I’d like to begin by saying I know nothing about art. I’m not an artist, I didn’t take that Art History 101 class that everyone else took freshmen year at Rutgers, I don’t have it in my budget to be a collector of art at this point beyond some prints and stickers of said art, etc. But I do love to be around some art and look at it and maybe talk to some random super stoned guy with long hair next to me about it and also to support galleries of folks I think are great with my presence and my social media. If that’s wrong I don’t want to be right.
There’s a word I first heard/thought about/pondered just a few months ago and that word is “democratize.” I went to a writing “salon” (Novella plz come back I miss you I’m begging you) and the speaker Harling Ross, of Man Repeller fame, was praising Instagram and saying that it has “democratized fashion” and my head exploded right there and I had to scrape pieces of my brain off the ceiling at the Lively underwear store because yes that is exactly what Instagram has done and I am fully pumped and fully on board.
I think that Instagram has also democratized art, but I think that art is pretty democratized on its own in Jersey City. Maybe Instagram helps but it seems like the Jersey City art world was pretty open/fun/friendly even before that. Like, these people are pumped AF about art but also they’re not dicks about it. People are welcoming, inviting, friendly, excited to share their thoughts/stories/ideas/motivations but they’re definitely not condescending “art people” as I would have understood “art people” to be before I started to check this stuff out around the town.
You may or may not know that I am a very awkward and anxious person and sometimes I’m good at hiding it but always in my head I struggle with feeling “cool” or like “worthy of peoples time/consideration” so going to art shows has always caused me a lot of stress because everyone is going to have something insightful to say and I’m just gonna be like “I love the bright colors! And the textures!” Because, in fact, I DO love the bright colors and the textures, but in the past that was sometimes lame/not okay or at least I was made to feel that way but MY POINT IS I have never been made to feel that way in Jersey City and there’s another reason to add to the top of the huge pile of reasons I am in love/obsessed/forever grateful for this land I call home.
ANYWAY this past weekend was the Jersey City Art and Studio Tour and it was super great and I’m going to tell you a little bit about my personal experience with it and I took a lot of notes so I’ll try to get my facts straight but again I am no expert and this is just personal reflection (please find me worthy of your time and consideration I am begging you).
First up was opening night! Woo! It was held in a large cement looking space at 2 Shore Lane in the Newport neighborhood of JC, the “Shorehouse.” WTF is the Shorehouse you may ask? Well that’s funny because we were all asking that too and everyone got lost on the way there and there was mass confusion and maybe a few almost breakups of friends and lovers happened because of it. I’m saying just maybe that happened.
I’m not sure why they chose this location and I’m sure there is a good reason, but when we saw it was (vaguely) in what we would affectionately call the “nerdy part of town” we were like why the heck?
Once we found the place and walked in and wiped the sweat from our brows and eventually found each other, it was good times! They had drinks for sale at reasonable prices and free snackies (I’m going to keep using “snackies” and can’t be stopped. I’m sorry). I personally saw some very good looking cupcakes but was steered away out of my boyfriend’s own self interest. <glares at boyfriend>
The art I liked best were these flamingos by Britt Ford because I am 100% obsessed with flamingos and I know they’re like a “thing” right now but I have always been obsessed with them. Just like owls when they became a “thing,” I had already proven my allegiance to owls for many years. I just need you to know that. If it’s a bird I have been obsessed with it and it has been a “thing” to me since birth. Birds are mine. Bye.
Also bird related, I loved this pigeon with a spray paint can head by Will Power. Pigeons need more respect and that will be explored fully someday in another post. Get excited.
There was a spaceman thing by Erin Ko Studios that had a cool interactive thing that if you looked at it with their app a FREAKIN WHALE SWAM OUT OF IT and it was badass. Art and technology together make beautiful art-technology babies, it’s true. I didn’t get to take a pic or a vid with their app but I still really liked the space…people. Sorry I said man up there. Ugh I’m terrible.
