Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lilith Jones, muralist, in "the highest room of the tallest tower" and beyond

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Be prepared to be enchanted when you walk into "the highest room of the tallest tower" of the Cold Spring Harbor Library, actually the library has only one two-story tower, but what a tower it is!

You enter the brightly lit room; it is circular, arranged like a child size amphitheater with the floor and three steps / seats softened with a carpet; its ceiling is white, the walls are covered by a colorful, evolving scene, gently broken by the rhythm of windows overlooking the harbor area. The simple geometry is so charming, the size so comfortable that you immediately feel captivated.

See the muralist Lilith Jones add new elements to the July landscape scene. The voice recording is not the best, but if you can hear well enough, you will find Lilith's comments invaluable.

The room, in an impressive, new library building, designed by Beatty, Harvey & Associates, was designated as a story time room. The library director, Helen M. Crosson, wanted a mural in there. She commissioned the muralist, Lilith Jones of Huntington, who, with a long list of nature depicting murals in her portfolio, was a perfect choice.

The library, built on the state land, included a nature center. It was befitting that the mural should include the types of ecosystems surrounding the library. Tons of research went into identifying the topography, soil, moisture level, native plants and animals to be rendered in the mural. When it is completed it will present images of 250 species of local plants and animals.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
The mural is arranged to depict the scenes beyond the walls at the changing seasons: woodland with May bloomers, then an imaginary backyard scene with a humid June forest on the left changing into a drier, sandy hill with early July plants; freshwater pond with a mid summer picnic scene follows and extends into another, late August, panel with collected samples. The mural dips in the last panel to include underwater plants and animals, the friendly-looking seal, known to visit the area in October, steals the scene.

When children enter the room, they start exploring the room by running along the round wall. This is exactly the effect the creators have envisioned, the mural is made to be touched. Lilith used durable and safe paints and will coat the walls with a protective layer after the mural is completed to ensure it stays that way for a long time.

Maybe it would not be so bad being a princess locked up in this enchanted tower (perhaps with an access to the stacks and computers). If one were to kiss a frog to turn it into a prince, Lilith would probably know the right specie :).

Lilith's knowledge, talent and charisma are so great, that it's a miracle she is able to paint at all. Children come every few minutes, a lot of them know her from her art classes (she very seriously and with full conviction calls them artists). Adults drop in and chat with her. There is a constant string of admirers, myself included. I have been there five times within the last week or so.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Lilith created murals in various other public and civic places - at the Harborfields Library in Greenlawn, at the Friends Academy in Locust Valley, at the Nature Conservancy in Cold Spring Harbor, or in the kids section of the Book Review in Huntington. She has also painted private rooms in houses of the nature loving folks - it could be an atrium, sun porch, kid's room. Some clients when moving asked Lilith to paint again at the new location. In a few instances she even painted an equivalent of a mural on canvas so that it can be easily relocated. She will recommends images for a particular location to better accommodate the architecture and the size of a room, type of wall, or light in the room changing at different times of day.

Her portfolio can be seen in her gallery.

Lilith has also illustrated two and co-authored one nature book for children: "Wacky Plant Cycles" by Valerie Wyatt and Lilith Jones and "You Don't Look Like Your Mother" by Aileen Lucia Fisher.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Lilith was raised in Locust Valley. Since her childhood she was interested in drawing and in nature. She applied to an art school, transferred to Stony Brook to study biology. The anatomy drawing class brought her back to art. She had studied painting with Stephen Rettegi, Hungarian-American oil painter, for about a year and a half. She immersed herself in the world of great art by reviewing one art book after another in search for interesting ways of the artistic expression. Now she herself teaches painting in the Huntington School of Fine Arts in the high school portfolio program.

Lilith has a deep appreciation for nature, she spent a lot of time around it throughout her life. She not only lived with it but also followed her interest with a diligent study and continuous consultations with naturalists. She was known to erase an object from a mural when it was found out of its environment, for instance, a May flower which was depicted blooming in late August.

She found nature based murals to be a perfect medium for her where she can combine both her passions - art and nature. The collaborative effort involved in creating a mural appeals to her, as well.

Photo by
Ewa Rumprecht
She paints her murals in two different styles, with form depicted by patches of color, like the mural in Cold Spring Harbor Library, or with a form outlined in purple, black or brown, the latter producing lighter images. The selection of technique will depend on the theme, the feeling of the space, and, obviously, the budget.

Themes might be, as she calls them, whimsical and present imaginary figures, usually animals doing imaginary things, like elephants, mice and monkeys reading books in the Harborfields Library murals. Themes might be based on nature and then will be presented true to originals, like the mural at the Cold Spring Harbor Library.

