New realism exhibit at Noyes Museum of Art
HAMMONTON—The dynamic American landscape is ever-changing, as signs are removed, buildings collapse, murals fade and farms disappear.
A new realism exhibit at the Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton University at Kramer Hall, however, seeks to preserve such familiar images before they vanish: In Real Life, on display now through September 3.
In Real Life features the works of four local realism artists, Mark Allen Natale, Nick Savides, Michael Schweigart and Ted Walsh whose art focuses on signs, architecture and natural landscapes.
“Lately I’ve been focusing on old signs or old architecture and specifically along Route 30, the White Horse Pike. A lot of signs I’m finding are along the White Horse Pike. It’s a road I’ve traveled my entire life,” Natale said.
One of those signs is inspiration for his oil painting “Square Deal Farm.” The piece has traveled thousands of miles including shows in Cleveland; Old Lyme, Conn.; Bridgeton, N.J.; and Red Bank, N.J. and has won a few awards.
“‘Square Deal Farm’ tells it quite blatantly that ‘we’re fair here.’ You’re going to get a good deal. You’re going to get a fair deal at this farm stand. What does it mean today? Did we lose track of that? Is business today about profit and not so much about the square deal? So I think there’s different messages that can be drawn out of the words,” he said.
Today, the Square Deal Farm sign is gone.
“It’s good to capture these things because at any moment it could disappear,” he said.
“ACME Markets” is another work of Natale’s that captures an old sign, which could disappear at any moment.
“This one is kind of neat because at first you don’t really notice the word ‘ACME’ because it was torn off of the sign, but it’s left its ghost letters there in rust on the sign,” he said.
The now-closed ACME market is in Egg Harbor City where Natale grew up as a child.
“Me and my sister would jump on the pad and open the door and it’d close, let go and open and close all the time. I remember playing inside the doorway of the store. It’s kind of a fond memory that I have when the store existed,” Natale said.
Natale now lives in Barrington, but continues to travel Route 30 often traveling through Hammonton.
Another artist from the exhibit, Savides’ art documents architecture, but this time in New York City.
“In New York, I’m interested in the older architecture, but sometimes contrasting with the newer architecture. It’s like a mix in the city. You get all these interesting details in the older architecture,” Savides said.
“Legends on Rivington Street” (2020) located at the corner of Rivington and Forsyth Street, is an interpretation of the “27 Club” mural by Eduardo Kobra. The mural features popular musicians who died when they were 27: Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse.
Savides painted the mural scene in spring 2020, but in a few months, graffiti would cover the top of the actual mural. The oil painting captures “something that won’t last” thus the mural scene stays preserved.
Another painting Savides finished during the pandemic lockdown, “On Howard Street” (2020) captures a building with large windows and a person walking down the sidewalk.
“This one I was also interested in portraying the reflections and this idea that you would look inside and see different scenes that have nothing to do with the city,” Savides said.
Schweigart’s artwork does exactly that—takes the viewer outside the city to rural South Jersey and Maine.
Some of his paintings from South Jersey include locations like Mood’s Farm in Mullica Hill and a farm landscape on Pedricktown Road in Logan Twp., N.J.
“I’m always driving around South Jersey and that’s one of my favorite areas to travel,” Schweigart said.
Schweigart is from Pitman and loves the area.
“There’s a lot of—well there used to be peach fields, peach trees and farms and stuff out that way,” he said.
Like Natale and Savides, Schweigart’s art captures the landscape from a moment in time.
Schweigart’s “Local Color” takes place on the Cadillac Mountain in Arcadia National Park in Maine and features a man with bright yellow boots looking on his phone, which stands out from the mountainous landscape.
“I like texture. I like recreating the texture that are a part of that area: the moss, the lichen,” he said.
He finished his newest painting titled “Hangin Out on Monhegan” specifically for the In Real Life exhibit. Monhegan is a small island about 11 miles off the coast of Maine.
“The island is really cool because it’s got one side is totally natural where there’s rocks, trees and water … and the other side scattered throughout are people on the west side of island,” he said.
“Hangin Out on Monhegan” shows tied up bottles hanging off vegetation on top of a rugged landscape.
Most of Schweigart’s paintings are acrylic on paper and he works small areas at a time since the acrylic dries fast.
“In Between” depicts a rental property next to the beach.
“I titled it that way because it’s right on the beach and on one side there’s land and grass and little dirt road and stuff and on the other side it’s open water, so it’s kind of in between land and sea,” Schweigart said.
As for the fourth artist at the In Real Life exhibit, Walsh is also drawn to the natural landscape and architecture.
Three of Walsh’s art pieces from the “Green Roof Top” set include the same building. Watercolor was used for one painting while the other two use charcoal and oil. All three were created two to three years ago.
“I did a few residencies in the National Parks a few years ago and that was the house I stayed in at a residency in Brandywine in [Andrew] Wyeth country. I walked around the fields and landscape there and I went and found a few Andrew Wyeth locations right where he painted,” Walsh said.
Wyeth was an American realist painter known for his regionalist style in the middle of the 20th century.
When talking about the watercolor piece, Walsh said it brings back good memories of sitting on the hillside painting with his backpack of paints.
“It’s really cool, exciting to be out at an art opening again because usually we go to a lot of these being an artist—that’s one of the fun parts of it—but for a while you couldn’t do it. So it’s really fun to get back out, see people and talk about art,” Walsh said.
For more information, visit the artists’ websites at mark-natale.weebly.com, nicksavides.com, michaelschweigart.com and tedwalsh.com. Follow the artists on Instagram @marknataleartist, @nicksavides, @michaelschweigart and @ted_walsh_painter.