Being an artist can be lonely — so says Eileen Palmer of St. James, of the hours spent in her studio. "Even when your art is accepted someplace, if you're not friends with the other artists, you can feel awkward."
That didn't happen when she exhibited at Mills Pond Gallery in October, because she was surrounded by members of Women Sharing Art, a group of Long Island female artists. "My tribe was there," she says, "patting me on the back."
The same thing happened when Carole Amodeo showed her photography at a December "slide slam" look-see for curators of art exhibitions. One member presented; five came to watch.
"We were supposed have a board meeting, and I said let's just go and see Carole. We'll have the board meeting afterward," recalls the group's president, Sue Miller of Bayport.
FORGING A SHARED CRAFT
Women Sharing Art isn't just about cheering. It's a nonprofit organization of women dedicated to learning and growing together, and strengthening one another as artists. There are about 30 members, including teachers, homemakers, businesswomen, a retired judge and an independent curator with an advanced art degree from Harvard. They range from their 40s to mid-80s and travel from as far as Dix Hills and the Hamptons to Sayville every month to meet, brainstorm and inspire. All started as amateurs. All aspire to more.
"I wanted to get to be a better photographer," Miller says. "I was looking for a group of like-minded people. I wanted my art to go someplace. I wanted to share with other people, and I felt there was a need for a support type of group."
In 2008, a local camera shop owner suggested Miller should meet fellow photographer Pat D'Aversa. They got together, invited three other local artists and founded Women Sharing Art. Though they've never had one apply, Miller says they'd gladly welcome male artists.
CAMARADERIE AND KINSHIP
Despite her drive, Miller was once shy about exhibiting. "I very often hear from women, myself included, my work isn't good enough. My work isn't worthy of showing" she says. She set out to change both the perception and the facts.
Meetings have included lessons, visits from practicing artists, and art handlers teaching how to professionally hang works. Members have traveled together to museums and workshops, learning new skills. Recently, both Miller and Palmer tried welding. "Not being afraid to try new things," Miller says, "it's just a part of being an artist.
Part of the mission has always been giving back. Their 10th annual scholarship fundraiser exhibition "Small Works by Members at Large" just wrapped up at Bay Area Friends of Fine Arts Gallery in Sayville. Each year, two or more high school girls receive funds to continue their art education. In 2018, Jennifer Suarez and Öznur Ayyildiz from William Floyd High School, Sophia Denaro from Sayville High School and Winnie Lu from Sachem North High School were all winners.
Like most members, Libby Hintz of Sayville, who makes vibrant mosaics, had never shown her work before joining the group in 2009. After using a gift certificate from her husband to take a class, she started making belt buckles and sold them to friends. When she went to the Sayville General Store to see if she could place some, she heard about an exhibition of women artists at the nearby Gillette House.
"I dropped by and told Sue my story. She gave me a big hug and said, 'Welcome to Women Sharing Art.' " Now, Hintz has exhibited dozens of times and gives lessons in mosaic-making, having made the journey from hobbyist to exhibiting artist to teacher.
"I love being part of the group," she says. "I'm still nervous showing my art, but it's gotten a lot better."
Women Sharing Art
INFO 516-840-3255, womensharingart.org
Some members of Women Sharing Art are part of Long Island Craft Guild's "Echoes" 60th anniversary exhibit.
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Saturday, March 9, through April 7, Art League of Long Island's Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, 107 E. Deer Park Rd., Dix Hills
INFO Free; 631-462-5400, artleagueli.org