THIS ESSAY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF ACES MAGAZINE
Now on view at the Briarcliffe College Gallery is Stony Brook: 1973 – 2016, a group exhibition curated by John Cino. The exhibition highlights the artwork of noted visual artist and art educator Mel Pekarsky, alongside select alumni who have studied under the artist over the course of his 40-plus year career at Stony Brook University. Stony Brook: 1973 – 2016 was organized by the Patchogue Arts Council and is a part of the Patchogue Arts Festival, a month long, multi-venue, downtown centric festival that encompasses the visual arts, music, and cinema in the Patchogue Village.
As an artist, Pekarsky is fascinated by the bareness of desert landscapes. For the artist, the desert is vast, fragile, and forever changing. The desert sand buries long-abandoned structures and decomposing fauna, swallowing them whole underneath the surface; incorporating them into the desert itself. The desert is beautiful with its open, tranquil landscapes that begs contemplation, but is also unforgiving with its extreme temperatures and weather conditions that can be lethal for those unable to adapt. For Pekarsky, the desert stands as an icon for the earth’s fragility and functions as the artist’s muse as he examines the relationship between abstraction and representation.
For the exhibition, Pekarsky lends Dry (1998), a monumental mixed media work on un-stretched canvas. The artist depicts an immense desert landscape from an elevated point of view. The yellow-brown pigmentation of the sand is peppered with plots of pale-greens and dark browns, which is representative of the desert’s vegetation and sediment. The figurative is abstracted into solid patches of color and gestural sketch work, allowing the viewer to fill in the details mentally. There is an introspective quality to the work as one examines it. Perhaps due to the painting’s large size and spares subject matter, the viewer may feel as if he or she is lost in the desert, trapped in his or her own thoughts, tolling around looking for something of significances that has been lost to time. As with any living thing, the desert signifies the passage of time as what was once filled with life, vibrancy, and potential inevitably leads to death, deterioration, and impotence.
Pekarsky began his career at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studying painting and art history before transferring to Northernwestern University where he received his BA in Studio Art (1955) and MA in Art History (1956). After serving in the United States Army, Pekarsky taught at Kendall College from 1960 – 1967 and served as the Associate Dean at the School of Visual Arts from 1967 – 1970. In 1973 he accepted a position at Stony Brook University, where he would spend the next 41 years of his academic career. Throughout his time at Stony Brook University, Pekarsky served as the Chairman, MFA Director and Studio Programs Director of the Department of Art, where he rewrote the department’s BA in Studio Art program and implemented its MFA program in Studio Art. Pekarsky retired from Stony Brook University in 2014 but continues to maintain an active studio.
The Patchogue Arts Council, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, founded in 2008 to promote, encourage, and support the arts. The council features five curated exhibitions per year at its Patchogue Arts Gallery, in addition to an annual juried members exhibition. The Patchogue Arts Council also operates a satellite gallery in Roast Coffee & Tea Trading Co. and has initiated several community-centric events, such as the Patchogue Arts Festival and Arts on Terry Street.
Stony Brook: 1973 – 2016 is on view at the Briarcliffe College Gallery from October 1 to October 31. The exhibition features the artwork of Michelle Carollo, Yeseul Choi, Donna Levinstone, Bruce Lieberman, Maureen Palmieri, Jason Paradis, Mel Pekarsky, Andreas Rentsch, Dan Richholt, Lorena Salcedo-Watson, and Athena La Tocha. Stony Brook: 1973 – 2016 is part of the Patchogue Arts Festival, a month long, multi-venue, downtown-centric festival, which encompasses the visual arts, music, and cinema. For more information on the Patchogue Arts Festival, visit http://www.patchoguearts.org.
Dry © 1998 Mel Pekarsky
Image courtesy of the Patchogue Arts Council