Fine Arts: Special Edition exhibit celebrates NJSCA

By Janet Purcell

For The Times of Trenton

Art lovers, take heed.  The New Jersey Arts Annual Special Edition exhibit ends August 13.  These are the last few days you can see this spectacular show of 81 works by 69 artists.  If you have other plans, cancel them and go to the New Jersey State Museum.  You'll be glad you did.   

String Theory by Robert Forman

This Special Edition exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.   Founded in 1966, the Council provides financial and technical support services for New Jersey artists and nonprofit organizations.  To get a full picture of what the Council does, visit their website at http://www.nj.gov/state/njsca/index.html. 

According to Margaret O'Reilly, Exhibit Curator and Executive Director of the New Jersey State Museum, the artists in this show were selected from the Museum's database that includes names and images of works by 1,500 fine artists, craftspeople and folk artists who showed in previous New Jersey Arts Annual exhibitions.            

The earliest on display is a collection of glass paperweights by internationally acclaimed glass artist Paul Stankard.  And part of a work still in progress is two large acrylic paintings by noted Trenton artist, Mel Leipzig that visually tell the story of the arts and artists of this state.  Titled "Homage to the Arts of New Jersey," they are the first two of a series still to be completed.            

Leipzig's paintings are displayed near a continuously looping video drawn from the State of the Arts, New Jersey public television series.           

Here at the opening of the exhibition you'll see several large paintings accompanying those done by Leipzig.  One that is especially poignant is "Veteran's Day III" by Tim Gaydos.  In it you see a man sitting on the edge of his shoe-shine stand.  You see an unfurled American flag and two empty chairs and you feel the dejection of the vet as he waits for a customer.                   

A lighthearted note in this section is Pam Cooper's "Paper Doll," an installation in which the paper doll stands near several paper dresses hanging on little metal hangers suspended from a circular stand in a "room" with an open door and a mirror  loosely depicted.           

And in this part of the exhibit you'll also find a many-faceted fiber wall piece, an intricate lithograph, a platinum/palladium print with graphite drawing, a hooked and embroidered wall hanging, a large blown and sand-cast glass bowl and, among other works, a small wool, cotton and velvet sewing bag that is trimmed with jewel-tone glass beads.            

Not far off you'll come upon a pair of hand-carved Scaup Decoys, a pair of white oak and cedar baskets and a wooden jewelry box that is crafted to resemble a stack of books.            

Along the walls encircling these varied crafts are photographs and paintings.  A photograph that stands out is Donald Lokuta's "George Segal,Trenton, NJ 1987."  Later in the exhibit you'll see a pair of aquatints by Segal, "Man in Green Shirt: Front View" and the other, "Girl in Blue Jeans: Back View." Segal is known for his figurative works in sculpture and for his photographs of ordinary people living their lives in New York and New Jersey.  In these two prints, however, the figures are mostly obscured in darkness and subtly defined by light falling on body contours and clothing details.           

But there is nothing subtle about three pieces hung together on one wall.  These are Deb Mill's mixed media, "Fingers, Hands, and Thoughts of You" in which a masked, bejeweled female figure stands, teeth bared and peering out through gloved fingers while beaded and bordered with painted eyes and fingers.  Next to this is Patricia Malarcher,'s "Passage" a gleaming archway made up of multiple patterned squares of Mylar, fabric, paint and military badges.  And then you come to Robert Forman's mind-boggling colored yarn on Clayboard "String Theory" depicting a large gathering of people on a city street.  Go in close for this one and see how this was all--people, trees, sky, buildings--done with fine threads laid on in intricate detail, artistic know how, and patience!           

I'm sorry to say I'm skipping over one exceptionally good work after another in this reportage.  You just have to go there this weekend and see it all.  And when you do, don't bypass the small and exquisite pieces in display cubes that stand throughout on pedestals.  For example, Christopher C. Darway's bronze, copper, sterling silver, stainless steel, hematite stone and maple wood "Brooch Box" and Christine Barney's "Pinwheel," a furnace-formed block, wheel cut, polished on Schott crystal base. The colors in this are luminescent and the shapes interesting.  Another cube display offers Jennifer Crepe's "Ornamental Hands: Figure Four" where, working in sterling silver, acrylic and inkjet print, the unique presentation includes curved sterling shapes suspended on delicate gold chains.           

But let's go back to the wall art. And when you do, you'll come upon a show stopper.  It's Wendell White's pigment on inkjet paper mounted and laminated.  In it, White presents just one shape on a black background.  But it speaks volumes.  Its title says all that needs to be said--"Slave Collar."           

But then, drawing comments and smiles for museum visitors is Franc Palma's "Leaning Tower of Suitcases" on the faces of which, with backlighted "Duratran" prints, each leaning suitcase displays a picture of a leaning tower.    

An innovative piece is Frank Boscov's "Hands," a quilt-like hanging comprising 35 squares of fingers in all sorts of patterns, lines, configurations all done with black toner on paper.  Another is Miriam Beerman's strongly textured expressionist oil and collage on a large canvas titled "Shower."  And Diana Gonzalez Gandalfi's quiet piece, an encaustic, paper and oil on panel, "The Weight of Waiting."

And an example of the expert job of layout planning done by Margaret O'Reilly is her pairing of James A. Brown's "Untitled" from his Imposter Series and Shoshanna Weinberger's large "Mend Thine Ev'ry Flaw: The American Pin-ups," a large gouache and collage on paper.  Both present bizarre personas in black with red lips on white backgrounds.  In addition to being engaging, they are like exclamation points near the end of this spectacular exhibit--one you should not miss.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT:New Jersey Arts Annual: Special Edition Celebrating 50 Years

WHERE:New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton

WHEN:LAST CHANCE!  Closes August 13.  Hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday 

SUGGESTED ADMISSION: Adults $5; Seniors & Students with valid i.d. $4;   Children under 12, teachers, veterans, active duty military and NJ State Museum Foundation Members free