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Two Rockaway Artists shows focus on bodies, idols

There are few things more lonesome than Fort Tilden on a cold and rainy afternoon — even the flocks of geese and starlings look downtrodden. Fortunately, “To Our Idols” and “Bodies of Work,” the two exhibits now on view at the fort’s Rockaway Artists Alliance, brought a much appreciated physical and emotional warmth. Both sTudios 6 and 7 were well attended despite the weather. Wine and sushi platter, cookies and little cakes were served.

“To Our Idols” is the exhibit in sTudio 6 and features artists’ tributes to people who influenced them. The first painting you see is “Keef” by Geoff Rawling, an oil on canvas of Keith Richards, looking much better than he does in real life. Jerry Glick has three enthusiastic paintings of boxers: “Carmen Basilio Fighting Tony DeMarco,” a painting that Basilio autographed, and portraits of Marvin Hagler and Roy Jones Jr. Glick also has an affectionate painting of a young Frank Sinatra.

Larisa Lavina’s idol isn’t a person but a landscape, an evocative painting called “Memories of My Homeland,” while Martha Killian has “Reagan,” a watercolor showing the former president during his B-movie days, with a horse. She also has the moving “Veteran’s Way,” “WWII Memorial” and “Where Eagles Soar.” She also wrote a poem to go with the latter.

Ralph Petagna has “Idol #4,” a photograph of a man with, it seems, his young son, and “Idol #2,” a photograph of Jesse Jackson. His other idol photograph, whose title the writer didn’t catch because she didn’t want to trip over someone’s sleeping Newfoundland, was another photo of a young child — if this little person was one of Petagna’s idols, it was touching.

Down the wall was Karen Newringer’s acrylic of a young woman called “Annahir,” which is Rihanna spelled backwards. Next to the portrait Newringer writes that she admires the pop singer for her voice and that she “walked away from an abusive relationship.”

Daniella Sessa has a portrait of Nine Inch Nails in concert, a dreamlike scene looked at from above and to stage right, and Igor Guschin has an acrylic of St. George slaying the dragon, painted after an Orthodox icon.

Dina Kaliko, who was the writer’s tour guide for a while, has three interesting digital photos of her idols: Albert Einstein, Wayne Gretsky and Andy Warhol. The writer wondered where she’d gotten the photos until Dina explained that she took them at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum — they look amazingly lifelike. She’d taken hundreds of photos, she said, and couldn’t say why these affected her.

Dan Guarino, a long time member of RAA, has a stunning photo, “Vigilance,” of the dramatically lit head of the Statue of Liberty. The low angle at which the shot was taken makes her look especially fierce and yes, vigilant. His poem “Those People” should be quoted at length:

I sat

on

Plymouth Rock

and

wondered

what

this country would be

if

we let in

a whole lot

of people from

different

places

with all their

different

ways ...

Maureen McGuire has a painting of her grandmother and her dog, “Suzie Slane and Spot.” In it an old lady stands in a yard with her dog with chickens and ducks around them. The chickens have beautiful plumage, the ducks are white. Behind them all are well-tended bushes and a hay rick. All seems growing and fertile. And Dan Guarino returns with “Sir Paul McCartney and Me (I was taking the picture)” which is a straightforward photo of Macca and his guitar. Next to it is a framed, well-composed list of “Those Who ... Shaped me,” from Thomas Edison to Lon Chaney(!).

Back at the front of the room are MaryAnn McEvoy’s “Quilting UFOs” and “Rocky,” which seems to be a portrait of a face in colored markers.

“Bodies of Work” is next door in the much larger sTudio 7, whose improvement has been spectacular. Once an unheated barn, it now has central heating — thank goodness — a library, dark room, classroom, and will have a kitchen where new board member Sophia Skeans will teach children to make marzipan. Beautiful russet tile had been put down on the floor just that day.

The works are, of course, about bodies. There are nudes but only a few of them are mildly erotic, and these, like Yuri Yurov’s giclee “Smoke” are tastefully so. Jonas Mienak’s “Highway Two” is a gouache featuring a bunch of cops and their motorcycles, and his “Mummers” and “Mermaid Parade” are huge crowds depicted in swirls of intense colors.

Geoff Rawling’s “Sanctuaries” is another one of his works celebrating the female form — in this one a nude woman who might be out of ancient Egypt sits with her black cat. A red heart has been painted or tattooed in the small of her back.

On a less comfortable note, “One Foot At a Time,” is an assemblage of Audrey Irwin’s photos and X-rays of a foot afflicted with hammertoe and the operation to fix it. One hopes it wasn’t her foot, because the photos look mighty painful.

But overall, the other exhibits weren’t! “To Our Idols” and “Bodies of Work” will be up through April 3.

If You Go

“To Our Idols” and “Bodies of Work”

When: March 13-April 3

Where: Rockaway Center for the Arts, Fort Tilden, Gateway National Recreation Area, Rockaway

Contact: RockArt116@aol.com 718-474-0861

Web site: www.rockawayartistsalliance.org

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