(SUMMIT, NJ) -- The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey presents two shows by New Jersey artists: Nancy Cohen: Atlas of Impermanence and Katrina Bello: Knowable Earth, which will be on view through June 12th. To provide the safest viewing experience possible, visitors must make reservations through artcenternj.org for limited, one-hour time slots.
“I am thrilled to work with two incredible New Jersey-based artists on these solo projects,” said Mary Birmingham, the Art Center’s curator. “Each artist, in her own unique way, explores the beauty, complexity, and fragility of the natural world and our place in it.”
Nancy Cohen: Atlas of Impermanence, on view in the Main Gallery, features large-scale drawings that resemble tapestries but are made from paper pulp and handmade paper. From the artist’s ongoing series, “The Work of Time,” these monumentally scaled works are placed in dialogue with an array of small glass sculptures suspended in each of the gallery’s soaring window bays. Compelled by the fragility and strength of the natural world, Cohen has chosen materials that embody these qualities, both physically and metaphorically. She has worked with glass and handmade paper for more than 25 years, drawn to these materials and processes for their transformative qualities, their potential for translucency, and their ability to integrate structure and surface simultaneously.
The imagery in Cohen’s paper works derives from memories of particular landscapes—often waterways in industrialized New Jersey—as well as personal observations about the human struggle. She has always been concerned with survival in the face of environmental change, both personally and globally. These thoughts were amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, as she confronted feelings about illness and death, entrapment and escape. Perhaps in response, she created the small glass abstractions that became part of this current installation. The wing-like forms of these glass elements floating ethereally beside the weightier, more grounded drawings, convey a sense of flight or transcendence. Cohen has noted, “It is my goal that in this work, as in our own lives, elements hang in the balance, each one necessary, vulnerable, beautiful, and above all interdependent.”
A catalogue with an essay by Jennifer Scanlan and poetry by Edwin Torres will accompany this exhibition.
On display in the Art Center’s Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Gallery, Katrina Bello’s drawings and videos explore our complex relationship to the natural world. Knowable Earth includes large pastel and charcoal drawings of imagined landscapes, small drawings of rocks, and a related video. Reflecting the idea that nature is experienced through the body, the tree bark, rocks, and ocean water referenced in the work are all things she has physically collected, held, or observed. The work is either monumentally sized or very small, prompting the viewer to feel immersed in a natural environment, or able to hold small parts of it in the palm of a hand.
Like Cohen, Bello created this body of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, while she was missing the tactile and physical connections to the places and things that normally inform her work. She challenged herself with the question, “How can I know them enough to make drawings?” Relying largely on her own memories and perceptions, as well as the testimony of others, she has recreated an experience of earth that is both knowable and authentic.
The two new shows officially open to the public on Saturday, May 8 from 1:00pm-5:00pm.
For over 85 years, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey has been exclusively dedicated to viewing, making, and learning about contemporary art. Recognized as a leading non-profit arts organization, the Art Center’s renowned Studio School, acclaimed exhibitions, and educational outreach initiatives serve thousands of youth, families, seniors, and people with special needs every year.
The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is located at 68 Elm Street in Summit, NJ. Gallery hours: Monday– Thursday, 10:00am–8:00pm; Friday, 10:00am–5:00pm; and Saturday & Sunday, 11:00am–4:00pm. Admission must be reserved in advance. Please call 908.273.9121 to confirm holiday hours. Major support for the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is provided in part by the Peter R. & Cynthia K. Kellogg Foundation; the Wilf Family Foundations; and Art Center members and donors.
IMAGES: [TOP] Nancy Cohen's The Meaning of Wings, 2020, Paper pulp and handmade paper, 82 x 69 inches. [BOTTOM] Katrina Bellow in her studio.