Tag Archives: art

Box art show guaranteed to surprise buyers


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall

Artists from around the world gathered in Flushing Town Hall on Monday to wrap their art in boxes as part of an art exhibition called “Boxes: Lost in Circulation.”

On Friday, people visiting the art exhibition will open about 50 boxes that hold the artwork of 14 artists. Patrons will pay $50 per box — without seeing the art or knowing who created it.

The curator, Hyunsuk Kim, is hoping to blur the lines between famous and obscure artists by putting everyone’s work in indistinguishable boxes.

“An artist and a work of an artist are constrainedly positioned in the capitalistic system. An artwork is often being treated as worthless if it is a work of an unknown artist,” Kim said. “If your name is not a brand, your works are not born yet although they are made.”

Kim hopes that the exhibition will help “diminish inequalities among artists and to let people focus on artworks.”

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Fifth annual music, art street festival coming to Sunnyside


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sunnyside Shines

The streets of Sunnyside will be alive with the sound of music and art this summer.

The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District will present its fifth annual free street festival called Sunnyside Summer Strolls on Saturday, July 26 and August 2.

Sunnyside Summer Strolls will bring together local businesses, residents and local organizations under the Sunnyside arch at 46th Street, which has been transformed into a temporary public space with tables and chairs, and scheduled activities.

“Sunnyside Summer Strolls is a great community event series, designed to promote our local businesses, bring arts programming to the neighborhood and provide a temporary public space for the day,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines. “We are excited to partner with Re-Create QNS to bring new energy and arts expertise to the event this year.”

On Saturday, July 26 is the Children’s Arts and Crafts Fair from 1 to 6 p.m., produced in partnership with Re-Create QNS, a new coalition of creative Sunnyside organizations. Activities include face painting, water marbling, ballet, Irish step, modern dance and performances by local musicians. Families will also have the opportunity to meet with artists and teachers of neighborhood arts and enrichment programs.


Photo by Michael Rapp

“Sunnyside is home to so many innovative and passionate arts groups,” said Nancy Kleaver, Re-Create Qns director. “Re-Create QNS wants to spread the word and make more connections between the public and our local cultural institutions. It will be a fun day for kids and families to be creative together.”

Under the elevated No. 7 train, the new Bliss Plaza will host a pop-up library in partnership with the Uni Project, the Sunnyside branch of the Queens Public Library and the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

The following Saturday,  from 2 to 7 p.m., will be the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Concert featuring a 1920s theme and lineup of jazz musicians and performers including The Sunnyside Wolverines featuring Linda Ipanema, The Sunnyside Social Club, The Pendulum Swings, The Sunnyside Drum Corps, and The Big Apple Lindy Hoppers.

There will also be a dance floor set up in the street, free photo booth and a 1920s costume contest. Local businesses will be on-site offering free giveaways and services.

For more information visit www.sunnysideshines.org.

 

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Apollonia NYC Gallery set to open in Sunnyside


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Sunnyside will soon be home to a new antique shop, also serving as a gallery and cultural event space, looking to showcase emerging, established and local artists.

The Apollonia NYC Gallery, located at 48-14 Skillman Ave. and named after owner Garry O’Calloghan’s late dog, will hold its grand opening on July 20 starting at 4 p.m.

The site is expected to feature handmade and distressed furnishings, lighting, paintings, prints, photos, record collections, antique cameras and other home décor items.

Along with being an antique shop, Apollonia NYC Gallery is expected to also host “salon-like” gatherings for musicians, poetry readings and artist talks through the year.

“I wanted to create a mythological and magical place like the shop in the Gremlins that gives guests the feeling of being in a secret place where they can find one-of-a-kind treasures,” said O’Calloghan, who is also an artist. “This is also a wonderful way to meet interesting people and celebrate the vibrant local arts scene.”

In June, the space held its first preview event for the unofficial afterparty for the annual The Queen of Angels Art Fair, organized by Sunnyside artists.

Apollonia’s grand opening, which according to organizers coincides with the ancient feast day honoring the Greek god Apollo, will feature music by Le Petit Pepinot and The Sunnyside Social Club. Guests are welcome to dress in their favorite vintage clothing.

The opening will also include samples from Murphy’s Lobster Grill, meet-and-greets with Apollonia’s owners, and international and local artists, and the debut of a new mural on the space’s ceiling.

