Up at McKay’s, a Tribute to John K.

The colorful, creative “Drawings and Such” of the late Tinton Falls artist John Kochansky are the stuff of AFTERTHOUGHTS, a new exhibit that opens this week at McKay Imaging Gallery.

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.

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Sanchez Frames a Fab Forty

Ace portraitist Danny Sanchez — pictured at work and in a self-snap — helps the Monmouth County Arts Council celebrate a milestone anniversary with FORTY FACES, a display of studio studies that marks his first-ever solo gallery exhibit.

The way Danny Sanchez tells it, “I’m basically a working stiff…I don’t think of anything I do in terms of artistic value; I’m just fortunate to be shooting stuff that people like.”

Regardless of how he spins it, however, the veteran portrait paparazzo — a fixture of Red Bank life for decades — has long been a sought-after snapster for scores of headshot hopefuls, CEOs, celebs, senior partners and cherished toddlers.

It stands to reason then that when the Monmouth County Arts Council went looking to assemble a little gallery exhibit in honor of the nonprofit org’s 40th anniversary, they called on the man who’s quietly amassed a groaning file cabinet full of faces — the faces of the people who make the arts happen here in Monmouth County. The visionaries and the volunteers; the educators and the entertainers. The manipulators of paint and pen and pixels, or the sculptors in sound and stone. The character players and choreographers; the philanthropists, and the occasional phreeloader.

The exhibit called Forty Faces — with a tip of the hat to the concurrent 20th birthday of the Two River Times — goes up on the evening of Friday, June 10 with a 6pm reception inside the Pollak Gallery on the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University. It’s a display of images culled from nearly a quarter century’s worth of Sanchez favorites — and, incredible as it may seem, it’s the first-ever gallery exhibit that the veteran lensman has ever consented to.

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ARCHIVE: An Artist @ Home in Her Work


Evelyn Leavens with a work-in-progress landscape in her Red Bank studio. 

By TOM CHESEK (First published on RedBankGreen July 30, 2010)

Parked on an easel in the sunlit second-floor studio on the east end of Red Bank, a painting is taking shape, almost in turn-of-the-seasons real time; brashly delineated trees sprouting like declarative statements from the thrill-ride curves of a crazy quilt countryscape.

What might have been the makings of some plein-air jigsaw puzzle in less imaginative hands is becoming, under the artist’s patient eye and brush, a ruckus of bold shapes and colors — a scene in which Nature’s delightfully messy-thorny-scratchy surprises lurk beneath those curvaceous comforts.

Just don’t ask about a title for the canvas, at least not yet. To Evelyn Leavens, the name “Work in Progress” will suit it just fine. In fact, to hear the 85-year-old painter, photographer and instructor tell it, her 60-year career is still just that — a work in progress.

With a major solo exhibit of her paintings on display now at theMonmouth Museum in Lincroft — as well as a contribution to a much-anticipated group show opening this weekend at Shrewsbury’s Guild of Creative Art — the work of the locally legendary Leavens has never been more visible and accessible. Still, the artist herself would prefer not to call it a “retrospective.” Think of it as a chance for Leavens to pause for one moment — a moment in which the rest of us can struggle to catch up — before sprinting ahead to the next challenge.

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ARCHIVE: Something for Everyman


George Segal photographing Donald Lokuta (who, seen reflected in mirror, is in turn photographing Segal) at the Golden Bell Diner in Freehold, 1989 — included in a major exhibit of work by both Segal and Lokuta at the Monmouth Museum. (all photos courtesy of Donald Lokuta)

(First published on Red Bank oRBit February 18, 2010)

“I made up my mind that daily life is extraordinary.”

A handful of well-chosen words from a man who famously let a series of stony, silent figures become his most eloquent mouthpiece. At the time of his passing almost ten years ago, George Segal was regarded as America’s premier sculptor, an experimenter who emerged from the Pop Art school of Warhol and Lichtenstein to become a rumpled eminence whose work adorned university campuses, permanent collections, national memorials.

