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Queens-bred artist’s work shown

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When Gladys Thompson Roth, who grew up in Auburndale, stepped into the art gallery at Queensborough Community College last week, she was thrilled to see 35 years worth of her work standing before her.

The college, at 222-05 56th Ave. in Bayside, celebrated the opening of the exhibit “A Journey in Stone and Wood” last week, which features works made by the 87-year-old Roth over the past 3 1/2 decades.

“This is truly beautiful,” Roth, who grew up in Auburndale and now lives in Great Neck, L.I., said of the exhibit.

As she walked around the gallery, which will display her work through Feb. 28, she recalled the stories behind each of the pieces — the ones inspired by her relationships with her daughters and mother and others by strong identification as a feminist. There was the piece made from lignum vitae, so hard that it is used to build ships, and the work made from Brazilian wood that Roth remembers made her “sneeze throughout making the whole thing.”

More than anything else, the show represented a passion for art cultivated over a lifetime into which she has poured countless effort.

“I’m very interested in the human form and human relationships,” said Roth, who was an early childhood and special education teacher in Queens schools for decades. “I hoped that people who come to see this would enjoy the beauty of the forms and relate to some of the feelings I’ve expressed.”

Roth said she has long drawn on her relationships with her two daughters and other family members for inspiration, evident in “Mother and Child,” a soapstone sculpture that depicts a mother holding a child clinging to her neck. Works like “Free to Be Me,” a wood sculpture that shows a woman stretching toward the sky, gives “the feeling of emancipation, my spirit wanting to reach out into the world,” Roth said.

For the past 30 years, Roth said she has been involved in the women’s movement as a director of Womanspace, an organization based in Great Neck devoted to furthering women’s rights.

Faustino Quintanilla, executive director of the QCC Art Gallery, said he looked forward to the public being able to experience the exhibit.

“I hope people learn from her works, her sensibility in her work,” said Quintanilla, a Spanish native who said he tries to routinely show local artists in an effort to connect with the surrounding community. “To me, her work is very poetic, very meditative. It embraces truth and beauty.”

The QCC Art Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is closed Monday. For more information, visit qcc.cuny.edu/artgallery.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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