Last Saturday, September 19th, the sliver of shaded, grassy turf that’s carved out by the intersection of Justice Ave and 56th Ave in Elmhurst, Queens, was a hotspot for local passerby. What appeared from afar to pedestrians, Queens Center Mall patrons, and the like as a seemingly out-of-place, brightly painted doghouse, was in fact emerging artist Susan Varo’s own unique contribution to the second annual Queens Art Intervention (QAI).
The title of Varo’s installation at this, one of numerous QAI-designated spots around Queens, is intentionally deceptive: the words “Art Lives Here / Come See Art”, painted in stark contrast against the red of the doghouse, beguile passerby – adults and children alike – into perceiving the construction houses an actual, beloved household pet. Drawn toward the doghouse by both the softly alluring music, and the small crowd of animated supporters, the curious quickly discover – upon closer inspection – that “Art” is in fact fine art, ie, a collection of Varo’s own hand-painted mini-canvases, which she distributes for free to everyone who stops to peer – or climb – inside.
Many of these gorgeous little souvenirs depict various scenes from around Queens; in each, the subject of the piece is isolated from the surrounding landscape, lending a new perspective and rendering it almost abstract. These hand-signed mini-paintings, which also include some of this versatile artist’s work in pure abstraction, still-life, and landscape, make for interesting art, and help commemorate this, one of Summer’s last beautiful, sunny days, as well as one woman’s commitment to promoting the arts in her community.
And that is exactly the purpose of the Rego Park Green Alliance’s QAI initiative: “QAI installations are meant to inspire, educate, and empower residents of all ages,” Yvonne Shortt, RPGA Studio, Inc., Executive Director, told the Times Ledger. Varo’s installation both conceptually and physically echoes this intention, and she hopes her efforts will help stimulate individuals’ own artistic endeavors. It makes one wonder if “Art” isn’t a living organism, after all.
Varo is quickly emerging along the frontier of the Queens art scene. Recently, pieces from her series Patterns in Nature were featured at the Red Pipe Café, Forest Hills’ own beacon of entrepreneurship and local supporter of the arts. In Red Dapple, the figure’s mane and tail were depicted in red, to tie it together with other pieces in the series:
In fact, Varo is rapidly gaining recognition throughout Brooklyn, as well. Her series in oil of Michael Jackson portraits, on display at Sanctuary Gallery in Bed-Stuy through the Fall, has generated quite a bit of local interest, and has helped put the gallery on the map.
Varo will appear at Belmont Park on October 24th, and will continue to participate in community-driven arts events throughout the Fall.