Artist Elise Weber, 21, of Seaford, chose a landscape that caught her attention. She set down her supplies among the branches and leaves surrounding her, laid out brushes that would soon be lathered in color to bring the nature around her to life, and began what she describes as her most efficient method of self-expression, brush strokes on blank canvas. Weber likes to paint while in nature, a practice known as “en plen air.”
She enjoys finding the beauty in natural settings both extraordinary and mundane. Occasionally, she may encounter emotional hurdles while creating her artwork, and sometimes she doesn’t finish right away.
“In the process of creating some of my paintings, I’ve broken down and had to come back to it,” Weber said. “When I look at any pieces of my artwork now, I can remember the exact feeling I had while painting it.”
This month and next, members of the Seaford Public Library can see Weber’s work for themselves: seven pieces, all scenes of nature, are displayed on the library’s first floor.
Eric Wasserman, a librarian at the Seaford Public Library, reached out to Weber and asked her if she would be interested in sharing her art with the community. “I used to be at the library a lot when I was younger, especially in the summers in middle school, when I was a part of their reading program,” Weber recalled, “so there’s a sense of pride in having my artwork displayed there now. [Eric] wanted me to express myself with a cohesive collection of my artwork.”
Weber, who has lived in Seaford since she was a fifth-grader at the Seaford Manor School, had to find her place as an adolescent in a number of new environments. When she was born in 1998, her family lived in New Hyde Park. She went to nursery school, and eventually elementary school, at Holy Spirit Roman Catholic School. When the school closed in 2005, Sergio and Suzanne Weber decided to move their oldest child to St. Anne’s School, in Garden City, for second grade. Elise has two younger siblings, brother Daniel, 19, and Peter, 16. She spent two years there before transferring to the New Hyde Park Road School in fourth grade after her parents deemed the private Catholic school too expensive.
Elise hoped that her third new school in four years could be more permanent, but it wasn’t. After fourth grade, in 2008, her parents decided to move to Seaford, when talk of the possible construction of a third rail at the New Hyde Park train station worried the family, who lived in close proximity. In September 2008, Elise started classes at Seaford Manor, her fourth elementary school in five years.
“I was just trying to find a sense of stability,” she said.
Without a steady group of friends during her early formative years, she found ways to express herself through the arts. She began taking dance lessons when she was 3, and learned ballet, jazz and modern dance. Her parents signed her up for art lessons in fifth grade, and her passion for painting grew over the years, as did her ability.
“In ninth grade, we were asked to paint fruit for a school art project, and I remember getting a lot of praise for mine,” Weber recounted. “I remember people saying it was good, and ‘that pear is really something.’”
“All the kids I went to school with knew each other from kindergarten,” she said. But she did make friends, and finally started to find that sense of stability she longed for. She stayed in the Seaford district from then on, and graduated from Seaford High School in 2016, after being very involved in her school, including being active in a few school plays.
While there, she said, she was inspired by the chairperson of the school’s art department, Donna Manning. “She was really the one that helped me in the decision to go to school for art,” Weber said.
As a junior, she took an art course at Adelphi University entitled “For the Love of Art,” having been invited, along with other artistic students from around Long Island, to the university campus to explore her passion. Weber credits that class for furthering her interest in art and pushing her to enroll at Adelphi.
Now, in her last semester as an undergraduate majoring in art and design education, Weber is becoming more involved in teaching. She teaches dance at Techniques Dance Studio in Wantagh, worked with children with special needs with Nassau BOCES last summer and, as an “ambassador” for the Adelphi art department, helps new and prospective students.
“The BOCES experience was eye-opening,” Weber said. “Figuring out a different approach to try and communicate with these children while building relationships was a rewarding experience.”
She also credits her progress as an artist to her work with Adelphi Art Department Chair Kellyann Monaghan. Monaghan taught Weber landscape painting and, Weber says, has been a strong influence on her.
Weber also spent two weeks in Florence, Italy in her junior year when, she said, she discovered a “world outside of Long Island.”
When she graduates, she plans to look for a job teaching art, preferably at a middle school on Long Island, in New York City or in the New Paltz area, where she will pursue a master’s in special education at the SUNY campus.
In the meantime, Weber is focusing on her personal growth as well as her progress as an artist. “I want to take new risks and find new challenges,” she said. “I’m also trying to find independence. I’m trying to find that balance.”