Artists Flourish in the Neighborhoods

By Sharon Jonas

Artistic talent flourishes in the Bellmores and the Merricks, even when their creative accomplishments often go unnoticed. An occasional display or show in a library or school brings art into the open, but unlike Manhattan or the Hamptons, where galleries and museums abound, it takes some mining to discover the artistic treasures hidden throughout our Bellmore and Merrick neighborhoods.

GeromeLinda Gerome painting. Gerome is from Merrick.

One lifelong artist of note is Eric Person. Presently working on a large, music-inspired piece commissioned by a South Merrick client, the 46-year-old North Merrick resident says he has spent about two years on the stunning oil painting of 1930s-style jazz players.

“I think it’s my masterpiece,” says Person, who only recently took up painting. In the past he focused on sculpting and drawing but, after a trip abroad, felt a surge of inspiration. Art classes at Hofstra University and a connection with a painter in the city, who allowed him to share studio space, also contributed to his artistic growth.

Person turns to Facebook to stay in touch with fellow artists. “There used to be a local community for a while,” he says, referring to G Gallery in North Bellmore, which closed after one year. “I had a show there and my prints sold very well.”

North Bellmore artist Stephanie Navon Jacobson considers herself a printmaker who paints, rather than a painter who prints. Along with printmaking, teaching art is her passion. An art professor at St. John’s University since 2001, she also teaches at the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills. Jacobson enjoys the versatility of printmaking and seeing students “get bit with the printmaking bug.”

Also in North Bellmore, accomplished artist Sheila Chezar runs Chezar Art Studio for adults. The small, thriving studio offers classes Tuesdays through Saturdays yearlong and invites master painters for special sessions. Prior to opening in October 2012, her studio was just a dream. “I tell my students, you guys are fulfilling my fantasy. Since I was a child I wanted to do this.”

Bellmore artist Francine Farber has attended Chezar’s sessions for over a year. Retired from the corporate world, she now works on new skills. Recreating a scene from a photograph of a Napa Valley vineyard, she gently dabs paint to depict ivy growing along an archway. “I have a creative side and I like exploring it.”

Eric PersonEric Person

“Here you feel important,” says Marilyn Wolfson, a Merrick mom of three teens who paints weekly in the same class. Finishing a vivid pink and green floral painting, Wolfson says, “When you come here you feel like you’re good just walking in. Sheila has the lights set up and it’s not like a classroom where there are a lot of people. It’s a completely different experience.”

Developing Young Artists
With a main focus on instructing children, Bonnie Newman runs Art Time from a charming studio in her Merrick home. After 20 years as an art teacher in the public school system, and 20 years running Art Time, Bonnie’s enthusiasm is as undeniable as her experience.

Art Time’s classes are divided by age groups, allowing Newman to systematically build fundamental techniques such as perspective, shading, color value and drawing at an appropriate level while encouraging individual style. “I feel it’s good to give new challenges without scaring them.”

“I may make a suggestion, and then someone else will chime in with an idea,” says Newman, who believes strongly in sharing ideas, collaborative efforts and group classes over private tutoring. On her own time she paints and continues her education with classes at the Art League of Long Island.

She is working with watercolors, creating an appealing still life arrangement of sunflowers on a table with a loose assortment of fruits.

Meanwhile, in Bellmore, Jay Lupetin is nurturing young artistic talent in his space, the South Shore Arts on Pettit Avenue. After 37 years teaching art in the Bellmore school district, Jay opened his studio to help develop a local artistic community.

“One of the reasons I started was because all of the parents were taking their kids to Huntington for lessons. We needed an art center here.” For 17 years Jay and his staff of certified teachers have worked with elementary, middle and high school students. In addition to after school and evening classes six days a week, South Shore Arts also offers birthday parties.

Drawing, painting, cartooning, fashion design and clay and pottery are part of the spring semester. “My philosophy is if everyone works on the same concept they learn better.” For this reason, Jay prefers group lessons with a theme over private tutoring. Like Bonnie Newman at Art Time, Jay also helps serious students build art portfolios that take them into college.

Carry It Forward
Merrick resident and painter Linda Gerome has studied with Newman for 13 years, saying she was her first adult student. Gerome’s inspiration springs from a background in fashion. Many of her works feature vibrant dresses adorned with flowers and elements from nature.

“I’m inspired by Monet,” says Gerome. Her inspiration also comes from being part of a group. “One artist feeds off another. I personally love any criticism. We do what we want to do but sometimes as an artist you get stuck and that’s where a teacher comes in. She gives opinions.”

Linda Gottlieb from Merrick, with a BA in Fine Arts and a Masters of Art in Art History, still continues to take classes. After a career as a fashion designer she returned to art and is actively submitting works for acceptance into galleries. At the Chezar Studio’s Tuesday master class she works on portraits and on Saturdays at the Art League of Long Island she creates larger scale pieces. Her latest, a charcoal with sweeping, lively lines called “The Sisters,” made at the Art League, will be included in their spring show.

Engineering Art
In a league of her own is Andrea Davide, an artist who creates compelling sculptures from metals, glass and found objects from her Merrick home studio. Trained as a medical illustrator, her career has centered on the arts in multiple ways. Versatile with drawing, painting, stained glass and sculpting, her extraordinary technical skills combine with her artistic sensibilities. Davide’s current works reflect on the concept of time, managing to fuse feats of engineering with an intriguing sense of style.

“I became fascinated with time about six years ago when I saw my children growing up,” says Davide, a mother of three. The concept led her to combine brass gears from clocks and glass to create tabletop, wall and large-scale pieces. A progression can be seen in her works as color, movement and electrically powered parts make their way into her art. A memorizing floor-based piece called “The Promise” exemplifies this, as slowly moving glass disks glide across an elaborate background studded with colorful, blinking lights.

StephanieNavonJacobson2Stephanie Navon Jacobson from North Bellmore

Commissioned by private collectors, companies and even a Long Island Jewish center for a Holocaust memorial piece, Davide’s works make an impression both mechanically and emotionally. Smaller pieces invite interaction, permitting viewers to manually rotate a gear to set the whole piece in motion.

Drilling into glass, inserting precision-cut pins, devising special clamps and measuring to within 330/1000 inch are some of the challenges involved in creating her moving or kinetic pieces. Acknowledging the challenge, Davide says, “It’s a nightmare sometimes, but when it works it’s cool.”

For art lovers who want to stay local, a visit to Studio 5404 on Merrick Road in Massapequa, the ambitious recent creation of former Merrick resident and artist Lori Horowitz, might fulfill the need to soak in some culture. The non-profit arts organization and gallery features mostly non-traditional works.

Horowitz says “My passion is to unite the arts and include painters, sculptors, poets and performing artists. It’s about raising consciousness, to show what’s going on in the world.” Over 100 artists have addressed in their works displayed at her space to date, she told Your NewsMag.

The current show, called “Skin Deep,” displays the work of 14 Long Island artists who have works keeping with the theme. The show, which kicked off with a well-attended reception, runs through March 2. Exhibits change every six weeks and have attracted attention not only from residents but a curator at the MET, who praised Horowitz’s efforts and the path she is taking.

CarolynBarrickCarolyn Barrick

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