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‘Sandy’ On A Canvas

His painting depicts boats washed ashore and once-proud houses standing in a state of ruin. In the foreground, a Nassau County squad car blocks a storm-ravaged road under a sky marked with the foreboding footprint of Hurricane Sandy.

Such was Ronald Hendrickson’s vision of the superstorm’s aftermath — a vision that won the North Massapequa resident the $10,000 top prize in County Executive Ed Managano’s Sandy Art Challenge.

“I submitted the piece just to see if it would be accepted,” said Hendrickson, who used acrylic paints on a canvas board to complete the piece, titled “We Are Strong Island — A Salute to Nassau County Residence & Courage. “I put it off to the side in the basement and it sat there gathering dust. I kind of forgot about it until my wife saw an email inviting us to the art show.”

Hendrickson and his wife Doris attended the art exhibit at the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage Oct. 28 mainly just to see the other pieces. Officials began naming honorable mention winners, as well as the second and third place winners, when Doris walked to the other side of the room, opposite to where her husband was standing, in order to snap some pictures.

“All of a sudden, they announced Ronald as the grand prize winner. I yelled and everyone looked at me. I pointed at my husband to tell everyone he was the winner, not me,” she said. “I was floored when he won. I shook from head to foot for three hours.”

The competition, announced in April, was open to Nassau residents of all ages and skill levels who wanted a chance to “create a permanent tribute to the spirit of all county residents who have endured the wrath of Superstorm Sandy,” according to the announcement.

About 200 art pieces were submitted, and included paintings, mosaics, photography and mixed media. Shards of the Long Beach boardwalk, which was destroyed during Sandy and reopened Friday after reconstruction, were available to entrants for artistic use and appeared in several pieces.

Hendrickson strictly used paints, along with the memories of hurricane damaged he witnessed just a few miles south of his home in North Massapequa. Following the storm, the retired New York City corrections officer drove with his wife to survey the damage close to the shore. The scenes of devestated homes along closed-off roads stuck with both of them, inspiring their artistic and goodwill contributions.

“The devestation was just horrible and we tried to help in any way we could,” said Hendrickson. “My wife made food and we brought blankets down. Several towns were utterly destroyed. And I wanted to portray that in my work.”

He said his piece represents towns across the south shore, from Long Beach to Massapequa, adding that his piece’s title was inspired by the many plywood signs residents had painted and placed on the road.

“Some messages were nice, some were not so nice,” he said. “But we saw one that said ‘We Are Strong Island,’ and that one stuck with us.”

Hendrickson took up painting and art in general after he retired. Mostly working with dioramas and shadow boxes, he mainly gives away his work to relatives — but securing the grand prize in this contest might change everything.

“I’ve already earned more money painting than Van Gogh ever did in his lifetime,” he laughed. “I’d like to sell more pieces, but the bottom line is it gives me satisfaction that people would want to display my work in their homes. It’s a great feeling to create something that people might see as a thing of beauty, enough to actually display it in their homes.”

The $5,000 second prize went to Howard Busch of Oceanside for “Responders Conquer Chaos,” an oil paint and wood carving piece featuring the arms of a victim and a rescuer, a field of woodcut flames and the names of towns affected by Sandy on wooden chips. The third prize of $2,500 went to Audrey Troyka of Seaford for “You’re Safe Now,” her mosaiac portrait of a fireman carrying a cat to safety.

Two honorable mentions, “Untitled” from Deirdre Whiston of Massapequa, and “The Wave of Recovery” by Laura O’Shaughnessy-Swan of Long Beach, each received a $1,000 prize.

The awards were made possible through a private donation from Lawrence and Susan Kadish.

Susan Kadish, an artist in her own right, and a longtime supporter of the arts said Sandy provided an opportunity for artists to honor the those affected by the superstorm’s devestation.

“This traumatic experience of Sandy touched every one of us,” she said. “Artists have the ability to translate these experiences into expressions that resonate within our souls. This competition strove to encourage our community of artists to come forward and create works that spoke to us today and far into the future.”