Kismet’s Artistic Talent on Display
By Ashraya Gupta

At a party some time ago, Bill Poindexter mentioned he summered in Kismet. The woman he was talking to replied, “Isn’t that some sort of art colony?” Poindexter was somewhat surprised—Kismet’s more often thought of as a “sex, booze, and rock n’ roll place,” he said. But it is home to many artists and three years ago, Poindexter decided it was time to showcase some of the local talent. Last Saturday, the Kismet Art Show brought together painters, photographers, and designers. Instead of an installation in one place, artists displayed their work in their homes and studios, in what’s come to be known as a “house crawl.” The walking tour allowed people to see many of the artists in the very places they work. And some even served punch.

This year’s art show featured 11 artists, up from only six artists last year. A spectrum of ages and aesthetics was represented. But almost everyone showed an attachment to Fire Island.

The late Peter Lynch spent 18 summers on the island together with Alice Shultz, owner of Miss Alice’s Sweets and Treats. His work hasn’t been seen in the area in a long time and Shultz decided it was time to bring him to a “new generation.” She’s a photographer herself and her photographs were on display alongside Lynch’s finely detailed nature watercolors. Though Lynch experimented with many types of art, Shultz chose to focus on his Fire Island inspired work for this year’s tour.

A short block away, Caroline Stern’s house was as full of artists as it was of art. Stern, a dentist and photographer, invited friends Louda, a designer, and painter Avri Ohana to display their work with hers. Louda’s reconstructed jackets, ponchos, and skirts are hand-woven, combining different materials and colors. Born in Siberia and now centered in Paris, Louda said of each handcrafted piece, “I work like it’s a painting.” The richly textured fabrics hung alongside Ohana’s vibrant Tuscan landscapes.

Stern’s own work chronicled her travels in Papua New Guinea and the Galapagos Islands. She spent a month with the Irian Jayan tribe in the Indonesian part of Papua New Guinea. Stern laughingly calls herself a “Gum Goddess,” but it seems travel is her true passion. In the backyard, she has a real ger, the traditional dwelling of the nomadic people of Mongolia. They use it as a guesthouse and often hold drumming circles. It was clear that Stern lives alongside her art, bringing it to all aspects of her life.

Reaching the corner of Maple and Pine, Carolyn Durso displayed her photographs. She started taking photographs when her daughter was a year old. Her daughter is 18 now and Durso’s photographs reveal her years of experience. Though many are Fire Island themed, Durso tries to approach the subject from unusual angles, zooming in on a pile of pebbles and declaring “I’m not shooting the lighthouse anymore!”

But not everyone’s sick of the lighthouse just yet. Over on East Lighthouse Walk, Jonathan Anthony Toth displayed a number of oil paintings showing the lighthouse and the beach. He said he likes that “the same beach is never really the same beach.” As a little boy, he used to paint with his father, a Hungarian refugee and ballet dancer. After his father passed away last Christmas, Toth was drawn back to art. He hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since the age of 13, but since April, he’s been working on landscape scenes.

Alyson Breier also returned to painting later in her life. When she stopped working full-time, she was afforded the freedom to once again focus on art. She is both a painter and a gardener. Her painted flowers stood against the real ones, both awash with color. She likes working on the island and said, “I paint out here because it’s quiet. Here, I can paint out on the street and everybody knows me. In New York, I can’t do that.” Her son, Sam’s photographs were also on display. For him, however, New York is a perfect place to work. His black and white nighttime cityscapes reveal a fascination with light and symmetry.

Also a photographer, Andrea Wikso once used to develop photographs for this very paper. These days, however, she’s gone digital, using a Nikon D100 Digital SLR. Last winter, she captured a photograph of her niece feeding a baby deer. Both deer and girl have their teeth firmly locked on a carrot. But Wikso’s personal favorite is a sunset shot, where “it looks like God has his high beams on.”

Further east, Bill Poindexter’s own artwork was on display at his house. He has a fondness for mermaids and optical illusions, playing with the curves and lines of their figures to create other images. A series of four mermaid paintings represent various aquatic themes: a frog, Neptune, a scorpion, and two seahorses. He’s also painted a mermaid Mona Lisa depicting her dual nature, both dark and light.

