Will Ryan: An Artistic Awakening

(This article first appeared in the September 21, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


The East End is a breeding ground for creative minds, but much more it breeds compassion. Artist Will Ryan is the result of these two concepts.

Living in Amagansett, near Lazy Point, Ryan walks to the beach or bay side with his flute to regenerate his soul, enjoying the heartwarming marine blues that surround him.

However, not everything in Ryan’s life has been a symphony of tranquility and beauty. In 2015, he was diagnosed with Amyloidosis, a form of cancer that creates malformed protein cells in the bone marrow, which can shut down any organ in the body. Upon receiving this news, Ryan searched the Internet for any information he could. Time and time again the word ‘fatal’ popped onto the screen, prompting him to see a doctor at NYU Hospital. Though the chemotherapy made him sick, in his efforts to remain positive Ryan booked a trip to Europe. When he came home fatigue and heart failure took over and he soon found himself at The Amyloidosis Center at Boston University School of Medicine, a center dedicated to Amyloidosis research and treatment.

Doctors recommended Ryan undergo a stem cell transplant at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to prevent further spreading of the disease. His doctor, Dr. Heather Landeau, performed the operation and even did a heart biopsy.

“If the doctor was in I was in. We did it and I just tried to stay positive. I didn’t want any kind of depression overcome me, it wouldn’t do any good.”

Ryan claims Buddhist training helped his attitude during the whole process. That, along with the help of supportive family and friends who kept informed.

“I knew I was going in for basically the battle of my life, the main event,” Ryan’s optimism overcame the fear.

With ten million stem cells being transplanted from his bone marrow into his blood stream in February 2015, Ryan endured five to six weeks of hospital visits undergoing tremendous amounts of chemo aimed to kill his immune system in order to regenerate his body.

“I really had a great life. I could let go, but the choice [to live] was mine.” One night during Ryan’s sleep, a week or so after the transplant started, he had a vivid hallucination of a young, fourteen year old self visiting him.

“Fourteen year old Will said, ‘We’re not done yet,’ and I was like, ‘We’re not?’ He said, ‘No, we have a lot of work to do.'”

And with a sigh of relief adult Will Ryan was ready to take on whatever was ahead.

Over a year later, slowly gaining the weight back from his arduous journey, Ryan focuses every day on gratitude and compassion. “Every moment is precious, may I be awake in this moment and realize that.”

Through all the pain has come an artistic awakening. Introducing East End Duets, an art show that will run Thursday through October 9 in which Will Ryan collaborates with over 30 artists. “I learned a lot in collaborating with people. When to yield and when to hold your ground. Respect the other person.”

As the summer has come to an official close, Ryan looks back at everything with a big smile on his face.

“It’s one of the best summers in my life, and I’ve had some good summers,” he laughs. “Playing with my friends and being healthy. Having the results be the exhibition, nobody got hurt in the process.” Duets is comprised of collaborations of pieces in varied media – sculpture, paintings, and collage among them.

When asked how he envisions himself as a painting on someone’s wall,

“I would really like to be painted with a smile on my face, and my family and my friends with their arms around me. That would be the nicest painting done.”

Kevin Berlin: An Unrealistic Visionary

(This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Luxury Living Magazine- a subdivision of Newsday Media Group)

“Be unrealistic,” world-renowned artist Kevin Berlin declared over the phone, as he finished his coffee. “Realize your dreams now. Don’t wait for a realistic moment. That’s something I aim for a lot these days.”

