By April Isaacs
What Queens-based artists Michael Puleo and Caroline Sun have in common is that they started out pursuing careers that didn't have much to do with artwork. Puleo, a Floral Park native, went to business school for marketing, and Sun, who lives in Jamaica, pursued a law degree under her parents' advisement and working for a top firm for several years but feeling unfulfilled by her profession.
"I became depressed and I thought, 'I can't keep doing this,' so I quit and went back to school for literature, got my master's and started teaching, and that's also when I started painting. Since then the painting has just kind of taken over," Sun said of her professional transition from the courtroom to the painter's studio.
Puleo, on the other hand, presented one of his professors with a series of paintings for a marketing assignment for a cologne ad. "He said, 'You didn't follow the assignment, but what you turned in here inspired me.'" It was that early encouragement from his professor that led Puleo to continue painting.
Both of these artists still pay the bills with less creative work but have removed themselves from the front lines of the rat race, committing their aspirations instead to the pursuit of an artistic lifestyle.
Puleo and Sun are just two of such Queens residents struggling to make a name for themselves in the art world. They, along with 48 of their contemporaries from the community — both serious artists and hobbyists — have their work on display at the Bayside Historical Society's "Celebration of the Arts" exhibit, which is running until Aug. 3.
One of the few juried art events in Queens, "Celebration of the Arts" is in its eighth year, and for the first time since its inception, the entrants have doubled. "We typically see about 20 to 25 entries, but this year there were 50. It's great and we'd like to see it get even bigger next year," said Alison McKay, who organized this year's event. "We like to bring artists from all of Queens out in the open."
The judges critiquing the works were Marie Marsina, the president of the National Art League in Douglaston, and Faustino Quintanilla, the director of the Queensborough Community College Art Gallery. Out of the 50 entrants this year, three works received awards and another three were given honorable mention.
Based on excellence in creativity, composition and technique, the first place went to a watercolor entitled "Sanctuary" by Christine Ferrari. Second place was awarded to Joseph Loguirato for a pencil drawing, "Manhattan Spotlight," and third went to Rosetta Benta for a small oil painting called "Dunes." Adolpho Caldas, Nancy Fabrizio and Robert Wolff were given honorable mention.
It's not about the awards, however, for people like Puleo, who has three pieces featured in the exhibit: "Mental Lava Flow," "Iron Man — If I Only Had a Heart" and "Circus Sun."
"There are a lot of artists out there and everyone wants to get noticed," he said. "You're like a drop in the sea of art. So if you can get your work out there any way you can, I'm happy about that."
If you go:
Celebration of the Arts
When: Thurs–Sun, noon-4 p.m., through Aug. 3
Where: Bayside Historical Society, 208 Totten Ave., Bayside
Cost: $3 suggested donation