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Florence Sklarek Levine, co-founder of LI nonprofit artist cooperative, dies at 91

Florence Sklarek Levine, who died at 91, is

Florence Sklarek Levine, who died at 91, is the co-founder of The Graphic Eye Gallery in Port Washington.

Artist Florence Sklarek Levine wanted to earn as much as possible from her work -- specialized, sometimes experimental prints. She was tired of sharing her earnings with art galleries and agents and wanted to display her art closer to home on Long Island.

So in 1974, Levine and a group of other artists helped launch The Graphic Eye Gallery in Port Washington, which today is one of the oldest artist-run nonprofit cooperatives on Long Island. "She and the other artists wanted to be more in control of their finances," recalled her grandson Jesse Fischer.

Levine died June 14 of natural causes at her East Williston home. She was 91.

Over the past four decades, Levine's work appeared in several galleries, and she produced more than a dozen sculptures in marble and alabaster and some paintings. But her specialty was intaglio printing -- created by etching a design into a metal plate and allowing ink to settle in the recessed areas, and then pressing it onto paper, Fischer explained.

As chair of the newly opened The Graphic Eye Gallery, Levine explained to The New York Times that she and other artists wanted to get rid of the middleman in their business. "All of us were selling through agents or galleries which took anywhere from a third to three-quarters of the sale price," Levine explained. "And all we ever got was 25 percent. This gallery was born of the fact that one day a number of us began to bemoan our fate."

The Graphic Eye Gallery was eventually a success and held numerous shows. In 1988, Newsday's Margaret Moorman noted that "Levine clearly is given to experimentation," describing a print called "Andromeda" that used leaves and gauze on her printing plate to add texture to her final work. Another collagraph, as the technique is called, showed a galaxy in a deep, blue-black space.

In 1987, Newsday critic Karen Lipson described various examples of Levine's collection called "Geometric Series," which relied on "decorative combinations of printmaking, paper collage and painting."

Levine was born in Roselle Park, New Jersey, but spent most of her life in Queens and on Long Island. She was married for 64 years to her husband, Milton, a sheet metal manufacturer, and the couple were avid cyclists and early members of the Long Island Bicycle Club.

She also is survived by her son, Joel of Melville; daughter Ilene of Princeton, New Jersey; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A service was held June 17 at Gutterman's funeral home in Woodbury, with burial at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.

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