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Puzzling over art at LI Children's Museum

Brianna Reese, 7, uses 3-D glasses to view

Brianna Reese, 7, uses 3-D glasses to view the exhibition "Swirls, Waves & Puzzles" in the KaleidoZone gallery at The Long Island Children's Museum in East Garden City. (March 12, 2011) Photo Credit: Barbara Alper

Seth Newman of Great Neck eagerly places the 3-D glasses on the bridge of his nose and studies the image before him. While other 8-year-olds are probably spending this rainy Sunday afternoon watching a 3-D film in a local theater, Newman, is gazing upon a piece of puzzle art created by Woodmere artist Alli Berman, whose exhibition, "Swirls, Waves & Puzzles," is currently on display in the KaleidoZone gallery at the Long Island Children's Museum.

"It felt like it was coming out at me," says Newman, of the highly textured abstract squiggles and swirls in bright acrylic colors -- hues that also attracted the attention of Miara Berkowitz, age 6, of Kew Gardens Hills, whose favorite color is pink.

"The colors were popping out," she says.

PLAYING WITH ART

Indeed, Berman's playful interactive art, painted onto squares as small as 9-by-9 inches, seem tailor-made for the Nickelodeon set who are busy holding, stacking, rotating and piecing it together in new combinations.

Ronit Vardi, 41, of Woodmere, brought her three children, ages 3 through 12, to the exhibit. "They really liked it," she says. "They liked that they could do things with the art -- change it, make new shapes. They liked the idea of looking at it with the 3-D glasses and seeing it differently, and when we came home, they immediately wanted to color. They wanted to try to create what Alli had made themselves."

That's just the kind of reaction that Erik Schurink, the museum's director of exhibits, was hoping for.

"The goal of the KaleidoZone gallery is to make art and the artist's process accessible to our visitors," he says. "As part of every exhibit, the museum adds activities that facilitate the act of looking at art. Alli's work inherently does that, as it is textured and very touchable, and can be easily manipulated so that children can make their art from her art."

Berman says her use of thick, raised paint is intended to be touched, rather than simply admired, so that viewers can feel the movement and depth.

"My paintings need to have an internal dialogue," she says, noting that the 3-D effect is achieved through a combination of color choice, layering and brush strokes. "I get a vibration going in the painting, and this movement causes mental noise or conversation that is made visible and 'audible' using the 3-D glasses."

ART AS THERAPY

Berman, who suffered a stroke about 20 years ago, is also partnering with behavioral optometrist Susan Fisher of North Bellmore on a PuzzleArt Therapy System that uses her art to help children and adults develop their perceptual, learning and oculomotor skills.

"Challenging yourself constantly is actually a tool -- and a very effective one -- to keep your brain sharp," she says. "These concepts help develop imagination and other perceptual skills that people of all ages need to improve their schoolwork, their business lives, their daily lives, and their brains."

Swirls, Waves & Puzzles: The Art of Alli Berman

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Long Island Children's Museum through May 8

INFO 516-224-5800, licm.org

ADMISSION $10 (free younger than 1)

SPECIAL EVENT April 21, Alli Berman will be conducting one-hour workshops at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the museum, teaching children of all ages about colors, lines and shapes. Included with museum admission. Tickets are limited and can be obtained at the museum box office.

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