An artist found hidden away

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Artist John Daniel Norwood here with a skull made of cigarette butts.

A couple who has lived in College Point for decades introduced themselves to me the night of the New York Hospital Queens gala honoring my friends Claire Shulman and Jimmy Kaloides. I was amazed that after all these years covering College Point in our newspapers I had not met this extraordinary twosome.

John Daniel Norwood retired after years of working for legendary architect I.M. Pei. John created miniatures of the buildings Pei designed. He has filled floors and floors with his artwork, much of it from recycled materials. It amazed and impressed me to see such creative, masterful, powerful works.

What took me by surprise were the gruesome, and also fanciful, sculptures made from both cigarette butts and seemingly endless Marlboro boxes. John created a scull from cigarette butts that made me stand and wonder how he could have smoked so many cigarettes to make the “collection” possible. But the pieces were jaw dropping to see how his creativity turned castaways into powerful works of art.

His wife, Ruby Malva, is a pediatrician who came to College Point 35 years ago to fill a void in the town that had no doctor to serve the children in the community. I visited her office which is as it was when she came there so many years ago. And yes, her husband’s artwork also fills her space. I loved the ceiling tiles made from colorful puzzles they had completed.
John and Ruby live in a house that is part of a marina on the bay facing LaGuardia Airport. Their enormous balcony is a perfect place to escape and enjoy the sunsets and flow of planes landing almost in their backyard, yet it is not noisy. Who would believe such a unique environment is within walking distance.

A perfect day

It’s that time again when I can have precious personal time with my seven-year-old first-born grandchild Blake, as we take golf lessons together. With all the chaos in my life we had to take a respite, but we finally got to do it again this weekend. It’s a time I can have him all to myself , a small miracle I cherish.

After the lesson we went for breakfast. I had to return him by 11:45 but it allowed us time to talk about his plans to go to sleep-away camp next year. My daughter and son-in-law are camp people themselves.

Actually, I went to sleep-away camp until I got married. My first husband kidded me that he wasn’t sure if he should take me on a honeymoon or camp! After all, I was just 20 when I got married. ButI don’t think my parents, who sent me to several camps from the time I was eight, ever visited them before they were chosen. In those days we went where my cousins went. It was that simple. But my daughter wisely wanted to have an on-site visit to feel the energy and involvement of the owners and the environment.

I was impressed how Blake explained to me that the camp they chose has 30 boys in his group but the second camp only had 15. “After all,” he said, “I can make so many more friends.”

That’s Blake — a friendly, warm, sensitive and bright boy. I know he will flourish wherever he goes. Here’s to many more golf “date” lessons.

Then an hour later I was back home and four-year-old Jonah wanted to go for a swim. So into the water we went. I didn’t realize what a fish he has become, diving down to the bottom of the pool and retrieving a toy repeatedly and then swimming across the pool made me call him a new name : Jonah “fish” Aloni.

He had a date with his mother so I left them and drove to the LIC Flea market and stopped first at the Sculpture Center, a few blocks away, where they were having a block party. I met many old LIC friends and new ones that included artists creating jewelry, household items and even remarkable art books that an artist encouraged the visitors to create their own, selling them blank books to draw in.

Then I was off to the LIC Flea and International Food Bazaar to meet my son Josh who manages the market. What fun it was! There are so many creative people selling unique items. For the first time there was an Egyptian gentleman, Hischam Hafez, who was selling beautiful mosaic pots he imported from his native country. I couldn’t resist buying one for my backyard.

Then there was a beautiful lady selling colorful embroidered fabric handbags that her dad sends her from Chiang Mai in Thailand. I had been to that city that sits on the border of Burma a few years ago. I remember riding an elephant over a creek and later shopping with an antiquities dealer. So of course I wanted to own one of the purses made in a place with so many fond memories for me.

What is better than having precious one-on-one time with my grandchildren and then to go on a shopping spree at the Flea just feet from the Anable Basin with breathtaking views of Manhattan just across the East River? It rarely gets better than this! A truly perfect day!