time with the works and figure out how each piece might be best presented in what space,” she said. “It’s a challenging puzzle but so satisfying and I really learn so much about the artist during this time.” 

The executive director is proud of the end result. “I think this is an impressive exhibit. There is such a wide variety of painting styles and mediums and techniques by five accomplished artists … and all from Long Island! Viewers should easily connect with the works in this show.”

While completely unintentional, much of the artwork shares a common theme − the beauty of Mother Earth. “I love the threads of nature that run through almost all the works in this show,” said Cruz. “Each artist clearly has a love and respect for the natural world. Although their work is very different in style, medium and color palette, that theme is strong throughout the show. That does not usually happen in a Winners Show but when it does it is just wonderful. It makes for a strong exhibit.” 

A perfect example of this is “Mountain Mallards” by renowned illustrator, portrait artist and muralist Cliff Miller. Beautifully executed, it is sure to be a conversation starter (yes, it is an oil painting; no it is not a photograph!). The Seaford resident has several other pieces in the show including a jaw-dropping Western-themed portrait titled “Desperado” and a humorous oil on gesso panel piece titled “The McDivots,” which features a golfer riding an alligator to the next tee.

Pastel lovers will be drawn to Julie Doczi’s delicate landscapes including “Croatian Stream,” “Connecticut Marsh” and one of the artist’s favorite, “The Lavender Harvester.” In her artist statement, the Port Jefferson Station resident said, “My journey into painting as an adult began when I encountered the medium of pastel. I began to find my view of the world around me opening up in a way never experienced before. It is a joyous experience to put these perceptions onto paper, to capture a scene and ultimately have it achieve its own unique identity.” Doczi’s “First Bloom” depicting a blue morning glory is simply stunning.

If you have a soft heart for horses, you’ll love the large equine oil on canvas paintings of Liz Kolligs including “A Herd of Your Own,” “Reflection” and “Bell – A Portrait.” The artist also has several beautiful wildlife paintings on display including “At the Edge of the Woods” and “Mill Neck Creek.” As a lecturer and demonstrator of equine painting techniques and anatomy throughout Long Island, the Glen Cove resident has truly perfected her art.

Perhaps the most unique art represented in the exhibit is by Kyle Blumenthal, who also has the most pieces in the show. Drawing inspiration from nature, her large 3-D paintings made from fabric, including several from her “All the Future Is in Today” series, explore the ocean and the Earth in an abstract manner. 

“I like to see my work float in midair,” the Stony Brook resident said in a recent interview with TBR News Media. “More and more of my paintings have started to come away from the wall as if to free themselves from restrictions and straight edges.”

Rounding out the exhibit are the massive landscape paintings of Ross Barbera. Created in acrylic on canvas and watercolor on paper, Barbera “strives to create images that communicate a sense of beauty, painterly integrity, and capture specific places in terms of time, light, space and texture,” according to the Ronkonkoma resident’s artist statement. One can’t miss the 48- by 72-inch winter-themed piece, “The Athabasca Glacier, Alberta Canada” or the eye-popping “Bonnie’s Summer Garden.”

“These talented artists are making passionate statements about the things they value in this world but in a gentle way,” said Cruz. “There is so much room for wonder!”

The Mills Pond Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Winners Showcase through Feb. 15. The gallery is open Wednesdays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

By Melissa Arnold

Art exhibits draw crowds for a host of reasons, often as varied as the people who attend them. For some, it’s the work of a particular artist they enjoy, while for others it may be an intriguing theme or interesting medium.

This month, the Setauket Artists have put together a collection that not only shows off local talent, but does so in a space that is attractive all on its own — the Deepwells Mansion in St. James.

The Setauket Artists hold an annual fall exhibit at the Setauket Neighborhood House, an event that’s become an important part of the area’s culture. “As the exhibit and the number of visitors grew over the years, we found the need to extend our viewing time. We were delighted when the opportunity came along to have an additional show,” said Irene Ruddock, president of the Setauket Artists in a recent interview.

“There will be close to 100 works of art on display including oil, watercolor and pastel paintings, as well as soft-ground etchings, collage and hand-painted photographs and all of them are for sale,” she added. 

Participating artists include Ross Barbera, Eleanor Berger, Catherine Bezas, Joan Bloom, Renee Caine, Al Candia, Gail L. Chase, Anthony Davis, Bart Deceglie, Julie Doczi, Jeanette Dick, Marge Governale, William Graf, Peter Hahn, Melissa Imossi, Laurence Johnston, Anne Katz, Deborah Katz, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Michael R. Kutzing, Joanne Liff, Celeste Mauro, Jane McGraw Teubner, Terry McManus, Eleanor Meier, Fred Mendelsohn, Muriel Musara, Iacopo Pasquinelli, Paula Pelletier, Demerise Perricone, Denis Ponsot, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Oscar Santiago, Carol Link Scinta, Sungsook Setton, Barbara Jeanne Siegel, Patricia Solan, Angela Stratton, Mac Titmus, Marlene Weinstein and Patricia Yantz.