Apollonia NYC Gallery will be opened Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 8 p.m., and weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/ApolloniaGallery.

 

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Glendale business aims to showcase local artists


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The arts are coming to Glendale.

Angelica Harris runs the Excalibur Reading Program on 78th Avenue, and she hopes to transform the center into an art venue once a week.

“We don’t have a program or venue that showcases Glendale artists,” Harris said. “It’s my dream to bring the arts to Glendale.”

Harris plans on booking musicians and poets every Friday evening to showcase their work to an audience of about 30 people. The July 18 event kicks off a new feature that Harris hopes will become a staple every week.

“I want to expose artists and educate people about the need for art in the community,” said Harris, who has run the learning and tutoring programs on 78th Avenue for two years.

Bill McClure, a landscape painter and window designer, has lived in Glendale for a year and said that the creation of an art night is welcome news.

“It’s wonderful because we need places for artists to communicate and there’s nothing in the Glendale area,” he said.

Since moving to Glendale, McClure has had to leave the neighborhood to showcase his work.

But with the new venue, McClure, 52, plans to exhibit his work locally.

Harris, who has lived in Glendale for 20 years, is asking people who want to watch the music and poetry show to make a $10 donation.

Harris has a personal devotion to the arts, having written several books, including “Living With Rage,” which recounts the domestic violence she experienced.

“The arts were my salvation, my sanity,” she said. “That’s why I have this dream of the art program. I want people to talk about what art helps them with.”

 

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Looking into the artwork of LIC artist Luba Lukova


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Aeroblue © Luba Lukova


What was only supposed to be a one-week visit to New York for an international exhibition has turned into about 25 years of success for Long Island City artist Luba Lukova.

As a young girl in Bulgaria, Lukova never had a doubt as to what she wanted to be when she grew up. Influenced by her grandmother who was an artist, Lukova began to attend art classes and then graduated from an art academy.

Through an invite from Colorado State University, where school officials had seen some of her early artwork, Lukova came to New York for an organized exhibition featuring artists from all over the world.

Her initial idea was to stay in New York for a week and then return to Bulgaria, but she decided to stay indefinitely, and in 1991, she began drawing illustrations for the book review section of The New York Times. She then moved on and drew for the publication’s Op-Ed section covering subjects such as the Middle East.

These illustrations opened up doors for Lukova, exposing her to a larger audience, which got her into theatre work creating posters, and years later she even got a call from then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign to use one of her images months before his inauguration.

“It was just a miracle. I never went back [to Bulgaria],” she said. “For a young artist, it was a mind-blowing experience and when I saw the reaction of the people, it was really very exciting for me.”

Lukova’s pieces, whether they are on a canvas or theatre poster, all convey social and political issues in what she calls a “simple and accessible way.” She tells a whole story with just a few colors and images and creates visual metaphors for viewers to take in.

“[My artwork] involves thinking and the viewer’s participation,” she said. “All of my work is like that — it’s always provoking stuff. I try to make it accessible and bring something to the contemporary viewer that can stop them and make them think.”

Her “Social Justice” poster portfolio, the first publication from her own publishing company, has gotten her national and international acclaim. Currently some of her work is part of a show at the Museum of Modern Art and Denver Art Museum.

After moving out of Manhattan following 9/11, Lukova has been working and living in the booming art scene found in Long Island City. Last year she took part in the LIC Arts Open festival, which introduced her to a community she has now become a part of and loves.

“I think it’s a great group of artists with a lot of energy,” she said. “The art community here is growing and it is so huge.”

This year Lukova designed the poster for the LIC Arts Open, and her exhibition “Drama on Paper: Posters for the Stage” can be found at The Local at 13-02 44th Ave. throughout the festival.


     LIC ARTS OPEN POSTER © Luba Lukova

“I’m excited to be a part of it again,” Lukova said. “I think what [the festival organizers] do is very admirable and I hope we will keep the community here and we will expand. Because New York without the arts would be a very sad picture. We don’t just want New York to be the city with museums; we need the real art here.”

 

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2014 LIC Arts Open kicks off Wednesday


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

© Luba Lukova

The art scene in Long Island City is heating up and opening its doors during the fourth annual LIC Arts Open – a 5-day extravaganza where over 250 artists will occupy galleries, performance studios and open their studios to visitors.

