Long Island artists find place to display works
By Joseph Kellard
A print of Renoir’s "Child in White" on her bedroom wall served as the sister she never had while growing up in Indiana.
"Throughout my life, art has inspired me," said Sueanne Shirzay, who hosted the grand opening reception of her new gallery in Island Park on Sunday. "I grew up with a beautiful Renoir of a little girl on my wall. I didn’t have any sisters, so ..."
Shirzay’s thought trails off, but it’s clear she understands the emotionally powerful part that an artwork can play in a person’s life. And in opening her Sueanne Shirzay Gallery, at 4410 Austin Blvd., she hopes that patrons will find their own personal "Child in White" to inspire them among the works of more than 12 local artists adorning the studio’s walls. The reception featured paintings, drawings, PhotoShop collages, reliefs, fiber art and jewelry, with paintings ranging in price from prints that go for $45 to originals that climb into the $4,000 range.
"My goal is to hit every price point," Shirzay said. "I want everyone to afford beautiful art."
The show at her 3,000 square-foot gallery, located on the second floor of Carpet Craft (her husband Bashir’s store), will run until Jan. 5, and regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Among the works at the reception were Ron Rundo’s mix of fiery red, orange and yellow southwestern landscapes. Rundo, an Island Park resident who spent the last 15 months shopping his paintings in galleries owned by Galerie Zuger in Santa Fe, wanted to participate in a gallery in his hometown.
"I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help out," said Rundo, who has made a living designing postage stamps and painting mostly portraits for the past 17 years.
The PhotoShop collages on display came from the lens of Denise Bory. The Long Beach woman takes detailed digital shots of her subjects, including insects, flower buds and sunsets, and merges these components, usually around a portrait of a child or animal, to evoke a particular theme, such as tropical or seasonal motifs. At Shirzay’s showing, Bory displayed "Chloe’s Garden," a collage that features a young boy peeking through leaves and a cat encircled by spiders, praying mantises and similar crawly creatures.
"I often change around colors," Bory said about the artistic side of her medium, which she dubs "digistration." "I may start out with something green, like a leaf, and change it to purple."
Sharing wall space with Bory’s collages were painter Mary Blair’s pastels of beach and surf scenes of her native Long Beach, Italian villages and the Hollywood hills. Blair typically takes her paintings to fairs and art shows from Kennedy Plaza outside Long Beach City Hall to Manhattan to West Hampton. She used to display them at The Workshop on the West End, a now defunct studio gallery of fine arts and hand-made crafts."It was a nice meeting ground for artists," Blair said.
Asked about the lack of galleries along Nassau County’s south shore, Blair gave a knowing laugh and searched carefully for an answer. "Probably, it’s the proximity to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island City," she said. "They have many different studios, shows and other outlets there. And it could be that there’s not enough affordable space around here."Rundo once rented studio space at Shirzay’s building, and speculates that when most Long Islanders seek to buy original art, they reflexively think of established studios in New York.
"I think people associate galleries with the city," Rundo speculated, "and I think it’s one of those things that is difficult to get off the ground, like ‘will the community support that,’ and ‘are there enough people who have the kind of money to purchase original art?’"
Bory, Blair and many other artists in the immediate area often go to the Long Beach Library to display their creations. "The local artists tend to go with art groups," Bory explained, "and they tend to display in libraries. It’s hard to find places around here, but I’m sure if we were in the city, they would have more opportunities for us."
Bory is a founding member of the Artist Mothers Group, a Long Beach-based organization that originally met about five years ago to draw and paint together downstairs at a member’s home while a babysitter watched their kids upstairs."We were frustrated that we had babies and couldn’t do our work, and this idea made it easier for us to do our art work," Bory said.
Shirzay said that, beside that it was difficult for her to find time to draw and paint when her children, now ages 6, 11 and 13, were younger, she was concerned about having them around paint fumes and other materials. So she moved her studio to above her husband’s carpet store.
Long before having her children, when she was a 16-year-old kid, Shirzay first arrived in New York to study for a summer at Parsons. After attending Purdue, she graduated from Pratt Institute, but admits that art was not her first love. "I never wanted to be a fine artist, really," she said in her gallery office, where a few of her paintings-in-progress sit on easels. "I liked to write ad copy."
She became an advertising and publishing art director and established Shirzay Communications, a firm that she owned for 10 years. Today, Shirzay offers in-home and business art consulting by appointment.
In addition to providing a new home for local artists, she aims for her gallery to be simple and inviting for art lovers looking to keep some cash in their wallets. "This is how I look," Shirzay said, gesturing at her blue jeans while describing the non-elitist environment she looks to create at her studio. "You’re not going to see me wearing high heels."
And Shirzay said she’ll employ her husband’s business approach, a lesson she considers the most important in sales. "To listen," she said. "I always strive to treat people exactly how I would want to be treated."
Contact the Sueanne Shirzay Gallery at (516) 241-5836, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Web site at sueanneshirzaygallery.com.
Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.
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