Lee Harned has lived on the North Fork for the last 40 years, 35 of which she spent as an art educator. Now she’s this week Dan’s Papers cover artist. We talked to Harned recently about art and inspiration.
Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for this piece?
“Blue Waters” is a combination of opportunity and inspiration. When exhibitions are thematic in nature, it inspires me to create an artwork out of my comfort zone to conform to the theme. In Fall 2015, I wanted to submit artwork to a juried exhibition at Cutchogue New Suffolk Library entitled “Boats,” but nautical themes were not a part of my body of work. Consequently I embarked on a series of 5 pieces centered around sailing. I focused on the effect of light, the force of the wind, the movement of the water, and what lies below the surface of the water. To incorporate collage I embedded strips of nautical maps and multiple images of fish intertwined with the waves and ripples in the water, thus creating a somewhat surreal effect. I had also been working on textural effects in some abstract work which I incorporated into the composition as well. The first in the series, “Beneath the Surface” was accepted and sold during the exhibit.
Is there someplace you go on the North Fork for inspiration?
For me, anywhere on the North Fork is a source of inspiration. The North Fork has been my home for the past 40 years. On Saturday morning, early in May through the end of November, I go to yard sales with a very special friend. Of course, we are in search of that special treasure and marvel at the eclectic possessions that people are selling. We travel out to Orient and go west or vice versa up and down roads on the North Fork. This is an adventure. We come across water views, creeks, farm fields, vineyards, marinas, beaches, gardens and backyards that we would not otherwise see. Each week, the seasons progressively change, the clouds come and go, the sun comes out and glistens in the light and the gardens grow and change. I am constantly looking around with eyes wide open absorbing the textures, colors and compositions in the North Fork of as a source of inspiration.
What couldn’t you live without on the North Fork?
Hmm…that’s a tough question. The first thing that comes to mind is the abundance of farm stands and produce. Once the farm stands have closed down for the winter, I long for the first signs that appear in the spring, especially asparagus and spinach (cool weather crops). That means pansies are not far behind, and an abundance of color will return and relieve the gray dreary monotones of winter. The list of fruits and vegetables go on and on until the end of November, narrowing down the list to cauliflower, potatoes and onions. When all the vegetables are laid out, I appreciate the variety of shapes, colors, textures and, of course, the taste. I’ve done a series of paintings of vegetables and have portraits of some of the farmers and people who man the farmstands in mind.
Having been an arts educator for over 35 years, can you discuss how important arts programming is in schools today?
I was fortunate to have chosen a career that I truly loved. I was inspired by my students, their dedication and the quality of their work. Over the course of my tenure in public education, the arts programs were frequently threatened by budgetary cuts or the political climate. I was always aware that Art was in the top of the alphabet, and at the bottom of the list. In order to survive the tides of change, I made sure that the student work was prominently and respectfully displayed in the building and at various venues in the community. We created murals throughout the building that engaged not only the art students, but friends and family as well. We held annual exhibitions to showcase the accomplishments of the students and made presentations to the administration and the Board of Education to enlighten them as to the value of the Arts program, and the dedication of the students involved.
Arts education and engagement in the fine arts are an essential part of the school curriculum. Art programming unleashes and nurtures the creative spirit. This provides an opportunity to develop the whole child through participation and exposure to the arts. The arts awaken a child’s intellect and imagination. The arts create an environment where discovery and self-expression thrive. This is a testament to the value of individuality and diversity. Many of my students were not athletes or scholars but participation in the arts provided an outlet for the visual learner and tapped into their capacity to create. Arts programs encourage creative thinking, problem solving, self-expression and risk taking; it teach children to interpret, criticize and use visual information as a means of expression. All of these are necessary skills for today’s challenging workplace. Whether producing a painting, participating in a band concert or having a role in a play, students learn to participate in a process, communicating through their unique means of self-expression.
To stay committed to my role in art education I have remained an active member in the New York State Art Teachers Association, and currently serve as a member on the education committee of Parrish Art Museum and East End Arts Council.
You hold workshops at your Laurel studio. Can you talk briefly about that? How to sign up, what it incorporates, what to expect, etcetera?
I currently offer weekly, ongoing workshops for adults and high school students in my studio in Laurel. I do not conduct “how to sessions.” Each student works on individual drawings and paintings in a variety of mediums. I act as a facilitator to help with technique on an individual basis. Beginners are always welcome. Maximum class size is 5 per 2-hour session. For additional information contact me at [email protected].
Where can our readers see some of your work for themselves?
I will be having an exhibit entitled “Among Friends” at the Mattituck Laurel Library in October 2017. The exhibit will include samples of my recent work as well as one piece by each of my adult students. I am a member of the Olde Town Arts and Crafts Guild and Gallery in Cutchogue and will have two to three pieces on exhibit from May through December.
See more of Lee Harned’s work at leearthar.com.