The event, which this year begins Wednesday and runs through May 18, started several years ago as a two-day, open-studio event, mainly showcasing visual artists and now just keeps on getting bigger.

This year the festival has more than 85 exhibitions and events taking place, with over 160 artists holding open studios. Every event is free and open to the public.

“We were a hidden gem for years, but that’s quickly changing,” said Festival Director Richard Mazda. “Word is getting out that LIC is home to a community of tremendously talented artists, from the emerging Stef Duffy, to rising stars like Luba Lukova—who designed the festival’s poster—to the celebrated, like Matthew Barney, Murakami and legendary sculptor Joel Shapiro. LIC Arts Open continues to be a fantastic way for us to showcase the thriving arts community in Western Queens.”

The schedule for the festival is:

May 14-18, 12 -6 p.m. Exhibition hours
May 14-16, 5-10 p.m. Most openings happening by district over three days:
Wednesday: Vernon Blvd district
Thursday: Court Square district
Friday: Queens Plaza district
May 14, 7:30 -10 p.m. Opening Party
May 16, 6 – 9 p.m. 10Squared exhibition and reception at Gotham Center
May 17-18, 12-6 p.m. Open Studios
May 18, 6 – 10 p.m. Closing Party and Silent Auction

Some highlights of the 4th Annual LIC Arts Open include:

  • Luba Lukova, whose striking images are currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art and Denver Art Museum.
  • Four vacant apartments in a TF Cornerstone waterfront development overlooking LIC’s iconic Pepsi-Cola sign that will be transformed into pop-up galleries.
  • Best known for his WWII photography, and his fashion photography, Tony Vaccaro in his exhibit “The Golden Age of Formula One: Through Tony’s Lens.”
  • After laboring for years as an art fabricator for artists like Frank Stella and Louise Bourgeois, Bernard Klevickas is emerging as an artist in his own right.
  • The Sunhwa Chung/Ko-Ryo Dance Theater, reviewed in The New York Times, will premiere “Life is Every Day: So Close Yet So Far Away.”
  • Over 100 artists are creating original works for the 10Squared exhibition. During the Closing Party, the works will be sold at silent auction for charity.
  • Eleven of Matthew Barney’s assistants formed the Crew, and created a provocative, unexpectedly interactive exhibition.
  • Big Whirlygig will feature Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart), Ernie Brooks (Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers) and Peter Zaremba (Fleshtones).
  • Acclaimed comedy group Face Off Unlimited will bring BATSU!, NYC’s only live Japanese game show and a Time Out New York critics pick to LIC.
The complete festival guide can be found on here. For the latest updates on artists and exhibitions, visit licartsopen.org/new-blog, and follow @LICArtsOpen on Facebook and Twitter.
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Free weekend art bus comes to LIC


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Socrates Sculpture Park

The wheels on a brand-new free shuttle bus service are taking visitors ‘round and ‘round Long Island City’s art scene on the weekends.

Socrates Sculpture Park, The Noguchi Museum, SculptureCenter and MoMA PS1 have partnered up to bring local residents and tourists the LIC Art Bus, which will debut on Saturday. This free weekend bus service will be dedicated to promoting the neighborhood’s arts and culture scene taking visitors between the four institutions.

“Long Island City is already home to a rich cultural corridor, and the LIC Art Bus – free to all – will make it easier for visitors to experience the art offerings the neighborhood is known for,” said John Hatfield, executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park.

The bus will run on Saturday and Sunday, on a first-come, first-served basis, for 19 consecutive weekends until Sept. 14. The first shuttle departs from Socrates Sculpture Park at noon and takes riders door-to-door to The Noguchi Museum, SculptureCenter and MoMA PS1, and then makes its return to Socrates.

Departure times are scheduled for noon, 12:45, 1:30, 2:30, 3:15, 4 and 5 p.m.

“The arts are booming here in western Queens,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “With the addition of the LIC Art Bus, countless New Yorkers will have an easier time getting to some of our borough’s premiere cultural organizations and institutions – all for free.”

The LIC Art Bus’s full schedule will be available at each stop and updated at socratessculpturepark.org/bus.

 

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Nonprofit Local Project, Falchi Building seek artists for site-specific installation piece


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering Courtesy Jamestown Properties

One landmark Long Island City building is calling all artists to come and create.

