Newark Museum of Art’s ‘Arts Annual’ features Union County artists

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — Numerous Union County artists will be featured in “2021 New Jersey Arts Annual: ReVision and Respond,” the first exhibit to open at the Newark Museum of Art since the COVID-19 pandemic shut the museum down in March 2020. The exhibit will run from Thursday, June 17, to Sunday, Aug. 22. The “New Jersey Arts Annual,” sponsored by the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, is a juried show presented at a different New Jersey museum or arts institution each year.

Among the Union County artists chosen are Summit resident Hao Fang, Cranford resident June Brown, Westfield resident Francesca Azzara, Plainfield resident Danielle Scott and Westfield resident Jon Simon.

“I am an interdisciplinary artist working in painting, sculpture, photography, video, graphic design and performance,” Fang told Union County LocalSource on Friday, June 11. “My work has been exhibited at many galleries and venues in New York and New Jersey, as well as the collections of the International Olympic Committee of Switzerland, the National Museum of China and the National Library of China.

“I started to draw when I was 4 years old,” she added, “but I don’t know how much time that I have spent in my art practice, since it includes thinking, learning, making and sometimes dreaming.”

Fang said she wanted to participate in the exhibit because she believes her pieces can give viewers the mental space to value their daily lives. She also said that the Newark Museum of Art is one of her favorite art museums.

“When I first visited it in 2015, I had a dream about displaying my pieces in the museum,” she said. Now, with her digital art piece ‘Your Ticket,’ which was created during the pandemic, as part of the show, that dream is becoming a reality.

“(The exhibit) will be exciting and encouraging. I cannot wait to see it in person,” Fang said. “As artists and human beings, we have been forced to think, act and interact in new and different ways since the beginning of 2020. The night before Easter day of 2020, I created the piece ‘Your Ticket’ using Adobe Illustrator … and I shared it via social media to my audience.

“I wanted to encourage them, especially those who currently live in New Jersey and New York, to stay home and do something through this crucial period. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. May everyone stay safe and be creative,” she added.

June Brown of Cranford, who does weaving, figure drawing and stained glass, will also have work in the exhibit. Brown, a retired art teacher, says that her career played a significant part in the development of her craft.

“I grew up in Cranford. … We’ve been living in Cranford for 32 years or so in our current house and raised our two sons,” Brown said on Friday, June 11.

“I’ve been making art since I was in college, but I retired about seven years ago, and, in the past 10 years, I’ve spent more time making art than I had the time to do earlier in my life,” she continued. “I used to draw a lot, and then I began to weave. Together, my husband and I began to make stained-glass art. I would say I’ve been most active in the past 10 years. I certainly don’t consider myself having perfected anything.”

”Obit #2,” a plastic-woven sculpture that is part of the exhibit, is her most unusual pieces.

“The one that got into the show is my most unusual,” said Brown. “But I think I enjoy the stained-glass work my husband and I have done together. The past few windows that we’ve built have been a real joy. Whatever I’m working on is what I’m happy working on. The doing of it is satisfying for me.

“The Newark Museum sent out a call for artists. … I submitted a piece that I thought was appropriate for what they described in the prospectus. When I read the prospectus, it described what I was in the middle of. I was working on the weaving project, and I wasn’t sure where it was headed. But when I read their prospectus and what they were looking for, it spurred me on to finish the piece.”

A virtual opening was scheduled for Wednesday, June 16, but the show opens in person on Thursday, June 17.

Amy Simon Hopwood, associate curator at the Newark Museum of Art, said that the exhibit comprises 50 works by 45 New Jersey artists.

“They were given the guidelines, and they submitted their work and required information and images about their artwork,” Hopwood said on Sunday, June 13. “For the selection process, myself and co-juror Kristen J. Owens, who is the associate curator of programs for Rutgers University–Newark’s Paul Robeson Galleries at Express Newark, served as the jury, and we’ve reviewed more than 1,800 submissions by artists from 20 of the 21 New Jersey counties. … We selected 45 artists from 14 of the 21 New Jersey counties.”

Hopwood said she is so excited — as are the exhibition team, the museum staff and the museum community — to have this exhibit and be part of the museum’s reopening.

“These 45 artists … have really translated their personal experience, their personal vision and their artistic creativity to absorb and revise the experiences of the last year or so,” said Hopwood. “We want to highlight and showcase the artists. We also want to give the museum visitor an opportunity to see and absorb the artwork and use it as a catalyst to process their personal experiences of the last year, between disruption of the pandemic and the reckoning with racial injustice and social inequities.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct an error.