Artist unveils ‘pixel art’ aquatic mural at Riverhead’s community garden


A Smithtown artist working through East End Arts’ JumpstART project installed a mixed-media mural at the playground near the River & Roots community garden Monday morning.

Artist and illustrator Samantha Neukirch, 23, of Smithtown along with her assistant and boyfriend Joe Arias set up the 4-foot-by-16-foot mural on the back wall of the town’s comfort station.

The mural, titled “BLUE.EXE,” has images of loggerhead turtles, nurse sharks, a humpback whale, jelly fish and seals. The piece is dedicated to the Riverhead Foundation “to the hard work they’ve done to preserve our local marine ecosystem,” Ms. Neukirch said.

The theme, she said, is “to celebrate the local aquatic ecosystem in this digital age depicting ocean native to Long Island waters and the Sound.”

“The mural itself was inspired by my love of the ocean, local aquatic wildlife, and by the work of the Riverhead Foundation,” Ms. Neukirch said. “The images on the mural were done digitally on the computer and printed out in pieces, then taped and wheatpasted to the painted background.”

Ms. Neukirch created the mural as part of JumpstART, now in its second year as an East End Arts public art project.

She mentored with artist Caitlin Shea — who created hummingbird mural on East Main Street — and was able to raise about $1,800 to pay for the project through family and friends.

“I’m very grateful for all of the help I’ve received so far, but this project has ended up costing me a lot more than first expected,” she said. “The cost ended up being so high because of trying to buy the highest quality materials possible to make the make the mural last as long as possible.”

The mural had added emotional meaning for Ms. Neukirch Monday morning.

The Fashion Institute of Technology graduate had worked under the late illustrator Jeffrey K. Fisher at the former Drawing Studio LI in Smithtown. He died away one year ago to the day. Another mentor, professor Don Sipley, also died earlier this year.

The mural was dedicated in their honor, she said.

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Photo credit: Barbaraellen Koch