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Artist to exhibit work in two Manhattan shows

Artist Karine Falleni tilts her head in the direction of a Christmas tree nestled in a corner of the Rego Park residence she shares with husband and fellow artist, Dale Rinkowski.

"I'm taking the tree down today," said Falleni, her hands curling around a steaming cup of herbal tea. "Maybe. That is, if there's time."

And first things are first for Falleni, which means preparing for two upcoming Manhattan shows. One, is a Jan. 20, one-night-only exhibition on Mercer Street in Soho and the other venue, an exhibition at ABC No Rio, a bar/gallery on Rivington Street that will exhibit Falleni's canvases throughout next month, starting with a Feb. 4 reception.

"I have just five days to get everything set up and ready to go, so I feel a little crazed just now," said the artist, "but it's a nice kind of crazy, I guess. A lot of great things are happening with my career just now."

A 1997 graduate of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Falleni, just 24 years old, has wasted no time in gaining recognition for herself as an artist worth watching. Not even a full three years out of college, the Jan. 20 Soho show marks her fifth Manhattan exhibition, a notable feat for an artist her age.

"From my graduating class, I know of only three other artists who have actually continued to paint and are trying to exhibit their work. It's a lonely field," she said. "Many of us turn to the computer graphics industry to earn a living. Too many abandon their art work altogether in the end."

Falleni, however, could never consider, let alone cotton to the concept of abandoning her art work. Instead, while still at college, she found a day job. Working as an administrative assistant at a public relations firm, Falleni would juggle the job, her classes and her own personal painting schedule at night.

"They've been wonderful. They've also allowed me to have a flexible schedule. I leave at 5 p.m. I don't take the job home with me. At home, I paint. I make the time, no matter what."

Having a husband who is an artist himself has helped immeasurably, in Falleni's view. She met her future spouse, Dale Rinkowski, during her first year at school. Initially a friendship, their acquaintance blossomed into romance and by age 20 she was married.

"Oh, at first we had a futon and an old TV on a crate. That was our furniture," she recalled. "But, we knew we were right for each other. There didn't seem to be any point in being apart, in waiting to establish ourselves before getting married," she said. "A lot of people view marriage that way, I know, but I don't."

Falleni credits her European upbringing for the value she places on hearth and home. Her father, an Italian businessman, moved to New York when Falleni was just 6. Ever since then, Falleni has lived in three worlds: the United States, her father's native Italy and her mother's native France.

"It's my dream to one day spend part of my year in the States and part of my year in France," she said in accent-free English. "I also know a gallery owner who has encouraged me to try Milan - says it's the New York art scene of Europe."

"Who knows? There are pluses and minuses. The pace here is crazy. In Europe, the work isn't all important at the expense of a home life. Family, I think, is valued more there," she said. "But the art world still seems to be here."

And it's a tough world at that.

"I've received great advice from two former instructors. I wish I had pocket versions of them that I could carry around with me," she said. "They told me to persevere at having my artwork shown wherever and whenever possible. And they told me it would be tough."

Undaunted, Falleni has blanketed the city with invitations to her show and has walked into galleries on the spot, her portfolio tucked under her arm, trying to get the necessary attention.

"I was told by instructors that nine times out of 10, when you mail slides in to a gallery, the slides will be thrown out," she said. "But, I keep going. It's paying off. And, there really isn't any choice in the matter. This is what I am, what I do."

Falleni's Jan. 20 show will be held 7-10 p.m., 7 Mercer St., between Canal and Grand (take the "N" or "R" train to the Canal Street Station).

For more information about Falleni's January or February exhibitions, call the artist at (718) 793-1295.

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