Even if you’ve never visited an art museum, you’ve seen his somber, monochromatic life-size figures in places like the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the National Mall in DC. Cast from live models using plaster-soaked bandages — a technique he first tried out on himself in the 1950s and perfected over the next decade — his people go about their business like ghosts; averting their faces from each other and waiting for things that never seem to arrive.

Underlying the melancholy of the mundane in Segal’s best known work is a subtle celebration — a celebration of the “everyman” and the queued-up world he/she inhabits. The artist, who lived most of his days on a Middlesex County farm, was infinitely more likely to be found occupying a booth at a Route 9 diner than a roped-off VIP area at Studio 54; walking a then-desolate Asbury Park boardwalk instead of summering in the Hamptons.

Beginning next weekend and continuing into the middle of April, the Monmouth Museum is the setting for George Segal Everyman: Sculpture, Paintings & Drawings — a major milestone for the nonprofit facility (located on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College) and an event that’s scheduled to include the participation of some special guests.

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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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ARCHIVE: Elise on Life, Laughs and Lessons

EliseBookChildren’s book writer and illustrator Elise Primavera displays the latest in her best-selling AUNTIE CLAUS series at her Red Bank home studio. The award-winning author visits two area bookstores this weekend, to read from two new titles. (Photos by Diana Moore)

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit November 23, 2009)

When last we looked in on Elise Primavera — with a feature that appeared in 2007 on our mothership site redbankgreen — the Red Bank-based author and illustrator of the best-selling Auntie Claus series for young readers was explaining the origins behind her latest character creations, a couple of monster-obsessed young goofs named Fred and Anthony.

Just a couple of short years later, Fred and Anthony have run their course through four titles of their series — but the Red Bank Catholic grad (who came back to the borough to live full-time in 1997) is evidently busier than ever, with new characters, new collaborations, two recently published titles — and a slate of personal appearances that will make her very visible in the greater Red Bank area’s bookstores this weekend.

The two new books that Primavera will be promoting through readings and signings will include Auntie Claus Home for the Holidays, the third title in the popular series, and a story in which young Sophie Kringle gets to spend a magical Christmas in New York with her favorite aunt (and Santa’s sister) Auntie Claus.

Also out this fall is Louise the Big Cheese, the first in a fun new series of stories about a take-charge little girl named, oddly enough, Louise Cheese. It’s a project that also marks the first professional partnership of writer Primavera and her friend, the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Diane Goode.

On the afternoon of Saturday, November 28, the author leaves her home on Hubbard Park and ventures just down the road to River Road Books in Fair Haven — that resolutely indie cranny of local culture that Primavera’s praised as “better organized” than the corporate megastores when it comes to live story circles for the kids. She’ll be hosting a reading and signing copies of her latest published works and more — quite possibly including The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls, her first foray into chapter book novels for young readers.

Even though the author likes to keep things indie-intimate, she’ll hardly be ignoring the megastores, as this Sunday the 29th finds her taking it to the brand new Barnes & Noble outlet at Monmouth Mall for a 2pm signing session.

Red Bank oRBit paid a visit to Elise Primavera at her sunny and spacious home studio in Red Bank; a place where projects of all shapes and sizes get born and nurtured, and a place that — equipped as it is with reassuringly well-used art supplies, cheerfully paint-splotched furniture and a playful wire-haired dachshund named Lulu — is one happy house of ideas. Continue Reading for the scoop on Primavera projects past, present and future.

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ARCHIVE: Punk Poets and the Passing Parade


The famous subjects of New York photographer Marcia Resnick include John Belushi, William S. Burroughs and Mick Jagger. The Resnick retrospective PUNKS, POETS & POLITICIANS opens this week at McKay Imaging Gallery in Red Bank.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit September 22, 2009)

There’s a disarmingly casual image of three cultural touchstones — Mick JaggerAndy Warhol and William S. Burroughs — breaking bread together at a downtown eatery. There’s rock muse and sometime singer Bebe Buell, hoisting her young daughter Liv Tyler up by the ankles. The infamous legal lizard Roy Cohn hanging out at 54 with Steve Rubell.

There’s a dizzying parade of iconic faces, all of them passed from the scene. Abbie HoffmanTimothy LearyNorman Mailer and Allen GinsbergSid ViciousJames Brown and Divine. A bleary-eyed, sweaty, unshaven John Belushi, pictured just a few months before the end.

