Here Comes The Sun With Charles Riley


East End Arts in Riverhead presents the juried show “Here Comes The Sun,” now on display through June 8.

Featured artists include John Stefanik, Mac Titmus, Mike McLaughlin, Janis Hurley, Peter Beston, Glenn McNab, and Gina Gilmour. There are 37 artists included in all. The sole guest juror is Dr. Charles Riley II, director of Nassau County Museum of Art.

In addition to being a guest juror, art director, and English professor, Riley has had a life-long career as a curator, critic, and recognized author of 33 books and counting.

How did you become involved in ‘Here Comes The Sun?’
I was honored to be invited to be the lonely, and rather overwhelmed, juror for the exhibition, having survived (barely) the last experience of its kind. East End Arts knows I am a willing victim, as

I have served on the advisory board for a while.

What can guests expect from the East End Arts Juried Show?
The utter thrill of discovery, the lovely reassurance of seeing some of their local favorites thriving and even raising the level of their game, the challenge of pursuing a terrific theme (the sun) across various media including sculpture, works on paper, some terrific photography, and paint, paint, paint.

You’ve written quite a few books! How did you get into publishing?
Right out of university, Nelson Doubleday invited me to work as a junior editor, and I collaborated with Jackie Kennedy Onassis on “literary” projects translated from French, including a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald by a Sorbonne professor that became the best source for the exhibition I just opened at the [Nassau County Museum of Art].

After editing books, and then writing for magazines at Time Inc and editing magazines, it was time to go to the other side of the desk and write books. I’m on my 34th at the moment, but I don’t have much time to write now.

What would you say is the most influential novel related to the art world?
For aesthetics, nothing beats Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, but Honoré de Balzac’s Le Chef d’Oeuvre is a brilliant exploration of Cezanne and his doubt. There are some fine parodies of the art world in current fiction — they certainly have good material to work from; the art world is crazed.

I am not actually a writer of fiction, unless you count my Time Inc expense account reports. I write cultural history and art history. If you want my books (nonfiction), I’d have to say Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Re-invented Modernism is having a certain impact on readers, and my book on Rodin was translated into Chinese, so the reach of that book is likely to be massive.

What inspired you to write it?
My inspiration is always the art and the artists — to serve them well, to deliver their ideas to an audience that is often baffled by contemporary art, is my challenge.

Have you ever dabbled in artwork yourself?
I draw, abominably. I take the watercolors on trips. I also do watercolors or color pencil “translations” of paintings and sculpture that I am writing critical essays about. It takes me into the decision-making process of the artist, especially vis a vis color, that most dangerous and potent of all artistic forces.

Is there a particular artist that you’ve met or interviewed that has impacted you?
So many, but Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, John Cage, and Brice Marden were among my favorites when it came to collaborating on books and essays, and you probably know how wonderful a chap Hans Van de Bovenkamp is (we’re working on a book now), and I would add Marko Remec, Charlie Clough, and Mark Milloff. I am sure I have offended many by leaving them out.

Advice to patrons?
Support your local artists and nonprofits, including East End Arts and the island’s museums, because if you do not, you will lose whatever vestige of beauty is left and will be condemned to live among the repulsive squalor of Jericho Turnpike strip malls.

East End Arts is located at 133 East Main Street in Riverhead. Call 631-727-0900, email [email protected], or visit for more information.

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