Long Island City Arts Open brings public into studios

Long Island City Arts Open brings public into studios
By Tammy Scileppi

There has always been a thin line between art and politics. For centuries, the two have been inextricably intertwined. Take the Renaissance Era, when works of art such as Michelangelo’s David and Donatello’s Judith beheading Holofernes, were highly charged with political symbolism.

Nowadays, a wide range of views by a new generation of established and emerging artists on current events and the changing values of modern society are reflected through controversial and thought-provoking photographs, sculptures, interactive installations and paintings. And this week, you can view some compelling examples of these types of works as well as plenty of non-activist offerings, while taking part in all the festivities.

It’s happening right here in Queens, where a still-thriving, tight-knit community of 200 or so creative types has opened its doors to the public for the seventh annual Long Island City Arts Open. The event opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday, May 21. It takes place in 23 buildings.

Here are some highlights:

In response to the ongoing political fervor sweeping the city and the country, one group of artists decided to express their thoughts and concerns with a series of photographs that offer creative commentary on contemporary social issues. “Disruption” is part of an exhibition entitled “Awake, Engage, Transform!” that features five distinguished photographers from the United States and Europe.

Curated by LIC-based artist Orestes Gonzalez, this edgy, conversation-making show zeroes in on that symbiotic artistic-political relationship, which has been driving much of the progressive art movement in 2017.

Featuring seasoned photographers, whose work has been exhibited internationally and published in well-known magazines, “Disruption” engages the viewer to experience the physical, mental and spiritual dislocations caused by immigration from one’s homeland, the sense of personal loss and societal pressures, according to the organizers.

This year viewers can see Gonzalez’s work alongside the four other photographers’: Verónica Cárdenas (Texas), Kris Graves (New York), Griselda San Martín (Spain), G.D. McClintock (Connecticut). It is at The Factory LIC space, 30-30 47th Ave., Studio #414.

The “UPSTANDERS!!! Exhibition” – also featured at The Factory LIC — is bound to fuel even more heated conversations this week.

Local artist and LIC Arts Open co-founder Karen Kettering Dimit’s sculptures suggest an aura of timelessness that resonate with the viewer on many levels. These creations deal with universal dualities of man that are brought into high relief by current events. Dualities such as creation and destruction, body and spirit, nature and nurture, are mirrored in the choices of material she uses and the way she uses them: seductive colored stone and hard metals; crisp, reflective glass and warm, sensuous wood; polished forms and broken surfaces.

“The “UPSTANDERS!!!” show, along with the other shows in “Awake! Engage! Transform!” at The Factory LIC, is “an excellent place to see a wide range of local artists working in everything from welded steel to recycled plastic, who have found a way to utilize their well-honed skills to tell powerful stories of social and environmental injustices and concerns,” said Dimit, who curates the show.

“Many of them will also be participating in Open Studios on the weekend. So, visitors can then go and see where they make their magic, and while they’re at it, visit other artist studios in the vicinity.”

Highly skilled painters, sculptors, ceramicists, mixed media artists, photographers, and filmmakers want to awaken our shared humanity through artist Priscilla Stadler’s “Fragile Cities” installation, which deals with gentrification and at-risk communities. She will discuss her piece Saturday at noon

Don’t miss notable LIC-based sculptor Jack Howard-Potter’s steel sculptures in motion. Selections of his work – which can be found mainly in outdoor venues nationwide and in galleries – will appear as they have since the event’s inaugural year, when co-founder Richard Mazda first set eyes on the sculptor’s fluid, thought-provoking metal-welded human forms. His striking winged sculpture was installed in the private garden of Gonzalez’s beautiful LIC home for the LIC Open’s annual fund-raising Garden Party May 10.

Stop by Reis Studios at 43-01 22nd St. and check out Donna Levinstone’s tranquil “Pastels” at her Open Studios exhibit, running all weekend from noon to 6 p.m. in Studio #322. Drop by Studio 34 Gallery Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at 34-01 38th Ave. (4th Fl.), for the opening reception of a group show. Enjoy refreshments and live music by SUPERSMALL.

“Most New Yorkers are unaware of the sheer number of artists working in LIC. Richard Mazda and I started the LIC Arts Open festival seven years ago to unite the artists working in their studios with the local businesses and residents in an effort to bring well-deserved focus on our amazing community,” Dimit said. “Seven years later we see the fruits of our efforts blossoming, even as the threat of eviction looms over us due to the massive real estate explosion. Hopefully, we have become so cherished in LIC through our collaborative efforts that a new model of community building will be found that supports and preserves the creative heart of the city.”