Artists of all types will emerge from studios, dark rooms and rehearsal spaces this weekend for the LIC Arts Open, a two-week-long neighborhood festival that promises to be all encompassing. The event, directed by Secret Theatre founder Richard Mazda, features music, dance, visual arts, improv comedy, theater, food, walking tours — basically any and every type of entertainment the area offers.
In her studio, room 303 at the LIC Art Center at 44-02 23 St., photographer Fran Kaufman sorts through black and white pictures of jazz musicians, trying to decide which of her sublime works to showcase. Images of legends like Frank West, Al Gray and Benny Golson surrousd her. When Kaufman quit her longtime job as Big Bird’s publicist, she said she had no idea what she wanted to do. “‘I don’t care what I do. I just want to go to a jazz festival,’” she recalled telling her husband. Her wish was granted, but before long, she had another wish — to photograph the musicians she admired.
“In a sense, I was a photographer for a long time,” Kaufman said, adding that she used to direct photographers as a publicist. “The only difference now is that I am holding the camera.”
Kaufman never shoots with a flash and does her own printing — a skill she acquired through professional classes. She prefers to take black and white pictures. “I think you see the essence of the photograph when you see a black and white photo,” she said.
In what seems for her to be the true payoff of her photographic explorations, the jazz fan is invited to rehearsals that most photographers don’t have access to. She sees the greats in their pajamas and learns all of their stories, retelling them with verve.
Enthusiasm for her subject matter is apparent in all her work. In fact, during a recent Beacon Theater concert Kaufman said she was so enthusiastic that she ended up accidentally hitting the back of a woman’s head with her telephoto lens. “But I got my shot,” she said grinning.
The Manhattanite came to her large and light LIC studio after being priced out of her borough. The moment she saw room 303, she fell in love. “I called my husband and said ‘Bob, if you love me you have to get on the 7 train with your checkbook,” — she had left hers at home. “I refused to leave the place until I knew it was mine,” she said.
Kaufman’s work will be on display at her studio and in the Secret Theatre in the same building.
In the lobby, the work of Lego artist Sean Kenney, photograher Marlon Krieger and artist Annalisa Iadicicco will be on view beginning May 14 at 3 p.m.
Iadicicco’s piece, “Mother Earth,” is a sculpture featuring a large zipper and fake flowers. Iadicicco, originally of Naples, Italy, said she wanted to make it as if the Earth were erupting — like an earthquake. Her studiomate, Krieger, will display his fashion photographs.
Like Kaufman, Krieger had no professional training when he decided to pick up a camera. However, unlike her, he prefers to shoot with film because he finds it more challenging. “Anyone can take good pictures if they just keep shooting,” Krieger said of the digital medium, adding that French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the term “decisive moment” — the split second in which a photo is made. “If you look at his contact sheets, every third shot is the shot,” Krieger said of Cartier-Bresson’s work.
Though still in his 20s, Krieger has already decided he doesn’t want to be a war photographer. He got to take photographs of civil war in Haiti, but would not again go to a combat zone. “I don’t want to show pain and suffering,” he said. “I think we need to show something that leaves people with hope.” He has moved on to shooting semi-nude women. “There is this pride that can only come from a woman,” he said, discussing the women in his pictures, who are usually not models.
Their poses are commanding and the photos themselves reveal Krieger’s unique yet classic eye. “For me, everywhere I look is a photograph,” he said.
Around the corner at Maria Spector’s studio, room 203 at 10-27 46 Ave., the artist is hard at work, sketching outlines for her next painting. While some artists go big, Spector prefers to stay small. “I can work through my ideas faster,” said the Kew Gardens Hills native and Astoria resident. “I made a big piece and had to ship it to Alaska, and I thought, that’s it. I am working small.”
Spector, who is a bit obsessive by her own admission, makes works that deal with girls’ transformation into womanhood. “We think things have changed,” Spector said regarding adolescence, “but I don’t think there’s so much difference. There is still a magnifying glass on girls changing into a women.”
In her most recent work, Spector has taken images of famous teen and pre-teen stars from different decades and placed them in line with figures she paints herself. Her 9-year-old daughter, Sonya, is often painted into her work.
When Spector comes into her studio and can’t think of what to do, she creates tiny business card-sized paintings of whatever pops into her head. Her collection of colorful cards is diverse, featuring everything from detailed paintings of tampons to Pepsi bottles to Dumbo the elephant.
The little cards are like fine art one might find in a doll house. They are endearing as the artist herself, whom you may meet at her open studio.
The LIC Arts Open has much more to offer than could be mentioned in one article, so visit the event’s website for more information.
LIC Arts Open May 14 through 22
When: Studios open May 21-22, noon to 5 p.m. (various locations). Opening party May 17, 5 p.m.
Where: The Industry, 21-45 44 Drive, LIC
visit licartsopen.org for full schedule