Every month, Syosset Public Library patrons can expect to find new artwork displayed in the gallery near the cafe.
On Aug. 1, during a busy afternoon at the library, Brooklyn-based artist Christine Stoddard, named by Brooklyn Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Fascinating People in Brooklyn, was putting up her work to be viewed for the rest of the month. She will celebrate with an artist reception at the library on Aug. 10 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
“Her work is just so colorful and beautiful,” said Sharon Long, the assistant director at the Syosset Public Library.
Pam Strudler, the programming and arts librarian, said that library patrons enjoy coming in to see the artists.
“I think it brings joy and happiness,” Strudler said.
Stoddard found out about the Syosset Public Library gallery through a friend.
“It’s a big, beautiful, modern library,” Stoddard said of the Syosset Public Library. “I grew up in Arlington, Virginia and their public libraries are very important. My library was the place I would go after school most of the time, certainly when the weather wasn’t nice. And this library reminds me a lot of that.”
Her work, which is mixed media on canvas, is certainly eye-catching. A lot of them have textures and feature many bright colors. Some of them sparkle, and others use plastic containers, discarded plants, magazine cutouts, discarded glass beads and other materials that have made their way into Stoddard’s life.
“Ever since I was a little girl I made art,” Stoddard said. “My mom is a housewife, but she was very creative with my siblings and me growing up. She would constantly make artwork from all kinds of arts and crafts with us. And she’s originally from El Salvador, that’s her homeland. In El Salvador, there’s a lot of handicraft and there’s a lot of art that’s made with recycled materials and part of that is just because of poverty. There’s the idea of reusing. So that is something she taught me growing up. My dad is American, he’s a New -Yorker. He went to school for visual arts. He studied dark room photography. He always had an appreciation for painting and sculpture.”
With a childhood full of museum visits in Washington D.C., Stoddard went on to attending Virgina Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA and then receiving her Masters in Fine Art in Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice from The City College of New York. Before going to grad school, Stoddard had done a residency at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center, where she had the chance to focus on turning discarded materials into works of art.
“I mainly made video and photography work for my coursework, but I found that in my free time I was still painting and that’s actually what I was getting hired to do more often than not,” Stoddard said. “I was hired to paint murals in schools and in group homes for adults with disabilities. I was hired to do all kinds of programming that would involve painting with children, senior citizens… I realized how much I still loved tactile work. I loved working with materials and still love working with materials. I’m all about texture. And just like how my mom influenced me as a child, I’m still very interested in recycled work.”
Beyond the canvas, Stoddard creates books, plays, performances and she leads workshops. She is known for the stage play/film Mi Abuela, Queen of Nightmares; Quail Bell Magazine; the Badass Lady-Folk show; Forget Fairytales comics, and character acts such as Queen Jaguar.
“I tell stories with words, images, objects, my body, and other people and places,” her website states. “My work is about personal narratives, humor, identity, power, archives, nature, truth-making, memories, and play.”
When asked how Stoddard manages all her different projects, she said that she tends to start with a character or story.
“I’ll create a body of work based on that character or that story,” Stoddard said. “I balance it because it’s what I do… The closest that comes to a day job is people will hire me to do workshops. But, mainly I make work and I find different ways to get it published, exhibited, presented. I rely a lot on grants and a lot on different resources that are available in the city, like New York Foundation for the Arts. They have so much.”
Visit the Syosset Public Library before the end of the month to view Stoddard’s work.