A new exhibit at the Newark Museum of Art includes works by two members of the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark (SASN) community, Anthony Alvarez and PaulA Neves.
The New Jersey Arts Annual is a unique series of exhibitions highlighting the State’s visual and performing artists. It is open to any artist currently living or working in New Jersey. In partnership with major museums around the state, one exhibition takes place each year, alternating between host institutions. The 2021 New Jersey Arts Annual: ReVision and Respond is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and The Newark Museum of Art.
45 artists were chosen to exhibit their works from over 1,800 submissions by 485 New Jersey artists. Artists were asked to submit work responding to the turbulent events of recent years, especially 2020. The jurors chose pieces that addressed questions such as “How did the pandemic, economic distress, and reckoning with racial injustice influence you?”
The artists featured in the show created 50 works that interpret current and possible worlds. Using various materials and techniques, the selected artists transformed their personal experiences and vision into photographs, paintings, sculpture, textiles, and other artworks.
PaulA Neves, who received an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Newark in 2011 and is a Part-Time Lecturer for the Writing Program, has a short video and poem montage titled “Lathe Operator”, which includes photo stills of her mother working at a lathe as a lighting technician.
Neves says her piece “revisits and re-envisions an immigrant woman’s 'career' in a disappearing/disappeared industrial/working class Newark.”
“The Covid quarantine necessitated a reexamining for many of us of family, history, materials,” she says in her artist’s statement. “For me, this literally took the form of being forced to further “clean out” my mother’s belongings in her house which I moved into after her death because of the unaffordable rents in this area. These stills of her at her lathe contrast with an old movie camera whose lights technicians like her might have made but whose films in America’s history she and women like her were never 'stars’ of. This piece sheds light on such ‘artisans’ — in this case a hands-on lamp technician, a job that no longer really exists, in contrast to those that have gone 'virtual’ or been digitally created because of the pandemic. This piece considers lifelong 'works' being lost."
Anthony Alvarez’s entry is a series of three self-portraits reflecting the collective anxiety of the height of the pandemic. The triptych, which shows the artist in a face mask and gloves facing the viewer, displays a tension between the casual, open poses of the artist and the protective gear distancing the viewer from the subject.
Alvarez, who is a Part-Time Lecturer in Photography in the Department of Arts, Culture & Media, and the Studio Supervisor at Shine Portrait Studio at Express Newark, said, “My practice as an artist working primarily in self-portraiture led me to explore my fears and insecurities around the pandemic. I reflected on the importance of connecting to people and how difficult that is from behind protective masks and gloves, and on the strength we will all need to make it through.”
The show also includes a piece by Rutgers-Newark's Anonda Bell, Director and Chief Curator of the Paul Robeson Galleries, and Caren King Choi, former Associate Director of Programs at the Paul Robeson Galleries.
“The 45 selected artists contributed striking works that reveal vulnerability and trauma, as well as moments of joy and hope,” said Amy Simon Hopwood, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts for the Museum and one of the jurors for the show. “They prompt us, the viewers, to reflect on the ways each artist melded their materials, life experience, and creative vision to process and re-vision the tumultuous events of recent years—and of 2020 in particular. In turn, the artworks encourage us to express, soothe, or ignite our own responses to this turmoil.”
“I wish that my mother were still alive to see herself honored in my piece at the Newark Museum,” said Neves. “She'd probably say, 'Ai, Paula, please. What were you thinking?' But I think she'd be secretly proud.”
The 2021 New Jersey Arts Annual: Revision and Respond opened June 17 and is on view through August 22. More information and a digital catalog can be found at https://www.newarkmuseumart.org/2021njaa.