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Awards Reception Shines Vivid Light on “Mercer County Artists”; Exhibit on Display at MCCC Gallery through April 4


West Windsor, N.J. -- Artistic vision comes in all colors, shapes and sizes at the Mercer County Artists exhibit now on display at the Gallery at Mercer County Community College through April 4.  One-hundred-seven works by 88 artists include paintings in oils, acrylics and watercolors, as well as sculptures and mixed media collages.

The Gallery at Mercer is located on the second floor of the Communications Building on the West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road.  Directions and gallery hours are available at www.mccc.edu.

The winners of 16 awards were announced at an Opening Reception on March 13.  Participating in the awards ceremony were County Executive Brian Hughes and Mercer County Freeholder Pat Colavita, representing the Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission, which co-sponsors the exhibit.  Also presenting was West Windsor Arts Council Executive Director Arin Black, who selected two West Windsor artists, Renee Kumar and Janet Fulton, from 14 West Windsor artists featured in the show.

Said Hughes, “This is an opportunity to celebrate the arts and how they bind us all together.  Added Colavita, whose brother Jim was an art professor at MCCC until his death in 1996, “There is so much that takes places in the arts.  It’s a place for true freedom of expression.  Artists are unsung heroes. The fame is in your creation.” Many of the winners acknowledged the enduring influence of Jim Colavita as they accepted their awards, noting they had once been his students.

In her welcome, Gallery Director Tricia Fagan observed that visitors are invariably awed by the work of those who live among them in the county.  “This is a venue for the county’s talent and has also helped to create a county collection through Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Awards,” Fagan said.

Fagan explained the image used on the exhibit postcard is “Waterfall,” a painting by Al Aronson that was one of the Purchase Award winners from last year’s show. She noted that the 2013 exhibit is dedicated to Aronson and two other artists, Tito Cascieri and Elizabeth Ruggles, who died in the past year.
Hamilton resident John Szabo, a 1987 alumnus of MCCC’s Advertising Design program, earned the Utrecht Art Supplies Best in Show award for “Unfit Survival,” one of two paintings he had accepted for the show.  Attributing his inspiration to science fiction, Szabo said he captures themes that suggest the world is going in the wrong direction.

“Sometimes I touch on political themes.  I get my ideas out on canvas,” Szabo said, adding that he began doing pencil drawings approximately five years ago, which has progressed into painting on large canvases.  He said the validation that comes from winning a prize spurs his creative energy.  He works full time as a conceptual designer for The Royal Group, which is based in Chicago and has an office in Hamilton.

MCCC alum Bill Plank, a retired art teacher who now pursues painting full time from his Lawrenceville studio, has been selected for the show numerous times and says it’s always special.  He was especially pleased that Guadalupe Reyes, one of his former students from Hightstown High School, is also in the show.  Reyes is a Mercer Fine Arts student who will complete her associate’s degree in May.  Reyes’s Latino-inspired works reflect her ethnic background. Her oil painting “Viva La Vida Con Frida Kahlo" earned an Honorable Mention.

Inspiration sometimes originates from the most unexpected places. Trenton resident Arlene Gale Milgram’s “Dark Thoughts,” a mixed media on wood that received an Honorable Mention, was inspired by Milgram’s having broken a bone recently.  “This is the last in a series of six pieces that suggests systems falling apart and incorporates imagery of scars and bone totems,” Milgram explained.

Mic Boekelmann, of Princeton, didn’t have to look far for inspiration for her two paintings selected for the show.  They are portraits of her children, Max, 14, and Luisa, 8, who attended the exhibit with their mom and say they were proud to be her models and to be included in the show.  Boekelmann’s painting “Max” won a Juror’s Choice Award.  “This show is a nice opportunity for the art community,” she said. Boekelmann works out of a gallery in Hopewell, a space she shares with several other artists.

Said Princeton resident Priscilla Snow-Algava, a past award winner whose monoprint “Dance for Oneself was accepted for this year’s exhibit, “This is my favorite show.  I like the space.  I always feel good when I come here. It’s an honor to be part of this community of artists.”  Retired from teaching, she now pursues her art full time in a studio space in Princeton.

Margaret Miller, of Lawrenceville, winner of a Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award for her oil painting “Autumn Tide,” said the show was a wonderful first experience.  She said she was thrilled to have won a prize and beamed when another visitor deemed her painting “the best work in the show.”  She notes that she has taken art courses at MCCC in the past and had focused on crafting before recently turning her creative energy to painting.

