ARCHIVE: The Knife is Edgy, Never Dull

DownloadedFileNot your grandma’s Guild: the winner for Edgiest Painting in the Guild of Creative Art’s 50th Anniversary group show, Sarah Becktel’s YOUR WOUNDS, MY SCARS remains on display at the Shrewsbury gallery through February 3.

“Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull/ and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull.” — Th’ Boss, “I’m On Fire”

As we stumble through January’s edition of the Art Walk, warmed only by the room-temperature wine and cheese we score at whatever reception will have us, we get to thinking about that word “edgy.” Edgy as in the often surprising blasts of wind that issue off the Navesink this time of year. Edgy as in a person who’s perched on the cusp of postal; edgy as in the sort of creatively confrontational kabookie that’s the modern artist’s stock in trade. Not, we’re ashamed to say, a word that we once would have attached to the Guild of Creative Art.

Don’t know the Guild? It’s the stylish ranch-house type building with the sculpture out front, set back a bit from Broad Street (Route 35 South) in Shrewsbury and located right by the Grove West shopping plaza. As the oldest nonprofit arts cooperative in New Jersey, it’s a place where member artists (435 of them, by last count) can exhibit their work, teach or take part in dozens of different classes — and it’s been there, right there where it stands, for 50 years.

Here in an area where most residents’ families don’t go back more than a couple of generations, it’s hard to convey what eastern Monmouth County was like a half a century ago — a landscape of farms, spacious old estates and seedy old service businesses; an out-of-season “resort” of boarded-up boardwalks and unheated summer bungalows. A place where you couldn’t buy certain things on Sunday, and where you sometimes had to wait months for a new movie to trickle down to the local screens. It was in this literal neck of the woods that the Guild set up shop — and like the long-running stage troupe Monmouth Players, it was the only game in town for a good long while.

Just because it remembers when The Grove was a grove doesn’t mean that things are all plein-air peonies and quilting bees over at the Guild. Kicking off its second fifty under a new president (Laury A. Egan), and with many new members coming aboard, the cooperative makes a bold play with their golden anniversary exhibition, a group show matter-of-factly named Edgy to Avant Garde. Getting underway this past weekend and continuing into the first days of February, the show — juried by Douglas Ferrari, owner and curator of that former cannery turned uncanny ideas factory, The Shore Institute Of The Contemporary Arts — is a quirky mix of media, with an eye for “the unique, strange, humorous or, yes, edgy” and a certain playfully provocative quality in place of those aforementioned peonies.

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Watch where you point that thing: Bob Mataranglo won the Edgiest Sculpture award at the Guild’s latest group show, his functional fantasy piece DOCTOR KLEINSCHMIDT’S POSITIVE/NEGATIVE GENERATOR. 

The opening reception on January 10 awarded honors in three “Edgiest” categories — replacing the county-fair blue ribbons of the old-school art show — with oil artist Sarah Becktel garnering “Edgiest Painting” for the work reproduced at the top of this story — a somewhat jarring image that Ferrari found “Hysterical — such a proud pose reflecting an image that is anything but!” In the “Edgiest Photo” category, retired journalist and Shore transplant Lynne Royce earned accolades forView from Double-Decker Train No. II, one of a series of images collected from rail trips (aboard those new split-level NJ Transit commuter trains) between Monmouth County and Manhattan.

The “Edgiest Sculpture” nod went to a guy who’s been in the vanguard of art and ideas for decades down the Shore — Bob Mataranglo, the Avon-based videographer, artisan, animator and college professor whose head-turning contributions to the annual SculpToure in Long Branch have included a life-size handstanding figure on the roof of a bank. Entitled Doctor Kleinschmidt’s Positive/Negative Generator, Mataranglo’s room-commanding work is a representation of a giant ray gun from a 1930s mad scientist’s wet dream; a foam-board-and-plywood creation (five years in the making, off and on) that recalls those delightfully noisy, smoking, sparking spaceships of the vintage Flash Gordonserials. Stationed at the front window, it’s perfect for pretend-blasting at upscale shoppers across the way — or swivel it around the other way for plenty of internalized make-believe mayhem.

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