From the Renaissance influence of Florence in all its glory to the stability of Southampton, Berlin splits his time working from the two cities. He admits, “Southampton is one of the few places in the world where you can be in one spot and bump into some of your favorite, most loved people in the world, and they just happen to be there.”
The American artist, best known for his black and white paintings of cocktail party scenes, also excels in sculpture and performance art. Anyone who may have had the opportunity to attend opening night for Art Southampton Summer of 2016 will recall Berlin’s unmistakable presence, as he made his entrance with several women clad in black bikinis, the lot of them wearing top hats. In true Hamptons fashion, Berlin certainly knows how to grab the attention of a crowd to launch his newest endeavor.
Berlin’s captivation with top hats started at 18 years of age, upon being gifted a top hat by his parents at his first solo show at Bonwit Teller & Co. He chuckled, “I have no idea why; they just knew their kid, I guess.”
Since then, his fashion company, Kevin Berlin New York, has accidentally reinvented the classic piece for everyday use, “like jeans that already have holes in them…coming to a really nice shop near you, hopefully soon.”

“We all have a powerful, beautiful force…something inside of us that’s beautiful, that can be hard to control,” Berlin roared.

For the Yale University and Slade School of Fine Art alumnus, temptation and desire are the quintessential themes behind his work, as he “usually tells stories about things that motivate people.”


Berlin gushes, “I love Nutella, and I find that I’m not alone in this world. It’s one of the few images I’ve worked with that people really identify very quickly…if you want to create a moment of joy, an image of Nutella will do exactly that. There aren’t many things you can paint that will have such an immediate positive reaction.”

Delicious cravings aside, Berlin is fascinated by worlds often closed to society, such as that of ballerinas. Once upon a time, his curiosity led him to Russia, and he remained for almost a year backstage with the Kirov Ballet in Saint Petersburg. Observing more than 100 of the “beautiful Olympic-level athletes telling stories” in the same legendary theatre where Tchaikovsky first wrote and presented Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. In another chapter of his life, he moved to Ukraine to study the life of the national circus in Kiev. From this experience, his “Save the Tigers” series was produced, shown in galleries in Miami, London and Southampton. Developed to bring awareness to the extinction of the animal, Berlin enjoyed the primal instinct that resonates from within.
“The importance of the paintings, at least for me, is that I never tell you what to think or tell you how to feel.”
Berlin has become a master of narrative art, with an aim to constantly engage his audience over time. His work has been collected by the likes of Kim Basinger, Luciano Pavarotti, Quincy Jones, David Letterman, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, among others.
Pointing out, “You can look at it today, you can look at it a hundred years from now, and you’ll still have a chance to add your own interpretation to it…as you change, your interpretation of the painting will change.”
As an unstoppable creative force, Berlin retraced the past two years of his life back to Russia for “The End of the World” series, depicting the secret life of ballerinas. Upcoming will be his latest program, “Berlin in Berlin,” a fitting title, evoking the German city where the artist spent time exploring the unknown. The solo show, running May 28th – July 15th, is being featured at Livingstone Gallery in the Netherlands.
As for his dream project? To build his “new colossus,” a large-scale monument the size of the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore.
While Berlin’s “unrealistic” artistic goals remain quite large this summer, he aims to make his circle smaller…that, along with getting in a good bonfire on the beach.
“When I’m ready to greet the world, I always go to 75 Main in Southampton, which I consider the center of the universe,” Berlin divulges. “The Lobster Grille Inn is also a good spot. Good food. Sometimes, it’s a real pleasure to be in a place where you don’t know anybody.”

The Colorful Life of Kara Hoblin

Picture the word “love” drawn out in front of your eyes on a black chalk board. Waves, underwater creatures, and flowers all morphed to form the letters L, O, V, and E using every color in the rainbow.

In a single image, that would be artist Kara Hoblin.

“You can’t have positivity without love. Love of oneself, of everyone around you, of the environment.”

Back in August 2016 in Southold, Long Island, Hoblin held her first chalk art show, ‘The Art of Letting Go,’ and created her artistic image after being inspired from our initial interview.

With the intent to erase her work at the end of the evening, to reveal hidden messages below, people showed up from all over, some she barely knew and some she hadn’t seen in years.

John McLane came across Hoblin’s work at different restaurants around Greenpoint before connecting through mutual friends on Facebook and then meeting her in person on the Hampton Jitney.

