New Jersey Through Artists’ Eyes: Garden State Iconography

Referred to as the barrel tapped at both ends or by its various highway exits (as opposed to its actual towns, landmarks, and scenery), New Jersey has consistently had its own imagery overshadowed, mimicked, or at worst, ignored. However, artists born, raised, or residing off of those exit ramps, have long made a career out of documenting various iconography of the state. Their work not only consistently accentuates the existence of a very strong art world in New Jersey, but often highlights the beauty—both constructed and natural—that the state’s residents enjoy on a daily basis. Some of what the Library has collected over its 120-year history will be on view in New Jersey Through Artists’ Eyes: Garden State Iconography.

The featured artist of the exhibition is Helen Frank, a Springfield artist raised in Newark and Maplewood, who is known for depicting images of the state: children walking on the Jersey Shore, a busy commercial street in Newark, and even the vacant parking lot of the local Pathmark. Although she is known for her paintings, the images in this exhibit are of her graphic artwork—a medium she picked up when, as a new mother, she would carve woodblocks while watching her children play nearby. “I want people to recognize their own lives in my art,” says Frank when interviewed for Becoming Family in 2000, “…to see that what is happening to me is not so different from what is happening to themselves and to others, whether it be tea parties and trips to the beach, or shopping at the supermarket at 11:00 at night.”

The exhibition also features the work of other artists, who portray the Garden State in their work. For this show, two new photographic prints were acquired from the work of Helen M. Stummer of Metuchen, a self-described “visual sociologist” who has made a career of documenting the life of Newark inner-city families. Stummer’s work has been compared to that of Jacob Riis and Dorothea Lange, and she has had numerous one-person shows, including at the Aljira Gallery here in Newark.

A special tribute is made to Lucille Hobbie, born in Boonton, who passed away in 2008. Hobbie had Newark connections early in her career, teaching at the former Newark School for Industrial and Fine Arts. Morris County imagery is synonymous with Hobbie, who used many of thehistoric sites of the county in her work: Jockey Hollow, Washington’s Headquarters, the First Presbyterian Church in East Hanover, the old Madison Library building, and many others.

Also included in the exhibition is the work of Hoboken-based artist Peter Homitzky, Glen Ridge artist Joseph Konopka, former Newark City Surveyor and photographer Donald Farkas, as well as several nineteenth century engravers.

For more information about the exhibit, please call the Special Collections Division at 973-733-7745, or e-mail Chad Leinaweaver at

There will be an opening reception and gallery tour on October 8, 2009.