100th Post: 100% Picture Perfect Sunday!

This afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday, we get to enjoy some warm(er) weather here in New Jersey.  I spent some time earlier today in Rahway and visited the “Close Encounters” art exhibit at the Arts Guild New Jersey.  (It was fascinating, and we’ll have some info about it on Notes on the State of New Jersey very soon!)

The sun has been out all day and it’s melted away some of the snow and ice, making for nice driving conditions.  (Just in time too, because it looks like a few more storms are headed our way this week.)

Melissa Morris Snow

Taking in the snow in New Jersey, while we have it.

Though we keep saying that we’re sick of the snow and ready for spring, I think it’s important to appreciate the beauty of winter while it’s here. This is a favorite photo of mine from the last snow storm we had…

Now, off to go watch the Super Bowl (and all the fun commercials)!

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

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Hooked on New Jersey

Top Row Left to Right: Melissa Morris, Ilse Vliet, Lydia Lewis, Kathy Donovan, Janet Keller Laughlin, and Linda Rae Coughlin (curator) Bottom Row Left to Right, Janet Santaniello (curator), Susan Johnson, Dee Rosebrock, and Debbie Walsh

To show their appreciation for the Garden State, many talented women from New Jersey, and the surrounding area, have displayed their New Jersey-themed artwork in a special exhibit at The Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge, NJ.  This exhibit, Hooked on New Jersey, is unique because each piece of art is a handcrafted, hooked rug.

Yes, rug.  A rug like the ones you are familiar with on the floors in your homes.  However, these particular rugs have been specially designed and carefully crafted to celebrate the fabulous state of New Jersey.  They truly are works of art and collectively make up one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve been to in a while.

Kathleen Donovan and The Jersey Devil

Kathleen Donovan’s rug called THE JERSEY DEVIL was selected to appear on the promotional materials for the exhibit.   The Watchung, NJ resident says, “I have always had an interest and love of animals.  That interest crosses over to include animals in mythology and folklore.  We in New Jersey are lucky to have one well-known creature of folklore (or maybe not) the Jersey Devil.”   I was lucky enough to meet Donovan, who has been hooking rugs for 10 years, and chat with her a little bit about her artwork.  She hopes that her portrayal of the Jersey Devil will make people think of him as a graphic novel hero.  I can certainly see it!

Linda Woodbury's Lucy.

LUCY the elephant is a Jersey girl with whom many of us are familiar, but here, depicted by Linda Woodbury of Glen Ridge, NJ, we see her in a brand-new way.  Woodbury says, “Lucy has been an iconic symbol of the Jersey Shore throughout my life.  When I signed up for a class hooking ‘Women with Attitudes’ Lucy was a natural choice for a rug.  She does project great attitude, where she stands at the edge of the sand looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.  Lucy is visible from 8 miles out at sea, making New Jersey the only coastline in the world marked by a six-story high elephant shaped navigational aid.”

Cynthia Boult's New Jersey Vanity Plates

Cynthia Boults of Annandale, NJ designed her rug VANITY PLATE (along with the help of the NJ DOT!) after NJ’s license plate that reminds everyone – just in case they forget – that we are the Garden State.  Boults shares a little about why she was inspired to hook a rug with this design, “I moved to New Jersey in 2004…proudly put a Garden State license plate on my fire engine red farm truck!  This truly is the Garden State.”

Janet Keller Laughlin and symbols of New Jersey

Some of the artists have been hooking rugs for years, and others like Janet Keller Laughlin from Hopewell, NJ, have just gotten started.  Laughlin’s first rug design, HARMONY ALONG the DELAWARE, was adapted from her own original black and white illustration.  It took her over a year to complete, but the result is simply beautiful.  Of her rug, Laughlin says, “My rug design depicts the harmonious coexistence of New Jersey’s flora and fauna.  The “Trenton Makes the World Takes” bridge is the backdrop for the bucolic spring garden that features our state symbols…the red oak tree, the violet, the goldfinch, and the honeybee.  This illustration was the logo for the 2008 Garden Club of America Zone IV flower show held in Trenton, NJ.”

There are dozens of other beautiful rugs that I’d love to share with you, but you’re going to have to head over to Woodbridge and see them for yourself!  The Hooked on New Jersey exhibition, co-curated by Linda Rae Coughlin and Janet Santaniello, will run until October 24th.  Exhibit hours are 11am to 4pm Monday through Friday and 2pm to 4pm on the weekends.

Go check it out and (if you aren’t already) get hooked on NJ too!

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl


Picture Perfect: Sunset Sundays

A few months ago (a little while after The Jersey Girl site was up and running), I came across a really fun blog called Stay Adventurous, written by Craig Zabransky.  Zabransky broke into the travel writing scene back in 2005 and then made travel writing his full-time work in 2009.  He started the blog as a place to publish pieces that he didn’t print in other publications and to share some of his personal experiences – experiences gained from traveling over 40 states and 30 countries.  (And I’m sure those numbers will grow soon!)

