FRESH is an in-flux art collective dedicated to underground and emerging artists on Long Island. Born in the summer of 2006 as a one-day art show at East West, an alternative boutique in Ronkonkoma, FRESH quickly evolved and seemed to fill a cultural void in the belly of Long Island. Artists who had previously been solitary in their creative pursuits were now connecting with like-minded people. They were inspired, and began taking this new energy and throwing it back into their work, producing more than they had before. FRESH was offering new and interesting public spaces for these young artists to exhibit their work and began to help bridge the gap between artists and collectors on Long Island.
While New York City may be the center of the art scene today, it has become increasingly difficult for young artists to crack into. The rents in NYC are ridiculously high. Gone are the days where a few artists could grab a loft in SoHo for $400. The Chelsea galleries have gobbled up all the old warehouse spaces on the once sketchy Westside, and the East Village, probably the most interesting place in NYC right now to check out emerging art is overpriced and gentrified. Even the rents in Brooklyn are difficult to afford for a young artist who would rather perfect their craft than sit in an office for fifty hours a week just to afford their modest apartment. This being said, many artists from Long Island who could not afford the leap into Manhattan, found themselves staying on the island, reluctantly drowning in a sort of cultural wasteland of sports bars and cover bands, lighthouse and floral paintings, strip malls and nail salons.
It was the right time for a group of L.I. artists to begin to band together and create their own thing. It was clear that there were plenty of talented and productive artists caught in the same traps. We all had something in common; a determination to do something where we live, to build an art scene out of nothing except shear desire and desperation. Great art is produced all over the world, not just in Manhattan or London and we knew that if we worked hard enough, and continued to connect with ambitious new artists who shared the same ideas, we could make it work.
After two more exciting shows at East West, FRESH was invited to curate a show at Gallery 4222 in Port Jefferson Village. The exhibition entitled “In-Flux”, opened in September of 2006 and included artists such as Krista Biedenbach, Neil Russo, Christie Farriella, Perry Osman, Joanna Schretsmayer, Brian Rawson, and myself. The show was a great success and it is also where I linked up with Allen Boulos, who I had previously met at Toast Coffeehouse in Port Jefferson. Allen’s pure enthusiasm for FRESH and what was quietly beginning to happen in the local art scene prompted us to create a partnership that was fused through our new friendship. We realized that FRESH was not just about showing art, it was a home for the homeless. It was building friendships, relationships, and collaborations. It was becoming a sort of family of outcasts, a community of like-minded souls. From Patchogue to Huntington, from Shirley to Massapequa, artists were reaching out to FRESH to find out how they could get involved and exhibit their work. Something big was happening.
After a Halloween art show at East West, FRESH was invited to become the curators at Toast Coffeehouse. Toast, with its high volume of customers, funky vibe and atmosphere and great food was an ideal spot to begin putting together interesting solo and group exhibitions of artists based on Long Island. Since our residency at Toast began, we have organized over thirty shows, featuring artists such as Mike Krasowitz, Thea Lanzisero, Stelios, David Luna, Dan Kudreyko, Peter Galasso, Victoria Ohman, Jason Grabowski, Jessica Lee, Niko, Mark Kuhn and many many more.
In June of 2007, FRESH was asked to participate in The Parrish Art Museum’s Eco-Vision Project, which invited artists to create works from found objects and recycled materials. With over twenty artists including Karen Cernera, Leonardo, and Brian Wasser, FRESH produced a pseudo Garden of Eden, complete with a twenty-five foot serpent that rose twelve feet into the air equipped solar powered eyes. Artists Dan Kudreyko and David Luna made chopped up Bosch-like creatures from toys and garden sculptures and Elizabeth Sagarin created a horse out of an ironing board and metal blinds. Christie Farriella and Joe Riley made a forest out of old televisions and scraps of fabric. To top it off, artist Amy McKeever played the part of Eve, walking around in body paint and handing out apples to the crowd.
The event was hugely successful and FRESH’s installation was hailed as,“ the centerpiece of the show” by the Southampton Press. It was an interesting project for all of us to work on because it took us out of our usual realms as painters and photographers, forcing us to be more creative and construct something as a collective.
