10/27/13 10:00am
10/27/2013 10:00 AM
RACHEL YOUNG | Chris Rowett uses his solar carving technique on a piece of driftwood outside his home in Baiting Hollow.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTOS | Chris Rowett uses his solar carving technique on a piece of driftwood outside his home in Baiting Hollow.

Seated in a patio chair on the back lawn of his Baiting Hollow home on a recent Sunday afternoon, Chris Rowett positioned a two-foot piece of beach driftwood on his lap.

Mr. Rowett finds the wood on local beaches.

Mr. Rowett finds the wood on local beaches.

He held a large magnifying glass a few inches from the wood and waited. In just seconds, the magnified sunlight had burned a dark line onto it.

Mr. Rowett, 31, is a solar carver. Harnessing the sun’s energy, he uses magnifying glasses of varying sizes to burn designs into driftwood he finds at nearby Long Island Sound beaches. He can etch almost anything, but the majority of his pieces feature sayings like “NOFO” and “Long Island, New York.” More detailed pieces incorporate drawings with nautical themes like sailboats, suns and seahorses.

“I’ve always been into art,” Mr. Rowett said. “I used to paint and draw. This is just a different medium for me to use.”

The ease with which he approaches his craft gives him the look of a seasoned professional, but Mr. Rowett, who grew up in Blue Point and works full-time as a physical education and health teacher at Comsewogue Elementary School in Port Jefferson Station, has been solar carving for only two years.

He was at a beach in East Marion one day, he said, when he realized that if he held a magnifying glass over driftwood on a sunny day, it produced a scorching effect.

By manipulating the magnifying glass, Mr. Rowett discovered he could create letters and pictures on the wood.

“I just kind of fell upon it,” he said. “I started playing around with it, making letters, then went off that.”

At first, Mr. Rowett made solar carvings as gifts for friends and family. During the summer and early fall, when the sun is at its hottest, he usually designs three or four pieces a day. A simple design, like “NOFO,” takes just a few minutes, he said. More elaborate pieces take up to an hour.

Now, solar carving is much more than just a hobby for Mr. Rowett. Woodside Orchards in Aquebogue began selling his pieces this year and his work will soon be for sale at East End Getaway, a boutique opening this month at MacArthur Long Island Airport in Islip.

Mr. Rowett recently put the finishing touches on a piece of driftwood with butterfly etchings that he custom-designed for the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead. After he appeared in a feature on News 12, Mr. Rowett was contacted by the aquarium about designing some pieces to be sold at its gift shop.

“His work is very interesting,” said Nadine Ferrara, gift shop assistant manager and assistant buyer at the aquarium. “To do that with a magnifying glass and not have a template or anything is amazing.”

Mr. Rowett said he finds his recent -— and unexpected — recognition exciting.

“Everything is growing,” he said. “It’s hard because I can only make so many pieces, because each piece takes about an hour. When it’s sunny out, I feel like I have to burn. But it’s enjoyable.

“It’s exciting to have a few people appreciate my work.”


10/09/13 2:30pm
10/09/2013 2:30 PM




Smack in the middle of mental illness awareness week, a group of individuals will be spending Thursday combining art and mental health advocacy on Thursday at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.

Creative Explorations Network, a group who seeks “to self heal and build connections through artistic expression” according to their website, will host an artists’ exhibition and mental health awards luncheon from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The daylong event is open to the public and features an art gallery with works from nearly 20 artists, live music, and a presentation of two short films. The Mosaic Voices Show, an original one-act play, will be performed in the evening, and awards will be given to people who have performed outstanding advocacy work, particularly in the mental health field.

“It’s really more of a human rights celebration,” said Julie Burroughs Erdman, the group’s founder and associate director. “That’s the crux of what we’re doing.”

Founded in 2011, Creative Explorations Network is composed of artists, writers, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, and other craftspeople, according to their website. They meet primarily at members’ houses, usually on the East End.

“Flashbacks From My Past,” an animated documentary produced by artist and filmmaker Irra Verbitsky, is one of two short films that will play at Thursday’s event. Ms. Verbitsky, who lives in New York City and has a studio in Baiting Hollow, said the 13-minute movie is a blend of three of her other short films — “Starry Night, “Departure,” and “The Portrait.”

“Flashback From My Past,” Ms. Verbitsky said, is based on events from her life, such as the experience of being a little girl during World War II. An animation professor at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Ms. Verbitsky drew each scene in “Flashback From My Past” by hand.

“It’s about my life, but it’s my life within the scope of what is going on in the world,” Ms. Verbitsky said of the film’s theme. Some of her paintings and drawings will also be displayed at the event’s art gallery, she said.

“Her films are so moving,” Ms. Burroughs Erdman said of Ms. Verbitsky’s work. “Part of what we want to do is kind of show the resilience of the human spirit, and part of the way to do that effectively is to sort of contrast what’s worst about humanity with what’s best.”

