This was a great artistic year for Hudson County, and for me. It opened with my dramatic play “Secrets; Love” at the Downtown Urban Theater Festival in SoHo and Monroe Center for the Arts in Hoboken. In September, my one-woman show “Kookspeak” was one of the biggest hits at the inaugural So Low Theater Festival at Art House Productions. It will be reprised in February as the opening act to one of the performances of “The Last Celebrity,” a one-man show by master poet Reg E. Gaines.
This year I also got to serve on a panel at NYU on youth theater education along with other past winners of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest and won the Lavina Kohl Award in Literature. Overall, 2012 helped me grow so much as an artist.
Anyhow, here are 12 of my favorite art stories from 2012. I only chose from articles I wrote and these are in no way the best things to happen this year or anything. I chose most of these things because they were uh, pretty good writing samples. Basically this is Greatest Hits of Summer D., 2012 edition. Everything here is listed in chronological order. If I forgot anything (probs did), holler.
Bojana Coklyat in an inspiring artist who became legally blind at 29 due to diabetes (she’s had a pancreases and kidney transplant since) but found a way to continue painting in a new style using new methods. She now helps teach art to disabled kids. She’s also a graduate of my alma mater, McNair Academic High School and I was blessed to also become her friend this year. She’s super awesome and does great work.
I wrote about Bojana for The Jersey Journal in January:
When Jersey City artist Bojana Coklyat lost her sight four years ago, she thought she would never paint again.
“I couldn’t paint the way I had before,” said the School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate. “I wasn’t able to get the detail I wanted and I was just so disappointed in what I had been creating.”
Coklyat became legally blind when Type 1 diabetes caused blood vessels in her eyes to burst. Coklyat, who was diagnosed at 10, said having to undergo dialysis and take insulin because of her disease was nothing compared to possibly losing her ability to do what she loves most. Read more here.
There is nothing like seeing an original play come to life and I’m glad I got to see JC writer, actor and director Billy Mitchell bring his haunting thriller “Blood and Oil” to the stage in April. It was unforgettable, not just because it was one of my first articles for The Jersey City Independent, but also because it was a gripping tale of mystery and the occult.
I reviewed the play for JCI in April:
Just about every scene of Blood and Oil will leave you asking “What the hell?” – and that’s not a bad thing.
The Attic Ensemble’s latest production, a new play written and directed by Billy Mitchell, made its world premiere Friday after about a year of development.
The show focuses on estranged fraternal twins Madeline (Hank Morris) and Allison Wickham (Erin Flanagan Lind). They reunite after their father Archie (Art Delo) dies in what is just the latest bizarre tragedy to hit their small hometown on the coast of Maine. It’s their 32nd birthday, which is also the 30th anniversary of their mother’s death. Read more here.
Joe Velez is a JC native and current Hoboken resident who absolutely blows me away with his work. The self-taught realist painter has made a name for himself with his haunting figurative paintings which border between erotic and disconcerting. He is also the director of the Downtown Figure Movement, or DoToFiMo, a series of live figure drawing sessions in the region. He’s super awesome and I was blessed to become one of his best friends this year.
I wrote about Joe for The Jersey Journal in May:
Hoboken’s Joe Velez blurs the lines between ecstasy and tragedy with his quiet paintings, which are at once violating and sensual, communicative and mysterious.
The Jersey City native said that although he sometimes collaborates with his models (often friends who volunteer to pose), his paintings are all him.
“What I love about painting is that it’s 100 percent me,” said the 34-year-old. “All the decisions are made by me.” Read more here.
I wrote about Kayt Hester, who’s something of a local legend with a huge and loyal fanbase, when she had yet another solo show at LITM (a JC restaurant/bar/art gallery that’s basically my Cheers). Kayt creates her work out of hand-torn masking tape which she uses to create everything from simple decorative miniatures to huge, elaborate portraits and scenes. She’s also one of the scene’s most adored and distinctive characters.
I wrote about Kayt for JCI in August; this article was one of the first I wrote using a new method I developed while observing the writing style at Sports Illustrated:
Memory can be a funny thing. It’s impossible to forget scenes from “The Human Centipede” and equally impossible to remember where you put your keys. Certain things just seem to stay, while others take an extra ounce of effort to retain.
Some of Jersey City masking tape artist Kayt Hester’s particularly sticky memories include seeing two men playing chess on the hood of a car in Serbia, while the ones that sometimes peel off her brain include where she last put that darn umbrella. Read more here.
