By KAYLA J. MARSH
Thirteen local artists are bringing community members on a trip to their world through a new exhibit that features dozens of abstract works created through the use of many different mediums.
The new “13 Abstract Artists” exhibit at the Middletown Township Public Library showcases the works of students in the Lyrical Abstract Expressionism class at the Guild of Creative Art at 620 Broad St. in the Shrewsbury.
“The show is representative of everybody’s work and shows bits of common inspiration between the people, but it also shows how different everybody really is when they work,” said James Kent, instructor of the Lyrical Abstract Expressionism class.
Artist Karen Starrett said she has been painting for more than a decade, using different mediums such as collage, assemblage and monoprints, and finds the process “body centered.”
“Painting for me is very body centered … and I paint intuitively which means I don’t know what the final product is going to be, but I just go along as forms emerge,” she said. “I find that remarkable because … it becomes a narration for me … and it is always about something that I am thinking about or adjusting to in life so the inspiration changes.
“It is a place where I take risks because I do things in paintings that I don’t do in my life.”
Kent said the class, which he has been teaching for the past 10 years, has not only taught students past and present, but has helped him develop his own style.
“I have been painting like this in an abstract fashion for almost 20 years now,” he said. “This my tenth year of teaching … and I think that I have learned a lot over my years of teaching and watching others and my own personal art style has evolved as well.
“I think everybody has a little bit different inspiration. Over time the folks in the class get comfortable with their materials and … start to experiment with things, so there is a lot of familiarity and exploration with a variety of materials and experimentation, and I think it shows in the final works.”
Artist Leona Tenebruso-Shultes said she has been painting on and off throughout most of her life and started painting routinely about 13 years ago.
“I was mostly working with seascapes and landscapes, and then about seven years ago I found this group and I have always loved abstracts and I started to work for the first time also in acrylics and it just unleashed so much more creativity so I have really enjoyed it,” she said. “What is appealing to me as I look at other people’s work as well as my own is the depth of it, the ability to look at it and feel like I am passing into the front frame and into behind it, which is something more deep.”
Kent said in the class he tries to start new artists on the same page and, as they become more comfortable, lets the creative juices flow.
“When they feel comfortable with the materials, I let them go and do their own thing and find their own voice,” he said. “Everybody has very distinctive styles that have evolved over time.”
Artist Thomas Farawell, who has painted since he was a child, took a break to concentrate on performing and songwriting with several bands throughout the Jersey Shore.
“About two years ago I said ‘I really miss doing this,’ so I threw myself back into it and have been painting every day and I can’t stop,” he said. “Right now I am working on paper, which is new for me. Normally I paint on canvases but they are just starting to pile up in my house … so this way I do them smaller and I am really just experimenting with the whole process of it.”
Mercedes Farrugia said she drifted away from painting for a bit but once she had her children, she went back into it.
“It is always a little hard to follow the abstract because the abstracts really have to be very different, and something you’ve never seen [but] I am all over and don’t stay in one place as far as my art,” she said. “It is a lot of fun and relaxing.”
Artist Dawn DiCicco uses music as an inspiration behind her work.
“I always drew abstract,” she said. “I just decided that trying to do realistic things was not for me anymore and I took this class and I said, ‘that’s it,’ and it has just been very freeing and I love it,” she said. “I just listen to music, and that’s the thing for me, the connection. I just plug in and go at it.”
Nancy Karpf, who has five pieces exhibited at the library, takes inspiration from places she has traveled.
“I just am really drawn to the process of making art,” she said. “My work was very figurative at first, and then I started painting a lot of people and I started traveling a lot so I started working from photos from my trips from faraway places, capturing something I felt at the moment or the feelings I had on the trip, and so the work evolved.
“I found this group and I just wanted to make it about the paint and the expression and the color and the texture and the light, so it has been very exciting for me.”
Wayne Lerman, who came to the class in 2006, said since then he has not missed many of them.
“As an architect who designs buildings, I have always considered myself an artist,’ he said. “A lot of my work is really whimsical, which is what abstract art is, and I want people to see different things in different works, and that is really the basis of my work.
“I enjoy doing it and I want every painting to be different so I don’t try to follow a certain type of style.”
The “13 Abstract Artists” exhibit will be featured at the library until the end of February.
“I am not a connoisseur, but I learned a lot,” said Renne Cohen, manager of the reference department at the library. “I was talking to the artists of this exhibit and I was asking them questions … but it has been a learning experience for me and I love it.
“The library is not just a library here, it is a community center. We offer so many things here, and hopefully people come and appreciate what we have to offer.”