Guests can register for the exhibition and luncheon at www.creativeexplorations.org. If attending the luncheon, the event is $15 per person. All other guests are asked to make a suggested $10 donation, Ms. Burroughs Erdman said.


05/08/2013 6:00 PM
At Tuesday's school board meeting, Shoreham-Wading River High School students unveiled a mural they will send to Newtown, CT.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Shoreham-Wading River High School students unveiled a mural they will send to Newtown, Conn.

Less than six months after December’s deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., art students at Shoreham-Wading River High School are preparing to send a large mural there that they spent weeks creating.

The mural, which was unveiled at Tuesday evening’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting, was commissioned by high school principal Dan Holtzman and supervised by art teacher Shannon Lustig. It will be shipped to the Connecticut town at a future date.

“Mr. Holtzman wanted to do the mural so he came to me and asked if I was interested in participating,” Ms. Lustig said. “He wanted something uplifting and happy. I brought it to the students’ attention and we decided we wanted to do a landscape.”

The finished project features a woodland scene with a meadow and the words “Hope. Love. Dream.” Ms. Lustig’s students also painted 26 butterflies to represent the 20 children and 6 adults who were killed in the shooting.

Ms. Lustig, 33, said that the eight students who worked on the project donated “countless hours” to create the mural, which was started after winter recess and completed last week. She said the Home Depot in Coram donated about $150 in supplies for the project.

“This mural represents respect and admiration for the 26 people that were prematurely taken from this earth in Newtown on December 14, 2012,” Ms. Lustig said.


09/23/12 5:00pm
09/23/2012 5:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Artist Thomas McSwane, left, with his wife, Nancy, in front of Mr. McSwane’s painting “Tree in the Middle.” His work will be on display at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn Art Barn in Jamesport until Oct. 21.

For Riverhead expressionist artist Thomas McSwane, art is more than just painting a landscape as it appears to the naked eye.

His watercolor technique involves adding the feeling he gets when looking at North Fork landscapes — including its energy and hidden colors and patterns.

The husband and father of four children said he has projected those meditative feelings into his art for the past 43 years by adding an array of bold, swirling colors to his landscape pieces. Mr. McSwane describes the method as “Landscape-Inscape,” which is also the title of his latest art exhibit at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn Art Barn in Jamesport.

“The idea of inscape is a philosophical thought from the Middle Ages that also has to do with poetry,” he said. “The idea is about the beauty of the creative world around us and how it’s more than just what you see.”

Originally from the Los Angels area, Mr. McSwane earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from San Diego State University and studied art history and art criticism at Stony Brook University’s masters program under renowned artist Donald Kuspit.

Over the course of his art career, Mr. McSwane has showcased his work in a variety of art galleries, including in Greenport and Riverhead, as well as in St. Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan. While painting and raising his children, Dillon, 17, Josie, 21, Jessie, 27, and Dustin, 30, Mr. McSwane has also worked as a host and waiter at Tweed’s Restaurant and Buffalo Bar since it opened in downtown Riverhead.

“I’ve been painting for so many years and through raising and supporting a family, there has always been my art,” Mr. McSwane said.

In addition to his own garden, Mr. McSwane said he enjoys painting the Peconic Bay and Indian Island, as well as other landscapes across Long Island. An active member of the Living Water Church in Aquebogue, Mr. McSwane also gains his inspiration from the Bible.

During his exhibit’s opening reception Sunday, Mr. McSwane — wearing rainbow-colored, thin-rimmed circular eyeglasses — said he recently decided to put together a show after a 10-year break from exhibiting his work when his wife, Nancy, started to categorize his art this summer.

Ms. McSwane, a vocal drama coach, said she loves looking at her husband’s paintings because she sees “joy” and “excitement” in each one.

“I see another world, even though it’s a painting of my front yard,” she said of Mr. McSwane’s “Tree in the Middle” painting. “It’s not just a brown tree. He takes the other hints of colors and brings them out.”

The free exhibit is open Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m. until Oct. 21. For more information, visit Mr. McSwane’s Facebook page at facebook.com/Colorpsalm.


09/23/12 12:00pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Roy Kinzer during his lecture on artists’ paint during Saturday’s East End Arts program.

Golden Working Artists certified instructor and professional artist Roy Kinzer gave a members benefit educational lecture called ‘Acrylic Potential’ in the East End Arts Carriage House in Riverhead Saturday morning.

Mr. Kinzer, of Union City, New Jersey, said he wasn’t offering a “how to paint lecture, but how paints work. It’s all the stuff that they don’t teach you in art school.”

He told the 20 artists in attendance about the two families of pigments; dry, matte and opaque mineral pigments and modern pigments, which are transparent and shinier. Artist colors are designed to last for 500 years and are tested for light fastness, said Mr. Kinzer.

Golden Paint is an American paint company founded in 1980 in upstate New York. Golden Artist Colors, Inc. is known as a maker of premier acrylic artist paints.