I happened upon glassblower Kiva Ford’s work at least three times before I finally woke up and reached out to him. This was one of the first features for the Independent where I both did the interview and shot the photos. Needless to say, watching Kiva create intricate miniatures out of glass was breathtakingly awesome.
I wrote about Kiva for JCI in August:
It’s easy to make Downtown Jersey City resident Kiva Ford sound like a bit of a geek. He works for a pharmaceutical company, which is already pretty nerdy, and the minute he’s off the clock, he’s dying to work again. In fact, he does — but only because he’s following his passion.
Every day, the 28-year-old heads to Roche Pharmaceuticals in Nutley where he works as a scientific glassblower, making glassware for chemists’ various experiments. His elaborate creations are more Rube Goldberg than Emil Erlenmeyer, with jackets, condensers, Liebig columns, stopcocks, triple stopcocks, valves and a bunch of other structures you won’t find in your typical high school lab. (If you want to know what all these things do, we suggest doing some research — it’s kind of complicated.) After he gets off work, Ford returns to his Jersey City studio, an old garage tucked away in an alley by the Sixth Street Embankment. This is where the real magic happens. Read more here.
This October was my first Jersey City Artists Studio Tour ever, which is crazy because I’ve been covering the arts scene for the past two years. I covered the tour for the Independent and wrote several articles about multiple exhibits including “Photojournalism” at Mary Benson Gallery, “Populous” at New Jersey City University, “Vertical Repose” at Panepinto Galleries, “Listen to What They See” at the Distillery Gallery, “Elements” at Art House Productions, “Territory Takeover” at Hudson County Art Supply and local women’s art collective _gaia’s 10th anniversary. Some of my other favorite shows include the multiple exhibits at the Tenmarc building including the ProArts Members and Curators’ Choice shows and “The Artist at Work” curated by Joe Velez, as well as “sex&drugs&rock&roll” by Peace by Piece Studio.
The best part, however, was writing about my personal experience during the tour in a reflection for JCI:
Last weekend was my best first date ever. With whom? The Jersey City Artists Studio Tour. It’ll be my second year covering local arts come December, but this was in fact my first JCAST ever. In 2010, I wasn’t even covering art and in 2011, I was visiting my best friend, former JC photog Doug Bauman, in Pennsylvania.
The courtship began on Friday with the opening party at Tenmarc. When I hopped on the shuttle bus at Grove Street and the driver, Venus, literally cranked up the heat and started blasting LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” I knew it was a good sign. Read more here.
One of my favorite productions this year was a comedy by J CITY Theater, “Regrets Only” by Paul Rudnick. This was one of their most successful shows yet (and rightfully so, because it’s hilarious) but unfortunately may be one of their last shows for a while. “Regrets Only” star and J CITY Artistic Director Sandy Cockrell and her husband Clay, the company’s Executive Director, were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and had to cancel plans for their annual Christmas production, “A Tuna Christmas,” after their hardships. I pray, though, that they’ll get back on their feet soon and deliver more fun stuff.
I reviewed the play for JCI in October:
Every item on the gorgeous set of J CITY Theater’s latest production, Regrets Only is carefully arranged. A luxurious wrap-around sofa; leopard-print chairs that toe the line between glamorous and gaudy; gold-dusted, faux-finished artwork by Andrea McKenna. Everything in the McCulloughs’ swanky Manhattan pad is color-coordinated, polished and fabulous. But underneath it all, it is a home and a place where a family and their friends experience both the pretty (and not-so-pretty) parts of life. Read more here.
After years of walking by All Ironworks NJ and wondering what awesome things went on behind its doors, I finally found out by meeting the main man Peter Arguelles and his crew. Arguelles, his right-hand man Luis Rosales and others work metal into stoop rails, posts, mirrors, sculptures and more. There seems to be no limit to their creativity and their garage is truly an industrial (and creative) wonderland. And they’re all super chill, too!
I wrote about them for JCI in October:
If you’ve ever taken a stroll down Coles Street near Hamilton Park, you’ve probably noticed the gigantic spiders climbing up a building near the Sixth Street Embankment (above). There are bats and a huge scorpion, too. But don’t worry — they’re just metal sculptures on display at All Ironworks NJ, where owner Peter Arguelles and his crew have been real-life men of steel for over three decades. Read more here.
