Paint Brushes

Artistry on Display

The range and sheer number of artistic works exhibited, performed and discussed at FDU each month can be tough to keep up with. Here, a professional painter has his canvases hung; there, the in-residence artist is showing her portrait sculptures; somewhere else, a Pulitzer prize-winning author is speaking about his latest book; and still in another venue, students are unveiling their latest creations.

Throw in the creative brilliance sprinkled throughout the campuses in the forms of sculpture, paintings and even historical architecture and you have an unparalleled artistic feast regularly on display for students and the local communities.

Artistic Lessons

“The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them.”
— Goethe

Of course, when documenting the abundance of artistic creativity, one must start at the home of such endeavors, the visual and performing arts department on the Florham-Madison Campus and the School of Communication Arts on the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus. Both fine arts programs offer students opportunities to unveil their masterpieces and access to professional artists.

As the artist-in-residence and ceramic and sculpture instructor on the Florham-Madison Campus, Judy Moonelis is striving to “give students a genuine art experience. We’re not expecting to create a schoolful of artists, but we’re attempting to encourage students to be creative, keep an open mind and appreciate the lessons art can teach.”

Although the Florham-Madison Campus doesn’t have an official gallery, Moonelis and Professor of Art Arie Galles have arranged for students to display their talents in various locations. “It’s important to inspire creativity,” Moonelis says. “When students have a forum to display their work, they become more enthused and energized.”

Moonelis’ students showcased their ceramic and sculpture work in a group exhibit in April at the Mansion. Also, two of Galles’ students, Leandro Flaherty and Tom Miller, had individual exhibits of their paintings and drawings at the Mansion. Miller’s acrylic paintings and pen and ink drawings were taken from his “Korczak Series,” which honors Janusz Korczak, the Polish-Jewish educator who accompanied children from his orphanage to the Treblinka death camp in 1942.

Another way to inspire students is to expose them to professional artists. That’s why Moonelis and other professors schedule trips to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s also why instructors with professional credits like Moonelis often display their creations.

Judy Moonelis' Portrait SculpturesThis semester, Moonelis’ portrait sculptures were exhibited in the Mansion. “The portraits bear likeness to the individual models, but rendering an exact resemblance was not the primary objective,” she explains. “Instead, I intended to capture a vivid quality or essence of a living human being, and something of their inner workings at a specific moment in time. By representing very specific and different individuals together, the opportunity is presented to understand something about that which is common and connects us.”

The sculptures are from Moonelis’ current body of work based on the sense of touch and her “Memory Portraits” series, in which she asked models questions about their memories and then selected body parts to represent each person — some were heads, others ears, hands or feet.

For most of her career, Moonelis has focused on the human body. “Fragments of the human body evoke powerful associations and form living puzzles,” she says. Art in America editor Janet Koplos wrote of Moonelis, “In the whole of her work, her aim is not to be didactic ... but simply to observe, to represent and to feel ... The issues are abstracted, as in a poem, so that the work does not provide a single lesson but acts as a springboard to a whole range of thought. Moonelis’ work is of its time, but it is made to surpass time.”

Moonelis, who has had her work exhibited throughout the country and who has received numerous awards, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, is currently represented by John Elder Gallery in New York City, where she will have a solo exhibit of new work in the fall.

A Banner Group

Like Moonelis, Teaneck-Hackensack Campus Associate Professor of Fine Arts Marie Roberts places a heavy emphasis on branching from the classroom studies to have students display their work. “It pleases me when my students use their education as a point of departure.”

Roberts teams up with students calling themselves “The Banner Factory” to do painting projects on and off campus. Building on her own paintings of contemporary sideshow banners, Roberts, who is from New York City, was instrumental in arranging for students to design and paint the huge banners that hang outside the Coney Island Sideshow. “It has given our students a chance to work with professionals in a collaborative project. They produce a professional project that is free to the public, and they make a significant contribution to a nonprofit arts organization.”

The students’ banners have received publicity on television, film and in the newspapers and garnered more work for FDU students. Other FDU student paintings have been exhibited recently at the Scare Show at Madison Scare Garden, the Mermaid Parade (the country’s largest art parade), the Creepshow at the Freak Show at Coney Island and the Pier Show run by the Brooklyn Working Artists Association.

Roberts, a painter who has exhibited widely and is represented by Bowery Gallery in New York City; Nicholas Rizzo Fine Arts in Chatham, N.J.; and by Peligro Gallery in New Orleans, regularly uses her work and her contacts to help students obtain professional exposure. For example, Nicholas Rizzo is exhibition coordinator for the Shearson Plough art gallery and invited FDU students to hold an exhibit there. Also, Roberts has a friend at the prestigious Morgan Library who supervises a regular internship opportunity for FDU students.

“The problem occurs when artists get out of school and don’t know how to translate what they learned in the classroom into the real world,” Roberts says. “If students can meet art professionals, learn what’s involved in running a professional arts organization and begin to show their work while still in college, they will have a big advantage.”

Besides her role as professor and instructor, Roberts has been the director of the University College: Arts · Sciences · Professional Studies Art Gallery since 1993. “Our goal is to enrich the campus by bringing in professional artists as well as showing the work of students and members of the University community. What’s wonderful to me is that everybody comes into the gallery, including members of the local community. It’s not just for professors and students.”

The gallery was on hiatus for most of this year, while new quarters were prepared in University Hall. Its April re-opening celebrated students’ work and its May exhibit, “Hackensack River Stories,” featured public art signworks — a series of posters — depicting the river and its history. The artist, Teaneck resident Richard Mills, tapped residents, historians and libraries to find the visual images comprising the signworks, which were created for installation along the Hackensack River Greenway.

