An amazing memory

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Hillsborough resident is one of 20 visual artists from Matheny featured in the Monmouth Museum Exhibit

Chris Palmer has an amazing memory for pop culture and history. Palmer paints and draws, and his inspiration can come from music, comic book heroes or movie and television characters.

Chris has always been interested in guitars and music and the musicians who play them,” says his mother, Angele Palmer. “I can tell you that he always travels with his drawing board so that whenever he is inspired to sketch something, he is ready to draw.

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“What is amazing about Chris is that there is never a rough draft. What you see is the first attempt of whatever inspires him to create on paper.”

Artwork by Chris Palmer

Jasmine Oliver is an artist who pulls her inspiration from the worlds of fashion, cartoon characters, and music. She likes to mix colors and has an eye for detail, especially when it comes to drawing her favorite cartoons. And, she almost always works on just one painting at a time, so she can focus on that painting and not be distracted.

Artwork by Jasmine Oliver

Palmer and Oliver are two of 20 talented visual artists whose work will be shown at “For Art’s Sake,” an exhibit of acrylic paintings and drawings on display at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, Monmouth County from Friday, April 28 through Sunday, June 4.

There will be a reception, free and open to the public, from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, April 30.

The artists are participants in the Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s Arts Access Program, which provides individuals with disabilities the freedom to create in the visual, literary, and performing arts.

Matheny is a special hospital and educational facility in Peapack, Somerset County, for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities. Palmer lives with his family in Hillsborough. Oliver resides with her mother in New Brunswick. The Monmouth Museum, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, is a 15,000 square foot museum with two children’s wings and two galleries with rotating exhibits.

Since 1993, the Arts Access Program has empowered artists with disabilities to create art without limits. Utilizing innovative communication systems and techniques, it enables artists to create unique bodies of work in the visual, literary, and performing arts.

Arts Access provides the traditional tools and materials needed to create art, along with one unique additional tool: a human being. Not just any human being, but a professional artist facilitator who is trained to be the arms and legs of the participating artist. Every choice comes from the participant, from paint color and brush stroke, to dance movement and theatrical staging, to each written word.

On a daily basis, Arts Access fosters an environment of artistic freedom among its artists, and works to change perceptions about the capabilities and talents of people with disabilities.

Joe Matousek is a visual arts facilitator who works with Palmer and Oliver.

“Christopher is extremely talented and has a backstory for all of his paintings and drawings,” Matousek said. “He enjoys explaining the reasoning behind the outlandish combinations of characters and images. His stories are just as fascinating as the artwork itself. Christopher continues to be one of the most captivating artists I know.”

Oliver, in addition to painting, is a choreographer in the Arts Access dance program.

“I work with Jasmine right after dance,” Matousek says. “She has so much fun dancing and doing her choreography, and she brings that same vibrant energy right into painting. Jasmine is an amazing artist and a joy to work with.”

Oliver’s choreography, according to dance facilitator Alysssa Thosetesen, “is heavily influenced by hip hop and social dancing, and she loves to have fun and laugh during her sessions.”

Dancing, says Oliver, is easier than painting because “you can dance your behind off.”

Drawing and painting, she adds, “is not easy. You have to mix the colors and think about what you gotta do next, the tools and the painting and the paint brushes.”

Oliver has only been part of the Arts Access Program for a relatively short time, but Matousek says she, “has become an amazing asset to the program, growing as an artist and letting her personality and talent shine.”

The Monmouth Museum is located at 765 Newman Springs Road on the campus of Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. For additional information about the exhibit or Matheny’s Arts Access Program, visit artsaccessprogram.org.

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