There was a ton of great art there but I came across this child’s drawing below in a guest book and I was really excited about it, specifically the alligator and giraffe. A budding artistic genius! GET IT, BRENDAN.
I went home early and didn’t drink because I’m living a new lifestyle where I try not to feel like shit during the week and it’s really working out for me thanks for asking.
When Friday night came we went first to Deep Space.
Deep Space is my fav and I have gone there the most often in regular life, not just for this studio tour, and I will continue going in perpetuity as long as they will have me. They have fun new openings every few weeks and also closings and also you can go there any time (I’m pretty sure) and shop their art and vintage clothes and records and other trinkets and treasures. They also have a roof you can stand on and look at the world and now there’s a light sculpture on it by Sunil Garg so that takes it to an even higher plane of excellence.
My fav piece of art by RU8ICON1 was this and if you know me you know that I don’t need to explain WHY but after I stood and looked at it for a minute I had to stoop down and mop up the puddle of drool I left on the floor…
One of the things I really like that they do there is keep around the art from past shows and put it on display and for sale in the shop part and when I see it there it gives me happy memories from shows past and someday when it’s in my budge to buy arts it may even be soon enough from now that I can buy one of these arts from a show I enjoyed so much, a girl can dream.
Overall Deep Space is a fun, relaxed, welcoming place and they’re excited to see anyone and everyone there, even if you just come to hang and commune with art and artists. The folks in charge there are in the most recent issue of Eighty Mag and I think they just look so damn cool and like badass art bosses on the cover and I couldn’t be more proud.
Go to Deep Space if you know what’s good for you.
Six Columns is home base of Norm Kirby and if you like to casually peek at art in Jersey City you may know it’s him I’m referring to if I tell you “he’s the fence art guy.” All around the town, seriously all around, not just in the expected places, and Jersey City is huge, there is like a silk tape material, I think that’s what it is, woven into fences to make different designs, people, animals, buildings, quotes and song lyrics, all kinds of stuff. I love it.
There wasn’t much of that at this particular show because it was inside and not on fences around the town but I did see a photo or two of the fence things and I was like, “Hey! The fence things!”
He also makes drawings of places around the town and I love those but I didn’t see any at this one. But here are some from the last show I went to.
Finally, he makes these wire figures in frames that are super cool and I saw some in the bathroom but I didn’t take a pic but here’s a pic from another of his shows.
In addition to Norm’s work there were some photos by the gal known as @queenmary_no_no on Instagram, her debut! She was proud/amused to recall that one of the photos was a picture she had taken that got zero likes on Instagram when she posted it long ago. It was a nice lush green summery picture and I was appalled no one noticed it on social media but now it is ART and hangs in a GALLERY. SO THERE
Blaze has some art there too and I didn’t get a good pic but I always like his stuff because anything made with a 3D printer blows my mind because it’s like there was nothing filling that space in the world and then you just make it on a computer and PRINT IT OUT and then it fully exists as a three dimensional object and that is INSANE and I’m still making my peace with it but in a positive way if that makes sense.
I apologize for not taking any photos at this gallery and instead posting photos from old shows but I was talking to people and having fun EVER HEARD OF IT?
Blue House aka The Lighter Side of Darkness Metal Sculpture Garden
I’m going to call this Backyard Sculpture Garden by Jerome China, featuring Jerry Gant, Patricia Talbot, and Saffell Gardner, “Blue House” because it took place in the backyard of a beautiful blue house off of Bergen (alliteration!) I arrived and no one else was there and there were signs to go to the back and also a sign to NOT OPEN one of the doors into the house so I followed the rules because I fear authority and I went to the backyard and OMG THIS BACKYARD.
I’m already a sucker for a backyard because I grew up feral and free in the forest and now I have to compete for space with literal cockroaches all day but I was even more pumped about this one because it was just so nice and peaceful and had great sculpture art by Jerome China. Some of the sculptures even had plants just casually, naturally, growing around and on to them and it was beautiful.
I sat on a bench and stared and took deep breaths and really just felt great for like 20 minutes. I liked these pieces that were made out of discarded parts of tools best.
Unrelated to art but there was also a skunk trap in this yard! I’ve never seen a skunk trap and found it interesting. I wonder if he’ll catch the skunk or if it will coyly evade him forever.
As I was leaving the dude in charge (China himself!) called to me from the porch – “there’s more inside!” Whoaaaa. Don’t mind if I do, sir. I went inside and his house was awesome. I’m talking BAD. ASS. I was barely looking at the art at this point (sorry). There were like, lamps with fringe, old wood, rich colors, posed portraits of ancestors, carpets with cool patterns…the whole thing. I didn’t get any pics because this wasn’t a HOUSE TOUR it was an ART TOUR but I do wish it was both.
While I was talking with him he let me know there is a Newark Arts Tour that many of the JC artists will be participating in next weekend. I think I may try to go Sunday! Saturday is Double Parked Fest, can’t miss that y’all. SRSLY I BETTER SEE YOU THERE.
After Blue House I headed down the street to Snapdragon. I have followed this place on Instagram for a while but have never made it there as a customer. I still technically have not made it as a customer because I wanted iced tea and they were out but I guess that just means I have to go back!
They had arts by Kelsey Reilly displayed upstairs and…I really did love the bright colors of these. Sue me.
They also had super cool chairs and tables and rugs and it just looked like they collected a bunch of random furniture and housewares and threw them all together and it was perfect. It was also nice and quiet upstairs. I really prize quiet in my old age.
Additionally there were some treats on a table but none of the other 3 people up there were consuming the treats and there weren’t napkins or utensils by the treats so I worked myself up into an awkward personal crisis over whether or not I should consume the treats so I didn’t try any and I regretted it later but just know they looked delish. I believe they make treats there but don’t quote me on that. Like I said I need to go back for a better look, okay???!
CB I Hate Perfume
After Snapdragon I tried to find an exhibit on the St. Peter’s campus but it looked like it was in a large student center type building and the door was locked and I tried to open it and a security guard started to walk over to open to door from somewhere on the inside but I didn’t feel like interacting with anyone so I scurried away. And I’m sure I missed out due to being a weirdo but it was just not a good time to talk to strangers. I just didn’t feel like it. Leave me alone.
So I hopped on a Citibike in McGinley Square and cruised down Montgomery to Downtown JC. I had read on the map that there was an “olfactory exhibit” and I was like holy shit if it’s smells I need to go. Super into smells. It’s how I judge everything. Every place, every food, every person, every single situation I judge by smell. I could have gotten this from my best pals, which are all the dogs that have ever existed. Anyway I was very interested to see how smells could be presented as an art exhibit so I rushed right on over.
As I approached CB I Hate Perfume there was a tour crowd outside. I didn’t realize they did tours for this! Actually I lied…I knew but I forgot. Sorry.
Inside I was having a little trouble finding where the smelling was supposed to happen and I’m awkward as hell as previously mentioned so I was standing there feeling like a total weirdo and finally a nice gal with very excited blue eyes came over and was like “has anyone spoken to you about what you’re experiencing here?” And I was like “um no thanks just browsing heheh” and she was like “um cool” and then started telling me more about the smells and the exhibit and I was like oh, she’s in charge here, this is valuable.
So she told me all about the artist Christopher Brosius and the Aesthesia project which involved breaking down smells from nature into vibrations that come from the plants that make the smells and then using those vibrations to make music, which was also part of the exhibit. So it was like sounds from vibrations that lavender plants made at some point playing next to smells of lavender plants and also a lavender plant image, for example. It was super cool and I don’t know if I’m explaining it well so maybe you should just go look for yourselves.