Diverse Displays

FDU is fortunate to have galleries on both sides of the Hackensack River, the University College Gallery rests on the Teaneck side, while its older partner, the gallery in the Edward Williams Building, sits on the Hackensack side. The Edward Williams Gallery, located in the lounge, was conceived by FDU’s founder Peter Sammartino, who wanted students to “be surrounded by original art,” says curator Rachel Friedberg. “The mission of the gallery is to expose students to different types of artistic work and to showcase young artists. We also want to provide artists another forum for their work.”

The gallery, which averages about 10 shows per year, featured an eclectic group of artists this year. For example, in December Barbara Weissberger’s digitally produced silhouette drawings were shown as were Walt Swales’ metal wall sculptures, while February and March featured the surrealistic pastels and oil paintings of Paul Blake and the abstract work of Gordon Boardman.

Throughout April and into May, the gallery displayed the “Bread Series” by Apo Torosyan, a body of sculptural paintings. Toroysan, who was born and raised the son of an Armenian father and a Greek mother in Istanbul, Turkey, describes the bread as “an organic metaphor.” Referring to the mass killings of Armenians (1915–1923), he says, “It was taken away from my ancestors. It represents victims of oppression.” His work incorporates bread in loaves, pieces or crumbs; acrylic; photographs; earth; wire mesh; and fiber, with a premium given to varying textural qualities.

In May, the mixed media of artist Ruth Rintel was exhibited. Born in Poland in 1939 and a survivor of the Otwock Ghetto, Rintel uses transparent and overlaid images to conjure up the different layers of consciousness and the simultaneous occurrence of incongruent events that often exist in life.

Always a Show

Visual art is easy to find at FDU’s Florham-Madison Campus Library. Under the direction of James Fraser, the library has built a significant collection of original art ranging from original Rembrandt etchings to European book illustrations to Charles Schulz’s cartoon storyboards.

The library is home to the Harry A. Chesler Collection of Cartoon and Graphic Satire, with its nearly 4,000 original cartoon storyboards, individual cartoons, drawings, watercolors and paintings. Complementing that collection is the Richard S. Wormser Collection of Graphic Satire. The library also houses the archives of the campus, with photographic materials relating to the original Twombly estate.

“The library is more than just a repository of books,” says Fraser. “When one walks in the door, one is confronted with the show. We try to pique student interest to read or think — or both.”

Exhibitions held at the library complement and have sometimes drawn from the in-house collections. For example, last year the library hosted an exhibition of books on photography and film and vintage prints drawn from the library’s Douglas Lloyd Kahn Collection on the History of Film and Photography. This academic year, an exhibit commemorated the first decade of the campus, another celebrated “The Graphic Design of U.S. Paperback Covers from the 1920s to the 1970s,” and Tokyo-born Mitsuya Okumura brought his photographs focusing on the Japanese custom of “Hanami” (cherry blossom viewing).

“[The artist] speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation.”
— Joseph Conrad

The Art of Writing 101

In 1977, English professor Gene Barnett invited Mary Hemingway, author and the wife of Ernest Hemingway, to the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus to speak to students and interested members of the public. Thus was born FDU’s acclaimed Literary Society series, which, propelled by Barnett’s enthusiasm and determination, has gone on to attract some of the world’s greatest writers. The list of luminaries includes John Updike, Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates, Ralph Ellison, Mario Vargas Llosa, Frank McCourt and Arthur Miller, just to name a few.

Barnett later said, “I don’t think I had in mind anything like a series then. It just seemed to me something that the University English department should do. I felt it was good for the school to have writers visit the campus.”

In honor of Barnett, who passed away last year, the Literary Society has been renamed the Gene Barnett Literary Society Lecture Series. This semester, best-selling novelist and Vanity Fair magazine correspondent Dominick Dunne visited FDU’s Wilson Auditorium in Dickinson Hall. Dunne, who is perhaps best known as a chronicler of the criminal trials of the rich and notorious, spoke on “From Hollywood Life to the Courts of American Justice.” On November 15, the internationally known English biographer and historian Sir Martin Gilbert will speak at FDU. The author of The Holocaust, The Jewish Tragedy and the official biographer of Winston Churchill, Gilbert will discuss “Israel: A Nation in Turmoil.”

Inspired by the work of the Literary Society, students this year approached the new director, Professor of English Thomas Stavola, about the possibility of starting a literary magazine. The result is Knightscapes, a magazine devoted to the publication of poetry, short stories, reviews, short dramatic works, photographs and artwork. Although primarily geared toward student work, the publication is open to faculty and staff as well.

Literary creations are well represented on campus through vehicles like The Literary Review and the FDU Press. The Literary Review has been published quarterly by the University since 1957. The journal is known worldwide for devoting entire issues to contemporary writing from specific nations, cultures or languages. It has published English translations of contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, interviews and review essays from throughout the world. It also prints new writing by American authors. The most recent issues focused on new Vietnamese poetry and fiction and writers from the Philippines. The fall issue will feature poetry with authors’ narratives describing the writing.

Painter's PallettEstablished in 1967, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press publishes between 40 and 50 scholarly books a year in a variety of fields, with special emphasis on literature, film, history, the arts and the social sciences. It also publishes the annual journals Shakespeare Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England.

Spreading Secrets

Artistic expressions, whether conveyed in a painting, a sculpture or the written word, can be said to be incomplete until the artist’s voice reaches an audience. If, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “The secret of life is in art,” then those secrets need to be shared. FDU, in its abundant displays of art, will continue spreading those secrets, providing students and the community artistic forums for an endless exchange of ideas.

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