Nonprofit arts organization Local Project and the Falchi Building, located at 31-00 47th Ave., have come together to look for artists to collaborate on a site-specific installation piece in the 20-by-40 feet glass vitrines of the five-story location.

“I’m super excited. It’s a great opportunity for artists to show their work in a new environment,” said Carolina Peñafiel, founder and director of Local Project.

Artists can submit proposals presenting collaborations in any media and inter-borough groups are welcomed, with at least one of the artists in each proposal from Queens.

“We are definitely looking for artists to collaborate from borough to borough,” Peñafiel said. “We’re pretty open to see what’s out there.”

The temporary or semi-permanent pieces selected to be displayed inside the Falchi Building will investigate the everyday movement through a diverse city and the projects will receive a stipend, according to Jamestown Properties, which owns the building.

The Falchi Building went through a recent lobby renovation and upgrade, which brought a 2,000-square-foot pop-up artisanal food fair, known as The Food Box, to the site.

The deadline for the proposals is March 15 and artists can expect to be notified no later than March 20. An opening reception is scheduled for April 12.

For more information, visit here. Artists can submit their proposals to info@localproject.org.

 

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LIC plumber uses tools of the trade to create unique art pieces


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Orestes Gonzalez

When Long Island City resident Cristian Torres is on the job as a plumber, he sees more than just pipes and pressure gauges.

The 41-year-old Argentinian native has been a plumber since he was 17 years old. He made his way to the United States for the first time in 2001. Since then he has been creating pieces of art from material he knows and uses on the job.

“When I was young enough I was doing little things: I always had the [desire] to build little stuff,” said Torres, who remembers first building small pieces for his nieces and nephews. “Every time I see something I think, ‘with that thing, I can make this, I can make that.’”

When he isn’t plumbing, Torres, who has been living in Long Island City for the past four years, is an artist/sculptor specializing in pipe design. He used to work out of the Davis Street building shared with 5Pointz.

The father of two uses materials such as pipes, aluminum shields, copper coils and gauges to create lamps, light fixtures, sculptures and other art pieces.

Yet Torres creates these pieces with more on his mind than just adding to his collection. The artist said he uses the struggles he personally faces or sees happen in life to influence his various pieces.

“I create things always with the concept of not just using the plumbing material, but having the concept of anxiety,” he said. “I’m trying to express what I’ve seen in my life. It’s more than what they look like.”

One series Torres has been working on for the past seven years follows the theme of expressing anxiety, and was influenced by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The artwork in the series is set on copper shields, with pressure gauges and other metal pieces welded on to form the screaming face.

Torres also creates light fixtures and sculptures with sewing machines from the 1900s and temperature/pressure gauges, which he uses to symbolize time.

“I felt like I was liberating myself from a lot of stuff,” he said. “One of the major traumas [of] the [human] being I think is time because we think we are never going to die or get old. That’s why I’m trying to use gauges all over.”

Torres currently works on his pieces in a building shared with numerous other artists, as part of the nonprofit Long Island City arts group known as Local Project, located at 11-27 44th Road. He plans on showing his pieces at upcoming art shows, but dates are still to be determined.

“I hope people just appreciate it [my art],” he said. “It’s not just something functional, because when you buy something like this, handmade or created by someone, it’s always a little bit more than that.”

Even though he has created various pieces of artwork with meaning behind each piece, Torres said he calls himself a plumber before an artist. 

“I enjoy what I do,” he said.

To see some of Torres’ pieces visit his website and if you are interested in purchasing an item, contact the artist at plumbingart1@gmail.com.

 

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Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer discusses vision for new majority leader role


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is looking forward to the next four years as majority leader.

Van Bramer was appointed on Jan. 22 by newly elected City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“It’s a great honor, not only for me, but for our district, for our team and for Queens,” Van Bramer said. “It was a very humbling experience. It took a while to sink in.”

As majority leader, his key role is working together with the 48 Democratic members of the City Council and serving as a bridge between them and Mark-Viverito.

Van Bramer has also been named co-chair of the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team.

Since his appointment, the councilmember has hit the ground running and plans to get involved in working on subjects such as paid sick leave and universal pre-kindergarten.

“We are active every single day and I am looking forward to being a very influential majority leader over the next four years,” he said.

