Artists Capturing Artists

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Clique’ exhibit, featuring 16 South Jersey artists captured by eight South Jersey photographers, opens in Millville for Third Friday.
By Jeff Schwachter
For most artists, especially those whose work is in the visual realm, working alone and in one’s own space is the preferred environment to create. Due to this singular aspect of the artist’s life, along with an unusual, independent and fluid schedule, it’s hard enough to get artists together in one place at one time, let alone bring more than two dozen together to collaborate.
Enter Clique, a special art exhibit opening at the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts (RRCART) in Millville on Friday, September 16.
“This is a rare opportunity to see some of South Jersey’s best artists all in one exhibit,” says Millville native Bill Horin, who conceived and curated Clique.
“The idea was to showcase these 16 artists in a different light than they are used to—for the public to see the artists behind the art in a way that represents the quality and compelling nature of their work. I think we have done that.”
The novel exhibit, which features portraits of 16 of some of the best artists throughout South Jersey captured by eight of South Jersey’s best conceptual photographers, will be on display through mid October.
The September 16 opening (6 to 9 p.m.) will include a dynamic artists reception, which will offer a number of treats for attendees and patrons on Millville’s High Street for its monthly Third Friday gathering.
Sponsored by the ArtPride NJ Foundation, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, in partnership with Horin’s arts organization ArtC (artcnow.com), Clique debuted in April at the Perkins Center for the Arts in Collingswood, Camden County.
The exhibit was very well received. Not only did the artists have the opportunity to see their respective portrait for the first time and speak with fellow artists and patrons, but also they became the art, as their portraits were the subjects of the exhibit.
Each of the eight photographers included in the exhibit were asked to shoot a portrait of two of the 16 artist subjects for Clique. Hammonton’s Susan Gietka is one of the conceptual portrait photographers who participated in the project.
Gietka photographed Cape May painter Victor Grasso and Salem County sculptor and mixed-media artist Molly Carpenter.
“Meeting and photographing both artists was an incredible experience,” says Gietka.
“Both artists are amazing at what they do, and yet so different.”
Each of the eight South Jersey photographers whose work appears in Clique—Gietka, Nastassia Davis (Atlantic City), Steven Greer (Lumberton), Magdalena Kernan (Somers Point), Gary Mattie (Cherry Hill), Cliff Mautner (Haddonfield), David Todd McCarty (Cape May Court House), and Frank Weiss (Wildwood Crest)—are as admired and respected for their works as their subjects, making for an unusually diverse and extraordinary show.
All genres and media are represented by the artist subjects in Clique, including writers, sculptors, and painters. Likewise, the participating photographers are from different backgrounds and have different styles.
“One of the key elements of this project was matching up the right photographer with the right artist,” says Horin, who expanded the show for its Millville run.
“It wasn’t as easy as it sounds,” he adds. “We had to match styles of photography to the personalities of the artists. Some of the photographers who do more abstract work wouldn’t work with certain artists and vice versa, for example.”
One of the artists Atlantic City photographer Nastassia Davis shot was ceramist Jacqueline Sandro, who heads up the Clay College in Millville.
Davis, whose conceptual work is as imaginative as it is carefully constructed, took a lot of photos of Sandro before stumbling upon the final portrait.
“Working with Nastassia was great,” says Sandro, who was unable to attend the April Clique event, but who will be among the artists at Friday’s opening reception.
“At first we just tried different things, but by the end we loosened up and were having fun. I wound up on the ground of my gallery at the Clay College with all of these oversized ceramic peach pits around my head.
“I enjoyed the whole process. Who likes looking at pictures of themselves, right? But this was a great idea and I loved how [my portrait] came out.”
Kim Chapman, artistic director for the Vineland Regional Dance Company, is another one of the artists whose portrait is included in the exhibit.
“Steve Greer took my photograph and I loved the entire process,” says Chapman, who was on hand at the April exhibit.
While the April show included the 16 photographs of South Jersey artists, as well as an array of food and wine, as well as live music, the Millville show—thanks in part to Chapman—will take the premise to the next level, including live performances from four of the artist subjects as well as a few examples of the visual-artist subjects’ works.
“When I attended the show in Collingswood my dancers attended with me,” says Chapman. “There was live music and my dancers, being dancers, wanted to start performing. This gave me the idea to ask Bill if at the next showing we could perform.
“I believe he may have already had the idea simmering, but it blossomed as I mentioned that my dancers would love to perform. It is a great example of artists supporting artists.”
Diane Roberts, executive director of RRCART, has dubbed the September exhibit “Clique 2.0,” because it “goes way beyond the initial exhibit held in April.”
