The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) is in the midst of a modern transformation, but its Montclair and New Jersey roots continue to keep it grounded. Prior to the September 10th opening of MAM’s four new exhibitions, Director Ira Wagner pointed out that even though MAM is evolving to incorporate new looks and new technology to emphasize accessibility, the museum’s Montclair focus remains a constant. This fall, Montclair’s own Lori Field and her Tiger Tarot, Woolpunk’s Sunflowers Graffiti’d Sky in the Garden State, and the George Inness inspired art in collaboration with Studio Montclair guarantee visitors a full on New Jersey art infusion they will want to visit again and again.
In the Weston and elevator galleries, Lori Field’s multi-media exhibition, Tiger Tarot, includes over 60 works in a colorful, fantastical, and sensory journey. With recurring motifs around themes that include the female form, blue roses, and myriad animals, visitors will truly feel immersed in Field’s vision. The exhibit’s mix of traditional methods, like silver point contrast with ultra-modern techniques, like the animated videos of Field’s tarot images. The videos are a collaboration between Field and her son, artist and filmmaker Harry Field. The use of repeated themes within many mediums encourages visitors to experience the exhibit as a spiral, moving from the tapestries to the animations, to the colored pencil creations and back again.
The Tiger Tarot collection at the center of the exhibit is something that Lori Field had wanted to tackle her whole life, but she didn’t have time. The recent pandemic, she explained, provided both time and inspiration. The emotions around the uncertainty of a global pandemic elicited a desire for a system to gauge the future, like a grounding guide. The anthropomorphic visuals and vivid colors are at once dreamlike and hopeful even as they are unsettling and stimulating. Field credits guest curator Kathy Imlay with a unifying exhibit that stayed true to the artist’s goals.
Highlights of Tiger Tarot include the pairing of one of Field’s first installations of blue roses in resin at the foot of a recent Tiger Tarot piece. A particularly whimsical display is a collection of colored pencil works that visitors of a certain age will recognize as being on shrink paper. Field is also showing recent, deeply personal works. The Shadow of My Former Self is a beautiful colored pencil creation responding to the loss of Field’s husband last year. The detailed tapestries also emphasize Field’s ability to weave together the ancient and the modern.
Overlooking Bloomfield Avenue from MAM’s Laurie Art Stairway is Woolpunk’s epic artwork, Sunflowers & Graffiti’d Sky in the Garden State. Set against the backdrop of a huge photograph of a Jersey City community garden, the embroidered and stitched collage has repeated images like Bambi, the Coca-Cola logo, taxi cabs, stylized flowers, animals, and various native patterns. Woolpunk used recycled textiles, much of it collected from Montclair residents during a call for donations. The center of the banner represents a garbage heap, but the colors and bright backdrop exude a hopeful attitude. The various flowers seem to be evolving and fighting against the garbage dump even as there are fish shown escaping it. There are sharp commentaries about consumerism, climate justice, and encroachment throughout the piece, however.
Woolpunk is based in Jersey City, and considers herself an environmentalist before all else. Her most successful endeavors, she explains, have come from simply asking a question and trying to answer it based on observed responses. For this project, the response came partially through the creative donations to the project. None of the stitched on fabric in the design was purchased new; in addition to the donated items from the MAM community, Woolpunk used found items and recycled fabric given to her by other artists. Eagle-eyed visitors will see a piece of fabric with the MAM logo on the banner. There is also a subliminal message for those who take time to enjoy the piece over time.
Anchoring the current exhibitions is the redesigned Inness Gallery. Gail Stavinsky, now with 20 Innes pieces, including one by George Inness’ son and a new acquisition, Twilight, which was recently donated to the museum. Gail Stavitsky, MAM’s chief curator, explained that the gallery has been re-installed to highlight a natural daily cycle and the places Inness visited and painted. The room also has a refreshed color scheme. Stavitsky gives credit to MAM’s Osanna Urbay for the choices of sky blue and gold to highlight the natural themes and the hues in the paintings’ frames.
Not to be missed is the collection of over 100 works in collaboration with Studio Montclair: Inspired by George Inness: Life and Landscape. With artwork from scores of artists between MAM’s Vance Wall Education Arcades and SMI’s Leach Gallery just down the street at 641 Bloomfield, visitors can enjoy many different perspectives using vastly different mediums in response to the work of George Inness.
Montclair Art Museum boasted a record 500 people registered to attend the opening for these exhibitions, and MAM will soon be a part of Bloomberg Connects, a free app that helps museums and artists become more accessible to the world and to add stories and details to the museum-going experience. Combining its New Jersey focus with a world-view, MAM’s work to innovate is sure to continue growing its accessibility and inspiring new artists.
Lori Field’s Tiger Tarot will be on exhibit through January 1, 2023. Woolpunk’s Sunflowers & Graffiti’d Sky in the Garden State is on display through August 6, 2023. The Inspired by George Inness: Life and Landscape collaboration between SMI and MAM is open through November 6, 2022.