2013-02-01 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Desparately Speaking Sandy
Commentary By Susan Hartenstein


Artist Geoff Rawling will host a RAA Writers Group performance event at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, for his new “Media Blend” exhibition at the Brooklyn Library’s Kings Highway Branch. (Photo by Yuri Yurov.) Artist Geoff Rawling will host a RAA Writers Group performance event at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, for his new “Media Blend” exhibition at the Brooklyn Library’s Kings Highway Branch. (Photo by Yuri Yurov.) There is a storm of emotions and thoughts in the wake of Sandy, as powerful as the storm itself. And stories: Tragic, uplifting, ironic, darkly funny, inspiring. Stories not finding their way to the major media outlets. Rockaway artists are telling these stories, cathartically expressing these profound truths – in whatever mediums they use to express such things. “I write a poem,” I always say, “when I would explode if I didn’t.”

They are speaking for all of us, not simply in the hard, cold style of reportage. But viscerally, personally, sometimes wrenchingly, sometimes triumphantly reflecting the realities of the peninsula post the event that changed us all, forever. Sandy beat us up, not just physically, but in the fundamental views we have of ourselves, our environment and each other.

Thomas Kerr, one of the editorial cartoonists for The Wave and a member of the RAA Writers Group, is developing a graphic novel that chronicles tales he’s heard and experienced personally that are “not being told [in the news media like the Daily News].”

Kerr, who has also placed photographs of Sandy’s wake in The Wave, is a fine artist and concerned member of our community whose perspective and talents dig down to the heart of the storm and his audience and himself – art can be both cathartic and unifying. Picture the desperate look on the face of a woman clinging for life onto a pole in water up to her shoulders. What is it they say about a picture and a thousand words?

At the recent RAA Writers Group meeting, members were talking about “documenting a piece of history.” Another said of the Writers Group meeting, “we needed a venue to express ourselves.” And that they did.

One group member read her humorous yet heart wrenching piece. It included the incident of a woman offering her some soup…because the woman had been given the soup by another generous soul. Another described her panic at having to grope around the stairwells of her apartment house on Shore Front Parkway in total, unforgiving darkness. Another expressed the renewed hope that arises when you survive a catastrophe like Sandy – you feel you can survive anything.

Dan Guarino performed a song he wrote that poignantly expressed the homesickness felt by those who had to leave Rockaway…for who knows how long.

Singer/songwriter/musician John Simonelli, familiar to RAA audiences, is on a new CD titled “Greetings From South Queens: Songs That Survived Hurricane Sandy.” The contributing musicians and bands had their living and studio spaces washed away and needed an outlet to express themselves. This CD is a compilation put together by Walker Hornung of tracks sent to him by those musical “displaced persons.” Simonelli’s contribution is a song based on an idea that came up at a Writers Group meeting.

In related RAA news, a special event featuring the RAA Writers Group has been added to “Media Blend,” the exhibit of twenty mixed media pieces by Geoff Rawling at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Kings Highway branch. The event takes place Sunday, February 10, 1-4 p.m. and will also feature original works written, produced and performed by the group and also Dan Guarino on acoustic guitar. The branch is located on Ocean Avenue just off Kings Highway. “Media Blend” is on exhibit through February 14 during library hours and is located downstairs at the library. For more information please call 347-337-8066.

RAA board member, master watercolorist and printmaker Christian LeGars suffered the loss of his printing equipment to Sandy. However he and other RAA/Brooklyn Watercolor Society members will be part of the John Singer Sergent Watercolors exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, from April through July. Brooklyn Watercolor Society has been invited by the museum to give lecture/demonstrations during the exhibit. Bravo Brooklyn Watercolor Society. More news on this series in a future column.

See you @RoCA

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