A Pandemic Hobby Meets Photography in PHOTO pOP Exhibit at Industry

In an effort to express the feelings of memory, affirmation and longing, the artistic vision of Gae Polisner and the photography of Rick Kopstein has culminated in a gallery of art that Long Islanders get to witness.

Collages made by Polisner using pictures taken by Kopstein are on full display in their art exhibit titled “PHOTO pOP” which runs through April 2 at Industry Lounge & Gallery at 344 New York Ave.

Huntington resident Polisner, an award-winning author of young adult and middle-grade books, began collaging during the pandemic in an attempt to discover something new and keep her mind at ease. It began as a hobby, but soon snowballed into a new profession after gaining inspiration from Kopstein’s

Kopstein, of Huntington Station, had a show at Industry in October 2022 for the release of his book, “Made in New York,” a collection of photographs he took in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Having been friends with Kopstein for years, Polisner attended the show, and a new idea sprung as she was flipping through the pages.

“When I got in the car, I said to my husband, ‘Do you think he’d get mad at me if I cut his book up?,’” Polisner said. “Every image I see, if it’s an image that I love, I want to put it into my art.”

When Polisner got home, she called Kopstein and asked him if it was alright for her to cut images out of the copy of his book that she had bought, but he had a better idea in mind. He had the proofs for all of the images that he used and sent her those instead so she could use them in whatever ways she wante to.

Over the course of a year and a half, Polisner has made dozens of collages using photos that Kopstein has taken over the years. It has become a routine of Kopstein sending Polisner images that she could use, even putting his two cents into the artistic process.

“As time went on, she just got more experienced in collages and more creative,” Kopstein said. She was “getting pictures from me, even up until … a couple of weeks before the show, I would say, ‘Hey, how about this one?’ ”

After getting confirmation from Industry that the show was set to occur, Kopstein proposed the idea of putting the original photos he took next to the collages made by Polisner  to show how the images were reimagined.

The display is described by Polisner as “an exhibit of memory, affirmation and longing,” three adjectives that all stand on their own. The “memory” represents the nostalgia and history tied to Kopstein’s photos, and the memories that come along with them. “Affirmation” refers to the empowerment of women and tropes of feminism tied into most of her pieces, and “longing” alludes to
the yearning for easier times incited by the collages.

Polisner described her piece “She Huffed and She Puffed (Winter Tutu)” as representing “affirmation of power, the good kind of power as opposed to the evil kind of power.”

The title “Bardo” refers to the Buddhism term that means “the in-between state that we occupy between death, and whatever the next state of reincarnation is,” according to Polisner. The mostly-white canvas is meant to lack contrast on the white wall, as if it “almost disappears.”

Her collage titled “Off the Grid” included two plastic containers on the wall below it, each filled with small images that attendees could attach to the piece with Velcro. The interactive piece was altered throughout the night as people walked by and stuck a new image to it, some with purpose and others haphazardly.

All of Polisner and Kopstein’s work is for sale. Both contributors will be popping in regularly at the gallery to greet attendees and take pictures.

Photo of artists by Ken Farrell

Remaining photos by Kenny Spurell

Kenny Spurrell is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

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