“The Setauket Artists have been in existence for 38 years . . . many of their paintings reflect the beauty of Long Island — the rivers, lakes, ocean, and bays that make this island so unique,” said Ruddock. “When curating the show, I look for paintings that touch the soul and bring the beauty of nature or a magical moment to the viewer. Every painting in the exhibit reflects our group’s motto, ‘Art is for a lifetime.’”

 Setauket Artist member Robert Roehrig agreed. “Although there is no particular theme to the exhibition, the Setauket Artists always display many beautiful scenes of our local Long Island landscape,” he said.

“The Deepwells Farm Historical Society is pleased to welcome the Setauket Artists to Deepwells Mansion for their first spring art show,” Denise Davis, a board member for the society, said. “The mansion, which is part of the Suffolk County Parks, was built in 1845 in the 16th century Greek-Revival architecture   for Joel Smith, a descendant of Smithtown’s founder Richard ‘Bull’ Smith. Deepwells is the perfect venue for displaying and sharing with the community the many local scenes of beautiful Long Island,” she added.

The community is invited to an opening reception on May 4 from 1 to 4 p.m. Refreshments and appetizers prepared by the artists will be served.

The exhibit will also include a small boutique gift shop with handmade wares from the Setauket Artists featuring jewelry, cards, scarves and small paintings. The group will continue its tradition of raffling off three different paintings on May 26, the exhibit’s last day. Visitors can enter the raffle throughout the exhibit’s run and do not need to be present to win.  Robert Roehrig, vice president of Setauket Artists, is donating his oil painting titled “Still Afloat,” and Anne Katz and Paula Pelletier will each donate a watercolor painting.

“It’s an exciting new venue for us,” said Setauket Artist member Joan Rockwell. “There will be something for everyone and the show will be open for Mother’s Day weekend too!  We’ll serve refreshments and have a flower for all those special Moms.”

Sponsored by Bryant Funeral Home, the Setauket Artists Spring Exhibit will be on view from May 4 through May 26 at the Deepwells Mansion, 2 Taylor Lane, St. James. The mansion is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.setauketartists.com. Private group or single showings can be arranged by appointment: call 631-365-1312 or email peace2429@optonline.net.

By Heidi Sutton

For almost a month now, the Mills Pond House Gallery has been exhibiting the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s annual Member Artist Showcase, a unique exhibit featuring the original artwork of 61 STAC member artists. The juried show will run through Dec. 2 and most of the works are available for purchase.

While typically a juror or curator selects works for an exhibit, the Member Artist Showcase allows the artists to choose what piece they would like to display, which is most likely their favorite or a new piece they want to debut.

“I always like the member show but this is a pretty member show and very eclectic,” said STAC director Allison Cruz during a recent guided tour. “I’m proud of these artists,” she said, adding that there are many new members this year.

It is also a very diverse show, with many different types of medium represented including oil, acrylic, watercolor, solarplate etching, photography, charcoal, pastel, torn paper collage, colored pencil and mosaic sculpture.

Exhibiting artists, which hail from 33 communities across Long Island as well as North Carolina, Alaska and Maryland, include Amal, Chris Ann Ambery, Ross Barbera, Shain Bard, Karen Bennett, James Berger as well as Barbara Bilotta, Renee Blank, Kyle Blumenthal, Renee Caine, Susan Carney, Linda Ann Catucci, Carol Ceraso, Jane Corrarino, Donna Corvi, Donna Crinnian, Bernadette De Nyse, Julie Doczi, Paul Edelson, Vivian Gattuso, Maureen Ginipro, Rhoda Gordon, Justin Greenwald, Diann Haist, Diane Henderson, Katherine Hiscox, Donna Howard, David Jaycox Jr, Anne Katz, Kathee Shaff Kelson, Lynn Kinsella, John Koch, Liz Kolligs, Susan Kozodoy-Silkowitz, Frank Loehr, Terence McManus, Frederic Mendelsohn, Margaret Minardi, Karen George Mortimore, Diane Oliva, Eileen W. Palmer, Sean Pollock, Lynne Rivellese, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Michael Sauer, Lori Scarlatos, Joan Schwartzman, Ken Schwartzman, James Scovel, Gisela Skoglund, Mike Stanko, Gunter Stern, Nicholas Valentino, Adriann Valiquette, Sherona Varulkar Kelley, Mary Ann Vetter, Pamela Waldroup, Nancy Weeks, Constance Sloggatt Wolf and Patty Yantz.

This year’s juror of awards was Dawn Lee, art curator of the Omni Gallery in Uniondale, professor and chair of the art department at St. Joseph’s College and coordinator of the artist-in-residency program at Fire Island National Seashore. 

Tasked with choosing four winners, Lee picked Ross Barbera’s “Johnston Canyon, Alberta Canada,” Kyle Blumenthal’s “Looking Within,” Julie Doczi’s “Winter Morning” and Liz Kolligs’ “Rider at Old Field Farm.” These winners will be invited to participate in a future Winners Showcase. 

