Huntington art teacher Kasmira Mohanty with her artwork at the Heckscher Museum.
Huntington art teacher Kasmira Mohanty with her artwork at the Heckscher Museum.

Huntington’s Kasmira Mohanty Wins Award at LI Biennial

October 4, 2022

Kasmira Mohanty isn’t just a great teacher; the Huntington High School classroom veteran is an award winning working artist, too. She recently captured an Award of Merit at the Heckscher Museum of Art’s Long Island Biennial exhibition, which features work by contemporary artists from Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“The Long Island Biennial offers Long Island’s artists an opportunity to show their work to a broad public, deepening the connections between artists and the communities in which they live,” according to the Heckscher Museum.

This fall’s exhibition is the seventh edition of the juried show, which attracted submissions from 248 artists, who submitted a total of 723 works of art for consideration. The jurors selected 98 artworks by 58 artists for inclusion in the show, which will reflect the broad and diverse range of work being created on Long Island.

Ms. Mohanty is an internationally recognized digital artist who has been on Huntington UFSD’s art faculty since 2001. She holds degrees from The Fashion Institute of Technology, Purchase College and Dowling College. Her students have followed her lead by winning numerous awards and recognition annually. She sits on the executive board of the Huntington Arts Council and is known nationally for her involvement with Davis publishing as a contributing editor and writer for SchoolArts Magazine, K12 Art Chat podcast guest and as a Media Arts Intensive host.

“My affection for street and graffiti art coupled with an abundance of pattern, color, line and texture can all be found throughout the majority of my artwork,” Ms. Mohanty said. “These specific works incorporate layers of hand-rendered watercolor, acrylic and spray-painted features combined with original photographic textures, vector line work and sometimes typographic elements. I refer to the techniques I have developed over the past twenty years as Paint and Pixels. My most recent portraits created in the past five years have evolved into a style I define as Low Brow Parisian Punk.”

The longtime Huntington High School art teacher said she was “particularly excited” about this exhibition because she was able to show her work along a group of artists she personally knows and respects, including Margaret Minardi, Chris Ann Ambery, John Cino and William Low.

“Technique aside, as of late, I have been reimagining works I created over twenty years ago,” Ms. Mohanty said. “I have been reflective about my artistic career, unpacking its evolution. Thus, the desire to recreate some of my iconic images in the pitch and style I currently employ became an obsession. During this process, I recognized that my early work included several images of persons that appear to be screaming. I connected emotionally to these works that mirror my current mood regarding a world gone mad. Further contemplation revealed something curious. Are my subjects screaming or laughing with insanity? I appreciated the ambiguity and decided to lean into that notion, implementing subtle adaptions making it harder to tell. The instability of truly not knowing reflects my worry about the present and the future.”

The teacher-artist’s surroundings have inspired her. “Long Island has a rich history of artists and craft persons living and working here, past and present,” Ms. Mohanty said. “The abundant array of museums, arts councils, organizations, opportunities and events found in almost every community makes it easy, accessible, and fun to learn about these masters of creativity. Their stories help me to think divergently, attempt innovation and to be persistent.

Ms. Mohanty’s three mixed media pieces along with the rest of the exhibition will remain on display through January 22, 2023.

“When I speak of the arts, I also embrace the contributions that Long Island musicians, actors, dancers, cinematographers and the like have on the visual arts and vice versa,” Ms. Mohanty said. “I’ve benefitted the most from my one-on-one interactions with other artists in all fields. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit some of these artists' studios to play, experiment and collaborate. A few of these encounters have led to great friendships, in which ideas are exchanged, challenged, or reworked. I realize this happens every day all around the world, but it’s the artist next door that keeps me going when I am having a creative face plant. Long Island’s smart, supportive, and friendly art community makes living and generating art here a worthwhile endeavor.”

The veteran Huntington UFSD faculty members said she has “art friends” throughout the county and around the world. “Some of them have rare opportunities to share their work within their communities,” Ms. Mohanty said. “I admit there are times when I feel overwhelmed with the amount of exhibition and public work projects that are continually offered. Some of these opportunities have pushed me out of my comfort zone. I never would have thought I’d have public art installations, one in stone and the other on two traffic boxes. My domain is primarily digital. The idea of transcending the digital world to meld with a three-dimensional environment hadn’t occurred to me, but with friends encouraging me to ‘just go for it,’ I applied to those opportunities for which I was selected to participate. Those experiences helped me overcome limitations I had unwittingly placed on myself. Inviting thoughtful risk taking and innovating is part of Long Island’s DNA and artists here are given a safe space to explore and grow.”

Born and raised on Long Island, Ms. Mohanty said she ended up buying the very house heer parents built. “In my youth, I envisioned a very different life, but it seems I’m right where I am supposed to be,” she said. “It has been a slow build to where I am today. Up until I was 16, I had spent my time as a classically trained ballet dancer, transitioned into theater, then costume design and one semester studied fashion design at FIT in New York City. It wasn’t a good fit, pun intended. I took a winter intersession class in photography out of curiosity and that led me to transition into the visual arts. Photography satisfied my urge to produce images rather quickly and it seemed to circumvent my learning disabilities, of which I knew nothing until my late twenties. My photographic specialties fell under the heading of experimental. I played with Polaroid transfers, acetone prints, cross-processing, collage, and painting on top of my prints. Anything considered toxic by today’s standards was always an invitation to participate in artful debauchery. The way you were supposed to do things felt prohibitive.”

Ms. Mohanty said the “grungier, grainier and messier the images came out,” the happier she was. “Eventually, photography led to Photoshop, Photoshop led to Illustrator and beyond. I’ve spent the last three decades straddling, amalgamating and pushing the boundaries between my traditional art education and my self-taught digital methods of making art,” she said. “I am not usually concerned with the proper way to do things after I’ve learned the proper tools and how to use them within any medium. I gather and research the basics and then forge my own path. This mindset has helped me to come up with several artistic inventions and new ways of problem solving creative and design problems that continue to serve me well.”