Michelle Knapik, Environment Program Director
Last Thursday’s reception at Artworks was designed to bring together Art All Night (AAN) artists with Art All Night purchasers. At first, the scene felt like a large-scale blind date mixer. As a caller on the microphone sounded the name of the artist as the art work was paraded out and handed to the purchaser. But even this quirky, public introduction had some magic to it. There was a rush of supporting artist friends, camera flashes, and hearty handshakes. Then came the most authentic, heartwarming, and inspirational stories. For me, it was a deep dive into the title of the photo, Connect the Dots.
Photographer Sarah Nagorski is all of 19 years old and still in design school. She began by describing her subject matter, a close-up of an installation at Grounds for Sculpture, along with her technique (B&W that she colorized). Take a good look at the signature she added while sitting cross-legged on the floor of the exhibition space at Artworks – it is her first signed piece, and this was her first art sale. She even added a handwritten note on the back of the photo. Guess who was more touched?
To think, a near second degree sunburn almost kept her from AAN, but she said her suffering was worth it when she saw the red “sold” dot on her photograph. She was in disbelief. I was in heaven, because I am often told that one of my professional roles is that of “connector.” This image spoke to me on every level – beauty, intensity, composition, symbolism, complexity and depth.
At the same time, Lisa Snyder had made her way toward me to talk about her painting, AML Journey. AML is a type of leukemia – one that took the life of her mother almost a year ago to the date. Her father had succumbed to cancer in 2004. This painting, however, is filled with a curiosity for life; it is about exploration. It also invites the viewer to keep coming back to check out its treasures, some to only be revealed to you in time. The whole theory of emergence is at play here as Lisa’s starting point is a series of dots on the page that she “makes something out of.”
Her process involves turning the painting on every side as she discovers new connections and images among the dots.
The red is for blood cells, but the free flow of art making was her way of freeing herself from the grief and moving toward a celebration of life. And where Sarah almost didn’t make it to AAN, Lisa almost didn’t bring this picture.
In fact, painting is not even her main art form. She is a studied glass and sculpture artist, and she is an accomplished web designer who brings the vision of small business practitioners to life in virtual and social networking worlds through Elle Eye Design . Lisa was literally in her basement the day of AAN when she saw this painting out of the corner of her eye, and based on the anniversary date of her mother’s death and her feeling about the piece, she grabbed it and headed for the event. It was hung in a space that was a bit dark, but it grabbed my eye immediately. Its whimsy intertwined with a touch of darkness and endless “looks” spoke to me.
Lisa’s goal was to have her art appear in a gallery before the age of 30. I’d say this is just the beginning of her gallery days. In fact, I mentioned to both young women that the Monmouth Museum has a New Jersey Emerging Artist program that is open to residents of NJ who have never had a one-person show. Lisa could enter art in any medium, but after reconnecting with the painting and the dot-by-dot process, she’s ready to embrace painting as her medium of choice for now.
By the end of our storytelling, Sarah and Lisa were talking to each other about hopes and dreams and directions. Sarah talked about needing a website and she now has Lisa’s business card. And I have already followed up with both of them via email (the photos of us with their respective pieces of art are courtesy of their friends and family).
I regret that I didn’t get to meet Travis Applegate, whose painting, Mixed, seemed to fit in perfectly with my new collection of art and artist friends. But I did find this fitting quote from Travis on Virtual Art Assassination:
It was in Jersey City where my hunger and drive sent me into the streets of SoHo. I packed up all my art on a hand truck and squeezed my way into the SoHo art scene where I started spreading my art to people from all around the world. I was in SoHo consistently every weekend for a year or so until life brought me back down to central NJ. This is when I got big into Graffiti, Pop, Street Art and Mixed Medium Outsider Art. Also being into Indie-hip hop/ punk music, I started tying both together. They are two equal arts I use to document the truth, and express the man I am and my views/ feelings about life and or situations. This is when the concept “Art N Soul” came about and also when my band, The Autonomous Heartbeats, started to take shape. Now I’m currently doing shows with both my art and music. I will continue in this direction till the end of my physical form.”
This quote speaks to the connections among life’s dots and the stirring stories behind the art and artists. I know I can’t meet every artist behind every photo, painting, sculpture, jewelry, or craft I purchase, but the added dimension is priceless. I will think about Sarah’s young career every time I step into my office and see her photo of intertwined glass and metal. I will be inspired by Lisa’s journey every time I climb my stairs where her picture hangs at the top landing. And the power of Travis’s Street Art N Soul will push me to go beyond the walls of my living space. This was no ordinary reception, this event welcomed artist and art lover into each other’s lives. Three cheers for Artworks, especially to AAN founding visionary Michael Gumpert for this powerful post script to Art All Night.
Do you have an artist story behind a piece of art that moves you?