Looking back, this was probably the most ambitious and challenging thing we had ever done. It took two months to complete, from our initial group meeting at Toast where we all sat down and decided on our theme, the materials we needed to collect, who would do what, and where we would actually assemble the installation. Creative egos were thrown to the side, the best and most practical ideas survived and when we all stood back that summer night and realized what we had done together, we knew that we had accomplished something very special. The Eco-Vision collaboration took the idea of FRESH to another level.
After receiving a special mention in Pulse magazine’s annual Artist V.I.P’s issue, September, 2007 ushered in our first one-year retrospective show, which was held at our home-base gallery at Toast Coffeehouse. This was a celebration of everything we had achieved up to that point as a group and showcased many of the new talented artists who called Long Island their home. Aside from Toast, FRESH was hanging underground art in all sorts of unusual public spaces. From salons, to gyms, to bars and boutiques, healing centers and massage parlors, FRESH was expanding the scope of where people could see and buy art.
Hanging art in public spaces is great for exposure and an excellent way to have your work seen by as many people as possible, which also increases your chances of finding collectors. While they may not always provide an ideal setting for art, public spaces can absolutely increase a financially struggling artist’s opportunities to make some money with their work.
Our shows were attracting people from all walks of life. People were excited and interested in what was going on right in their own backyards. With FRESH, the only dogma is strong work that shows potential and the dedication of artists to pursue their own voice. There are no limitations. Artists who have exhibited in a FRESH show range from 18 to 65 years of age. Some are art school students and graduates. Some are college professors, teachers, bartenders, restaurant workers, carpenters and house painters. While everyone may seem like they exist on separate plains, nothing could be further from the truth. They are all artists working hard to support themselves, sacrificing sleep and making time to create and exhibit their work.
This past summer, FRESH raised the bar once again with two massive multimedia art and music shows at Painters Art & Food Bar in Bellport. June’s “Respect…What It Is”, which was co-produced by Rhythmvision, and August’s “Quality Control” featured over 75 artists, musicians, and legendary Long Island DJ’s and drew almost a thousand people between the two events. With over 150 pieces of new art, Painters was transformed into a mini art festival, complete with live aerosol painting on the outside deck by the likes of PHETUS, REME, CERN, DESN, ZAM, DOC and PILOT, a chainsaw wood sculptor, a fire dancer, a tribal fusion performance produced by Tara Murphy, some incredible installation pieces by artists Clayton Orehek and Shannan Lee Hayes, and video projections by UGLYGHOST, Time Needles, and SG Productions.
Inspired by Barcelona’s Sonar Music Festival and with a strong focus on the underground electronic, hip-hop and dance scenes, FRESH featured acts such as Ancient Tongue, Nickodemus, The Day Laborers, Derek Sessions, Darntings, Omar Santiago, TURNZ with special guest Gravity, SyteOne, and from Los Angeles, electronic musician Thavius Beck, who blessed the crowd with a super rare Long Island performance.
While new FRESH artists like Mike Carbonarro, ALKY, Kerst Cobain, Rene Michelle Andolina, Cory Lauth, Mike Healey, and Yukito Yoneyama helped raise the level of the work at our shows, it wasn’t just the great art and music acts that made these two events so special. It was also the incredible vibe that all in attendance helped to create. The shear number of people at these events did not only illustrate Long Island’s appetite for something new, it was proof that, given an alternative, people will come out and support. “Respect…What It Is” and “Quality Control” were resounding declarations of our intentions as an art community to show just what we are capable of.
We are very fortunate as artists to live in such an exciting time in history. Available to us now are tools and opportunities that would seem unbelievable just fifty years ago. FRESH was born directly from our modern day ability to connect and communicate with people almost instantly from anywhere in the world. The up and coming Long Island art scene proves just how these new ideas and technologies have helped to facilitate the creation of a groundbreaking local art scene while demonstrating our desire as an art collective to present the most challenging and eclectic group of artists working on Long Island today.
FRESH is currently planning art and music events for 2009, including a live, interactive poetry and jazz fusion night at Toast with local writers and musicians, a return to Painters Art & Food Bar in the spring, and a massive summer show you will not want to miss! FRESH hosts opening receptions for new exhibitions the first Thursday night of every month from 7-11 p.m. at Toast Coffeehouse in Port Jefferson. Come out and support your local art scene.
For more info and submissions, log on to FRESHArtLongIsland.com