Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Beauty of the Blizzard of 1996

Deborah Künstler, Mort's wife, was a freelance writer and was frequently published in Newsday. Back in the winter of 1996, Long Island was hit with a blizzard.  Here is the article published in Newsday on February 1, 1996 documenting how Mort channeled his creativity and huge amount of energy – by building an igloo to beat all igloos!

The Beauty of the Blizzard
By Deborah A. Künstler

Who can forget the winter of ’93-’94? The miracle of nature was no longer a miracle; it was a nightmare.

By the time the eighth or ninth storm hit, our 9-year-old grandson, Tommy, was tired of playing video games, and sledding had lost its allure.  I’m not the outdoor type, but, fortunately, my artist-husband, Mort, is.  So he laid down his paint brushes, took Tommy outside and decided to build an igloo.

After calling upon our architect son-in-law, Cliff, for structural advice, the two of them and Tommy started their project. Once completed, the ’94 igloo was fun for a starter house but rather small. It was just big enough for Mort, Tommy and one friend at a time to cook cocktail franks over a can of sterno.

In ’95, we had only one major storm, but that didn’t deter Mort and Tommy, who built an even larger igloo. More experienced by then, we celebrated the winter with brunch for five, complete with bagels, lox and coffee.

When the blizzard of ’96 struck, it was bad news for lots of people but not for my husband. “This is fabulous,” Mort said to Cliff on the phone. “We’ll make the greatest igloo ever seen south of Alaska.”

The streets were vehicle-free for good reason; even those with four-wheel-drive cars knew enough to stay home. But Mort, unstoppable in our ’79 Bronco, drove it, plow and all, to Cliff’s studio, dragged him away from his drawing board, and chauffeured him back to our house.

Then he went to work with the plow, piling a huge mound of snow near the kitchen door. Dressed in ski clothes, the two men started shoveling. Our son, David, was home along with everyone else on the East Coast, so he and Tommy joined in the dig.
Scooping out an igloo is hard work. While one person is inside digging, someone else has to shovel the loose snow away from the entrance. (A word of warning: this can be dangerous work and it is necessary to have an adult around at all times. Do not try to build an igloo of this magnitude without having architectural advice on how thick the walls need to be to prevent a cave-in.)

By the time they were finished (about 16 hours of digging, in Mort’s estimation) this year’s effort had become a veritable snow mansion – the walls and roof were about 18 inches thick. Inside, the ceiling rose to more than 6 feet and it was 11 feet in diameter. A plastic plumbing pipe jammed through the roof serves as a chimney.

Such a structure could not be left unadorned, so the next day, Mort and I went to work on decorating the interior. In the kitchen area, we scooped out holes in the wall for wine bottles and soft drinks, and built a shelf for dishes, napkins and glassware. Silverware was stuck horizontally into the icy walls and hooks held our cooking utensils. We brought in a round patio table and surrounded it with four folding chairs. We placed an old fondue pot, from early in our marriage, on the table for cooking. Built-in wooden ledges around the perimeter of the igloo were covered with carpeting samples to serve as additional seating.

We scooped out four niches in the walls for candles and installed a shelf for a basket of dried flowers. On the wall, we hung a framed print of a ship from Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White fleet, in tribute to our community. While not exactly warm inside, we were able to sit with coats on but without hats, gloves or scarves.

Ready to entertain in grand style, we started scheduling dinner parties. We had dinner for seven with friends and their two young sons. We had lunch with our daughter Jane, Cliff, David and Tommy and his friends. Then people started calling us. The word was out. Everyone wanted to see the igloo. A teacher friend suggested scheduling it for a field trip. Schools and offices were open again, so we limited parties to weekends. Our menu became routine: shrimp, chicken noodle soup served in mugs, cocktail franks, smores and hot chocolate. For grown-ups, there was wine and beer; for the younger set, apple cider and soda.  Needless to say, there was no shortage of ice.

Of course, the downside of igloo building is similar to that of building castles in the sand. They tend to be short-lived. Our igloo didn’t make it through the Jan. 19 rainstorm.  And Mort swears it will be his last. “I’m going to do my best to prevent myself from doing it again,” he said last week.

But the men in my family have igloo-building down to a science now, so by the time the next big snow rolls around, he may be singing a different tune. I wonder if we could put a hot tub in one. ~ 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Meet Mort Künstler at Print Signing!

Sally's Valentine

Date:        Saturday, February 6, 2016
Time:       2:00 – 4:00 pm
Location:  Long Island Picture Frame & Art Gallery
                 4 Audrey Avenue
                 Oyster Bay, New York 11771

For more information call: 516-558-7511

Just in time for Valentine's day, Mort Künstler will be signing his newest print Sally's Valentine in Oyster Bay. This beautiful painting is a depiction of an actual event – the presentation of the first recorded American valentine. British officer Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe fell for Sally Townsend, the daughter of a Patriot, while occupying her home which is now Raynham Hall Museum. Mort's signing will be just a block from where this event took place, at Long Island Picture Frame and Art Gallery.

Sally's Valentine and other prints by Mort will be available for purchase on site, in a selection of sizes – framed and unframed. We hope you can join us for this special event!

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Raynham Hall Museum.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Coming to the Long Island Museum in 2016...

Date: February 26, 2016 - May 30, 2016
Address: The Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages
1200 Route 25A
Stony Brook, NY 1179
Telephone: 631-751-0066

Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure, a major retrospective exhibit of Mort's paintings starting with childhood art through to his most recent paintings, will be on display at The Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages from February 26, 2016 thru May 30, 2016. The Long Island Museum is in Stony Brook, about an hour away from Mort's hometown of Oyster Bay. He's visited the museum several times to research their large collection of carriages. Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Massachusetts.

For more information, visit the Long Island Museum of American Art Website

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Brooklyn Art Museum: Coney Island Visions of an American Dreamland

November 20, 2015 – March 13, 2016

For 150 years, Coney Island has lured artists as a microcosm and icon of American culture. Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is the first major exhibition to explore the kaleidoscopic visual record they created, documenting the historic destination’s beginnings as a watering hole for the wealthy, its transformation into a popular beach resort and amusement mecca, its decades of urban decline culminating in the closing of Astroland, and its recent revival as a vibrant and growing community.

Mort Künstler's painting "Coney Island" was selected to be part of this traveling exhibit which is now at the Brooklyn Museum, thru March 13, 2016. Going to the opening was quite special for Mort and Deborah as they were both born and raised in Brooklyn and met at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. As a child, Mort would often go to the Brooklyn Museum to draw and take art lessons. He went on to study Art at Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute. As you know, the rest is history. 

Mort and Deborah Künstler at the opening of the exhibit on November 18, 2015.

For more information about the event, click here.

All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Knstler, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright 2001-2011. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.