Artist Christine D’Addario discusses the opening ot the Local Artist Pop Up Gallery in Locust Valley, featuring her works and those of Marceil Kazickas of Port Washington, Ilene Silberstein of Cutchogue, and Ellen Hallie Schiff of Glen Cove. Credit: Chris Ware

"It was on my bucket list," said landscape painter Christine D'Addario, of starting her first gallery. It turned out she wasn't alone. Locust Valley Gallery, a pop-up that opened in mid-April and will close in mid-June was an unexpected offspring of the pandemic and a dream come true for four Long Island women artists. Marceil Kazickas of Sands Point, Ellen Hallie Schiff of Glen Cove, Ilene Silberstein, Cutchogue resident and co-president of the Art Guild of Port Washington, and D'Addario who's from Locust Valley, partnered for a place to share their artworks with the community.

Isolation and closures affected everyone this past year. For some, the passage of days seemed unending, for others it meant a renewed connection to nature or the opportunity to pursue passions. "For the first couple of months I really didn't paint all,' said Schiff, whose abstractions are part of the gallery's four-woman exhibition." I just made banana bread like everyone else. I couldn't concentrate at all. But, as the summer progressed I was able to paint."

Now she's taking on huge canvases and finding new imagery. When she completed a diptych with a group of dark, biomorphic shapes atop a pink background, she found echoes of emotions and experiences. Realizing it was her response to the pandemic, she wanted to show it and share her truth with others.

Artist Christine D'Addario said she's wanted a gallery, since she...

Artist Christine D'Addario said she's wanted a gallery, since she was a little girl. Credit: Chris Ware

HEALING THROUGH ART

For D'Addario, painting was an escape and a form of healing. In February 2020, the 43-year-old mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer. At about the same time her family began locking down she started treatments that proved to be successful.

"It was just wonderful to be home with my family," she said, "and it gave me so many more hours to work uninterrupted in the studio. To make great work you need to be in a flow state of mind."

Then last winter, rather than dreaming of tropical climes, she came up with what she called a "visual vacation." She went to a local antiques store and asked if she could hang one of her Long Island beach paintings in the window. She did. It sold, and it started her on a new journey. "I've always wanted a gallery, since I was a little girl," D'Addario admitted.

Soon after D'Addario's three friends agreed to join her, Kazickas found a perfect spot for their gallery on busy Forest Avenue. "Things fell into place really quickly. Sometimes opportunity arises and you have to really grab it. It's a little scary," Kazickas said.

The gallery has also been cathartic for Kazickas, whose road to art was serendipitous. "When my daughter went back to college, I inherited her tuition at the local art school, and I ended up taking her classes," she explained, adding that a long term bout of chronic pain resolved when she picked up her brushes, years ago. Since then, she's made it a constant practice, finding uplifting comfort in her tall, nature-based abstractions. "I tried a lot of different things — meditation, yoga, acupuncture, everything you can think of, but art was my miracle," she said.

Ilene Silberstein, of Cutchogue, specializes in still lifes done in...

Ilene Silberstein, of Cutchogue, specializes in still lifes done in "Rembrandt colors." Credit: Chris Ware

A PLACE TO HANG OUT

Ilene Silberstein has organized hundreds of exhibitions at the Art Guild. No one expected her to have trouble hanging her own work, least of all Silberstein, herself. Spreading out dozens of her still life paintings in what she calls "Rembrandt colors" was a surprise — and a challenge. "When I went to hang my show, it was like I was stuttering. I wasn't sure. That's where Christine, Marcie and Ellen came over. They got me to where I could move on," she said, adding, "This it took me out of my comfort zone, and I am having a ball."

In addition to welcoming visitors, the new gallerists plan outdoor painting demonstrations, an evening featuring live music and "decorator Tuesdays" to welcome interior designers from the area.

It's been almost 100 years since Virginia Woolf argued that, for women artists and writers to be creative, "A Room of One's Own" was crucial. After years as artists, these four friends built theirs. Though the gallery will close in June, they all admit to eyeing empty commercial spaces. "We're absolutely thinking of doing it again it," said Silberstein.

WHAT Locust Valley Gallery

WHEN | WHERE Through June 13, 1-5 p.m. Thursday, 1-6:30 p.m. Friday, 12-6 p.m. Saturday, 12-3 p.m. Sunday and 11-3 p.m. Tuesday, 27 Forest Ave., Locust Valley

INFO Free; 516-695-6071, locustvalleygallery.com

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