Thursday, April 30, 2009

Art that keeps 'Hope' alive: BWAC showcases optimism in a time of crisis

By Meredith Deliso

(published in the 4.30.09 issue of 24/Seven)

Dawn Robyn Petrlik initially was going to go with “Black and Blue and Art” as the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition’s spring art show, but given the political and economic events of the past few months, she thought a better color to go with was “hope.”

In the show, “Color of Hope,” up May 9 through June 14 at the coalition’s Red Hook gallery space, over 300 Brooklyn artists are exhibiting over 1,600 new works that react to the uncertain economic climate but offer optimism in their interpretations of hope.

“Almost every piece of art [in the show] could be considered hopeful,” said Petrlik, a Windsor Terrace-based artist and chair of BWAC, and the curator of this year’s spring art show. “The act of creating art could be hopeful, and the act of sharing in that statement is still hopeful.”

In addition to being forward-looking, the pieces range from the provocative to statement-making. One of Petrlik’s own submissions, hand-painted trillion dollar bills, which each feature a different version of what or who may appear on the face of this currency, simultaneously question the value of money.

“It’s all tongue and cheek,” said Petrlik, whose works are $1 bills painted over with the faces of figures like President Barack Obama, John Lennon and even Bernie Madoff. “I’m making a little bit of light of it, but also questioning the value of money, which is seeming somewhat arbitrary these days. I think it’s impossible for most people, myself included, to actually understand how much money that is. I had to look up how many zeros that was” (it’s 12). “It’s beyond comprehension.”

The show’s featured artist, Renee Radenberg, takes inspiration from her natural surroundings for her assemblages and playful, light-catching mobiles, made from recycled materials, namely sea glass collected from Brooklyn’s beaches. Other pieces in the show include Russell Mehlman’s painting “Memorial Day,” depicting a family scene, Bill Storoniak's "Brooklyn Bridge" (pictured)Gary Heller’s “The little things in life,” a fuzzy, murky photograph of flowers, and Sandra Taggart’s “Double Dutch,” an almost unfinished-looking drawing of the children’s game.
“People are really responding well to the theme,” said Petrlik. “I think it’s important for artists to focus on their own feelings of the economic crisis and the larger crisis our country is in.”

Viewers can contemplate their own feelings and reactions, with more than 1,300 pieces to take in, in all mediums, ranging from painting and photography to multi-media and sculpture.
“There’s always something to discover because there’s so many,” said BWAC Arts Administrator Jane Gutterman, of Cobble Hill. “All members [of BWAC] are invited to exhibit with us. We’re a very democratic organization.”

While viewing the numerous submissions, gallery-goers will also be serenaded by a New Orleans street bands and a jazz guitarist, with The Loose Marbles playing the opening day, joined by swing dancers, and Ron Jackson performing on Sunday, May 10, during the opening weekend.

Each week of the show will also feature more musicians and free screenings, including Brooklynite Dawn Scibilia’s Emmy award-winning documentary “Home” on May 16, which examinations immigration and the idea of place in New York City. May 16 also sees the performers of Parallel Exit bringing to life the book “The Museum Trip” for a family-friendly afternoon titled Making Books Sing.

For more information on these, and other programs happening on the waterfront through the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, go to or call 718-596-2506. The gallery is located at the end of Van Brunt street, along the waterfront in Red Hook.


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