Unusual artwork boosts spirits of Rotterdam Junction flood victims
Star Wars Legos, coffee-stain painting part of show
ROTTERDAM JUNCTION A local church hosted what may be the first art show to include a boy’s Star Wars Legos, a handmade clock and a painting made from coffee stains, as well as the more typical ink and pencil drawings.
The Church of St. Margaret of Cortona hosted an art show to highlight the beauty that remained despite the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. Organizers asked residents to showcase their art — whatever it was.
“We need something to lift the spirits here, to find the good and beauty people still have,” explained organizer Kay Skelly. “When the flood occurred, it was such a shock to people. Nobody ever thought this would happen in the Junction. The water was rising, and people thought, ‘Oh, it will go down.’ And suddenly it’s six feet high.”
Cleaning up has been an ordeal, and church members agreed an art show might be a feast for eyes too accustomed to looking at mud and mold, “to bring out the beauty, rather than the non-beauty we’ve been surrounded by,” co-organizer Martha Szuminskyj said.
It was Szuminskyj’s job to get people to submit their work — and it wasn’t easy.
“Most people were very reluctant. I think they were afraid they would be judged harshly,” she said.
So she showed them a watercolor painting she had made during a 30-minute class. The splotches of paint gave an outline of a nature scene, but nothing in the painting is clear.
“I brought in this pitiful thing because I thought people would say, ‘I can do better than that!’” she said. “To inspire other people, that was my goal.”
The organizers even wrote a light-hearted appeal in the church bulletin, asking for anything, even driftwood.
They didn’t expect anyone to actually pull out a piece of driftwood, but that’s exactly what parishioner Ann Kulkus did. Decades ago, at age 10, she found driftwood that looked like a dragon, so she painted it, creating a curved beast with a mouth and fins. When she saw the note in the bulletin, she went looking for it.
“I wasn’t even sure I still had him,” she said. “He’s been in the cellar.”
She smiled as she proudly showed off the creature.
“It’s probably my very first artistic attempt,” she said.
Others submitted wooden sculptures, art made from old jewelry, shawls, even a quilted tote bag. A 7-year-old submitted a re-creation of cave art, while a 12-year-old painted a lifelike teddy bear with coffee, staining the paper in different shades.
There was a photograph of Collins Lake at sunset, taken from the far side, where weeds usually discourage visitors. With overhanging trees and tall weeds framing a lake under a sunset sky, it looked like an unearthly sight. More than one parishioner stopped to admire the photo, saying they would never have guessed it had been taken at Collins Lake.
But perhaps the most surprising items was the collection of Star Wars spaceships, built out of 12 sets of Legos. Paul Avila, 11, spent the past five years building the collection with the proceeds of his winter snow-shoveling business.
“It cost more than $600, and I earned all that money,” he said. “I actually draw on the cones. They come in white.”
His favorite piece is a small man constructed out of 21 tiny Legos.
“I’ve always been fascinated with Legos,” he said. “They do a whole bunch of stuff.”
The art show did not draw a crowd. In the first two hours, about 20 visitors trickled in. Skelly said she hopes to hold another show next year, with better publicity.
“It’s a shame; there’s a lot of good stuff here,” she said. “I think there’s more to do to get more people here. For the first time, I’m feeling it was very successful.”