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The Heckscher Museum of Art Presents the Luminous Landscapes of April Gornik

HUNTINGTON, NY.- The Heckscher Museum of Art will present The Luminous Landscapes of April Gornik from May 2, through July 5, 2009. Gornik’s paintings glow with light, mystery, and majesty. The Heckscher’s exhibition focuses exclusively on Gornik’s large-scale paintings, which convey her awe-inspiring vision especially well. Gornik is a Suffolk County artist with an international reputation, and this is her first one-person show on Long Island in fifteen years. The works presented in the show span Gornik’s career from 1987, and many of the works have never been shown before or have not been exhibited in a very long time. A 2009 painting, Twilight Dawn, was finished just this past January, and will be seen for the first time in this exhibition.

“April Gornik’s work taps into The Heckscher’s identity as the museum where classic meets contemporary,” says The Heckscher’s Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Kenneth Wayne, Ph.D. “April Gornik’s work is really sophisticated and while her work is contemporary and unique, it’s also clear that she is aware of her predecessors in the long tradition of American landscape painters.”

Gornik contributed two pieces to The Heckscher’s Picturing Long Island exhibition two years ago, and there was so much enthusiasm for her work, that Dr. Wayne and Executive Director Erik Neil decided to feature an exhibition of her work. Dr. Wayne says, “We think this exhibition will really resonate with our audience. Her work harkens back to the landscape paintings of The Hudson River School, which is a strength of The Heckscher’s collection, and many of those works are familiar to Heckscher visitors.”

April Gornik’s paintings demonstrate her profound and sophisticated knowledge of art history and her assimilation of the lessons of past masters who shared an interest in light. One senses in her paintings, for example, aspects of the English proto-Impressionist J.M.W. Turner with his swirling, painterly skies, and the throbbing, pulsating clouds of the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich. The Hudson River School landscapes of Thomas Cole and his colleagues also come to mind. Gornik’s art is unique within contemporary art, not falling into any specific group or category.

“I always want to leave my paintings open to interpretation,” says Ms. Gornik. “There is a suspension of specificity in my work, allowing it to contain all possible contradictions. Viewers should be able to project their own emotions and memories onto the work. The paintings are where, when and whatever someone projects onto them.”

“When you have a person in the painting, it gives too much away,” explains Gornik. “Not including people avoids giving emotional cues. The presence of a human gives too much of a clue – the viewer either reacts like the person or to the person – it will direct an emotional response.” Gornik says she paints landscapes she wants to be in or look at.

Gornik uses photography to create her paintings, combining elements from different photographs and locations in a single painting. In some ways, the paintings are a travelogue with hints or overt references to locales on Long Island, China, or Africa. The titles of her works underscore her devotion to nature: Twilight Dawn (2009); Red Desert (2008); Sun, Storm, Sea (2005); Suspended Sky (2004); Turning Waterfall (1997); Lightning at Twilight (1993); Fresh Light (1987). Gornik’s process is a labor intensive one; and each of her paintings takes approximately two months to complete.

Twelve large-scale pieces comprise The Heckscher’s exhibition The Luminous Landscapes of April Gornik. Curator Kenneth Wayne wanted to present only Gornik’s large-scale works because he feels they will be seen to advantage in The Heckscher’s newly renovated galleries (completed in April 2008). A false ceiling—probably installed in the 1960s—was removed allowing the galleries to accommodate much taller works than before. Indeed, Gornik’s paintings are probably the largest that have ever been exhibited in the Museum. The greater presence of natural light in the galleries, and the Museum’s new lighting system, allow Gornik’s light-filled works to resonate beautifully.

Her work has been shown in museums throughout the United States and also in Canada and West Germany. She has had one-person exhibitions at various institutions, including: Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska; Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu; and Guild Hall, East Hampton. The following museums have her work in their permanent collections: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; Jewish Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Smith College Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art. Among the prominent private collectors of her art is the actor Steve Martin.

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