All murals share the same challenges - a proportion of space or perspective and focus at different vantage points. Lilith solves the problems with a pragmatic approach which leaves the viewer not overpowered by the size or location of the murals but charmed by their welcoming and harmonious presence.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Donna Ferrara, stoneware, function and beauty

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
At the time when I first met Donna Ferrara I was still attempting, clumsily and ineffectively, to center a piece of clay on a rotating potter's wheel. Donna was throwing one pot after another, each one perfectly shaped. That was no accident. She had previously studied with Japanese potter Makoto Yabe at Clay Art Center in Allston, MA, and at the Radcliffe Pottery Center at Harvard. She joined Andrew Quient pottery studio in Glen Cove in mid 90's. After Andrew closed his studio and moved to Massachusetts, Donna worked at various other studios on the island and eventually opened her own in Sea Cliff.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
She creates her own works there, but also has a nicely sized group of students, 3-5 per session. She liked the idea of teaching even before, but when put to practice she found teaching very rewarding and inspiring. Some students are advanced, some come with an idea of making a particular piece, maybe a statue of a horse or a dish for some special occasion. There is no strict curriculum, every student is allowed to develop within own area of interest. Donna is there to offer guidance and to teach the technique appropriate for the chosen object.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Donna's professional life before stoneware - she graduated from the School of Visual Arts, with a BFA in painting and printmaking, worked in needlepoint and textile design, was employed in visual display at Conrans - always revolved around creating things beautiful and functional. This carried on into her pottery. You take one of her pieces, it is nicely balanced, it feels right in your hand, it looks beautiful. You want to serve freshly rinsed, ripe peaches in one of her colanders; a hearty meal of pasta is even more inviting in a nice, deep bowl with an earthy feel to it.

Donna's work is ever evolving. She continuously experiments with new colors and shapes. Even the most sophisticated gourmand will settle for a new recipe, Donna will create a new serving dish to match her culinary fancy! This is true luxury and this is how many new shapes come about. Donna takes summers, when it is too hot to fire the kiln, to explore new glazes; she consults pottery magazines and researches formulae recommended by fellow potters.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
As with any experiments, some ideas work, some do not. I was half expecting her kitchen cupboards to be filled with the "rejects". I was wrong, she likes to use dishes that match her high functionality and beauty standards.

More information about Donna's work can be found on her website

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Paean to a local library

Let this post be a paean to a local library.

If you visit your library every other day, and many patrons do, you already know what a great place it is! Not only can you find traditional printed materials, local archives, and multimedia, but also access numerous databases, learn a language, or reserve a free pass for a family trip to a museum. Yoga, crocheting, bridge, finger painting - whatever is your thing, you are sure to find similarly minded neighbors of yours who sign up for classes every day.

Check out your library's website to see the wealth of resources at your disposal. It is your tax money at work and it is a pleasure to see how well it serves you!

Some libraries provide a web tool allowing you to calculate how much you save by using the resources, this calculator is from the Locust Valley Library website. I have done my math and, though I was a very modest library user in recent months and chose to err on the conservative side, my savings came up to over $800 per year! Not bad at all. Think of a family of four!

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Let us look at one library in particular, the Harborfields Library. It serves villages of Greenlawn and Centerport, which at the time of 2000 US Census had combined population of 18,732 between Greenlawn at 13,286 and Centerport at 5,446. The library was started in 1970'ies in a converted school house now substantially expanded to accommodate the growing needs with grace and comfort.

Carol Albano, Director
Ryan Athanas, Assistant Director
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Carol Albano, Director, and Ryan Athanas, Assistant Director, are the very professional, energetic, and cheerful duo at the helm of the Harborfields Library. With 80 staff members, 28 of them full time, they manage to run such a great library, a community center really, that even real estate agents mention it to the prospective buyers in the area! The library also happens to have a great location, just at the center of Greenlawn, within an easy walking distance from the high school, the post office, the train station, and shops.

The library has a good fortune to attract readers of all age groups, including the one statistically most resistant to printed word. Many a parent may have a problem getting junior to do anything brainy, let alone visit a library. The Harborfields Library has thriving young adult programs. The library provides an Xbox and computers, the usual draw, but it must the genius loci that keeps young people coming back.

14,476 registered card holders visited the library 415,782 times and perused 315,156 books and other materials in 2009, that's roughly 22 transactions per year per reader, 1 every two weeks or so. This does not include the 1,049 programs attended by 27,975 participants in that year. Since most of the programs are run by the in-house staff, the librarians are quite busy there.

The Harborfields Library is able to provide all these services thanks to a generous support of the community; the library budget was never voted down in its 40-year existence. The library is also blessed with a very active and progressive thinking group of supporters - Friends of the Harborfields Public Library who are behind various projects making a visit to the library such a rewarding experience.

Mural by Lilith Jones
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Mural by Lilith Jones
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Mural by Lilith Jones
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht