Upper Montclair, NJ – Jen Hager has always loved to paint, but she has found a new canvas.
Hager, who works at Tapestry in their jewelry division, overseeing design, production and manufacturing, started working remotely in March when COVID-19 shut down life as we know it.
She quickly discovered that, even with Zoom calls and working at home, not commuting into the city freed up a lot of time in her day.
She had been painting jean jackets, but with nowhere to wear them, she was looking to do something more.
“I had the luxury of being able to stay safe at home and still work at my full time job, but I was seeing a lot of people who didn’t have that luxury,” says Hager.
Hager started painting rocks as a tribute to all the people she was seeing — the essential workers. Her first painting was a postal worker.
Starting with a bunch of large rocks from her backyard, Hager continued painting people, scenes and images, taking the painted rock movement of inspiring messages in a new direction.
The rock gallery project quickly grew, morphing into Hager painting anything she was feeling grateful (Applegate ice cream) for as well as chronicling all the things that have happened in the world since quarantine.
Hager’s husband helped by placing the heavy rock paintings along a retaining wall in front of her Edgecliff Road home.
“I’m not contributing anything like those who are essential workers, but I wanted to do something, to bring a little light for some people,” says Hager.
“A lot of people were stopping by and taking pictures and telling us how much they liked seeing the wall grow,” says Hager.
When her husband posted an early video of the project to Facebook, it got more than 4000 views and the response encouraged Hager to paint more.
Painting is part of Hager’s own history. Her grandparents were both artists, and her father, a retired NBC reporter, would always paint on the side, often painting murals in the family home.
When Hager learned of the passing of civil rights legend John Lewis, she painted his portrait alongside the bridge in Selma, AL where Lewis marched, but then found an image of Lewis and Obama hugging and was moved to paint that as well.
The positive feedback has motivated Hager to keep painting, even when she had to get rocks from the garden store when she ran out of her own.
“It’s been great for me, to have projects keep my mind going,” says Hager, who adds that as the gallery of rock paintings grows in number, now over 35 in total, they have started to take on more meaning.
Follow Hager on Instagram to see her latest rock paintings or visit them in person on Edgecliff Road in Upper Montclair.