By Chance

Studio Montclair exhibition

Featuring the work of Linda Aldrich, Danielle Cartier, Trish Classe Gianakis, Leslie Connito, Stephanie Cortazzo, Elizabeth DeMarco, Theresa DeSalvio, Andrea Epstein, Leslie Ford, Emily Gilman Beezley, Michelle Harpster, Daniel Hughes, Jeannine Hunter Lazzaro, Marquise James, Ann Kraus, Rachael Krehel, Lisa Madson,  Larry McKim, Paul Nisenson, Arthur Paxton, Katharine Philip, Sima Schloss, Douglas Smith, RoByn Thompson, Meghan Tranauskas, Coleen Tyler, Ashley Warner, Andrew Wohl, Tony Zaza

Tuesday, April 3-Sunday, April 29

Opening reception Monday, April 9, 6:30-8 p.m. Montclair Public Library Gallery, 50 South Fullerton Ave.


On his first day in graduate school at the Pratt Institute, Matt Roberts’ photography professor gave an assignment, “Go home, shoot for an hour, but tape over the camera mechanisms so you could not adjust the focus or set the exposure.” 

Trish Classe Gianakis, "Split," ceramic RAKU fired, wood and wire. IMAGE COURTESY STUDIO MONTCLAIR

“OK, this is nuts,” Roberts thought.

And then, he said, “I took a great roll of film.

“It opened up a new world for me. I’ve always been intrigued by mistakes being fortuitous, or embracing the idea of randomness.”

In fact, a photograph he took of his then-girlfriend, now-wife, is still a favorite, though it is out of focus.

“It’s incredibly emotional. It’s a weird kind of sensual, kind of ghoulish. You can sense a real connection between the two of us even though she’s out of focus and it’s poorly exposed,” Roberts said.

So when Roberts, who has been a member of Studio Montclair Inc. since it formed in 1997, had the opportunity to curate an exhibition, the concept of  “By Chance” was a natural one.

The exhibition includes 42 works by 30 artists. The works are in different media, including photography, sculpture and paint. Some works are the result of what Roberts calls “intentional accidents,” such as when photographer Arthur Paxton pours chemicals over paper in a dark room.

Others are true accidents, such as a double exposure in a photograph by Stephanie Cortazzo.

Matt Roberts' out-of-focus picture of his then girlfriend, now wife, is still one of his favorites.

All of the works embrace an element of chance.

Roberts, who goes into New York City weekly to shoot, is in a photography critique group at SMI. He originally moved to Montclair because it was an arts-oriented town, he said.

In his curator statement, Roberts writes that “Larry McKim’s paintings and collages are inspired by the seemingly haphazard markings that he finds on the drop-cloths on his work table. ...  Ceramicist Trish Classe Gianikis opts for a Raku firing process which creates a blackened surface that can react to glazing in unexpected, not completely controllable ways. ... For all of our artists, ‘mistakes’ and random occurrences are not a message to start over, they are a starting off point — an impetus to a new direction, vision, and an infusion of energy into the work.”

Elizabeth DeMarco, Third Prize, acrylic paint and fabric on board. IMAGE COURTESY STUDIO MONTCLAIR

Randomness, Roberts said, “helps you look at things in a  different way.”

When considering the topic for a show, he realized that the idea of chance and randomness would be something that applied not only to photography, were there is always the possibility of an accidental double exposure, for example, but in other forms of art as well.

“John Cage was a big one for composing music at random,” he said. “I think he consulted the Tai Chi.”