KITCHEN SPONTANEITY

Some art requires solitude and study and the quiet wait for inspiration. But when a visitor asks Medy Quiroz about how she works, she drags a clattering easel into the middle of her kitchen floor, puts up a large half-finished canvas and goes at it with a wide brush thick with paint.

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After years of dabbling in pastels and fine-art photography, the soft-spoken computer scientist has found the outlet that most fully engages and gratifies her: abstract expressionism, where anything goes. Medy2

“I look at the canvas, and I have no idea what I’m going to do,” she says. “I say, ‘What color do I want to start with today?’ Then I dip my brush and I start moving my arm.”

Quiroz is one of 11 artists whose work will be featured in a show titled “In the Abstract” at the Middletown Township Public Library through Feb 27. An opening reception is scheduled for 2 to 4p tomorrow.

Quiroz, whose first name is short for ‘Remedios,’ immigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1984 as a master’s candidate in computer science. At George Washington University in D.C., she met doctoral candidate Lou DiMento, whom she married in 1987. They moved to Red Bank to take jobs at Bell Labs in Holmdel, where she still works as a product manager.

(DiMento, who now works at a technology start-up, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Red Bank Council in 2005. He’s a member of the borough Planning Board and the Environmental Commission, and Quiroz serves on the Shade Tree Commission.)

Quiroz had dabbled in painting over several decades, and while on assignment overseas briefly lived in the Paris apartment that was once home to both writer/painter Victor Hugo and painter Toulouse-Lautrec. She’d shown some of her pastels 16 years ago, while taking an art class at Brookdale Community College. All those pictures were still lifes of fruit.

Until recently, though, Quiroz’s main outlet for her artistic impulses was photography. That changed two years ago, when she enrolled in a class called Lyrical Abstract Expressionism, taught by George Pettite at the Guild of Creative Art in Shrewsbury.

“I was so happy, because I took the brush and I knew it was something for me,” Quiroz says. “I got caught. I was like, ‘This is for me.’ “

She still pursues photography, but abstract painting, she says, is her “calling.”

Quiroz sets up her paints on a countertop eight or ten feet away from the easel in the kitchen of her Alston Court home. That gives her room to step back and observe her work as it’s emerging. The space also serves as something as a runway, as Quiroz uses it to launch herself toward the canvas when she sees what it needs.

She also continually rotates the canvas so that, until it’s finished at least, the image has no top or bottom.

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The process of creation, Quiroz says, is both physical and instinctual, drawing on her eye for color, shape, and balance. “I feel the paint with each stroke, and I see the reaction of each stroke with the color that’s already on there,” she says.

What makes a good effort? “There should be depth, there should be objects that you can identify as objects — otherwise it would just be wallpaper,” she says. “There should be darks and there should be lights. The whole canvas should be covered.

“The viewer should constantly be discovering new things,” says Quiroz. “A very successful abstract painting will allow you to discover many things, no matter how long you’ve had it.”

Key, too, for the painter is knowing when to stop. And how does Quiroz know when that is? By continually asking herself what more it needs, she says. When the answer is “nothing,” she’s done.

Also in the present show, which runs through Feb 27, are: Sheilagh Casey, Janet Esposito, Mercedes Farrugia, Wayne Lerman, Lorraine Madsen, Tyrrell “Peggy” Masse, Susan Walsh McLean, Despina Statelova, and Bill Todt. They’re all students of the Guild’s James Kent, whose work is also in the show. Some 50 paintings will be on display.

The Middletown Library is at 55 New Monmouth Road and is open Monday through Thursday, 9a to 9p; Friday and Saturday, 9a to 5p; and Sunday, 1 to 5p. Call 732-671-3700 ext 320 for more info.

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