A favorite feature of mine on the Stay Adventurous blog is what Zabransky calls Sunset Sunday.  His photographs of sunsets from around the world are peaceful and hypnotic.   Because I subscribe to his blog, I usually receive a notification email on Sundays – just as I am wrapping up my weekend; a beautiful sunset is a great opportunity to reflect while making the transition from the weekend back into the week.  Each photograph is an opportunity for a mini-vacation!

When asked why he began the Sunset Sunday feature, Zabransky says, “It seems that everyone can enjoy a sunset, and everyone can recall certain sunsets from a childhood or even that dream vacation. I have many. And as I travel, I always take a pause at sunset. It slows, seduces, and surprises.  Plus, I always thought it is the best and most beautiful time of the day. Perfect light. And a time filled with positive memories, a time we should focus on (that love, that positivity). With my blog I can promote that each and every week.”

Inspired by Zabransky, I plan to feature beautiful New Jersey photographs (including plenty of sunsets) taken by a variety of talented photographers.  Next Sunday will be our first.

In the mean time, take a few minutes to visit the Stay Adventurous site and travel through some of Zabransky’s inspiring sunsets for yourself.

One of my favorite Sunset Sunday photos by Craig Zabransky. His original caption for this photo reads "typical sunset in the (upper) Florida Keys"

Enjoy.

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

Sunset Sunday Links:
Stay Adventurous
Zabransky’s first Sunset Sunday post
Stay Adventurous on Twitter

The Art of Nature Show (Environmental Education Center building at Lord Stirling Park)

Relaxing with a book in an outdoor classroom in front of the Environmental Education Center.

The Art of Nature Show held at the Environmental Education Center at Lord Stirling Park (part of the Somerset County Park Commission) was brought to my attention by friends who know I’m always interested in learning about local artists.  Not being familiar with any of the artists featured, or the facility itself, I was eager to take a trip to see the show.

The Environmental Education Center is situated next to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge on 950 acres of land, that in the 1600s had been the home of the Lenni-Lenapes, and in the late 1700s had been the home of Revolutionary War major-general, William Alexander (Lord Stirling).  Within walking distance from the Environmental Education building, you can find a myriad of wildlife living in the midst of forests, open fields and meadows, swamps, rivers, streams, and ponds.  For those interested in exploring the surrounding area, there are 8.5 miles to hike, and maps can be picked up in the Environmental Education building.

The Environmental Education Center building.

Inside the building, there is a gift shop with trinkets commemorating both the fun and beauty of nature, a library, and the gallery where I found the Art of Nature Show that I had been looking for.  The show is on display in a large room with high, slanted ceilings, and features the impressive work of about twenty local artists.  As I began to walk around the space, the word that immediately came to mind was “respect.”  It is evident that the artists have a great respect for their subjects and through their work, that respect was transferred to me (someone who doesn’t stop to smell the roses or appreciate the beauty of the bald eagle as often as I should).  I felt humble and human as I quietly walked around with my notebook and pen in hand, focusing on each raindrop, each feather, each moment captured by either a painting or photograph.

Unique among the watercolors and photography were the scratchboards of the talented Basking Ridge native, Colby Krolak.  Krolak has always had a deep appreciation for nature and when studying at the duCret School of Art, her subjects were often wildlife, animals in particular.  While classmates enjoyed working with media like acrylics and charcoal, Krolak found a strong connection between her primary subjects of owls, raptors, and other birds of prey, with the scratchboard drawing technique.  Scratchboards have been around since the 19th century when people would use sharp tools to etch drawings into a surface of white clay or chalk covered in black ink because it was less expensive than the wax and metal or wood materials that had been used previously as templates for printing.  The practice was not used as much once photography presented another way to accomplish printing goals, but in the 20th Century, scratchboards as finished pieces of art themselves became popular.

Scratchboards by Colby Krolak on display at the Art of Nature Show.

When talking about why she chose to use scratchboards, Krolak says, “I fell in love with it from the first piece.”  She enthusiastically speaks about how through her favorite medium, she is able to uncover the story hiding within each board.  And with her masterful technique, each whisker or claw or curve of a beak is brought out of the ink and into life.

Krolak loves domesticated animals as well as the wild ones and is also available for pet portrait commissions.  Information about the portraits can be found on her website:  http://www.colbykrolak.com/.  The Art of Nature Show will run until April 26, 2010.  Afterwards, you can find Krolak’s work during July and August at the Bernardsville Audubon Center.

My favorite of Krolak's scratchboards in the Art of Nature Show.

Reminding you to stop and appreciate the nature around us,
~Melissa 🙂
The Jersey Girl

Related links and sources:
http://www.somersetcountyparks.org/
http://www.colbykrolak.com/
http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=18231
http://www.nanticoke-lenape.org/
http://www.scratchboard-art.com/about.html

(You can read a related post about my trip to Colonial Park, part of the Somerset County Park Commission, here.)