Roberts, who attended the Collingswood opening of Clique with RRCART artistic director Lisa Romano, has been planning the Millville show with Horin and Romano for several months.
“There are 12 visual artists represented in the exhibit,” says Roberts, “but this time we have the space to include their physical works, which will also be on display.”
“When we went to the Perkins show in April and saw the magnificent portraits, we realized that if we were to host the exhibit, just the 16 portraits wouldn’t be enough to fill our gallery,” says Romano. “So, we asked Bill to get the artists’ art here too. We wanted all the art!”
While a majority of the artists have never shown their work at RRCART, another attraction for Third Friday patrons—and everyone else coming to the opening reception—is the live entertainment.
“With four of the 16 artists involved in the performing arts, their moment to shine will be performing at the Friday night opening reception,” says Roberts.
Chapman is bringing four dancers from the VRDC to dance at the event, while Southampton singer-songwriter Ginger Coyle, Haddonfield flautist Megan Emigh, and Camden playwright Joe Papryzycki will also give short performances.
Patrons will also be in for a feast of local fare as Roberts and Romano, thanks to added funding sources for this particular event, invited local restaurants to take part in the event. Food from Glasstown Art District restaurants such as Andrea’s, El Guacamole, and BJ Roasters, among others, will be showcased.
Horin, whose ArtC organization has been advocating for South Jersey artists and working with local arts organizations for several years—he currently hosts the weekly SNJ Today program “ArtC with Bill Horin,” now in its second season—is also a photographer. Clique is his vision and it’s a good example of what he’s trying to achieve with ArtC.
“We need to shine the light more on artists in South Jersey,” says Horin. “There are so many talented artists in our area that I can do 20 more of these shows and still not run out of great artists in South Jersey.”
Anyone who appreciates art would be wise to attend Friday night’s opening reception, as most of the artists involved will be present.
“Most people don’t think of South Jersey artists in this way,” adds Horin. “The more you get to know the artists the more you can relate to their work; that is part of the impetus to do this.”
While photographs of artists may be an uncommon subject for an art exhibit, the works featured in Clique are not only stunning and compelling (as they are works of art themselves), but they capture the personas of the artists and are, in fact, extensions of their art. As with the iconic portraits of renowned artists such as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, the portraits help to establish the group of 16 South Jersey artists and cement their place in the pantheon of New Jersey’s top artists.
“This project definitely promotes the arts in South Jersey,” says Chapman.
“I have always said that sometimes New Jersey feels like it should be two different states. Like North Carolina and South Carolina, there really is a North Jersey and a South Jersey. More often than not, the talent, expertise and energy that the South Jersey artists have to offer [are] overshadowed by the artists in North Jersey.”
Clique could be the first exhibit in recent times to include this many quality artists and photographers working together and exhibiting together in the same show.
“These artists are only a sampling of South Jersey’s best artists,” adds Horin, who handpicked the artists and photographers and matched them together.
For photographer Gietka, Clique was a rare opportunity and a unique experience.
“The show is exceptional,” she says. “Artists creating portraits of other artists in a conceptual way. Digging deep, taking something you learned about another person and running with that. Creating something from an idea that the two of you shared. Asking lots of questions and gaining trust from another creative [person]. And then creating something unique together with that person—for me [it has all] been an honor and a challenge. The project showcases how creatives see other artists.
Gietka says this is the first time that she’s been involved in a project such as Clique: “Usually, I create [by] retelling my own story,” she says. “It was a challenge creating for another artist, one who has their own amazing ideas. This project pushed me and I am glad that I was a part of it.”
Gietka also sees projects such as Clique as a way to “let the viewers see a part of the artist that they might not have known about —a little glimpse into their being and where they create from.”
While most of the artists and photographers will be present at Friday’s opening reception, those in attendance will be able to speak with them about their process, and how each piece was created.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for the arts to be showcased in Millville,” says Chapman. “We are a gem down here and it is time people discover the treasures we have to offer without traveling to New York or Philadelphia. Right here in our backyard grows some unbelievable talent. My dancers will perform my original choreography and it is a free performance to taste a little of what we have to offer.”
Also opening at the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts on Friday, with artists on hand for the reception is a pair of other exhibits.
In the Witt Gallery, the Society of New Jersey Artists (SNJA) presents the judged art show “Autumn’s Palette,” with awards announced Friday night. Across the hall, works by Michael Placko and Deann Scarpa will be on display in the Artist Alcove.
“Art in all its forms can be a vital part of everyone’s life,” says Chapman, “and bringing this message to the community, in my opinion, is one of the focuses of the Clique exhibit.”
For a full list of artists featured in Clique, visit cliquesj.org