When the husband/wife tagteam of Robert and Elisabeth McKay reworked their second-floor studio space at 12 Monmouth Street to include a gallery exhibition room, the mission statement couldn’t have been clearer: advance local interest in the captured image as fine art. Elevate photographers to the sort of status enjoyed by painters, sculptors and illustrators. Apply their own passionate advocacy and love of craft to the creation of a forum that would inspire the shutterbugs of New Jersey to new and greater heights.
Then in walked John Kochansky, and things immediately went from fine-tuned to fuzzy.
A high school classmate (and on again/ off again friend) of Bob McKay’s, Kochansky had spent the interim decades pretty much picking up from what he already did throughout his teens — busying himself with the creation and exhibition of a staggering body of original art works. Vivid paintings and cartoony drawings; wearable oddities and grandly graphomaniac statements; sculptures in wood and metal and “repurposed” esoterica. All of them infused with an all-seeing, all-knowing sense of humor that reflected their author’s outsize personality and infectious joie de vivre.
When McKay explained that the new room was to be all about the photo, Kochansky returned with a set of vintage photographic portraits that he had rescued from thrift shops and antique stores, treated with bleaches, dyes and organic materials — and transformed from orphan castoffs to provocative works of art. And when McKay Imaging Gallery opened its doors on July 14, 2005, it was with an inaugural exhibition by the name of Found, Not Lost: Works by John Kochansky.
This Friday night, June 17, the McKays will host an opening reception for another display of Kochansky creations — this one a collection of “Drawings and Such” presented under the name Afterthoughts. Like their previous Kochansky solo shows in 2005 and 2006, it’s an event that promises to draw a sizable crowd and generate a positive buzz — but conspicuous in his absence will be John Kochansky himself.