By Christine Sampson
Maxine Townsend Broderick’s artistic journey grew out of once-a-month art lessons at her grade school, leading to advertising design studies at New York Technical College, then to a career in commercial art, professional photography and teaching in New York City public schools, before becoming a multimedia artist in her retirement.
It seems only natural, then, that Ms. Broderick’s work — in oils, watercolors, stained glass, sand, photography, quilts and more — would reflect such a varied career. She will bring a sampling of her vast collection to the Eastville Community Historical Society for a solo show titled “Maxine’s World” that will open on Friday at the ECHS Heritage House. A reception will be held Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. and the show will run through June 17.
Ms. Broderick, 74, also says art has become her passion for a number of reasons, including relaxation, the furthering of cultural knowledge and identity, and personal healing.
“I found that art was the way that I could get through things that bothered me,” she said in an interview this week. “Instead of getting depressed, I would do artwork.”
Quilting, for instance, allowed Ms. Broderick to honor her late son Brian, who died in 2006. She made quilts in his likeness for her former husband and her other children as a way to remember him. And when she recently took up making stained glass, she created her celebrated piece “Three Sisters,” which she later realized perfectly depicted her three siblings in warm tones that portrayed their unique personalities. Her twin sister, Margaret, and her younger sister, Claudette, had died in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
“It’s hard, but I feel that somehow I find a way through my art that helps me,” she said.
It’s also important to Ms. Broderick that she portrays and furthers appreciation of her background and of black cultural identities, including that of her father, an immigrant from Grenada, and her mother, an immigrant from Jamaica. Raised in the Jamaica area of Queens, Ms. Broderick said she honors her Caribbean-American upbringing and values in her artwork. Much of it also pays tribute to the lives of women.
“It’s good to get the history out,” she said. “It’s really important to instill in young people their heritage and to know who they are. … I hope my art does do that, because what I’m really trying to show in a lot of the paintings is wanting people to know that this is how it’s been done. This is what we, as black people, have accomplished.”
Her work also reflects her travels throughout Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and Nigeria.
“I try with my artwork to try and let them see the different cultures,” Ms. Broderick said. “It’s important, I feel, for all of us, regardless of where our backgrounds are, that we need to experience other backgrounds and other cultures. That helps us bring one another together and realize we’re all the same.”
A resident of Queens, Ms. Broderick has visited Sag Harbor for the last 40 years during summers and on holidays. She has exhibited before at Eastville, as well as Guild Hall, Ashawagh Hall and the Southampton Arts Center, and is a former member of the Montauk Art League. She is currently the president of the Long Island Black Artists Association and her work is included in collections in United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe.
Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, ECHS’s executive director, said “Maxine’s World” is an important show for Eastville.
“Historically, we’ve always had shows around folk art and folklore that was quintessential to the history of the area,” she said. “There are a lot of representations within her art that relate to what we tell and preserve at Eastville.”
She called Ms. Broderick a “storyteller.”
“She is capturing something that is real,” Dr. Grier-Key said. “In doing that, she keeping alive the cultural heritage. That comes through in her work. She has a very keen eye and is the quintessential artist, and she perfects all of the media that she works in. These are skill sets that some artists have individually, but she has them collectively. … It’s quite impressive.”
The Eastville Community Historical Society is located at 139 Hampton Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 725-4711 or visit eastvillecommunityhistoricalsociety.webs.com.