“I hear her tell her name to the bus driver for the reservation and when she came up the steps I said ‘Hey, nice work!’ She didn’t know my wife and I, so she looked at us very confused. So I said, ‘The chalk drawings.’”

A native Long Islander from Blue Point, Hoblin worked in New York City at a photo and styling agency after graduating from SUNY New Paltz. While so many are tempted to leave home, Hoblin’s love for the community and nature has been her sense of gravity to the area. In returning back to the island she managed Harbes Vineyard tasting room along with handling their marketing and social media. Her first chalkboard design was at First and South Restaurant in Greenport back in 2014.

Owner of First and South, Sarah Phillips, has seen Hoblin undergo a serendipitous transition.

“In a painting she’d be beautiful, well balanced, colorful and stunning almost to a point that it’s sad because you wish that life could be like that every day,” Phillips describes.

Hoblin’s mother, Gina Crawford, described her daughters first exhibit at the young age of three years old when star and flower paintings were displayed in their home.

“At seven, eights years old she did her first exhibit at Bayport-Blue Point library about Beanie Babies. I always knew she was going to be an artist. I’m so proud of her.”

More than chalk, Hoblin explores illustration of all kinds.

“I recently started to get really involved with typography. I find it therapeutic and powerful since language (of all types) is the connecting factor for our species, and communication is both beautiful and necessary.”

Her work is whimsical in style, which she aims to remain true to. While she tries to take on as many projects as she can, they must coincide with her vision.

Living on the North Fork has become a sanctuary to her. Whether it be swimming at one of the local beaches or going on a peaceful walk through one of the many preserves there are endless locations to relax, think, and draw.

Hoblin’s most beloved activity is simply being outdoors. Whether it’s riding her bike, taking a walk with her puppy, Lily, or swimming in the sound.

In gearing her life’s work to her community, she has compiled dozens of hand drawn sketches of locations throughout the North Fork in a coloring book. Each location is depicted as Hoblin imagines it, a magical collection that is available at Burtons Bookstore in Greenport and Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. She’s currently working on her second coloring book depicting scenes from the South Shore and Shelter Island.

“One of my favorite swimming spots has these large rocks in the water and in the coloring book there’s a mermaid sitting on the rock. I’m really excited and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this coloring book. I think that coloring and any type of art is really beneficial and stress relieving for the soul.”

For artist Kara Hoblin, Long Island is her inspirational masterpiece.

You can meet the artist at her next exhibit Wednesday, February 8th, from 6-8pm at Love Lane Kitchen for a reception of selected works and pop up gift shop.

Follow more from Kara Hoblin on Instagram  or her website.

Follow more from me on Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat: NikkiontheDaily

This is a follow up story. The original story about The Art of Letting Go was featured in The Independent Newspaper on August 24, 2016. 

Communication: The Artistic World of Bradley Theodore

The art world of NYC has changed. No longer are the days of conservative pieces being displayed on the Upper East Side or Midtown but rather contemporary statements now seen in Chelsea and, daringly enough, Brooklyn.

Halloween- 2014
Halloween- 2014

If you’ve been strolling down the streets of lower Manhattan chances are pretty likely that you’ve seen the hip skeleton wall art popping up from place to place. Thick brush strokes, colorful touches, they might even look like people you’ve seen before. But who?

These colorful paintings inspired me. I wanted to look like them, none in particular, so this past Halloween I decided to dress up as Dia de Muertos.  I felt ironically alive and fashionable for being painted as a dead skeleton. Walking in the Village Halloween Parade I noticed an entire float dedicated to the theme. Were they all trying to replicate the wall art that I saw? Skeletal outlines with hints of color, dancing in their disguises as though tomorrow would never come. Happiness.

Fast forward a few months to June and I’m standing in ACA Galleries on W 20th street in Chelsea, the new art mecca, amid dozens of those exact paintings with other admirers. The artist is Bradley Theodore and he’s altering urban landscapes.

