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Queens photographer seeks to make fragments ‘fit perfectly’

John Grillo's "day job" is teaching art to special ed students, but it's his avocation - photography - that is being featured at the Rockaway Artists Alliance's "Photographs: Near and Far" at Fort Tilden in the Gateway National Recreation Area in Rockaway.

Grillo mainly does landscapes, and the exhibit includes scenes from about 100 yards away, as well as locations several thousand miles away in Costa Rica and in Italy.

In his work, he tries to "take all the fragments before me, no matter how imperfect, and make them fit perfectly," he said.

"My personal task is to discover what in the world is meaningful, and how it can be described in a photograph."

The photos at the exhibit are in two formats: conventional 35 mm, and in panorama. The images, says the RAA, "capture a quiet and poetic beauty of landscape and of some of its inhabitants."

The Rockaway home of Grillo and his wife, Esther, also a special ed teacher as well as a sculptor, is as intriguing as their artwork. It is actually a 1925 Jewish temple that was falling into disarray and slated for demolition. The Grillos bought it in 1990, and spent three years renovating it and bringing it up to residential codes - all the while having to navigate the Byzantine series of licenses and permits they had to get from the city Buildings Department.

They retained five of the eight intricate stained-glass windows, as well as several Stars of David imprinted on the structure. "It is a home now, with kitchen, bathroom and all the rest, but when you come up to it, you know that it used to be something other than a house," Grillo said.

Grillo's work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of the City of New York, and other venues

The RAA exhibit runs through June 10 in Studio Gallery 6 in Building T-6 at Fort Tilden. Call 718-945-3131.

Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at glenn@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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