Van Bramer hopes to work together with his fellow councilmembers to help in any way he can.

“I’m here to help them achieve their goals and to use my office and my proximity to the speaker to advance their goals, their agendas and their districts,” he said. “I hope that they will call on me anytime they need and I will go to the speaker and advocate for them in every way I can. That’s the kind of majority leader I want to be.”

The councilmember also retained his position as chair of the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee. He plans to continue working with the libraries and growing cultural community to make sure the budgets and appropriate funds work for them.

“I’m excited about the work ahead,” said Van Bramer. “It’s a great time and I feel reinvigorated. I am going to work incredibly hard in being the best majority leader that I can be and then the future will take care of itself.”

 

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Holocaust survivor shares experiences through art


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

As visitors walk through the Queensborough Community College (QCC) Art Gallery, they are taken through the experiences of Rosemarie Koczÿ, who at three years old had her life turned upside down.

Koczÿ was born in 1939 in Recklinghausen, Germany and three years later was taken to a concentration camp together with her family. At a young age, Koczÿ witnessed death, loss and the struggle to survive.

Years later, still having the hardships she shared with many others strong in her mind and making it as a survivor of the Holocaust, Koczÿ began keeping records of the memories through different methods of artwork. The artist began with creating tapestries then moved to drawings, paintings and sculptures. Koczÿ died in 2007. Since September, QCC has had close to 140 pieces of Koczÿ’s art, created over nearly 30 years, on display in an exhibit titled “Art As A Witness” at the campus’ historic Oakland Building.

The series of close to 100 drawings, done with ink on paper, involved in the exhibit are called “I Weave You A Shroud.” Koczÿ used each of the drawings to remember those she saw suffer and die while in the concentration camps.

“They are burials I offer to those I saw die in the camps where I was deported…” Koczÿ wrote in an initial description of her series. “In the Jewish burials the dead are washed; a woman washes the body of a dead woman, a man washes the body of a dead man. The body is then wrapped in a shroud. Sewing a shroud is an act of respect and a rite.”

The exhibit also features wood sculptures and paintings titled “Standing Man,” where Koczÿ honors an unknown prisoner who ultimately gave his life to help and protect her in the camp.

Some of the pieces are owned by the QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York, other paintings are loaned by the Stichting Collectie de Stadshof in The Netherlands, drawings from the Musée Création Franche in France and sculptures are from private collectors.

One of Koczÿ’s sculptures is permanently on display at QCC’s Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, while another piece, a tapestry made in 1975, is hung above the main desk in the admissions office.

QCC is located at 222-05 56th Avenue in Bayside and “Art As A Witness” is free to the public and will be up until Sunday, January 5.

The QCC Art Gallery is closed Monday and opened Tuesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and weekends noon to 5 p.m.

 

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After a decade in Long Island City, Local Project searches for a new home


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Carolina Penafiel-16

At the edge of Long Island City, where warehouses haunt like rusty fossils of an industrial past, obscured by the elevated subway tracks, street art fights for survival.

Encircled in graffiti-wrapped sarcophagi, the low brow legacy of Local Project and 5Pointz await doomsday, untouched by the sterile glass high-rises that erupt from the ground almost monthly — for now, at least.

It’s only a matter of time before the building they share becomes nothing more than piles of scrap metal and drywall dust. Several months ago, the space’s owner announced plans to sell the warehouse to a builder who would turn the space into luxury condominiums – “yuppie projects,” scoff the locals. Local Project, a space for emerging artists to nurture their craft and connect with the public, that shares a building with graffiti holy land 5Pointz, must depart their home in search of new prospects.

Carolina Penafiel, a part-time food stylist and Local Project’s founder, moved to New York from Chile 13 years ago in pursuit of her American Dream.

“I wanted to live like in the movies,” she said.

Penafiel began her career as an artist, but a bad experience during a group show changed her mind. It took too much to be an artist, to open her work to the masses, resting on talent and believing in the message behind her art. Even the title “artist” felt wrong.

“I’ve always done exactly what I’ve set myself to do,” said Penafiel. “Thankfully, I’ve always gotten where I’ve wanted to go.”