East End Arts education director Steve Watson said the Saturday workshops are geared to draw in emerging, professional artists and hobby artists. He encouraged those in attendance to send him ideas and suggestions for the member benefit workshops and asked non-members to get involved with the East End Arts.

02/04/12 12:00pm
02/04/2012 12:00 PM
Performance artist Kate Mueth from the East Hampton dance company Neo-Political Cowgirls among the art at the opening reception for East End Arts' Members' Show Friday in Suffolk County Community College's Montaukett Learning Resource Center in Northampton. The college hosted the show while EEA's downtown Riverhead gallery is being refurbished.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Performance artist Kate Mueth from the East Hampton dance company Neo-Political Cowgirls among the art at the opening reception for East End Arts' Members' Show Friday in Suffolk County Community College's Montaukett Learning Resource Center in Northampton. The college hosted the show while EEA's downtown Riverhead gallery is being refurbished.

• “Light and Shadows,” pastels and acrylics by Fran Liburt of Orient, is on view at Mattituck-Laurel Library during February. An artist’s reception will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5. Ms. Liburt donated one of her paintings for the library’s January art raffle.

• Mattituck-Laurel Library’s downstairs display case will hold a collection of art in wood by Harry Wicks of Cutchogue through March 30. Most of Mr. Wicks’ pieces are fashioned from local wood, much of it “rescued” from downed trees.

• An ‘Artist-in-Residence Retrospective’ will be the focus of East End Arts’ First Friday Arts Talk for February. The informal presentation will start at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, in the EEA carriage house in Riverhead. Past and future EEA artists-in-residence will discuss their experiences or goals in the program; artists interested in applying to the program are encouraged to attend. Call 369-2171 or visit eastendarts.org.

• ‘Poetry at Poquatuck,’ a celebration of poetry and art, will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Orient hall. Poets Luke Conti, Vivian Eyre, Pierre Gazarian, Sarah Kain Gutawski, Billy Hands, Yvonne Lieblein, Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan and Adam Penna will be featured, as will artists Alan Bull, Holly Mastrangelo and Annie Wildey.
Admission of $10 will benefit Poquatuck Hall. Contact Linton Duell at ocslid@aol.com.

• ‘Art Through the Ages II,’ a group art show featuring work by Peconic Landing residents and art students from Greenport Schools, will be on view from Feb. 3 to 12 at Brecknock Hall in Greenport. Exhibit hours are 2 to 5 p.m. An opening will be

held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3.

• A preview of ‘Alan Bull: An Oysterponds Sampler’ is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at Oysterponds Historical Society’s Janet T. Swanson Gallery in Orient. The exhibit of multimedia representations of the artist’s favorite places in Orient, along with essays and personal anecdotes, will be open 2 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 26.

• Black-and-white images by landscape photographer Ken Hubbard can be seen from Feb. 5 to April 1 at Clovis Point winery in Jamesport. A reception for the artist will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.

• Painter Bryan Gutman and photographer Howard Stevens will be the featured artists at Jamesport Manor Inn’s Rosalie Dimon Gallery from Feb. 3 to May 2. Mr. Gutman, of Patchogue, mainly paints local landscapes, particularly autumnal scenes. Mr. Stevens, a Rocky Point resident, travels the world for his images of people and places.

A reception is set for 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 4. The exhibit is a joint effort of the Jamesport Manor Inn and East End Arts, of which both artists are members.

• Small works in oil by Naomi Campbell are on view through March 5 at The South Street Gallery & Framers in Greenport.

To send arts news, email lsisson@timesreview.com, fax to 298-3287, or mail to Times/Review Newspapers, P.O. Box 1500, Mattituck, NY 11952. Copy deadline: Wednesday at 5 p.m. to appear the following week.

01/08/12 3:00pm
01/08/2012 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH | Calverton artist Dennis Link, now 65, with his self portrait from 1971.

Self-taught artist Dennis Link of Calverton had an opening reception in the Elizabeth Fox Overton Gallery at Riverhead Free Library Saturday afternoon.

Home inspection is how he makes his living, but creating art is his “passion,” he said.

He said he was raised in Brooklyn and started drawing with colored crayons at a very early age. His mother gave him and his sister “Paint by Number” sets for their birthdays, but very quickly he said he couldn’t follow the rules.

“Once I started, I couldn’t stop,” he said.

He was inspired by the movies “Lust for Life” and “Agony and Ecstasy” and so he started to paint with more detailed and energetic brush strokes.

In his 20s, Mr. Link focused on raising a family and building his real estate career and didn’t return to art until his 50s.

“Art makes me forget all my problems,” he said. “It lets me be in the moment, like meditation.”

His paintings, in pastels and oils, are taken from famous works of art he has studied. He said he doesn’t try to copy them, but be inspired by them, studying the brush strokes and the light. Paintings in the show, hosted by the Friends of the Library, are inspired by the works of DaVinci, Gauguin, Vermeer, Modigliani, VanGogh, Rouault, and Pollack.

The show will be on view through the month of January.

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