Artist June Sullivan Honored by Ocean County

By PAT JOHNSON | Apr 18, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson Artist June Sullivan with her ‘Winter Scene’ painting that includes one of her three poodles. Pearl looks on as Miles cuddles and Vivian heads to the kitchen.

Little Egg Harbor artist June Sullivan will be honored for her contributions to the local arts scene during the Salute to Ocean County Awards Ceremony at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College on Thursday, April 19.

A reception is planned for 6:30 p.m. with the program at 7 p.m. Sullivan will receive a Special Recognition for Advancement of the Arts Award by Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission director Tim Hart.

According to the program for the evening, “The commission recognizes the significant and important contribution of these awardees to the artistic culture of Ocean County and New Jersey. The recipients have shown excellences of artist production, support of the general artistic community, and have been a major advocate for the arts at a state and regional level. June Ann M. Sullivan will receive the Special Recognition for Advancement of the Arts Award, for her work in founding the Watermark Gallery in Tuckerton, inspiring artists, organizing art shows and providing public programs that enrich the cultural fabric of her community.”

Fellow Little Egg Harbor artist Diane Tomash recalled, “When June Sullivan opened the Watermark Gallery 15 years ago in Tuckerton, I agreed to exhibit there. The space was impressive and beautiful. I soon realized I could learn plenty from her. Rare is the artist who possesses excellent creative powers, a great sense of business acumen and a genuine willingness to share with and welcome other artists.”

Sullivan is primarily a water media artist, but she has done a lot for the arts in the Tuckerton area where she and her husband Gene created the Watermark Gallery that showcased local, established artists such as Tomash, Joyce Lawrence, Tom O’Connell and Alice McEnerney Cook among others.

The gallery was inundated with water during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and although it has been completely renovated, June’s health also deteriorated and that kept the couple from putting any more energy into the running of a gallery. The Watermark, located on Water Street in Tuckerton, is closed and for sale.

“I’ve been battling ovarian cancer for 12 years,” said Sullivan. “I’ve had three different courses of chemotherapy to put it back in remission. This last time was a year and a half ago when I started taking a new drug and it’s in remission again. The good news is I’m still here and have been able to tolerate what I’ve been through and taken it all in stride.

“And I’m still able to work,” she said.

The storm did a number on the historic building on Tuckerton Creek that June and Gene renovated as a gallery in October 1998. The front gallery, the original small cottage, received 4 feet of water and the storm surge lifted it off the foundation. “When it settled it was twisted and was completely ruined and condemned,” said Sullivan.

The large addition to the rear of the cottage was on higher ground and before the storm, June, gallery manager Kathy O’Connell and husband/artist Tom O’Connell moved everything from the small galley to the higher gallery. Still, even that area received about 8 inches. “We didn’t lose any artwork, but I lost a lot of frames and mats,” said June. “And there’s something to be said for watercolors. They are born in water so any that were wet were able to be put right.”

The O’Connells’ home in Mystic Island was also inundated and the couple decided to abandon the house and move to Arizona, where they have family.

“We kept in touch. I talked to her at least once a week and in January was sorry to hear she had contracted pneumonia and then a week later she died. It was such a shock, I’m still in shock.”

Sullivan is in the process of moving the last of her studio equipment out of the third floor studio at Watermark and repositioning her art supplies in the sunroom at her home in the Nugentown section of Little Egg Harbor.

Her work is in La Bottega of Art in the Glasstown Arts District of Millville, owned and run by Mary Ann Cannon. Cannon exhibited her own work in the Watermark so the friendship has come full circle.

“She runs a nice gallery, she knows how to hang things properly and has a ‘third night’ every month on Fridays.”

During the interview, Sullivan was in the process of packing up a large watercolor for Cannon’s gallery. It’s a snow scene: a house with a big poodle gamboling in the snow. She often paints happy times from memory. This memory was of when she lived in Piermont, N.Y., and ran a gallery there on the Hudson River where deep snow is a frequent happening.

She was the co-founder there of the Piermont Fine Arts Gallery from 1992 to 1999 before moving to Tuckerton.

Husband Gene owned a manufacturing plant in Ireland before he retired and the couple spent lots of time in the Emerald Isles. Sullivan paints scenes of Ireland from memory and some photos as well. It’s one of her favorite subjects. “I still have it in my head.”

When the couple moved to Tuckerton, Sullivan wasted no time in exploring Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Tuckerton and Mullica River watersheds, and her paintings of these subjects sell well. They practically fly off her easel. She recently sold three large watercolors of the Little Egg Harbor area out of her studio.

She often starts her watercolors by creating a watercolor mono-print, putting the initial watercolor washes through a press. “It gives it a certain texture that I like,” she explained. Her watercolors are colorful and full of life. If it’s a seascape there is sure to be at least one gull or a heron in it or a freshening of sailboats before the wind.

Her artist’s statement sums up her intent: “I have been involved in painting for five decades, and yet my heart still quickens, my spirit soars when I see tubes of color paint, color papers, or colors in nature illuminated by just the right light. To call me a colorist is a possible understatement, but for a lack of a better description, that is who and what I am.”

Sullivan grew up in Princeton, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Winthrop University and a master’s of art history degree from New York University, worked for Boehm Porcelain, and owned and operated the Piermont Fine Arts Gallery for 10 years. She is a signature member of the Northeast Watercolor Society and a member of the National Association of Women Artists and the Oil Pastel Association. She has won awards in national exhibitions, including the Northeast Watercolor Society and the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, and is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in American Art. She is one of 60 artists featured in George C. Valente’s 2006 coffee table book, Long Beach Island Rhapsody.

Sullivan is also known for her keen understanding of design, composition, and color and her great sense of joy in animal sculpture. Her tabletop sculpture “The Roundup,” comprising 9-inch origami pieces, was featured in the 2006 book The New Creative Artist by Nita Leland.


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