Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Posted By John - Many thanks to Rich for coming up with the idea for this project/exhibition, and for taking the initiative in launching this blog. I hope to share my thoughts about this project as it unfolds, so people can participate and react as it develops.

I’m trying to capture images of things that you would think you’d NEVER see in New Jersey, as well as things that you’d think you would ONLY see in New Jersey. I’m hoping that when seen together it will look both weird and familiar – and that’s exactly the way that I see New Jersey.

Every state is urban and rural , tangled and desolate, hot and cold, old and new. But in New Jersey it’s the people, not the place, that can be described that way.

Ultimately, this project is about the people of New Jersey. Whether they appear in the work or not, they are the ones who built the quirky and majestic monuments to the human spirit throughout the state. And they are the ones who preserved the remaining open spaces and wilderness.

So, follow us on the journey, and tell us where you’d like it to go. I know I’ll be taking photos of diners, the shore, and the Pine Barrens. There’s a large altar in the woods in Mt. Holly with the inscription “Holy, Holy, Holy”. There’s a big tooth sculpture along the roadside in Hamilton. And I’m just getting started…

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Long Way to Lambertville

Posted By Rich-A sunny weekday during semester break afforded me a chance to take a few back roads through New Jersey on my way to pick up work from the Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. Instead of heading up Rt 29 from Washington’s Crossing, I entered into New Jersey on I-95 using the Scudder’s Falls Bridge over the Delaware River (and although I am well acquainted with the Pennsylvania side of the river at that point, I have never seen a waterfall in the vicinity I consider large enough to name a bridge for. Maybe the name comes from the NJ side…?)
I took the North off ramp of the second exit on the interstate, and almost immediately I was obliged to take a detour, so it became a rather easy task to take a road less traveled. Well, one less traveled by me, anyways. Seems like all of the roads in this part of the country have heavy traffic.
The afternoon sun cast long shadows over nondescript office parks and even more nondescript housing developments that appeared like odd growths on the former farmland. Styles of the houses reflected boom times from different eras: post WWII Cape Codders , sprawling ‘50s ranches, split levels from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and odd “transitional” styles from the 80’s and later that we have come to know collectively as “McMansions”. Following the detour signs, I ended up in Pennington and stopped at a service station to buy a road map of NJ. After studying it briefly, however, I decided it wasn’t a very good one: for instance, it completely omitted Mahwah, a larger northern NJ town near the border of New York Sate and the home of inventor and guitar great Les Paul. Mahwah is also a landmark I use when racing up I-287 to the Tappanzee Bridge and over the Hudson to get my daughter at college in New England.
I drove north out of Pennington through intermittent collections of dwellings that ranged from modest farmhouses to the aforementioned McMansions, houses that seemed ridiculous by contrast with ostentatious displays of ornamentation and imitation stone work. Eventually I entered the delightful town of Hopewell, NJ. I had been to Hopewell once before with a good friend who grew up there in the 1950’s and early 60’s, and it appears that not much has changed since then. My friend gave me the cook’s tour of the place on that day and I was glad to return and have a chance to take a few pictures. I parked my truck and walked a bit, heading towards the Hopewell train station. It is a grand brick Victorian structure, well preserved both inside and out and situated nicely by itself on the edge of town. However, it appears one of the things that have changed in Hopewell since the 1950s is that trains no longer make regular stops there, although the track is still active; a CSX freight rolled through and the echoes of the noise on the frame houses sounded like a jet aircraft taking off at Newark International. I walked around town for a while and shot some reference pix, and on a quiet side street (pictured above) a barking dog came running quickly across a yard at me. I was a bit alarmed when it became evident the dog was not restricted to the yard by an electronic device attached to it’s collar, but the dog’s wagging tail and happy bounce up to me showed me I had no reason to be afraid.

Greeted by a happy dog on a quiet street in a small town on a sunny afternoon; felt kind of nice to be in Hopewell right then.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Posted by Rich
Rich is the one with the baseball hat on. John is the photographer, so of course his pic is the better one. John and I will both be posting images and messages about progress towards our exhibit at the Artists' Gallery in September, 2010.

Just this past week I had to deliver work up to the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan, NYC, and found myself yet again driving as quickly as possible through New Jersey. Seems like most of the time I travel through New Jersey I drive or ride the train as quickly as possible through it, whether going to the shore or to New York City. Other times I cling to the edges of the state, driving along the Delaware River or the Atlantic Ocean...I have always enjoyed John Steinbeck's book Travels With Charley, and even Steinbeck seemed to drive through New Jersey as quickly as possible. My paperback copy is 277 pages long, and Steinbeck devotes one short paragraph to his travel through the Garden State: "New Jersey was another turnpike. My body was in a nerveless, tireless vacuum. The increasing river of traffic for New York carried me along, and suddenly there was the welcoming maw of Holland Tunnel and the other end home." Granted, he was finishing up a drive around the country that took a few months and culminated with first hand experiences with the civil rights movement early 1960's, so who can blame him for not stopping and writing about the bridge over the Raritan River in Edison, NJ, with home at just the other end of the tunnel. Or, perhaps he did stop, and his editor axed that passage to devote more attention to his conversations about the "Cheerleaders" trying to keep New Orleans public schools from being integrated. However, I cannot claim that type of distraction, so for this particular exhibition John and I are undertaking we plan on driving the roads that are marked in blue on a road map of New Jersey that John has; for myself, diners have always been a favorite subject of mine, and New Jersey seems to have a fair number of interesting ones, so I am planning on making some of these trips to various diners that are listed on

Not exactly a Steinbeckian journey, but I think I can get some pretty good reference for paintings. I suppose I could take my dog Maggie along, too.