20150611_192132Known to paint the cities of L.A., N.Y.C., Paris amongst others, Bradley’s work also represents a shift in the way things are changing. He is a profound artist of this generation. Having gained significant notoriety through Instagram and ‘wall scouting’ I was instantly curious how the streets of New York, my city, inspired him. Without hesitation he proclaimed ‘the people.’

“In New York you can bump into anyone and be like ‘Hey how are you doin?’ and then you know them for years. New York has some great people.”

It’s hard to argue that, we do have quite the community although I’m not entirely sure any good conversation came from physically bumping into someone on the sidewalks in this city.20150611_191754

But that’s the essential beauty of N.Y., we’re different. We have a love hate relationship with everything around us. Expansive subway system but the fares keep going up. Culinary diversity but it’s $4 for a slice of pizza. Millions of apartments that are ridiculously overpriced. Insert Jimmy McMillan screaming ‘the rent is too damn high.’ Bradley seemed to agree about the pricing of rent, claiming that is what makes this city different than any other he’s painted in. Maybe that’s why he paints people in skeletal form, they’re all too broke to afford a proper meal.

But if you look hard enough you’ll start to recognize those familiar faces and they aren’t those of broke New Yorkers. Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, Terry Richardson, Andy Warhol. The art depicts some of fashions biggest icons. Bradley is successfully contributing to a world where one would not exist without the other.

Bradley Theodore and I representing the 'communication' in his art
Bradley Theodore and I representing the ‘communication’ in his art

Karl Lagerfeld was once quoted as saying “doing collections, doing fashion is like a non-stop dialogue.” I can only assume this resonated with Bradley Theodore as I asked him one very important question. How does he want the viewer to feel when looking at his collection?

“Communication. It means two people, between people. That’s what life is about. Communication with the earth, with the ocean, with a fellow person.”

The word takes a deeper meaning when it’s binding his art to a specific location. All those wall murals I had mentioned above, which I’m sure are familiar to many, are in fact non-transferable. They’re made for specific people and when that person is no longer attached to their location Bradley will go paint over his art.

Veronica Campanelli, admirer of Bradley’s work, explains the irony she feels when looking at a painting.

“You see this color and think joy… and as you get closer and really look deeper into the image into the skeleton, you see something that might not necessarily depict the beauty you had originally thought you were looking at. Once you look beyond you see something deeper.”

2015-06-15 17.06.44
Angel Pai

But what if the artwork isn’t on a wall or something 2 dimensional, what if it’s on a woman’s body? One of Bradley’s models for his collaborative exhibit with Antoine Verglas, Angel Pai, described her experience as surreal.

“To be able to have my body as a canvas was an honor. Every one of us brought our own personality to our photographs to embody the color.” Standing in front of her favorite photograph of herself, “Bradley said to me, I see red, you’re fire. The entity I have in this one is very me.”

Casey Bergen, curator of the exhibit, has been following Bradley’s work for years. Upon hearing about the collaborative project with Antoine, Casey exclaimed that he “immediately knew this had the makings of a truly exciting exhibition.”

“I think it is safe to say that Bradley is a young artist with a bright future.  In addition to being one of the most practical and charismatic artists I have had a chance to work with, Bradley has found his own distinct style of painting, which is often the hardest part of an artist’s development, his style and brand have become a recognizable element in the New York art scene (and beyond).  We will have to watch and see what the future holds..but I’m betting we will see a lot more from him.”

Casey Bergen and I- fellow Hofstra University Alumni
Casey Bergen and I- fellow Hofstra University Alumni

The collaboration between Bradley and Antoine is an expository dialogue. Models wearing nothing but their personalities, covered in paint, true to life the symbiosis between art and fashion.

Raw Beauty is open now until July 31st at ACA Galleries at 529 W 20th Street