Instead, she focused on her administrative skills, training as an independent curator. She fell in love with the process of putting together a show, nurturing artists and watching them develop. One show called “Hot in Hell’s Kitchen,” held at the Fountain Gallery – a center for those struggling with mental illness. The exhibit told stories from the iconic Manhattan neighborhood. Visitors stuck notes to the wall, scribbled with memories from Hell’s Kitchen – “I got drunk,” “I met my ex,” “I kissed somebody.”

Penafiel’s shows center around creating community rather than bringing culture to high society. Local Project’s doctrine of art for the people allows her to build bridges – the most rewarding part of her job. Instead of judging artists based on reputation, Local Project celebrates unknown entities on the rise. Each resident artist is required to spend 40 hours in the building during their two week stint, creating a setting where visitors can dip into the work organically.

Local Project draws tourists from around the world. One artist, keeping tabs on the gallery’s visitors, had a person from every livable continent come see his show in a single day.

“That’s what makes us different from other spaces,” Penafiel said. “You get to come in and talk to the artists. How cool is that?”

Artists of all mediums present in the space. Every Saturday, a DJ spins for a crowd who dance and chat, huddled together in the chilly space. They host video festivals, including one of exclusively horror films before Halloween where the audience dresses as zombies and four times a year, emerging musicians play acoustic sets in a series called “Music under the 7.” Penafiel said they do as much as they can – as much as everyone wants to do.

But now, everything needs to go somewhere else.

They have begun searching for a new space – a topic not easily broached among the staff, unhappy about the move. For years, rumors of the demise of the building on Davis Street swirled. Now they are coming true.

It’s happening all too much in New York City – art institutions knocked down in favor of bourgeoisie-friendly entities. Penafiel mentioned DUMBO, formerly raw, now spotless and new like a suburban art fair.

“Unfortunately, we, the ones who helped bring [LIC] to that level are not the ones that live there or have stores there,” said Penafiel. “That’s just life I guess. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Long Island City.”

Cristián Pietrapiana’s naturalistic realism


| MKirk@queenscourier.com

Cristian Pietrapiana-27w

From Buenos Aires to Long Island City, Cristián Pietrapiana has seen his art career go from helping out his painter grandfather in his studio to having over 30 exhibitions, his work featured in private collections and galleries, several commissions, and the opportunity to study all over the world.

While Pietrapiana appreciates art that strives to be as realistic as possible, he said he’s much more interested in finding the “personal gestures, expression, limitations and talents” in his subjects, describing his style as “figurative and representational, with a personal twist or view.”

Preferring oils over acrylics due to their slow-drying nature and capacity for manipulation, he described his process of creating a painting as almost free forming.

“I tend to start a piece by taking a photograph of a model or several models and I paint taking the photo as a platform. Later I add or take flesh away and change features… Then I add more bodies and as I start to work and let go, the piece takes its own course. And when that happens, it’s a great feeling because it demands from you instead of the other way around, almost as if it has a life of its own.”

Pietrapiana’s website, www.pietrapiana.net, further describes his work as an exploration of “the vulnerability of human nature as well as human landscapes.” He expanded on this point by explaining that despite the dominance of humankind, he still finds plenty of fragility in people, both physical and emotional, and strives to bring that out in his paintings.

“Even though humans have tamed other species and kingdoms, we are fragile beings,” he said. “Words and actions can be as strong as an illness. Maybe that is why I tend to paint and draw figures that tend to be exposed. Being conscious of our own limitations could make us more humble, and boy do we need more humble attitudes in a consumer society.”

Part of this desire for more humility stems from his admiration of tango, which he said his parents danced often during his childhood. As he got older, he began to appreciate the philosophy within the lyrics of many songs in the genre. He recalled a particular passage from Enrique Santos Discépolo’s tango, “Cambalache,” which Pietrapiana paraphrased as, “We are all manhandled in the same mud.”

“The phrase had a great impact in my recent work. It made sense ideologically and aesthetically, and I started painting all these figures, exposed, naked, all together, almost like a fabric made out of bodies. On the other hand, I think that we are manhandled by society — marketing, politics, world powers and sometimes even those who manipulate religions who emphasize the exclusive instead of the inclusive aspect of belief systems.”

Pietrapiana said this concept is behind his painting, “Mud,” which depicts a slew of naked men and women mixed chaotically, their limbs intertwined with one another’s in the “fabric” he previously described. Contrasting the disorder in the bodies’ positions are the looks on their faces, which remain still, listless and “manhandled.”

