Arts Unbound held an opening reception a few weeks ago for its annual Friends of Arts Unbound Invitational Exhibit, and it was some celebration. Exhibiting artists, supporters of Arts Unbound, art lovers and collectors packed the organization's 544 Freeman Street gallery, part of the Valley Arts District (VAD) that straddles West Orange and Orange.
Simply put, the show is absolutely fabulous with works by 27 leading area artists in many medium and at many price points— from $40 to $2,800.
Bargains are to be had: This is a fundraiser and many of the pieces are selling at discounted prices, with a chunk of each sale going to support the not for profit Arts Unbound. And, if there is no room on your walls, in the jewelry box or in the budget, remember that affordable handmade cards, art objects and jewelry by Arts Unbound client artists are always on sale both in the gallery and on line. (I have two Arts Unbound $6 bracelets that never fail to elicit compliments.)
First some background: Arts Unbound, under the dedicated leadership of director Gail Levinson, offers a wide program of support for young people and adults with mental, physical and developmental disabilities. These include on site and visiting classes and opportunities to exhibit both at the gallery and at shows statewide. Arts Unbound trains artists to compete in the art world, and many have successful careers with works on sale in New York private galleries.
Three words in the front window capture the essence of the program: "Art Saves Lives."
The author of those words, client artist Amy Charmatz of Springfield, was on hand at the opening. "Arts Unbound offers wonderful ways to enter the art world," Charmatz said. "I really know that art has a tremendous physical and mental impact. Yes, art saves lives; it saved mine." Charmatz's colorful cat-themed cards, many featuring intricate designs, are on sale throughout the year and on line.
This time out, Charmatz, who recently showed at the Smithsonian under the auspices of Special Arts, was at the gallery to see the show and two recent works by her mother, the widely exhibited abstract artist Joan Goldsmith of West Orange.
Goldsmith's "Green Sky" was eliciting much positive crowd response. Evoking sky, fields, and stream, it uses beautifully modulated acrylic paint and massing of Goldsmith's handmade, poured paper to evoke waterside rocks.
"I thought,' why not paint with paper'?" Goldsmith said. "When you put in a horizon, it becomes a landscape."
Arts Unbound Director of Education and VAD board member Gayle Mahoney has been an exhibiting artist in many medium for more than 20 years. She has brought to "Friends of Arts Unbound Invitational" two intriguing sculptural totems and some marvelous silver jewelry evoking ancient Cycladic figurines.
"Art is universal; it's the way people connect," Mahoney said. Mahoney sculpts her jewelry and other pieces from clay made with recycled silver as well as mixing her own clays. Her silver pieces are beautiful talismans; her totems speak to a place of shelter before embarking on a new endeavor. The surprise is that the totems are also fully functional lamps.
Susan Lisbin and Jody Leight both live and create their art in the VAD, Lisbin in found objects and paint, Leight in fabric. Each holds down demanding day jobs: Lisbin as a full-time public school teacher, Leight as a litigator. Both also teach or have taught Arts Unbound artists. "I moved to the VAD to be involved in the community," Lisbin said.
Lisbin is showing two large and largely abstract oils, "Blue Concealment" is a variation of her fascination with doors and windows. With its beautiful palette, it has been opening in my mind's eye for weeks.
Leight's quilted fabric and hand beaded "Water Lilies," is in the front window. A textured homage to Monet's water lilies, the work evokes flowers and sunlight on water.
Leight had much to say about Arts Unbound. "It's a wonderful organization," Leight said. "Everybody is differently abled in some way. You realize there really aren't boundaries, there is always some way to express the creativity in your soul."
I wish I could write about every work in this outstanding show by leading area artists. As always, the exhibit has been marvelously designed by Arts Unbound Gallery Director and curator Robert Ramos who is also exhibiting. Here is a complete list of the exhibiting artists: Todd Carpenter, Marie D'Aurelio, Susan Faiola & David Noonan, Joan Goldsmith, Micha Hamilton Rick Hauser, Kathleen Heron, Seth Ruggles Hiler, Jody Leight, Jennifer Levine, Susan Lisbin, Yvette Lucas, Gayle Mahoney, Stephen Makenzie, Nancy Nikkal, Bob O'Brien, Robert Ramos, Nancy Tobin, Kristen Tyler VanOs, Rigo Velez, Rachel Vidal, Fran Willner, Elizabeth Winchester and Sherri Zuckerman
Friends of Arts Unbound Invitational runs through August 19, 2011 at the Arts Unbound Gallery, 544 Freeman Street, Orange. Hours are weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or by appointment. Call (973)675-2787 or for more information and exhibit images see www.artsunbound.org as well as selections from the Arts Unbound store.