Forest Hills painting prodigy to showcase work as school benefit

Photos courtesy of Alfred Astua

When Alfred Astua returns home from his job as a doctor at Elmhurst Hospital’s intensive care unit, he is sometimes greeted by a chemical odor wafting through his residence.

But for him, the smell is comforting. That’s how he knows that his 8-year-old daughter Isabella has been painting.

Isabella, who has been painting since she was 3, uses recycled frames, canvases, brushes and paints in order to create colorful abstract artworks. Over the next two months, the wunderkind painter will host two local art exhibits with all proceeds going to her school, P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, Queens.

Astua began painting with Isabella as a way to structure more time for them to spend together when he got home from his demanding job. When Isabella became interested in recycling, she found a way to combine two of her passions into one practice.

“After we moved three times, she began to see how much stuff we use and end up throwing away,” said Astua.

Isabella started incorporating skateboard decks, 99-cent-store spoons, chapstick, combs, old thrift store paintings and house paint from Home Depot’s “oops bin” into her vivid experiments with splatters, drips and washes of paint.

During a guitar lesson at New York Music and Arts (NYMA), a performing arts center with schools in Forest Hills and Great Neck, Isabella mentioned to her instructor that she painted. Her instructor recommended that she talk to the head of the program who jumped at the opportunity to help her organize the upcoming shows.

The donations, all of which will go P.S. 144, will be used to fund for art and music and other after-school programs.

Both exhibits will contain 50 to 60 percent of the same pieces, with the rest of the work exclusive to each show. The exhibits will run from April 29 to May 18 at NYMA’s campus at 113-25A Queen Blvd., Forest Hills and May 20 to June 8 at its other campus at 41 S. Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck.

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