By Ellen Barcel
A new exhibit has opened at the Long Island Museum based on the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The exhibit, The Brush Is My Pen: Art That Tells Stories, explores the themes of work, satire, drama and hope. Paintings, prints and photographs are represented.
The exhibit spans much of American history beginning with a number of paintings from Setauket’s own 19th century genre artist William Sydney Mount. “The exhibition is pulled primarily from the museum’s collection and helps to show the breadth of art the museum owns,” noted Julie Diamond, director of communications for the museum, adding “Each piece demonstrates how the artist sought to tell a story with a picture, just as a writer would with words.”
“We consider it to be a fine range of figurative and genre works from our collection over the past two centuries,” said Joshua Ruff, director of collections. “People often know our collection for its strengths in landscape painting, but this gives a window into some of our other holdings, with works from William Sidney Mount, Frank Myers Boggs, Winslow Homer, and contemporary artists such as Margery Caggiano, Leo Revi and Joseph Reboli.”
Chronologically, Mount’s paintings are the first. Five are on view including “School Boys Quarrel.” This painting also raises questions as well as tells a story. Why were the boys fighting? for example. Other Mount paintings include “California News, 1850,” the reaction to the news of gold being discovered, and “Loss and Gain, 1847.”
Edward Lamson Henry was born in South Carolina, moved to New York City and studied painting in Paris, returning to the U.S. during the American Civil War. His “Home Again,” painted in 1908, expresses longing for an America that was rapidly fading. Interestingly, this theme could easily express feelings in America after World War II or even now, with the rapid development of technology.
Twentieth century painter Joseph Reboli’s work is represented by “Fall Pool, 1998.” Reboli was born in Port Jefferson and worked much of his life in Stony Brook. A local artist, he is known for his interpretation of everyday scenes, much in the way that Mount did.
Margery Caggiano, who passed away this past December, noted in her artist’s statement that “I’ve sometimes regretted the lack of a formal art education … But, I like to think that I’ve been primarily influenced by paintings I’ve seen in galleries, museums and books rather than a teacher and other students.” Caggiano, with over 300 works in private and public collections, is represented in the LIM’s exhibit with “Michael as Don Manuel Osorio de Zuniga,” a 1978 work.
As technology has changed in the world overall, so has it changed in the art world, with photographs playing a larger and larger role in art. Photographer N. Jay Jaffee’s “Coney Island Polar Bears, 1951” is part of the current exhibit.
Other artists on display include, Mort Künstler, Robert Gwathmey, Craig Robins, Luigi Lucioni, Samuel Rothbort and William Moore Davis.
Noted Diamond, “The exhibition was chosen as a companion exhibit for the Mort Künstler show. In fact, there is a Künstler piece in the exhibit.” The Künstler show, which runs through May 30, features approximately 100 paintings and ephemera of the Oyster Bay artist.
Ruff noted, “We decided to put this exhibition together to pair with the Mort Künstler exhibition, which is largely an illustrative narrative art exhibition. The thought was that an exhibit which looked at story-telling in art from our collection would provide the perfect complement to the larger exhibition.”
The Brush Is My Pen, was curated by Joshua Ruff and Lauren Cesiro (assistant director of education) and will be on display through July 30. Two special events related to the exhibit are scheduled.
On May 10 from 10 a.m. to noon the museum will hold its Senior Tuesday program. Seniors 62 and older are invited for a free, self-guided tour of The Brush Is My Pen. No reservations are required and groups are welcome. On May 15 from 2 to 3:30 pm, Cesiro will lead a guided tour of the exhibit. The program is free with regular museum admission.
In addition, mothers and grandmothers are invited to tour the museum for free on Mother’s Day, May 8. Other exhibits on display include, Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure and Hooked@the LIM.
The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. The museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For further information, call 631-751-0066 or go to www.longislandmuseum.org.