New Folk Art Exhibit ‘Russ Allen's Garage’ Opens at Tuckerton Seaport
“The Garage,” as told by Tuckerton Seaport Trustee Grove Conrad: “Thirty years ago, a gaggle of guys would assemble regularly on a Thursday night in Russ Allen’s garage, not far from the church in Port Republic. This was not your everyday garage containing the family car, but rather a Victorian affair removed from the main house. It was the workaday hiding place of one of the most creative folk artists in the country.
“The guys on those Thursdays were workaday, too: clammers, doctors, landscapers and teachers, utility men and a N.J. state trooper. Their common bond was what some call ‘America’s finest folk art’ – decoys.
“Russ Allen had bicycled across country, then worked as a boat builder and cabinet maker at the same time he was beginning to understand that his eye, imagination and talent could sustain a family and allow his dream (like most of us) to do what he damn well pleased, to work at what he loved to do – to make stuff. So in that garage he made a shop, made a name and made a lot of friends with common interests.
“Folk art in our ‘Baymen’s’ region appeals to a greater audience owing to the fact that many who live here now grew up somewhere else, and there is a curiosity to understand the area. We suggest while studying this exhibit you allow your imagination to help you in understanding the people and the culture of earlier times. Much of Russ Allen’s folk art began in his imagination while looking at an ordinary ‘found’ object. Discarded bottle caps become a snake, a shard of glass, a birdhouse, a horseshoe, a decoy weight and so on. These Russ Allen ‘things’ are better than a written account of how we were and how it was around here. These things also beg us to keep it simple and as uncomplicated as our long-ago people of the bay and people of the pines.”
The garage is gone now and some of the people are gone, too; but Russ Allen is still restoring, imagining and crafting folk art, noted Conrad.
The exhibit on display in the Hunting Shanty of the Tuckerton Seaport attempts to re-create the experience of being in the garage, he said. “Just pull up a chair and imagine you are one of the lucky ones allowed inside.”
The exhibit is a project of the New Jersey Decoy Collectors Association in partnership with The Baymen’s Museum.
A reception is being held on Friday, March 24, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Hunting Shanty. Suggested donation is $10. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
You may learn more about the New Jersey Decoy Collector’s Association by attending its show on March 25, at the Holiday Inn in Manahawkin, or send an email to email@example.com. —P.J.