Growing up in Hampton Bays, Carolyn Munaco always had two passions: the beach and art.
As a child, Munaco lived within walking distance of Shinnecock Bay—she could stroll through her parents’ backyard and across Lynn Avenue and arrive on the beach in a matter of minutes.
“My parents always told me when I was a kid that I was born on the beach,” Munaco says, “And I believed them.”
That is, until she reached sixth grade and a teacher pointed out that a beach birth didn’t exactly correlate with a December birthday. But, she said, “It’s still a great story.”
Munaco still lives in Hampton Bays and her three children attend the same high school she graduated from in the 1980s. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Southampton College in 1992 and went on to experiment with different media, painting and photographing local beaches whenever she got the chance.
She initiated a Kickstarter campaign last month in hopes of raising enough money to buy equipment to help complete her exhibition, opening August 8 in Riverhead. Munaco asked for $2,950 to help cover the costs of a large format printer, which she needs to create her multimedia works, as well as a telephoto camera lens and various paints and materials for her artwork.
By the time her campaign ended, Munaco had raised well over $4,000—enough to purchase the equipment needed to open her exhibit as well as a new computer.
When the East End Arts Council sent a flyer to local artists describing a JumpStart course it was offering this summer, Munaco immediately signed up. JumpStart, a program that helps artists progress in their careers, offers participants advice and counseling on everything from copyright and legal matters to navigating the world of social media.
Of the artists who applied to the program, 15—including Munaco—were chosen to enroll in the course and host an exhibition in downtown Riverhead.
Munaco’s show is slated to run through the end of the month in a barn located on property owned by the East End Arts Council. “It’s perfect,” she said of the barn. “It’s just that rustic feel, like the driftwood I find. It’s that Bohemian type of style.”
The exhibition will showcase the local artist’s versatility in her craft. From painted pieces of driftwood to oil and charcoal drawings and multimedia works that incorporate photography with acrylic paint, the exhibit will surely have an East End theme, centered on Munaco’s favorite “go-to” muse: Dune Road in Hampton Bays.
Munaco is an outdoors enthusiast. In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, fishing, hiking, and gardening. When asked what she wants people to take away from her work more than anything else, Munaco brings up her passion for the environment. At the very least, she hopes people will notice the positive impact her art has had on local beaches: “I know that if I keep doing this, I’ll at least make an impact at picking up garbage.”
Friends have called Munaco a “jack of all trades” and it’s true. She paints mailboxes, creates signs out of driftwood, and is already taking orders for her beach glass Christmas trees for the upcoming holiday season.
Munaco also makes handmade T-shirts, which her cousins calls “townie tees.” So far she already has shirts for Ponquogue Beach and Shuckers Lobster and Clam Bar, both in Hampton Bays. Time permitting, she would love to branch out and make shirts for popular destinations elsewhere in the Hamptons as well.
As a result of the Riverhead exhibition, Munaco said, “I’m hoping to get enough work [done] in each genre that I do that I can set up portfolios and send them out to galleries and try to get some consistent [work].”
To explain her work as an artist, she says, “I go and walk on the beach and I collect driftwood, I pick up garbage, I take photographs, I get inspiration—that’s what I do.”
The opening reception for Munaco’s exhibition will take place on Friday, August 8, 6–9 p.m. in the East End Arts Council barn, 133 East Main Street in Riverhead. To find out more about Munaco’s art or to commission a piece, visit munacofineart.com