I’m a huge sucker for dance. I love dance-themed shows and when I go out all I want to do is dance. I’m not a dancer by any means and can’t follow choreography very well, but I move well to music and have a dancer’s heart. This year I finally got to see the Your Move Dance Festival by Insurgo Stage Project and Art House Productions and it was, in technical terms, dope. I went to two of the shows, as there was a different rotation each night, but I wish I went another night and saw what all 19 choreographers had to offer. (By the way, while Insurgo is going to be indefinitely on hiatus, the festival will continue next year and I’m already looking forward to it.)
I wrote about the festival for JCI in November:
Dancers have been known for their superhuman resilience — their ability to recover from injury, rejection and the other not-so-graceful elements of the dance world. So three days after Hurricane Sandy, the brains behind the Your Move Modern Dance Festival decided that yes, the show must go on.
“Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone who was affected by the storm. After careful consideration, we are moving forward with the festival as scheduled,” wrote curator and co-producer Morgan Hille-Refakis on the Facebook event page for the festival. Read more here.
Dylan Egon has always been one of my local faves and I’ve been trying to write about him for forever, it seems. We finally made it happen in time for “Art as Lifestyle,” the release of his new home lifestyle line, a collaboration with reGeneration Furniture in New York City. I got to go the reception and see all the items in person (and sit in the chairs, lay on the bed — complete with Dylan Egon quilt — when no one was looking, and spin his Wheel of Fate) and I must say, I totally want Dylan Egon’s stuff all up in my hizzouse.
I wrote about Dylan for JCI in December:
Dylan Egon is everywhere. Whether you realize it or not, his work can be seen in galleries around the region, on city streets, and soon, perhaps in modern homes around the country.
On Saturday, the Jersey City artist is unveiling his new home lifestyle line, a collaboration with New York-based reGeneration Furniture who approached Egon after seeing his work on display at the Jonathan Levine Gallery. Egon has become well-known for melding Americana with modern and Victorian icons, rendered in a vintage-print style, in his mixed-media assemblage pieces. For example, his signature print for the line (seen below) is literally a set of modern hieroglyphs — a butterfly, a raven, a racehorse, a horseshoe, a skull with the number “12″ imprinted on its forehead and even his own personal glyph, a “D” with an inset “E.” Read more here.
For some reason I haven’t been able to write a lot about the art school although it’s a major force n the local arts scene. But I’m glad I got to chat with their founder Thomas John Carlson about the school, which has multiple locations/institutions around the city and is still expanding.
I wrote about the art school for JCI in December:
It’s hard to miss Thomas John Carlson. Usually in a casual button-down shirt, sporting amber aviator sunglasses and generally looking like the missing redheaded cast member of “Starsky and Hutch,” he’s easily recognized in a crowd. It also helps, of course, that he’s become a Jersey City art scene icon since he formally founded the Jersey City Art School (JCAS) three years ago in December 2009.
It’s really hard to miss the school, too. In the past five years, it’s grown from a homegrown outfit run unofficially out of Carlson’s former two-bedroom in Hamilton Park to an established four-facility institution spanning most of Downtown Jersey City. They’re also becoming a bigger force in the arts community overall through various collaborations. For example, JCAS has teamed up repeatedly with literary and art magazine Instigatorzine for Art Social events. In October, the school was a sponsor of the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour. They’re kind of everywhere. Read more here.
I have written a lot about Nimbus in the past and even got to be one of the first guest Mama Cannolis in their “Jersey City Nutcracker” last year, an adventure I chronicled in a three-part series for The Jersey Journal. I’ve also had many awesome opportunities to see both their professional dancers and students perform.
I wrote about Nimbus for NEW Magazine, a free quarterly printed by JCI, in December:
Ten minutes before the third night of last winter’s Jersey City Nutcracker is set to begin, a pint-sized Statue of Liberty throws a tantrum when she can’t find her torch. Two girls dressed as gingerbread cookies roll around on the floor and hundreds of other kids — or what appear to be hundreds — zip this way and that through Grace Church Van Vorst’s Parish Hall.
Then Samuel Pott enters, seemingly unfazed, always in control. At six-foot-four, Pott towers over the children — and most of the adults. The kids snap to attention and say, “Hello, Mr. Pott.” He smiles back, then goes into the green room to give his dancers a last-minute pep talk. Just before curtain, he welcomes the audience and introduces the show, an adaptation of the E. T. A. Hoffmann Christmas classic set in an alternate-universe Jersey City. The lights dim, Tchaikovsky booms through the speakers and the magic begins. Read more here.