For artist Keiko Ishida, the exhibit was like coming home.  A native of Japan, Ishida earned her degree in Fine Arts at Mercer in 2007 before transferring to Rutgers University. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Boston and completed her bachelor’s degree at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  She next moved to Los Angeles, but relocated back to Princeton last year, where she still has friends and fond memories, especially of her MCCC instructors.  Her lithograph “Our favorite table in a cozy café” comes from her practice of carrying a sketchbook around like a diary. “I create narrative stories,” she says, noting that the print was based on a couple she observed in a Boston coffee shop.

A handcrafted chair by Salvatore Damiano, of Trenton, drew a lot of attention.  According to this versatile artist, who also has an acrylic painting featured in the show, his “Free Form Chair” has been many years in the making.  “I have collected interesting pieces of wood over the years when I walk through the woods.  I let them dry for six months or more.  Artists get tied to their art.  This is a very personal thing for me,” Damiano said.  He noted that despite its fragile appearance, the chair is bolted together and is very solid.

Juror Dolores Eaton, director of the Pennington School’s Silva Gallery, says judging the show solo was a privilege and a challenge.  She had a large number of submissions to review and only a few hours to do it. She explained that the works fell into three categories.  “Certain pieces qualified with no question. In some cases, the artists still need time to grow.  Then there was the middle group, which was the most difficult.” She notes that she learned a lot about herself in the process.  “It made me question my biases and personal preferences as I selected the art,” she said.

The full list of awardees for Mercer County Artists 2013 includes:  Mic Boekelmann, of Princeton, for “Max” (Juror’s Choice Award); Larry Chestnut, of Hamilton, for “Take Out” (Honorable Mention); Louis Cicchini, of West Windsor, for “Fair Weather Friends” (Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award); Janet Felton, of West Windsor, for “Let’s not split hares” (Honorable Mention); Janet Felton, of West Windsor, for “About to Spring” (West Windsor Arts Council Award 3-D); Trudy Glucksberg, of Princeton, for “Flood Zone” (Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award); Renee Kumar, of West Windsor, for “Spring Fever” (Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award); Renee Kumar, of West Windsor, for "Spring Cherry Tree" (West Windsor Arts Council Award 2-D); Arlene Gale Milgram, of Trenton, for “Dark Thoughts” (Honorable Mention); Margaret Miller, of Lawrenceville, for “Autumn Tide” (Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award); Constantin Nazarie, of Hamilton, for “Eroded Beliefs” (Honorable Mention); George Olexa, of Hopewell, for “Redbuds” (Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award); Guadalupe Reyes, of Hamilton, for “Viva La Vida Con Frida” (Honorable Mention); Gill Stewart, of Princeton, for “Calm” (Honorable Mention); John Szabo, of Hamilton, for “Unfit Survival” (Utrecht Art Supplies Best in Show); and Judy Tobie, of Princeton, for “Shadowlines” (Juror’s Choice Award).

Long-time painter Lynne Faridy, whose acrylic painting “Old Oaks” is featured in the show, perhaps summed it up best as she described her long-time passion for creating art.  “There is problem-solving involved.  I have an idea and I want to execute it.  I like light and atmosphere and that’s what I try to capture. When I paint, there is nothing wrong with the world.”

Sal Damiano's "Free Form Chair" was a labor of love.
Priscilla Snow-Algara's "Dance for Oneself"
is a monoprint on found paper.
Arlene Milgram's "Dark Thoughts" was the last in a series of paintings depicting "systems falling apart."

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John Szabo with "Unfit Survival," winner of the Utrecht Art Supplies Best in Show Award.
Sculptor Janet Felton, right, is pictured with West Windsor Arts Council Executive Director Arin Black, left, and MCA juror Delores Eaton.
Trudy Glucksberg's "Flood Zone" was inspired by weather events.
Painter Mic Boekelmann, center, is pictured with her paintings and her children, who served as her models.
Keiko Ishida's lithograph, "Our favorite table in a cozy cafe," originated as a sketchbook drawing.
Visitors enjoyed viewing a wide range of media including "The Trio," a fiberglass sculpture byMichelle Post.
Tim Fitzpatrick's "Barnegat Bay Marsh" is painted from his many photos of the New Jersey coastline.
Bill Plank's" Riding Out the Storm" is an example of his interplay of light with muted colors.
Guadalupe Reyes is inspired by Mexican and other Latin American themes.
Margaret Miller is pictured with "Autumn Tide," winner of a Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission Purchase Award.
Lynn Faridy's "Old Oak" allowed her to play with light. She has taken art classes at MCCC for many years.
John Szabo accepts the "Best in Show" award from County Executive Brian Hughes. Also pictued is Mercer County Freeholder Pat Colavita (center). A total of 16 prizes were awarded.