Drawing in the Sunbeams and Dust Motes - 27 East

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Drawing in the Sunbeams and Dust Motes

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This work Ann Lombardo described as very classically painted. This contrasts her more recent focus on

This work Ann Lombardo described as very classically painted. This contrasts her more recent focus on "putting the paint" and adding "notes of color" in her works.

These paintings represent Ann's focus on

These paintings represent Ann's focus on "putting the paint" and including "notes of color." This can be seen in the pixel-like form in which the colors are placed.

This is one wall in Lombardo's studio where she keeps many of her works.

This is one wall in Lombardo's studio where she keeps many of her works.

Ann paints with her first holy communion dress hanging beside her.

Ann paints with her first holy communion dress hanging beside her.

Abundance and the Bee is a diptych by Lombardo. ANN LOMBARDO

Abundance and the Bee is a diptych by Lombardo. ANN LOMBARDO

Another painting that incorporates

Another painting that incorporates "putting the paint" and adding in "notes of color." ANN LOMBARDO

This painting of Lombardo's childhood dress inspired her to tell more of her childhood story through her art. ANN LOMBARDO

This painting of Lombardo's childhood dress inspired her to tell more of her childhood story through her art. ANN LOMBARDO

Lombardo stands next to her painting,

Lombardo stands next to her painting, "Little Ann," the work that sparked a change in her artistic subject matter and inspiration. SUZEE FOSTER

Ann Lombardo painting in her home studio. The piece on the easel will be in her

Ann Lombardo painting in her home studio. The piece on the easel will be in her "A Brush with Time" show. CAITLYN FOLEY

Caitlyn Foley on Jun 8, 2023

As an artist, Water Mill’s Ann Lombardo had long struggled to find a personal message to share in her paintings. Then, a year and a half ago, she unearthed one of her childhood dresses.

That discovery changed everything and gave her the focus she had been searching for in her work. In a recent interview at her studio, Lombardo recalled that as she stood in front of the easel, staring at this piece of clothing, her subject matter and inspiration began to shift.

“Imagine you have a Jenga tower, and you pull out one block, and it all goes tumbling down,” said Lombardo. “Well that’s kind of what happened to me. It rolled open these layers and I just felt like I had like this childhood story to tell.”

That story will be shared in “A Brush With Time: Notes & Dust Motes,” a solo exhibition running June 15 to July 2 at the Water Mill Museum. This exhibition grew out of Lombardo’s painting of that peach colored dress which she wore when she was four years old. Called “Little Ann,” the first painting is a reference to her younger self. This one work opened the floodgates for Lombardo, leading her to express herself in a new way and tell her own life story through her art. Though trained to paint classically, the new direction led her to add more notes of color to her work, and she soon found herself straying from classical realism.

In this upcoming exhibition, Lombardo will reveal how new work she is doing differs from past pieces like her traditional landscape paintings or her “Shed Happens” series, which depicted objects like watering cans, potted plants and even the occasional animal. Filled with personal meaning, Lombardo is particularly excited to exhibit this new work as a solo show, because she sees it as an opportunity to be vulnerable in her art and reveal more of herself to public view and opinion.

“It is really cathartic to be in this place now,” said Lombardo. “I used to question what I should paint and now I have a lot of ideas. I am just doing original work and it all stemmed from painting my dress.”

The new direction in her work has taken Lombardo away from painting only what she sees directly, and instead she is adding more color to the canvas in front of her. Another painting of a childhood dress, “Little Ann and Poochie,” depicts a beautiful white dress, but it is the background — filled with pinks, oranges and purples — that this white dress is placed against that catches the attention of the viewer. Lombardo said that these notes of color are meant to represent the sunbeams and dust motes that she used to draw in as a child.

The inspiration for the show’s title “A Brush With Time: Notes & Dust Motes,” her second solo exhibition at the Water Mill Museum, actually comes from her desire to draw and doodle as she did as a young girl. Lombardo’s Catholic school did not offer art lessons, so as an alternative she would sit on the windowsill and draw the tiny particles she saw drifting in the sunlight.

“I want the viewer to feel like they are looking through these sunbeams and dust motes like I did as a kid,” said Lombardo.

In many ways, Lombardo’s discovery of inspiration in painting her childhood clothing makes sense, given that her past career was in fashion illustration.

In contrast to the contemporary artistic trends of the 1970s that were popular when she was a student, Lombardo was required to learn how to draw classically at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City where she drew from a model five days a week. After graduating from FIT, Lombardo worked in New York City as a fashion illustrator doing manufacturing and production for companies such as Ralph Lauren and JCPenney. As a part of her career in fashion she lived in Taiwan for 11 years, and speaks fluent Mandarin.

“I loved fashion, loved fashion illustration, loved what I did in the fashion world,” said Lombardo. “I feel like I never worked a day in my life because I always loved what I did.”

In 2004, Lombardo semi-retired from her career and moved to Water Mill. Here, she began taking lessons in classical realism painting and among her favorite instructors was Robert Armetta. Lombardo described him as a great classically trained painter and a great teacher. It was after these lessons that Lombardo felt a shift in her artistic technique.

“I went from painting very classically to painting by just ‘putting the paint’ and making ‘notes of color’” said Lombardo.

These phrases help the viewers of Lombardo’s work understand the motive behind the pixel-looking dots of paint in her recent works. Since moving away from attempting perfection, she has allowed herself the freedom to spread colorful dots all over her canvas.

“Perfection is a terrible enemy,” said Lombardo. “I have to tell you, I have been doing a lot less thinking. Sometimes I am standing in front of the canvas and I say to myself: Ann, you relax. Ann, you know how to do this. You have all the skills. You have all the training. You go and paint it. Just put the paint.”

Ann Lombardo’s “A Brush With Time: Notes & Dust Motes,” runs Thursday, June 15, to Sunday, July 2, at the Water Mill Museum, 41 Old Mill Road, Water Mill. A reception for the show will take place on Saturday, June 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit watermillmuseum.org.

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