Sixteen artists — some living in Queens, others who have visited, and a few who’ve just been influenced from afar — have been brought together in “Express+Local: NYC Aesthetics,” an exhibition on view at the Queens College Art Center through the end of the month.
All were invited to participate in a rotating month-long residency program and exhibition thanks to their varied and personal artistic responses to the borough, according to exhibition curator Tara Mathison.
After viewing the over and under passes at Queens Plaza, one participating artist, Howard Lerner, created “Ezekiel’s Vision,” a large, multi-tiered sculpture, which, like much of Lerner’s artistic output, is Biblically inspired. Other works he has made are entitled “The Burning Bush” and “Ark of the Covenant.”
“You get influenced by what is around you,” he said. “Queensboro Plaza is interesting architecturally. There’s a lot going on above.”
Lerner often incorporates mundane objects into his works: a lampshade, a toy and a flour sifter are all part of “Ezekiel’s Vision,” which took him six months to make. From a base of plywood that has been painted green to represent the earth, the sculpture rises 96 inches, culminating at the top with a throne and God’s name, in Hebrew, spelled out in mirrored letters.
“I scour flea markets,” he said. “I look for things in Dumpsters. I like old. I like to see paint build-up. I may not use something for five or 10 years. I know it will be good down the road.”
In the months leading up to the exhibition each participating artist had the opportunity to ply his or her craft in the gallery, helping to demystify the act of making art, according to Mathison.
“As a creative person, it is sometimes difficult to show the process step by step,” she said. Mathison would like the public to realize that art is “a form of popular culture. The show asks everyone what they think.”
For Becky Franco, interaction with spectators even led to the renaming of her entry. A recent graduate of Queens College, she contributed a 7-foot-by-4-inch oil on canvas painting which was originally to be called “Consumer Gluttony.”
The work, a realistic depiction of over-the-top luxury jewelry and “all the stuff all the girls want,” was inspired by Franco’s daughter, who, she says, “is very unhappy if she doesn’t have the status item.”
The residency offered “a way for people who are into art to see the process of artists and to ask questions,” Franco said. “I engaged the students who came in. We talked about consumerism.”
Franco, who finds herself “very affected by culture,” finally decided to call the painting, “Too Much Is Never Enough Bling,” which, as the artist sees it, “is about the redundancy of wanting things — it’s a vicious cycle.”
˝lso participating are Kristyna and Marek Milde, immigrants from the Czech Republic who created their contribution, “Looking For a Home,” from furniture found on the streets of New York. The objects are cleaned, repaired and categorized. Their collected pieces add up to a life-size work in progress that is actually being used as a lounge by visitors to the exhibit.
They hope to raise environmental awareness through the work by giving new life to old things.
According to Mathison, response to the exhibit has been tremendous.
“The art market is struggling,” she said. “It is important to support art as part of our culture. Unless we support it, it could easily be replaced by reality TV. These people deserve support for what they’re doing. It’s a really smart exhibition.”
The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, can be found in the Rosenthal Library’s Art Center at Queens College.
‘Express+Local: NYC Aesthetics’
When: Weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.through June 30
Where:Queens College Art Center, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing