Archaeologists of the Imagination

Rochester-area artists display their veteran expertise

By Christine Green

Artifaks ArtistsTwo years ago, Rochester artist Jane Notides-Benzing decided she wanted to put together an art show with fellow artists Lee Hoag, Constance Mauro, Al Pardi, and Dan Scally.

Notides-Benzing knew these artists worked from a place deep inside their imagination to create stunning pieces that play with more traditional aesthetic art qualities: line, space, colors, shapes, and form.

Thus was born the Artifaks of the Artist’s Imagination show at the Patricia O’Keefe Ross Gallery in the Skalny Welcome Center at St. John Fisher College, Rochester.

Notides-Benzing said that she and the other artists in the show are like archaeologists of the imagination — thus the name “artifaks.”

“I used Artifaks rather than ‘artifacts’ to keep attention focused on the unreal ideas, imaginary parts and pieces of memories and thoughts that aren’t yet visible; stressing that these can’t be held in the hand or put on a wall, a shelf, a pedestal until they become processed by the artist into material objects, visible art such as sculpture, painting, etc.,” she said.

“Unlike archaeologists searching for artifacts of past civilizations, we artists are digging up our thoughts, memories, color ideas, past experiences, and accumulated arts knowledge all of which do not yet have a physical presence,” Notides-Benzing added.

Here are the artists who bring their work to St. John Fisher College:

Dan Scally


Dan Scally of Chili has been an active member of the Rochester art scene for over a decade and is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology fine arts program.

Several galleries and restaurants in and around Rochester have displayed his mixed media work. He recently retired from Kodak where he worked as a digital print specialist. He now devotes himself to his creative endeavors full time.

Scally was excited to join the Artifaks show and decided it was a good opportunity to embark on a new series of paintings. He created his abstract landscapes completely from memory without using visual references such as photographs. This approach forced him to “draw from totally within to paint how I felt about the scene versus painting the scene,” he said.

Al Pardi


Al Pardi lives in Ontario on the Lake and attended a school of architecture (Syracuse University) that placed an important emphasis on the study of the arts. Painting, sculpture, and free-hand drawing became as much a part of his life as his architectural career.

Pardi’s firm, Pardi Partnership Architects, PC, is a design-oriented architectural firm and award-winning architects who designed Tower 280 at Midtown Plaza. He incorporates his architectural and artistic training into his sculptures.

“The series of sculptures in the show reflect my training in architecture. They are creations of interesting relationships of forms, materials, and colors reflecting the training of my professors many years ago,” he said.

Jane Notides-Benzing


Notides-Benzing has always been an artist even as a child making paper clothes for her dolls. A graduate of Hunter College and New York University, Notides-Benzing did technical writing at Xerox and Kodak for many years all while keeping up with the contemporary art world by visiting exhibits and galleries as often as possible.

Notides-Benzing’s paintings and layered mixed-media compositions use themes of space and light, past and present to feature something wholly new and interesting to the viewer. For example, her piece “Selket: Past Becomes Present” is an image of an ancient Egyptian goddess lighted from behind by modern LED lights — an electrified constellation of the 21st century.

Lee Hoag


Award-winning sculptor Lee Hoag attended San Francisco Art Institute and RIT. In San Francisco, he studied with a variety of accomplished artists who helped shape the unique approach he takes with his sculptural work. His subconscious and memory draws him to the objects he uses and by being open to those things, he brings new meaning to the household and found objects he uses, he said.

Hoag is a National Technical Institute for the Deaf-trained sign language interpreter and recently retired from a 30-year career as a local educational interpreter. Like Scally, he also focuses on his art full time now.

Constance Mauro


Constance Mauro is a native of Rochester who studied studio art and psychology at Nazareth College in Rochester. She later returned to Nazareth for a certificate in art education then worked as the executive director of MCA of Rochester Inc., a labor management group, for 25 years before retiring.

She begins her paintings with no preconception of what she intends to create.

“Pigment is applied to the surface and I let the painting speak for itself. The piece will begin to develop and will evoke an image. I am then able to create the finished work,” she said.

Mauro employs a variety of media in her art, including oil paint and collage. Most of her works are encaustic, a painting technique that uses both wax and pigments.

Scully said this show will help demonstrate to the Rochester community that older artists are still relevant in today’s art scene. He said because the Artifaks’ artists are all over 55, they have a “wealth of experience to draw on, emotionally. We have a lot of memories versus someone who is 20 or 30 years old.”

Scully, Notides-Benzing, Mauro, Hoag, and Pardi are excited to share space with other like-mind artists in the Patricia O’Keefe Ross Gallery and are grateful to Notides-Benzing for creating this opportunity.

“I was very pleased to be asked; privileged,” said Mauro. “For some magical reason once you hang these pieces you notice that there is some reason you all came together. There is some cohesiveness about it.”

When asked what needs to be done in order to create an engaging and cohesive exhibit, Notides-Benzing said their biggest job now is to do what they do best — make art.

“We all have the responsibility to make great art,” said Notides-Benzing. “We owe it to the viewer to have something really nice on the walls.”

Artifaks of the Artist’s Imagination show

The Artifaks of the Artist’s Imagination show will be on display at the Patricia O’Keefe Ross Gallery at the St. John Fisher Skalny Welcome Center, 3690 East Ave., Rochester.

— Exhibit Dates: May 7 to June 1.
— Gallery hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays
— Reception for the public and artist talks: 5-8 p.m. May 17
— Admission: This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Notides-Benzing at 585-546-6243 or email jnotidesbenzing@frontier.com.