Saturday, April 4, 2015

Art in Nature opening Reception, April 4th, 6-8 pm AJ Dillon Gallery for Food, Drink, Art

Art in Nature, graphic by Tom Sebazco

It was a snowy, Sunday evening in January and I had just gotten to the loft to write when a dear, long-time garden design client, Joe, called and asked if I could stop down to his new office’s next door neighbor: the AJ Dillon Gallery Fine Art.
Sure thing.   I didn’t have a clue what it was all about-- but no matter.  If Joe asked – I’m there.

After Joe made the introduction to Frank Leahy, gallery owner and an accomplished painter in his own right, I found out what was in store.  I was surprised – and delighted – and honored - to be invited to curate an April garden-themed show!

Of course I love all things garden.  I am a garden designer, I worked at NYBG and BBG, and belong to countless horticulture and garden professional organizations, attend myriad garden and plant lectures and garden tours, (just got back from an Ecuadorean garden design work project); and I write about gardens…
Given April is a kind of sweet, spring gateway to the green, growing season here.  I was all in…
Soon, the snowy winter scene outside gave way to swirling blossoms, fragrant flowers, and green foliage.  In my head, that is. 

Still, as I thought about what the show could be, I wanted it to be more than “just” pretty flowers.  I wanted to grab people; reorient their house & garden “look book” ideas of what a garden is. 
This was not to be only an idealized botanical art and illustration or Hudson River School version of nature and art.  After all, the Two River area is still healing from Superstorm Sandy, so I was hoping nature in all its fury and power could be rendered in artful displays, too. 
Then there’s the big climate change elephant in the room that art is uniquely prepared to illuminate.  Art can make us see and – viscerally feel - what’s been disorienting our weather, oceans, seasons, and growing seasons…
I embrace the idea that nature and gardens are art – and further – that nature inspires all artists. 

I thought the show would enrich the Gallery, visitors, art enthusiasts and the artist community  - especially if we ambitiously pursued a full constellation of artful genres – from sculpture to ceramics to painting and photography to fashion to Kokedama, to performance art and music. 
Let’s joyfully explore the galaxy of art and artists inspired by nature. 

After dreaming a bit – not only the kind of show we’d present, but also the title of the show came to me: Art in Nature.  It’s everywhere if we just have the vision to see it.

I worked up a plan for Frank to review and approve how we could make this happen. 
I really, really wanted to give the artists a forum and a showcase to not only display their art, but also to allow them a way to sell their work.  And not just to the bricks and mortar Gallery but also to reach a larger audience.  I had just recently discovered the “Shop Now” option on Facebook.   I suggested we could sell the art to the vast audience beyond the Gallery’s walls.  Facebook’s Shop Now feature makes it all rather easy.

On the other hand, getting all the art submitted -- not so much! 
Artists are like racehorses.  A pure breed whose personalities and temperament are very much individual -- thoroughbred traits breed exceptional, rare breeds.  I love them.

After a mix of coaxing, cajoling, a kind of maternal soothing and encouragement – me and Emily Potts, the AJ Dillon Gallery manager and talented photographer I’ve had the privilege to work with on the show  - found we had an abundance of artful treasure: the painting, photography and ceramics and performance art started to cover almost every inch of the Gallery.  It was coming in from North Carolina and New York and the Garden State.  It is all stunning.

And soon, the Garden State’s elected officials were weighing in too.
Congressman Frank Pallone sent a very supportive letter that we will read tonight at the opening Reception and will then post in the Gallery.  Thank you,  Congressman Frank Pallone. 
Friend and newly-elected Fair Haven Councilwoman Aimee Humphreys dropped off a wonderful letter, too. Thank you, Aimee. 
And Aimee has also submitted some of her beloved parent’s artwork for display in the show: her mother’s orchid painting and her father’s succulent photograph.  Years ago, her father did portraits of me and Bill and my parents.  I treasure the images… so special. 
Governor Christie’s office started off in simpatico but when I called to inquire about the letter or attendance, was told he needs six to eight months notice!  Must be all that out of state travel coordination ^:^

I returned home from Ecuador garden design work to snow last week – but hope is eternal.  And today is glorious sunshine.   
Spring is surely here!

Windows are the eyes of the Gallery

As part of show’s outreach – I wanted the Gallery’s display windows to reflect the magic and mystery of nature that was soon to be within.

Working with realism artist, Jessica Wohlers (my esteemed niece, too) we worked up a design concept:  tree branches – as a “shadow art” foundation – an “Into the Woods” seduction, if you will, adorned with twinkling lights, butterflies, glass globes – and Frank’s inimitable art. 

We visited Gotham’s Floral District where I get my client’s garden-themed styling elements for container and display compositions.  Well, most of the floral art world does too – as does Jessie, for her commercial photo and video styling.
Within two shopping days we were able to carefully select the elements to fulfill the window tableau design.

Jessie twisted, turned, and contorted the wisteria branches to bend to her will!  She had them up in the windows – arching along the front.  She flirted with the glissine paper to render the dimensional tree shadow art hanging from the branches.  After trial and error and organic channeling: ethereal success!
EunYoung Sebazco brought her otherworldly Kokedama, moss art.  I will write more about this art and she will conduct a children’s Master Class at the Gallery in April.  You can also read more at her blog: Green in the Box  
Horticultural Artist, EunYoung Sebazco & her Kokedama Moss Art, AJ Dillon Gallery

Art in Nature graphic

Frank had Emily print more of the invitation postcard (went through a lot of them – hope that’s a good sign.)
In designing the look of the ad/invitation, I wanted a Fibonacci-inspired graphic.  Fibonacci images are so significant to art and design. I found an image on the web and thought we could incorporate a collage-like series of images to represent the show’s variety of The Art in Nature show’s genres.
I was able to get NY artist, Tom Sebazco to render the concept – brilliantly.  Look closely at the Nautilus –swirl of a garden and you will see sculpture, music, ceramics, painting, film and photography…
All in brilliant colors with blossoms and flowers swirling about.  How about that vision?!

Thank you to Tori Sickles, Sickles Market for sharing the graphic on their Facebook page.

My brother James Popik is playing his jazz music, along with singer, Jen.  There will be food and drink and family and friends, and nature and art! 
We will be video taping the event, too.  

Racing down to the Gallery now for a walk-through and a few tweaks. 
See you later.


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