Most of all there are the people that made New York City what it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s — the musicians and the underground filmmakers; the designers and artists and writers and hangers-on who infused the filthy, fading, failing, dynamically dangerous town with a light and heat that would power their own eventual demise, at the hands of condo developers, upscale retailers and media monoliths.

We’re dropping names like Joey Ramone and BlondieTelevision and Talking HeadsJohnny Thunders and Richard Hell Jim Jarmusch and Jean-Michel BasquiatBetsey Johnson and Laurie AndersonLegs McNeil and Lester Bangs — and right in the middle of it all, as much of a participant as an observer, was an artist and photojournalist by name of Marcia Resnick.

The Brooklyn-born Resnick had graduated second in her class (to valedictorian and future Senator Chuck Schumer) and attended Cooper Union when she made a name for herself as a creator of art photo books and denizen of the downtown scene. Her proximity to the “superstars” of that insular world earned her the trust of her subjects, and a lasting legacy that’s remained her calling card throughout a long career as an educator and fine artist. She was even married for a brief time to punk progenitor Wayne Kramer of the MC5, an interlude touched upon in McNeil’s oral history Please Kill Me.

Beginning with an opening reception this Friday night and continuing through mid-November, Red Bank will be the setting for a major retrospective of Resnick’s portrait work entitled Punks, Poets and Politicians. It’s an exhibit keyed in to her forthcoming book Bad Boys: A Compendium of Punks, Poets and Powerful People(a work that “examines power, fame and sexuality in addition to the ironic gamut of meanings for the word bad”), and it’s being hosted by McKay Imaging GalleryRobert and Elisabeth McKay’s walk-up wonderland dedicated to expanding (and exploding) all your preconceived notions of the captured image.

Resnick will be present for the opening night reception inside the artspace at 12 Monmouth Street; an affair that happens between the hours of 7 and 10pm. Red Bank oRBit had the pleasure of chatting up one of our heroes on the phone — and when it was over she had even managed to talk us into compiling a custom CD soundtrack to Friday’s show. Read on.

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ARCHIVE: Alder’d States of Art in AP


Jay Alders painted this image of Big Groovy Friend Donavon Frankenreiter for the surfer-slash-singer’s current tour. The artists are due to cross paths this Friday afternoon, on the boards of Asbury.

(First published on Red Bank oRBit July 23, 2009)

Who’s Jay Alders? Anyone even tangentially involved with surfing could answer in a flash, in the process of genuflecting before his trademark stingy-brim hat. He’s the 36 year old, based-in-Belmar (although he’s made noises about a relo to Long Branch) artist whose slinky fisheye visions on canvas and custom boards have been defining the surfing experience in visual-art terms for a couple generations’ worth of the sport’s practitioners, chroniclers and fanaticals.

His work’s been licensed by the likes of Billabong and Emergen-C; featured inSurfer MagazineFHM and Penthouse; offered up for charitable auction to benefit the Surfer’s Environmental Alliance and PETA. He’s a photographer, a graphic designer, an advocate for animal rights and healthy living.

But where is Jay Alders? We headed over to the beach and boardwalk at Asbury Park on an emailed tip that he’d be surfing out there somewheres; maybe stopping in at Lightly Salted Surf Mercado, where a display of his wares and works will be going up this weekend. No sign of him, ergo no big “get” interview — although we did have another fine repast at Pop’s Garage, where we spotted Chef Dan from Asbury Lanes‘ Snack World (as good an advertisement as any, we reckon).

Well, if it’s a Jay Alders Q&A you want, there are perfectly functional ones to be found here and here. If it’s Jay in person you’re looking for, come to the Surf Mercado and adjoining Langosta Lounge this Friday afternoon, June 24, when the artist will be present as they unveil a solo retrospective of his painted, printed and pictured endeavors. The Lounge, the Mercado and the Garage are of course all under the purview of surfers, foodies and filmies Marilyn Schlossbach and Scott Szegeski, who promise  still more excitement beyond the artist’s personal appearance.

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