State of the Art 2019
Through Aug. 9
Studio Montclair Gallery, 127 Bloomfield Ave.
By GWEN OREL
A row of chairs face the street, and also faced two food trucks, outside Studio Montclair Inc.’s gallery this past Friday night. The sound of relaxed voices bubbles up from both outside and inside the gallery. People eat and chat, laugh, and talk art at an opening that has the feel of a party, for SMI’s annual “State of the Art.”
It’s a show in which every member of SMI has a chance to display work. Inside, the buzz of voices was loud and happy. Each artist had the chance to submit two pieces, of which one was chosen for display. The work was artfully grouped by theme and color; black and white pieces on one wall, sculpture on stands interspersed. The member-driven, non-profit organization has more than 400 members throughout the country, and exhibits throughout the year in different locations, as well as in its own gallery on Bloomfield Avenue. It also holds critique groups and lectures.
More than 200 artists, all members of SMI, showed their pieces in this annual members’ show. Most of the works were for sale, and most were under $500. The artwork will be available for purchase at Studio Montclair’s website.
This is the second year SMI has had its own gallery, but the first time it has displayed State of the Art there, explained Executive Director Susanna Baker.
“This is the one show everybody gets a chance to put a piece of work in,” Baker said. And the quality of the work in State of the Art 2019 impresses her. Previously, when the show was held at Academy Square, 33 Plymouth St., art was hung in hallways, and it was hard to display sculpture. The largest crowd they attracted there was 187 people; this year there were more than 250, she said. Having the chairs outside also encourages people to look at the art in the windows, she said with a laugh. “We thought it would be fun to push people outside.”
The gallery can get noisy and hot. With an outdoor component, people are encouraged to stay a bit longer.
Debra Galant, known to many Montclairites as an author from MidCentury Modern and the Center for Cooperative Media, sat in a chair outside taking in the world. “It’s my first piece in an art show ever,” she said, of her pastel “Floating Dock.” Her friend Noel Nowicki, who recently had a show in SMI’s Incubator series, began painting after retiring. Galant’s son told her when Nowicki began showing pictures, “I’ve never seen you look so jealous in your life.” This is her second year in SMI, and her first piece in a show.
“Summer is my favorite season, and I had just recently started with pastels. I was happy to be able to evoke water with something as dry as pastels,” said Galant, who now lives in West Orange. As a writer, what she wanted to do was be provocative, she said. As an artist, “it’s more about joy. After I had cancer a few years ago, I really wanted to be able to make time like molasses. And when you’re painting, it’s kind of like that.”
New to SMI is sculptor Marco Bras. Originally from Portugal, Bras, now of South River, had a small marble piece titled “ From the Inside Out” in the show. “You’ve got to go inside the stone, and the stone is going to speak with you. You’ve got to get a conversation. You’ve got to start working by hand with the stone, and go inside the stone. You’ve got to put outside whatever is inside of you,” he said. He’s received prizes in Portugal and some of his work is in museums, he said. He joined SMI specifically to participate in this show.
He’s hoping to create large sculptures to sit outside in town. “I can make big sculptures,” he said.
Along with sculpture, the Gallery space made it possible to hang digital media, with a screen that needed to be plugged in, by Montclair’s Gwen Charles.
Her “Double Hands on Hands” showed a hand that’s been doubled, wearing finger puppets of hands on each finger, moving and making gestures, looking both eerie and lovely at the same time.
“I thought it was amusing to have the hand moving on the hand. I was thinking about the Hamsa, which is a hand of protection, and the hand that’s straight up. What does it mean then if the five-fingered hand and the symbol of protection. What if you have five of those? Do you have more protection? I have been playing with that idea.”
She has been working with digital and GIFs for awhile, and costume and sculptural elements that she makes choreography with.
Charles loves the space. “Look at the turnout,” she said. It’s the first time a video has been in a Studio Montclair show. I feel like I just pummelled through that.”