Working back west and towards the ocean, Teri Dahl’s artwork showcased her whole career, from college to today. She’s been painting all her life and said, “And I’m old, so…” Some early pastels of children from her days studying at Pratt were hung alongside some more recent oil paintings of her cat. She also just began getting prints made of her work, including a number of illustrations she’s done for an as yet unwritten children’s book.

At the very edge of town, Ann Littlejohn’s house allows a perfectly unspoiled vista of the ocean and the lighthouse. A photographer, she’s been coming to Fire Island since the ’60s. Her nature photographs, often caught while riding her bike early in the morning, have earned her Audubon Awards. She’s been all over the world and most recently went to Madagascar to photograph lemurs.

But she can’t claim to be truly international—that honor goes to Jacques Dumont, originally from Paris and Kismet’s “only international photographer.” He’s spent 37 years on the island, but hasn’t lost his accent or good humor. His photographs show why he’s been here so long: he must love the island, photographing deer, wagons and seashells.

Warren Boyd Wexler, a late addition to the art show, also loves the island. So much so that he has spent 17 years living in Cherry Grove year-round, one of only six total winter residents there. Last winter, he actually witnessed the tide wash away a stairwell he had been standing on but moments before. He usually does a one-man exhibition in Kismet, but this year it coincided with the art show. Though he isn’t formally trained, he’s been taking photographs for 14 years and his nature shots, taken with a simple point and shoot, reveal a good eye.

Behind Wexler’s market place setup, Brittany Barrett, the youngest featured artist, displayed her work at her bayfront home. She just graduated high school and is heading to Boston University this fall to study art and hopefully costume design. Her collection was eclectic: stenciled t-shirts, experiments with computer graphics and traditional ebony on paper sketches and watercolors. She said it was interesting to be the youngest and looking at the other artists, she hoped “to be there someday.”

From the youngest to the most seasoned artists, last Saturday’s art show was an opportunity to bring people together. Offering out some punch, Bill Poindexter said, “It’s sort of just a party.”



Seaview Artist Shares His Vision

Mitchell Schorr, a New York City native and longtime resident of Seaview, has mounted numerous solo exhibitions around the world. Mitchell’s passion for art includes an ardor to share it with others. He has recently been commissioned by the city of New York for several projects, all of which he funded with the support of collectors of his work as well as corporate and community members, many of whom spend their summers on Fire Island.

After receiving his degree in art from Ithaca College, Mitchell studied at the Carnegie Mellon School of Art in Pittsburgh and the Lorenzo de Medici Italian Institute of Art in Florence. Mitchell has traveled the globe looking for inspiration, including the remote regions of India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Cuba, South America and the Middle East. But his love for the beach always brings him back to Fire Island, where he has fond memories of growing up.

His most recent work is a mural he just completed at the Mayor Wagner Pool at Second Avenue and 124th Street. The mural depicts an oasis beach scene on a 10,000-square-foot, 16-foot-high wall surrounding Wagner Pool. Mitchell created this scene over the course of three months, with no outside help and very little funding. This was a welcomed transformation for the park, which has served the Harlem community for over 30 years.

On July 2, the Parks Department awarded Mitchell, in appreciation of his work and dedication to the city of New York, a plaque that will hang outside the Wagner Pool. The dedication ceremony was attended by City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and United States Congress Member Charles Rangel, as well as New York State Assembly Member Adam Clayton Powell IV, all of whom praised his work and his dedication to the Harlem community.

The Wagner Pool Mural is the third mural Mitchell has completed for the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.

Mitchell’s mural consists of a beach scene with trees, ocean waves and sunny skies. It reveals the way he thinks children should feel if they were afforded the opportunity to spend their days at the beach, the way he was so lucky to do when he was spending his summers growing up on Fire Island.

Mitchell’s other works are oil paintings on canvas, which have appeared in many galleries across the country. His work depicts his many trips abroad from Cuba to India to South America to the Middle East, as well as his many paintings of various party scenes and rock and roll bands—one painting even plays music as you look at it.

His works can also be seen at his studio located at 525 8th Avenue. As you walk along the beach, you might catch him making sketches for his next series of paintings.