Last Saturday, exactly two years ago after his death at age 63, friends, family, former students and members of the East Rockaway community celebrated the life and work of John Bishop, one of the school district’s most beloved art teachers, with an exhibit of his works titled “The Beauty of Everyday Life,” at the Lynbrook Public Library.
“Dozens of people showed up,” said former East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School music teacher Dan Ezell, who, along with Bishop’s brother, Bob Bishop, John’s partner, Cesar Gil, and library Director Robyn Gilloon — a 1985 ERHS graduate and former student of Bishop’s — put the show together.
“There were so many works of art to chose from, it was mind-boggling — we could have filled five rooms,” said Ezell. “But when making the decision about what to include, we’d ask ourselves, how would John feel about what would represent his work the best? And that’s how we made our decisions.”
The feeling in the room was similar to that of a Homecoming or a reunion, Ezell said, with so many former students, retired and current teachers, family members and friends.
“Mr. Bishop was a great guy,” said Gaetano “Tommy” Barone, a 2004 graduate. “He was incredibly talented, but it was his spirit and compassion that inspired me. I walked into his classroom a kid with a disability, but I walked out an artist. Mr. Bishop saw the beauty in everyone and in every situation.”
Over the course of his 35 years in the district, Bishop inspired thousands of students. After he died, his brother, Ezell and Gil began discussing how his artwork could be made available to a wider audience.
“Very few people have had the opportunity to see the diversity and genius of his output,” said Ezell. “The agonizing aspect of this undertaking was deciding what had to be eliminated … there are so many works that cannot be displayed in one venue.”
The exhibition includes pieces that date back to Bishop’s youth. In addition to watercolors, drawings and sketches, his illustrations for children’s books, holiday cards and many other works were also on display.