The numerous figures in Pietrapiana’s works also play a role in his views on world overpopulation.

“Resources are limited,” he said. “We are too many already and if we add up the fact that corporations and governments are looking to expand markets more than improve societies, well, think of the consequences of every human being trying and expecting to consume like those of us who live in western consumer societies.”

Pietrapiana has continued this theme of nakedness both in the physical and figurative sense, most recently through a series of drawings. For these, the artist has left his brushes and pallets aside and has instead gone with ink on paper, something he says he has not done in a while, but has become more interested in. One of his ink drawings, “Mob,” is similar to the aforementioned painting, “Mud,” in that it features several naked bodies intertwined. In the drawing, the bodies are divided into many segments containing lines spanning in all different directions, the sections appearing to overlap one another, almost as if they’re generating an interwoven fabric similar to the one the bodies are creating among themselves.

“They follow the same theme as the paintings,” he said. “Still figures, still out there, intertwined, manhandled, but a bit more graphic and capriciously playing with lines and stripes.”

Pietrapiana is currently working on commissions with hopes of more exhibitions in the near future. His studio in Long Island City is open to the public by appointment, which can be made by contacting him via email at cristian@pietrapiana.net.

With or without galleries or commissions, Pietrapiana says he will keep on creating and painting.

“Unlike other fields, one is not so drawn to compete or achieve a goal in art,” he said. “It’s more about personal fulfillment I think, which does not make it easier or more difficult, it is just different. One deals with one’s own demands.”

Legacy: Memorial exhibit of Arthur Hammer’s works


| MKirk@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy Elinore Schnurr

Long Island City — and the entire art world — lost one of its own in March of this year. Arthur Hammer, LIC resident for nearly 40 years, had a passion for painting portraits that was rivaled only by his passion for life.

His daughter, Deirdre Hammer, fondly described him as being “the nutty artist guy in the community,” “a force to be reckoned with” and “the quintessential life of the party.” After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in the mid 1980s, he fought on for the next two decades before passing away at age 79.

On Thursday, October 25, the Diego Salazar Art Gallery in LIC will open a memorial exhibition for the late painter, featuring a number of his works.

Hammer grew up in Cleveland before heading east to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan with aspirations of working as an actor. After finishing his studies there, he met Jean Sharkey, an actress and singer whom he married in 1958. They had three children together: Deirdre and a set of twins, Maura and Joshua. It was his wife who bought him his first paints, brushes and canvases, which he used to paint casually in his early adulthood and then more frequently as he got older.

When Deirdre was five years old, her parents separated and her father left New York to pursue acting in Alaska and California. Eventually he made it back to New York in the early 1980s and reconnected with his children. Deirdre, who at this time estimated herself to be in her early 20s, moved into an apartment with him.

“It was weird because we didn’t have a normal father/daughter relationship by any account,” she said. “It’s not like he was there during my formative years, so we sort of became more of friends. It was interesting.”

Hammer never took a lesson in painting, opting instead to learn as he went along. To support his passion, he continued to find work as an actor before calling it quits on the trade entirely. He then worked as a cab driver and then as an art dealer, later coming to own his own gallery.

By the mid 1990s, he devoted himself to painting every day.

“Painting full time was becoming more and more of a necessity to me,” Hammer wrote in his application for a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, meant “to aid those individuals who have worked as professional artists over a significant period of time.” He received the grant in 2008.

“He loved to paint portraits,” Deirdre said. “The problem with portraits is they’re impossible to sell. I would always say, ‘Dad, why don’t you paint flowers? People buy flowers.’ He definitely painted what he wanted. He painted out of love and out of passion, those were all of his qualities.”

Deirdre went on to explain that portraits are not only difficult to sell, but to paint as well, particularly in her father’s style.

“Most people have a different version of what they look like, and an artist’s painting of you is distorted in whatever way,” she said. “My father wasn’t a realist at all.”

Elinore Schnurr, a fellow artist and friend of Hammer’s who will be the curator at his exhibit at the Diego Salazar Art Gallery later this month, described the late painter’s nonrealistic style as being very personal.

“Sometimes, although he catches the dynamic of a person, it doesn’t always entirely look just like them. They took on very unusual pictorial characteristics. The structure and design of the painting would change according to his mood.”

Despite portraits being a tough sell, Deirdre said people purchased her father’s works because of their quality and his outgoing personality.

