By Jeremy Walsh
Readers turn to the QGuide every week to learn something about the borough’s burgeoning arts scene. This week the newspaper found one of its own staff taking part in that community.
Rod Ivey has been a layout designer for TimesLedger Newspapers on and off for 12 years. He lives in Hollis with his wife, Jennifer.
Their paintings, along with the art of four other married couples, are on display in the “Partners in Art” exhibition at the African-American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead, L.I., until a closing reception June 26 that doubles as Rod Ivey’s 60th birthday.
Rod Ivey got the idea for the exhibition after discussing art with noted African-American painter Emmett Wigglesworth, whose abstract, large-canvas paintings stand in sharp contrast to the carefully detailed depictions of neighborhood life done by his wife, Sheilah.
“That was the nucleus or the start of examining what this means,” Rod Ivey said, noting the theme of artists in domesticity is meant to take precedence over the context of African-American culture in the display. “If you walk through [the gallery], you see the works of people who co-habitate and create and battle.”
Other artists represented include Bob Carter, whose meticulously illustrated maternal figures are often painted on weathered boards or overlapping wooden cutouts. Carter’s wife, Panchita, makes elaborate bracelets and pendants.
Rod and Jennifer Ivey, 60, are unusual among the couples in the show because they occasionally collaborate on paintings.
“He has a lot of buildings, he paints very sequential and orderly, and I’m just the opposite,” Jennifer Ivey said. “I paint all over the place, I change the colors 50 times, I look at it and I get frustrated.”
The couple derives inspiration chiefly from old photographs of Jennifer Ivey’s family. She enjoys adding color and emphasis to the interaction between the people in the photographs.
Rod, who is influenced by Edward Hopper, prefers the straight edges and overlapping, complex curves of the railings and facades of buildings in early 20th-century Ohio, Illinois and New York.
“That’s her and her sister back in the days where little girls wore white gloves,” Rod Ivey said, pointing to a vintage Midwest street scene with two smiling girls superimposed in the foreground. “I pick certain details and make like a collage of photos.”
Rod Ivey initially studied architecture at Howard University before he left to study art and graphic design at the City College of New York.
Jennifer is a Pratt Institute alumna who became an art teacher and worked in the city school system for 34 years.
The couple met at an art gallery in Greenwich Village around 1970. After Rod retired from full time work as a graphic designer and Jennifer retired from her professional development job, the couple decided to return to painting.
“Now that the kids are kind of out … it’s like, ‘We’re at retirement age. We worked, and what are we going to do for the rest of our lives?’” Rod Ivey said.
Though they are members of the Long Island Black Artists Association, they do not see much of an arts scene in Hollis — which is fine with them.
“I never thought that much of working with other artists,” Rod Ivey said. “I thought it was good that there weren’t any, then we could be the only ones.”
Jennifer Ivey, who grew up in Hollis, said she has always regarded the borough as suburban.
“Until recent years you had to go somewhere else to find [art],” she said. “Long Island City didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago. You had to go into Brooklyn or go into Manhattan to find other artists.”
IF YOU GO
Partners in Art
When: Wed-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through June 26
Where: African American Museum of Nassau County, 110 W. Franklin St., Hempstead