A child’s drawing taped to the fridge transforms the room into a home in a way that no printed poster could. The freshly-crayoned line figure drawing of those people the child calls family creates a visual shorthand about what is valued in this place — the child artist, valued by those who hung her portrait; the picture’s subjects, valued by the child artist. As households — single people rooming together, partners coupled, multigenerational families — shape the spaces where they live, it is sometimes daunting to consider investing in visual art that reflects the values of the household’s members. But there is something to be said for being so much a part of one’s world that one finds connections in the cultural production of their time and place. For this reason, we’ve rounded up a list of Hudson County-based artists whose art could transform your home and are worth staying up to date with.
Mass-produced wall art is not something to be ashamed of or avoid. That Monet Water Lilies museum poster brings joy to the owner and may spark memories of having seen the painted canvas in an exhibit, or of studying the artist in a class decades ago. But purchasing a painting or sculpture from an artist who has committed to their practice as a calling is so much more than just finding decor in colors to match the new couch.
Why You Should Follow Local Artists
When you purchase an art object from a living artist, especially one with whom you share a vantage point, you participate in a vital part of the work of building their career and, if the stars align, assisting in their climb towards artistic immortality. You propel their message, add a vote for their possible celebrity. Perhaps these artists will be taught in art history classrooms of the future, or their works interpreted by sociologists about this era. Reception by their contemporaries defines their role in providing a visual interpretation of this moment.
Visual meaning-making is a two-way street. Artists show what they see/think/feel/understand as best as they are able after many years of study and practice. Then we do the work of becoming the audience, which means we find ways to see what they’ve made for us and look for what resonates.
(Photo credit: @nancymcohen)
Nancy M. Cohen is widely known for her experimental works with hand-made paper and glass sculptural installations, many of which comment in obscure, beautifully nuanced ways upon the nature of our time such as life within a pandemic, our fraught relationship with this planet, life in our bodies, joy in encountering the sublime.
She has exhibited her large-scale sculptural artworks in museums internationally as well as close to home. Her artworks can be found in the permanent collections of the NJ State Museum, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum, Montclair Art Museum, and Yale University Art Museum, among others. That kind of recognition for an artist who is rooted here in our area is a boon to all of us, her regional neighbors.
^ Climate Engineering Over Route 80 (Photo credit: @paintertimdaly)
A longtime chronicler of New Jersey places, Tim Daly brings perfectly-honed skills to bear in all of his work. He paints swaths of blue sky framed by Hoboken building cornices and brick walls with photorealistic perfection. He makes parking lots into bucolic landscapes and highway lines into pastoral patterns.
His RT. 280E KEARNY is picturesque place-making of the very best kind. In these artworks, hometown vistas are as romanticized as a 15th-century Italian artist’s idealized depiction of Tuscany. But they aren’t untruthful in any way. He’s left the plastic bag hanging over a wooden rail in MUNOZ MARIN POOL, J.C., but the strip of elegant white only adds to the composition. Of the artists in this shortlist, none make a more direct documentation of what life right here looks like right now.
(Photo credit: @jontedrew)
Jonté Drew‘s art residency with Jersey City’s Art Fair 14C brought his powerful paintings and drawings to a new audience. This is an artist who documents his time in the place where he has planted himself with recognizable images made poetic by his brush. He uses vibrant bold greens, purples, blues, and pinks to show a Black man’s durag as a field of flowers: echinacea, lavender, and chamomile. His art subject is often himself, placed in a prosaic setting, turning daily life into the idyll.
When he claims Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley as inspirations, the connection is instantly clear. There is so much positivity and promise of a sunny day in this artist’s artwork. Lunch, barefoot and warm, on a blanket in the park. A meditating figure unceremoniously levitating above a tranquil field. The Great Paterson Waterfall is depicted in cheering aqua blue and bright light green. Drew’s oeuvre brings and celebrates Black joy and hope, adding something needed to this world.
^ Still Life With Peonies + Pearls (Photo credit: @lisaficarellihalpern)
Look to Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern for scrumptiously luscious, thoroughly expert twists on art historical themes and styles you may not specifically recall, but will surely recognize as …” a lot like something I’ve seen in an art museum.” Her practice is especially heavy with 21st century takes on 17th Century Dutch art. Her light touch is evident in a series of portrait heads that feature finely dressed, elaborately coiffed society ladies of another era who quite unexpectedly don designer-logo-bejeweled covid masks.
This artist’s successes within the fashion industry are unsurprising. She sees the potential of hair to form a tumble-up crown, for jewelry to give glisten to the skin, and for garments to frame and enhance far beyond what life makes possible. Her fabulous still lifes are equally exquisite. Flower petals and pearls, pomegranates, and gemstone brooches make for ambrosial arrangements of classic objects from this painting genre.
Read More: Your Guide to Jersey City Art Galleries
(Photo credit: @meganklimart)
Megan Klim’s drawings, mixed media artworks, and encaustic (a technique mixing pigments with hot wax to create an inlay effect) paintings read like technological relics from a faraway planet. They are precise and intricate, often gridded and patterned as if part of an archeological record yet to be deciphered. Her Tabulation series presents complex and thickly layered strata of what appear to be tally marks.
