Painting A New Scene
Founding curator of Gallery Emanuel steps down to brush up on her own creations.
Jodi Bodner DuBow – Long Island Staff Writer
Surrounded by other people’s art for the past 10 years as curator of Gallery Emanuel, Liz Gribin decided it was time to envelop herself in her own works.
So after staging countless shows at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, featuring hundreds of artists, the 67-year-old painter has moved from Great Neck, her home of 35 years, to Bridgehampton, “the perfect place for an artist to live,” she said.
“I really needed more time for my own work,” said Gribin, already ensconced in the house she and husband Nathaniel bought six years ago and had been using with greater frequency. “I loved the gallery but so many opportunities have presented themselves since we came out here, this being a big artistic and very stimulating community, and I just needed the time to paint.”
Gribin’s work is primarily acrylic on canvas – often big canvases. Not bound to nature, Gribin says she is more interested in using harmonious colors, “but with an edge so that my composition is different, unique.”
“I’m influenced by the Japanese print makers of the 19th century who never made anything symmetrical. I’m always working towards an unusual type of composition,” she said. Most of Gribin’s works include a female figure, sometimes many, and are related to the feelings and emotions of women. She has worked with Jewish themes, mostly biblical, like a piece titled “Eve.”
Sometimes her experiences work their way into her art, like with “Despair,” a large and dark painting that shows a woman bowed.
“My mother was a Norwegian Jew,” she said. “Her mother was in a concentration camp, and that painting reflects my mother’s mood throughout the war.”
Born in London, Gribin was with her family on vacation in Switzerland when the Nazis marched into Poland. They escaped to America and arrived on Thanksgiving Day with visitor visas.
“We had to go to Cuba and come back with permanent visas,” she said.
Gribin grew up in Manhattan and began studying art at a tender age. The niece of the renowned Harold Salomon, chief sculptor for the king of Denmark, she obtained her degree in fine arts from Boston University. Her work has been exhibited nationally for many years, and she has received numerous awards and profiles in many publications.
“I’m very excited about this new phase of my life,” she said. “It seems to turn completely to what I’ve always wanted to do.”
The only curator of the temple’s art gallery, Gribin remembers how that career began a little more than a decade ago.
“They had just finished renovations in the temple, and the president asked me if I could contact some local galleries and get them to fill up the blank, newly painted walls with art,” she recalled. “Because I was in the art world and knew the people, I said I could bypass the galleries and go straight to the artists.
“But since they wanted to beautify the temple for the High Holidays, which were only one week away, the first show was of my own work because I didn’t have enough time to contact other people.”
Slowly the gallery evolved. Proper track lighting was hung, shows were staged – with the help of Gribin’s husband – and viewing hours set. In the beginning each show stayed up for one month. Gribin said people complained that wasn’t enough time, so the shows were lengthened to two months.
Gribin calls Rabbi Robert Widom “the force” behind the gallery. “Whatever I needed he approved of,” she said.
The rabbi says Gribin has added immeasurably to Temple Emanuel’s cultural life. “Thanks to Liz and her diligent and dedicated efforts, fine art was brought to our synagogue house, where it was thoroughly enjoyed by the members of the congregation and the community,” he said.
Early on the shows were developed around a theme, and artists who fit the bill were contacted. For the High Holy Days, shows centered around Jewish experiences. The summer focused on nature. There were landscape shows and abstracts.
Sometimes a show was based on a specific medium, such as Gribin’s last show, “my curtain call as curator,” she said. That was a small works show – small paintings, small constructions, small boxes.
“I worked hard to produce shows of high quality that would be stimulating to the viewers,” she said.
Rabbi Widom calls Gribin “creative, warm and caring.”
“I know she will project these qualities into every area of her life and continue to enrich all of us through her art,” he said.
Liz Gribin’s work can be seen at the Mark Humphrey Gallery in Southampton and at the Nan Mulford Gallery in Rockport, Maine.
This story first appeared in The New York Jewish Week, Long Island edition.