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Rockaway Artists celebrate ‘A perfect 10’

Many of RAA's veteran artists are represented, as well as some newcomers - or at least folks I've never seen exhibited at RAA before. There are framed poems by RAA old-timer Dan Guarino and others by veteran M. Elliott Killian, which she wrote to go with her lovely watercolor seascapes, "Breezy On the Bay," "Red Sails" and "Driftwood." Guarino also has photos in the exhibit as well as poetry. "Connections" is a photo of telephone pole and wires against fair weather clouds, and there's a photo of the open dome of RAA's outdoor theater. But there's a note of sadness about the exhibit this time. It's dedicated to Izabella Slobodoff, one of the original members who died last month. Her beautiful, alabaster "Thoughtful Boy" is displayed alone on a table, lit by a single overhead light that brings out the stone's natural translucency. It reminded me of George Minne's "Kneeling Boy," but Slobodoff's boy is well-fed and peaceful. The sculpture is so skillfully made that if you run your finger down the boy's back, you can just feel his spinal column.On the other side of the room Geoffrey Rawlings presents with two dangerous-looking ladies. "Venus in Chains," a mixed media work, shows a woman made out of his trademark hardened foam. She wears very cool sunglasses, and a little net teddy. Her Nubian knots are nails, her earrings and nose ring and one of the nails are connected by a wicked looking chain. In Rawlings' "Spring Awakening," another woman in cool shades strides toward the viewer with a healthy arrogance. She has iridescent wings from which shoot flame and flowers. Way beneath her a city seems to cower in the wake of her magnificence. Norma Allende has two clay sculptures, "Reclining Figure," a form in three pieces, and "Solitude," a seated, Virgin Mary-like woman. Jean Jackson-Moore's "Beaded Woman" is an homage to African masks. It seems to be made out of beaten gold, and adorned with hundreds of colored beads. Her "Wordpower" is another African mask with straw hair and a face covered with words pertaining to the Civil Rights movement snipped from newspapers and magazines. Maryann McEvoy has two beautiful quilts, "Frog and Fly in Fern" and "Moon on Purple." Both works have nature themes; the former shows a fabric frog waiting for his lunch, which approaches on wings made of red gauze lined with gold. The latter shows phases of the moon against a plushy purple background. Roger Carreau's photo "When Winter Covers Spring" is a lovely black-and-white print of a spring flowing through a snowscape. His color photo, "Hope Flag," shows the sun's light struggling through an American Flag. "Icarus Falls to the Sea," by Richard Rowney Connell, is two pieces of driftwood, one horizontal and one vertical, on a barrel. The vertical piece, with its shipworm eaten furrows, does evoke something plunging, in flames, from the sky. His "Yard Birds" are two playful blue herons made of driftwood and metal. Wilda Gallagher, who is also new to me, has three straightforward works, "Water Lilies," "Limes 'n' Olives" and "Eve's Window," in watercolor, pastel and acrylic. In Christina Jorge's "After Loss" a huge lemon - two cherries are nearly lost in its shadow - dominates a painting.Scott Weingarten's photos are notable for their balance, crispness and observation of shapes that are both everyday and unexpected. There's the Cartier-Bressonesque "Roman Walker," which shows the shadow of a man walking on Roman cobblestones - the artist says this was taken at around 10 p.m. Beside it are ripe pumpkins with twisty stems and beside that swirling benches Weingarten photographed in downtown Manhattan. Diane J. Ali also has photos in archival inkjet that have a monumental feel to them, including "Window in Sandstone," "Retreating Arches" and "Basket and Peppers," which have been seen in previous exhibits. Bryan Bernath has "Ship Waiting," a photo of what seems to be an oil tanker with a rusty hull. Joan D. Vogel's "Breezy Girls" seems to be a companion piece for Killian's little watercolors and is indeed placed close to them. The painting shows a couple of sunkissed girls in a crowd, maybe waiting to get on a ferry. One of the girls wears a pink bathing suit, the other wears a blue one. Janet Dever returns with her "Streets of Venice I" and "Streets of Venice II," both watercolors that show the canal's still green waters and the beautiful Renaissance buildings whose doors upon them.In Kevin Callaghan's painting "Egret," the white bird waits on a pier with the Gil Hodges Bridge in the background. And in Maureen McGuire's "The Sunlit Windowsill," a crystal vase holds two crossed yellow calla lilies. Another calla lily lies on a purple table next to another crystal object. Kenneth Axen has mysterious and deeply moving photos of women, "In Mother Teresa's Orphanage," "Greek Woman" and "Portugese Fishermen's Wives." In the last photo two women in black walk barefoot, their backs to us, on a beach. Their husbands are already in their little boat and heading out on a misty and dangerous looking gray ocean. In this photo a feeling of hopefulness wars with a feeling of dread. The sea is huge, the boat is tiny, the women are already dressed in black, but the men have been going to sea, and coming back, for ages. Veteran RAA artist Denis Macrae has "Ice Skaters, Broad Channel," which shows a group about to try a game of ice hockey on the frozen strand at around sunset. In his other photo, taken in Indonesia, a man herds a bunch of ponies towards a plateau that's so enormous and breathtaking that it takes up the space where the sky should be. Jen Connell has three delightful works of Pop art - "New Jersey Map," "Labels" and "Gum" - which are intensely and affectionately observed ordinary things. Even the revealed stick of gum looks like it's been twisted a little, if not chewed. Nearby is James McKay's Daliesque "Sundown," where a cowboy in a bizarre desert seems to be facing down what looks like either predatory birds or marauding spaceships. "Giant Squid" and "Medusa Gorgona" are examples of Robin Pogrebitskiy's driftwood sculptures. The first one does look like the entangled tentacles of the monster, though it has a quirky little face with mother of pearl eyes, and the second seems to have been carved from an entire tree root. I always wonder where on earth Pogrebitskiy finds these pieces of wood. Renee Radenburg's beautiful and delicate mobile made out of beer bottle glass and copper wire hangs from the ceiling.In the vestibule, Desmond McGowan's photos of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and a cascade make these oft-photographed objects look new, and Irv Gordon returns with his photos. In "Heading Home" we see two people through an archway. They're holding hands as they make their way up a narrow, cobbled street in some nice little French village. Gordon's "Beneath the Verrazano Bridge" makes you aware of the hugeness of the edifice, and his "Trinidad Beach" shows a grove of windswept palm trees. I was also struck by Mary Kelly's "Las Ballerinas Tejanas," which feature three beautiful Mexican girls dancing in colorful Tejana costumes."A Perfect Ten" is a wonderfully put together show of previously seen work (I don't want to say "old stuff") and work that is startlingly new. It'll be up through Aug. 29.

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