There is a feeling of record-keeping, of significance, of time having gone by across the larger body of her work. That feeling is invoked by the textural layeredness of the artwork but also by her winter palate. With icy whites dominating much of her work, a piece with gauzy fishnet on wood with nail rust-colored markings is captivating for its unexpectedness and, despite having no precursor to compare it with, perfection.
(Photo credit: @annenovado_gallery)
As both an artist and a gallerist, Anne Novado is a special kind of local. She has committed her career to her community, connecting audiences to other artists as she strives to make time for her own art production. Novado Gallery in Jersey City gives her a role in shaping what art enters this regional market. That kind of positioning, though not for the faint of heart, can serve as fodder for the artist’s imagination.
In Novado’s mixed-media blue paintings, a recent series, she brings thoughts of travel, water, and movement. She experiments with color and texture, calling a collection of her artworks sculpted paintings. Hers are artworks that bring an elegance and sophistication that gives a nod to our fabled location in the world.
^ The Handoff (Photo credit: @lucyrovetto)
Lucy Rovetto has lived in Jersey City all of her life. She is sensitive to the artistic movement around her, she’s had decades to observe the struggle of building a thriving career in a place with such a sky-high cost of living. She roots for her peers while collaborating and exhibiting her own raw beguiling figural and otherworldly work.
Messages of mythos and hidden meaning are thread throughout her artworks. There are leaves to read in her covid-isolation coffee filter collection. Her Circus Pi (Circum Ferre) appears like a stained glass depiction of a psychedelic math saint. Planets, symbols, dreamscape horses, a galactically -placed fire hydrant… the subjects of her eye are disparate but alike in their strangeness.
(Photo credit: @misstheda)
Theda Sandiford is a force for good. She is a rare but vital part of our regional community. Referring to her artwork as part of social practice, she creates artwork, art interventions, and art events for the purpose of bettering this world we find ourselves living in. She sources her materials from found objects, reusing and recycling.
Her iconic Emotional Baggage Carts become splendid with fantastically colored zip ties transforming the shopping cart at its base into a spiky wonder. Her pieces have a purpose. She instructs visitors to put into the cart what is wearing them down, what they no longer need, what shouldn’t have been theirs in the first place. “Like racial trauma.”
^ Le America Pizza on Newark Ave in Jersey City (Photo credit: @debsinhaarts)
Deb Sinha paints simple yet evocative still lifes, an occasional classically casual posed nude, and city scenes that will be familiar. His City Lights nightscape scenes are bright and beautiful, capturing exactly what one sees when out for the evening, a bit too drunk, and unable to find one’s glasses.
His colored lights of the city street have a fuzzy aura. The effect is as magical when painted as it can be on that festive outing when shop lights glow and everything is abuzz with nighttime energy. Self-taught, Deb Sinha had the least traditional route of all these artists in coming into his practice, yet his paintings fit well into the category of Artists Telling Our Story.
^ Venus (Photo credit: @shamonastoked)
Shamona Stokes is currently working in ceramic to sculpt inspired forms that deserve a pedestal, an altar, or, at the very least, a fireplace mantle. Her Venus of Willendorf-inspired fertility figures are both playful and powerful and could bring to mind a female counter to the Kaws art commodity that is so ubiquitous right now. Other ceramic sculptures bring to mind others of her most famous peers like red rabbit which somewhat resembles a Jeff Koons Rabbit but with the poor creature’s unlucky paws chopped off and placed a few inches from where they ought to be.
(Photo credit: @louravandermeuleart)
Loura van der Merle turns the columns, stone facades, and arched windows of our contemporary urban lives into compositions of urban monuments and cultural artifacts. The deep storm blue, patterned grids, bright brick red of her Statco’s water tanks painting make for a delightful distribution of color and form. Her monotone Powerhouse behind wall, brightly colored Powerhouse #2, Harbor View, and For rent, 37 Marin Blv. Jersey City all exalts the mundane and helps to locate everyday scenes as places of life and, when centered on canvas, subjects of the story of a place. Her portraits of long-ago Dutch women in elaborate traditional clothing are an homage to her own grandmother. For her Hudson area audience, these austere and stunning Zeeuws (meaning from Zeeland in the southwest part of the Netherlands) are perhaps significant for their long reach back to the first European inhabitants of this location that was once New Netherlands.
^ Daily Suggestions (Photo credit: @kativilim)
Like many of the artists on this list, Kati Vilim considers Jersey City only one of the places she lovingly calls home. Though she left Budapest, Hungary, to further her academic art pursuits in this region in 2004, her attachments to place cross the Atlantic, as well as the Hudson, and stretch again to Newark. Her woodblock prints and painted canvases turn color families — sometimes electric and contrasting, other times muted and complimentary — into shapes formed into planes, layered and jumbled. These almost 3-D forms can appear to float over shadowed surfaces or sit heavily one upon another. The interactions between the forms play with the viewer’s sense of depth and weight.
Though it is not the artist’s stated intention to draw directly from the human-built environment as inspiration for these artworks, nature alone does not produce straight lines and ninety-degree angles. These are artworks that belie the T-square. They convey great blocks of buildings colliding in time. And, in that context, make a visual reference to the spray-painted graffiti of so many street artists who mark their tags in 3-D lettering upon city walls.