Digital Long Island

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Digital Long Island, Nov. 2007



November 4, 2007

THE next Salvador Dali is just as likely to wield a computer mouse as a paint brush.

That’s the way many digital artists see the future of their work, which employs computers and technology to produce images. But what is less certain, they say, is just when that next Dalí — or at least the top talent in their fold — will receive recognition and acceptance by the art world at large.

Local artists say they hope the inaugural Digital Long Island festival will help bring much-needed exposure to their work. The event, to be held Nov. 8 to Jan. 11, will be the first major Long Island-based exhibition of national and international digital artists, featuring digital paintings, computer-based illustration, digitally manipulated photography, digital video art, digital collages and films.

The festival was conceived through a collaboration between the Smithtown Township Arts Council and the digital artist Laurence Gartel, of Boca Raton, Fla. A Bronx native, Mr. Gartel, 51, produced some of the first examples of electronic art in the late ’70s using tools he built and modified himself.

Inspired by the annual winter exhibition Art Basel Miami Beach, Mr. Gartel said he wanted to create a similar venue for media artists. He chose Long Island because it is a place dear to him, he said; he grew up in North Shore Towers, on the Queens-Nassau County border, and after receiving his bachelor of fine arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he studied photography at C. W. Post.

A year and a half ago he sent out a number of e-mail messages with his ideas for a digital festival, including one to Allison J. Cruz, executive director of the Smithtown arts council, whom he had never met. Ms. Cruz said they became “fast friends,” and she set to work trying to bring Mr. Gartel’s vision to reality.

Her goal, she said, was “to get people to collaborate and make it like a New York expo where all of the galleries participate.”

The vision had to be pared down. Without adequate financing, galleries and colleges were reluctant to participate, Ms. Cruz said. But some of the smaller art councils, like the one in Port Jefferson, stepped up to offer exhibition space and materials.

The festival — which its creators hope to make a biennial event — will consist of three exhibitions: a juried student show featuring the work of Suffolk County high school students at the Art League of Long Island, Dix Hills; a juried show, including American and international artists, at Mills Pond House Gallery, St. James; and an international invitational exhibit at the Port Jefferson Village Center that will feature work from as far away as Russia and Japan.

Mr. Gartel, the sole arbiter and juror, reviewed more than 2,000 submissions and accepted 65 for the national show and more than 80 for the student exhibit.

The student show is particularly important to the artist. “I want to give students the hope that what they’re doing is worthwhile,” he said.

Tim Needles, a media arts teacher at Smithtown High School East, had three of his students accepted into the exhibit. “The students are really digital natives,” he said. “There are many students who would never have been interested in picking up a paintbrush, but they’re entirely comfortable with digital media.”

The students’ pieces include drawings created with programs like Adobe Photoshop and digital photographs that have been manipulated. “Elemental,” by Rudy Nazitto, a junior at Connetquot High School, shows a silhouette of a young man filled in with what appears to be a cloud-streaked blue sky.

Winning students in the juried show will receive a scholarship to attend a Photoshop workshop being given by Mr. Needles in January, Ms. Cruz said, and will also be featured in SchoolArts Magazine.

With the national exhibit and the international invitational, Mr. Gartel said he hopes to inspire digital artists and to show the mainstream art world and the viewing public what quality digital art is.

“If it’s out of focus, it’s not art,” Mr. Gartel insisted.

With computerized art programs ubiquitous, anyone can claim to be a digital artist, Mr. Gartel admits.

“The 250 million people on MySpace are even contributing in some way,” he said.

A national exhibitor at the festival and full-time digital artist, Alain K. Khadem, 42, of Ronkonkoma, said he sees this as the beauty of the medium. “Let everyone participate and let the best expression of ideas emerge,” he said at his home studio here, where he displays his collection of more than 50 works, “Vanitas: Still Life Collection With a Twist.”

In the Region
Long Island, Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey

Mr. Khadem’s work is based on the Baroque art movement Vanitas, which was preoccupied with iconography communicating the brevity of time. Mr. Khadem’s work is often grouped in pairs — two pieces that are nearly mirror images of each other but with slight differences that impart individual meaning to each.

Four of his pieces have been accepted into Digital Long Island’s national exhibit, including “Abuse of Power” and “Retribution,” a pair that he created using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and printed on canvas. Both show the same hammer; in “Abuse of Power,” the hammer is pulling a nail out of a board, while in “Retribution,” the hammer itself is nailed to the wall.

Acknowledging that the art world is still skeptical about digital art, Mr. Khadem said he would like to see a shift in perspective. “It’s really not the medium that’s important; it’s the concept,” he said. “If the content is bland, it doesn’t matter what you used to produce it.”

A panel discussion with five international artists, moderated by Laurence Gartel, will be held at the Port Jefferson Village Center, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.

Digital media workshops for both artists and students will be offered at the Mills Pond House Gallery, Jan. 2 to 11.



What's New with My Subject?

UPCOMING SHOW _ New York - November 10, 2007 - Digital Long Island Media Festival

Mill Pond House Gallery. St. James, NY "Digital Long Island National Exhibition." Juror: Laurence Gartel. November 16, 2007 - January 11, 2008.

Digital Long Island Media Festival . New York - November 10, 2007
Liquid Room - International ArtExpo Collection

General Information.
Digital Media Festival is one of the 4 core exhibitions of Digital Long Island. The New Media Festival wishes to address the excitement that is now percolating with small devices to deliver ommunicative statements instantaneously and through innovative portable devices.

While bandwidth remains the last issue in delivering fully downloadable feature films, small devices can impact people with short sequential footage. It is the goal of the New Media Festival to embrace the objectives of content.

Digital Long Island is looking forward to bringing articulate statements through digital content to the populace of this region. The showcase of New Media will travel to multiple venues across Long Island and present itself to the widest possible audience.

.curator Luca Curci
.place IMAC Theater - 370 New York Avenue, Huntington, New York 11743 - USA