“That’s usually how he sold his work,” she said. “Besides the fact that it was incredibly good, he was always so charming. He certainly lived life to the fullest. He certainly lived the life he wanted to live. He certainly was loved. He had a huge following of people that just absolutely adored him. My hope is to ultimately preserve his legacy. Any time I’m able to have a show and bring out his art and talk about him — that would be his favorite thing in the world.”

Instead of paint, L.I.C. artist uses chocolate


| sLieberman@queenscourier.com

SID CHIDIACw

Sid Chidiac eats his work.

For the past 10 years, the artist, born in Australia and raised in Lebanon, has painted with chocolate.

Now based in Long Island City, Chidiac has a distinct, creative routine unseen among those working with oils and acrylics. He cleans his brushes by licking them, and is forced to repeatedly remind people to not dig their nails into his paintings for a taste.

Regularly, countless boxes of chocolate, instead of pigments and lacquers, are shipped to his studio.

Chidiac started working with chocolate after moving back to Sydney, where he attended the Julian Ashton Art School. He worked in the kitchen at Sheraton on the Park. A chef in the hotel’s restaurant was representing Australia in a pastry competition in France. Knowing that Chidiac was an artist, the chef taught him how to paint with chocolate, commissioning him to create a representation of sunflowers on a woodblock.

Chidiac was instantly drawn to the medium.

“It was that temptation, I’m not eating it, but I can taste the chocolate under my teeth,” he said. “My guts wanted to eat that painting.”

Years later, after an exhibition in Kuwait City, his paintings were shattered on the flight back to New York.

“I opened the bag and I was so upset,” said Chidiac. “[It] looked so beautiful. I started eating [it] right at JFK Airport.”

A major career breakthrough for Chidiac came when he was given the opportunity to paint in the Chashama Theatre near Bryant Park in Manhattan. For weeks he painted on display in the window of the theater, composing a humongous oil-paint interpretation of “The Last Supper.” About 4,000 people passed the window every hour. At the end of the display, Chidiac received 50,000 emails from newly earned fans.

Chidiac said his chocolate paintings frequently garner questions from curious and skeptical onlookers. None of his paintings have ever melted, spoiled or faded.

The chocolate painter does have one rule – the better the chocolate, the easier the painting. Chidiac, who is sponsored by Barry Callebaut, a Belgian chocolate company, believes that a higher concentration of cocoa in the chocolate holds the “paint” tighter and prevents it from drying too quickly.

Occasionally people are doubtful that Chidiac’s paintings are actually chocolate, an accusation he takes quite seriously. Chidiac laughs it off, telling a story of a time he dug a spoon into his work and forced a skeptic to eat his art.

At many showings, people mistakenly think that because the works are done in chocolate, they are welcome to sample what Barack Obama’s face tastes like, or how sweet Nicole Kidman’s hair is. Chidiac must remain on constant patrol while exhibiting his work, prohibiting hungry viewers from taking a bite.

“I am constantly telling people, ‘please don’t touch my work!’” he said.

And who could blame them? The gallery smells like a confectionery paradise with fragrant chocolate wafting through the air. Viewers struggle with the temptation of his paintings – an artistic statement in itself. The relationship between the desire for beauty and the consumption of chocolate provoke something deeply sensual.

“People would say, ‘why do you paint with chocolate?’” said Chidiac. “I would say, ‘why not?’ New York is the heartbeat of the world, you have to do something completely different to be recognized. It’s a tough city.”

Chidiac has been searching for ways to break from the mass anonymity of the city since first arriving. Even back in Sydney, he was warned of New York’s ability to sink an artist’s name.

“People said, ‘New York is big. Who’s going to listen to you?’” he recalled.

While painting with chocolate has gained Chidiac recognition, he realizes that the struggle of making it big in the art world is ongoing. The artist is currently looking for a space in Long Island City to build a Chocolate Museum where he can display sculptures, paintings and other works completely made of chocolate. He has also been doing body painting in chocolate, layering forms in dark chocolate and covering that with white chocolate Arabic script.

Chidiac, pushed by the fast pace of the city, constantly reinvents himself, repurposing his work in creative and brilliant ways. Luckily, he is aided by the distinctiveness of his edible medium.

“People can’t resist chocolate,” he said. “They love it.”