Lee also selected four Honorable Mentions including Diann Haist’s “Chicken Minder,” David Jaycox Jr.’s “Meadow View,” Frederic Mendelsohn’s “Mustard Field” and Pamela Waldroup’s “Imperial Staircase, Manor House, Bayard Cutting Arboretum.”

The Mills Pond House Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Member Artist Showcase through Dec. 2 (closed Nov. 21 to 25). The gallery is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

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'Johnston Canyon' by Ross Barbera

By Irene Ruddock

Ross Barbera, a graduate of Pratt Institute, is known for his representational acrylic paintings on canvas, watercolors on paper, original jewelry and digital and abstract art. Presently teaching at St. John’s University in the Art and Design Department in Queens where he was chairman for three years, Ross continues to win many juried awards and prestigious grants to pursue his prolific art career.

You were born and raised in Brooklyn, yet all of your paintings, and even much of your jewelry, are depictions of some aspect of the rural landscape. How did that come about?

I spent my summers at my family’s homes in Smithtown and Peakville, New York, and it was during these summers away from the city that I discovered the world of the natural landscape. They were welcome retreats from the city where everything was different: night times were cool, the air smelled clean. I was surrounded by deep forests, ponds and running streams. I was particularly attracted to the interplay of sunlight on flowing water. Nature became the primary inspiration for my paintings ever since then.

Much of your work is representational, yet you also paint in the abstract. What is your inspiration for your abstract work?

Although representational landscape painting has dominated my artistic direction, I discovered abstract, luminous worlds by observing pond surfaces and ice formations “close-up.” For me, this was the hidden world beyond the visible world that has provided the inspiration for my abstract paintings.

Water Lily Watercolor Pendant by Ross Barbera

You have an interesting process in watercolor painting that you teach in your classes and workshops. Can you tell us about this?

I have been experimenting with methods that enable me to retain the look of watercolor painting while achieving painted surfaces comparable in strength to acrylic on canvas; this eliminates the need to protect the painting by framing it behind glass. The first step in this process is to bind the watercolor paper to stretched canvas with a thick polymer gel medium. The finished watercolor painting is then protected with multiple layers of acrylic varnish, and for the top layer I apply a few coats of a removable UV protecting varnish.

Some of the background of your paintings have a stained glass effect — clean, clear, translucent and filled with saturated color. How do you achieve that?

I’ve always worked hard to give my paintings a quality of light, in the belief that good landscape painting needs to communicate a feeling of atmosphere; I never complete a painting until I feel it projects a strong quality of sunlight. Regarding my watercolor paintings, I believe the natural transparency of the watercolor medium contributes to a clean, translucent image. I do not apply watercolor paint with sable paint brushes. I predampen the color shape to be painted with a paint brush and clean water. Next, using needle dispenser bottles that have been filled with premixed watercolor to the consistency that I require for painting, I apply multiple colors into the predampened area, and I permit the colors to freely intermix and blend without working into them with a brush. This method of paint application results in clean, clear and beautifully translucent color shapes, and I believe the effect is further enhanced by the application of the final, protective layers of varnish.

‘Glacier’ by Ross Barbera

How does your digital work influence your art?

My wife Bonnie bought me my first tablet where I downloaded a drawing app. I was instantly addicted! I eventually downloaded a painting app and loved the convenience of digital plein air painting. Next, I began to export my digital paintings to my computer so I could continue to develop them in Photoshop. I restrict myself to basic brushes that come close to what I use in my acrylic on canvas paintings, and I do not use any effects or filters. I intend my digital paintings to be characterized by the same painterly quality that you would see in my paintings on canvas.

How did you become interested in creating jewelry? Can you describe how you incorporate your watercolors into your jewelry?

I started making jewelry when I was a graduate student at Pratt Institute. My early jewelry was created mostly in sterling, and I often incorporated enamels to add color. I am now using a wide range of different types of paper and wood and eventually discovered the limitless possibilities of building pendants, earrings, bracelets and hair pieces with layers of watercolor paper. I like building up layers on 140-pound Arches watercolor paper, and painting directly onto the surface with watercolor and acrylic paints. I coat the jewelry with multiple layers of acrylic varnish, and the final process involves heating the finished piece in an oven at 150°F, which hardens the varnish process.

What is the focus of your recent work?

I visited the Canadian Rockies with the intent of photographing the mountain glaciers and rivers for a new series of acrylic paintings that would be dedicated to the disappearing glaciers. I plan to continue in my effort to capture the diversity of the North American landscape in painting and will visit national parks throughout the United States and Canada for this purpose.

Where can we see your artwork?

I currently have an exhibit featuring my paintings and jewelry at the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station through the month of September. I also currently have a painting on exhibit in the juried show Colors of the Night at the Mills Pond House Gallery in St. James until Sept. 30. My paintings and jewelry can be viewed at any time by visiting www.rossbarbera.com, and my instructional videos can be found on my YouTube channel Realisticart. My jewelry can be purchased directly from my website, www.paperpendants.com.