Artists, their many lives, and their new exhibit


They say the older one gets, the less they are able to achieve. All one can do is look back on what was managed in youth, and be content with that.

The members of the Riverdale Art Association, however, beg to differ.

“I’m having a very interesting life now,” said Myra Joyce, a new members of the artists group, who in the past has moved through a variety of professions with grace. She worked for AT&T back in the days of party lines and dial tones before spending a decade as a neuroscientist and researcher.

Since then, Joyce has paid bills and lived well as Columbia University’s nursing school webmaster, on top of having her own website creation business.

“I’m always working on something,” she said, smiling. “I’m keeping my sanity.”

On top of all that, Joyce volunteers her time as a member of Community Board 8, sings in the Riverdale Choral Society, and now her latest passion: artist.

“I found out about the association, and I joined because I had been making fractal art,” Joyce said, describing a computer-generated art form. Then, with a small laugh, she though “‘Wow, these are really beautiful. I need to show them off.’”

Maria Neuda, curator of The Riverdale Y’s Gallery 18, also spends time with the Riverdale Art Association. She melded minds with Dennis Shelton to develop the theme of a show now on display at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture: “Black & White.”

“Dennis and I agreed it would be a perfect theme because it can be interpreted in many ways,” Neuda said. “It was interpreted here quite literally.”

That “perfect theme,” Black & White, is currently on display at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture, 4450 Fieldston Road, through Nov. 25. The space is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibit pieces give a variety of responses on the “Black & White” theme. Shelton’s piece in the show, “Time is Running Out,” is a collage. Others are myth-inspired, like Jane House’s “Tree Monster.” There are also silhouetted flowers like Aija Sears’ “Tulip.”

What do they all have in common? They are all within the boundaries of black and white — whatever that may mean.

“We encouraged each member to bring two pieces,” Shelton said. “With the understanding that you may get both pieces, one piece, or neither.”

Pieces not chosen had nothing to do with the quality of the work, Shelton said, but merely not fitting within the configuration of the show.

Neuda and Shelton may have chosen the show’s theme, but Anne Price and Diane Catz, two longtime art association members, handled curation and design.

“What is interesting, you can see all the shadows, the gray, and you see the contrasts,” said Catz, reaching out a hand toward the collection of work on the wall. “It was very well put together, I think, because you can see the shape of the pieces themselves.”

Catz’s own history is as storied and extensive as those of her colleagues. She grew up in Argentina, studied to be a graphic designer, though was clearly too creative for a business-minded profession.

“I excelled at composition, but my teacher said I’d never be a graphic designer,” said Catz, laughing. “My mother convinced me I could never live as an artist. So, I lived a variety of different careers.”

Scientist, researcher, nurse, construction worker, gardener — you name it, and someone in the Riverdale Art Association has worked it. Now retired, Catz returned to painting, and has loved every moment of her new life.

“I always hated being at one job for more than a year or so,” Catz said. “Now I’m living as an artist. This is what I wanted.”

The same goes for Price.

“I always wanted to paint,” the former folk singer said. “My whole family are artists, but since I retired, I’ve been making art.

“It’s very exciting. The association has been very helpful.”

Ruth Licht and sister Carolyn Resnick-Laybow are featured in the show, and are well aware of how art can reflect the changes in one’s life. One piece by Licht, “Study in Black and White No. 1,” is from 1969.

“I used to do a lot of watercolors like that,” Licht mused. “But things change. I thought it’d be good for the show, and it goes well with Carolyn’s fruit piece there.”

That “fruit piece” is actually the centerpiece of the “Black & White” exhibit: “Rotund Edibles.” The two siblings smiled up at the wall of work, a wall so carefully arranged, each creator was reflected in the glass frame of their artwork.

“We love art,” Licht said. “We’ve lived here almost our whole lives, and we’ve made so much work here over the years.

“We love it.”