In the back they had more smells! All kinds of smells you could test out and smell and think about what kind of place they took you to. I was just smelling and smelling and smelling. There was a dude back there that assists in making the smells and I was like “what are these smells even made of?!” And then I felt dumb because like, duh, chemicals, and then I was like “oh yeah, chemicals!” And then I felt guilty for referring to the smells as “chemicals” because that seemed rude and potentially implied they were healthy and unnatural in some way so then I felt hot with shame and regret and then he was like “yes! Organic chemistry!” and then I was like “science!” And all was well.
In the back they also had an exhibit/art piece/environment that was felt balls that were made to look like snow balls and they smelled like snow! It was one of the smells the artist had created and I swear IT SMELLED LIKE SNOW. So much so that it made my nose and the back of my throat feel kind of cold when I smelled it, in a psychosomatic way. Not like a menthol way. As I was smelling the snow and lost in my thoughts I overhead the artist talking to someone and I only heard parts but it seemed to be about trying to get this piece set up at a gallery and the powers that be at said gallery were like “okay what is this going to smell like because we don’t want it to take over the whole gallery and we def don’t want people to barf.” And it was cracking me up.
As I was leaving the tour group came in and it was a CROWD so I dove out of there and speed walked down Newark Ave to the next place.
I came across Village West gallery by surprise as I didn’t have it circled on my map for whatever reason, but it’s up a staircase I have walked by one million times on the way to shows at White Eagle Hall and I’m always like I wonder what that staircase is and now I know. Full circle.
It was cool in here, I liked the look of it overall and all of the art was nicely displayed. Honestly there was a tuxedo gallery cat there and I’m such a sucker for a tuxedo cat I basically just took pics of him the entire time (they’re all “him,” even though I googled it and I was disappointed to find tuxedos are 50/50 male/female, they are still all “him” in this blog and for all other purposes in which I’m involved)
They also had those kinda supermarket brand bakery sugar cookies that are so moist and delicious that you’re like how did a straight up basic-ass supermarket make this? But you’re glad they did.
Oh and one more thing was this really cool couch that instead of reupholstering with new fabric an artist painted over some parts of it with fun colorful paints (BRIGHT COLORS) and I think the little info box next to it said the artist got it for like $27 or something and I was into that.
Last on my journey was Piersanti studios. There were other works/studios there in the Merseles Studios at Jersey City Theater Center building (that’s a mouthful and I’m still unsure what to really call this place) but I particularly wanted to see this one. I really like the work of his that I have seen around the town and I think it’s super cool/fun/very Jersey City that it’s a cast of characters of people he has come across. At least that’s what I was led to believe…I could have made that up. Anyway it’s great and bright and portraits of people and I love it forever. He had a lot of stuff on display in the studio and every corner had pops of color and faces looking at you and it was a lovely experience.
He was in there working on a painting (of one of those hairless cats! Cool!) and I didn’t want to disrupt the artistic process, duh (JK I was crippled by awkwardness and tiptoed around so as not to make a sound lest he hear me and then say hi to me and then I would have to think of something to say. He seems perfectly nice this is my issue not his), but I was grateful that I was allowed to lurk in his studio and check things out for these few moments. Thank you!
So as you’ve read and seen above, if you’ve made it this far, it was a great great time. I enjoyed exploring a couple of different neighborhoods before heading downtown. I moved to “The Hill” in May after living downtown for 8 years so it’s been a huge adjustment finding different places to hang out but it’s also been hugely fun and eye opening and I don’t know why I never ventured far from downtown before and I AM SO SORRY FOR BEING SO BASIC.
JCAST 4 life! Did you go? What did you see? What did you like best about it? What did you like least about it? Didn’t it seem like there were so many places on the map and you couldn’t possibly visit them all?! Do you feel that art is democratized in JC or do you think they’re a bunch of snobs? Well, they’re not. Go out and enjoy the arts in our awesome town! Woooo!