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JCC Art Offers Alternate Universes

Engaging, thought-provoking show opens today and runs through April 24.

Artist Lisa Suss, the JCC visual arts manager and curator at the Gaelen galleries at JCC MetroWest, is excited about the new exhibit opening Sunday with a reception from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Suss gave an overview and mini critique of the exhibits: "The JCC spring exhibits contrast styles and media of three artists. Oscar Peterson's sensitive portraits reflect the personality of the sitter in beautifully handled oils. Kate Siegel's photographs have an appreciation of her settings and a discerning eye for composition. Susanna Baker's encaustics and monoprints are adventurous explorations of abstract design."

Peterson and Siegel are past Gaelen Juried Show award winners ( the 12th annual juried show opens later this year) and are returning to the Galen Gallery East. Peterson, who graduated from the Pratt Institute and the Arts Students League in New York City, has been an art director, illustrator and an experienced commissioned portrait painter.

"His preferred medium is oil, although he frequently uses pastel, acrylic, watercolor, and charcoal," Suss said in an official exhibit release. "He is inspired by the Impressionists and the Old Masters."

Siegel is a recent Art History graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Art History and now works for Thom Filicia, an interior design firm in NYC. Her boldly colored photographs were taken during extensive European travel during a  semester abroad. Siegel's special interests are design and architecture.

Over 20 of Susanna Baker's extraordinary mixed media works from her current series, "Cut and Embellished Monoprints" and "Universes 2010-2011" will be on view in the Arts Lobby and Exhibition Corridor.

Right now, Baker, has been enjoying a highly merited participation in prestigious area group exhibits: She is also on  view at the not for profit Studio Montclair's "Rendering Green" exhibit at the Gallery @ Academy Square in Montclair — four of her six works there have already sold. She was also part of the recently closed "Art Connections 7" show at the George Segal Gallery at Montclair State University, a show guest curated by Suss, and "Hidden Worlds" at the Watchung Art Center.

Suss first saw Baker's work from an earlier series; this one-woman show will allow viewers to see the full scope of Baker's learned imagination and technical prowess.

Reached in her Verona studio, Baker, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, has been both immersed in her art and her explorations of the nature of reality and the vastness of the universe. Two particular influences are Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and "The Codex Seraphinianus." The codex is an imagined encyclopedia of an alternate world which was written and illustrated 30 years ago by Luigi Serafini, an Italian graphic designer and architect.

Baker talked about her methods: "My ideas lead to my imagery. I create a drawing or painting, make a wax mold of it, then print elements of the painting on a new surface, creating mirror images. In "Cut and Embellished Monoprints," I incorporate cut out sections of a print on the new print and also go  back in with paint and wax," Baker said.

Her subtly hued, beautiful abstract works take you to deep into layers of reality and ask what is behind, what is underneath?

In the "Universes 2010-2011" series ("Yellow Universe" is pictured here), Baker imagines her own richly textured, primal universe. She invents the flora and fauna inhabiting that world; they reside in side panels, more monochromatic than the variously hued main section.

You can meet Baker and all the artists at the opening reception on Sunday.

Also continuing on view in the Art Lobby showcase is the provocative and important Rutgers-Newark GlassBook Project "After Domestic Violence: Changed Relationships." The multimedia works, executed primarily in glass by Newark's Glass Roots group, travel nationally.

The GlassBook project in a healing initiative that was conceived by Nick Kline, a photographer and artist in the Visual Art Department at the Rutgers University-Newark, Department of Arts, Culture, and Media in collaboration with his colleague Helga Luest of Witness Justice, a group which deals with trauma recovery. A collective of artists, writers, students and additional community organizations are responsible for the ongoing project. 

All works are for sale. Gaelen Gallery East hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's located at the JCC, 760 Northfield Ave., West Orange. For more information, please contact Lisa Suss at (973) 530-3413 or e-mail lsuss@jccmetrowest.org.

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