‘No Man is an Island’ Art Exhibit Focuses on Fragile Habitats

By PAT JOHNSON | May 08, 2013
Photo by: Pat Johnson Samantha Palmeri and her ‘Laundry Meat’ monoprints.

Art House Gallery owner Samantha Palmeri wanted to do a show around the theme of people helping people rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. The Manahawkin gallery did a benefit event for Sandy relief in November, but the current exhibit, “No man is an Island,” taken from the title of a poem by the English poet John Donne, was “for the artists’ voice and their reaction to the world around them,” said Palmeri. “I wanted to make it about the art.”

In the artists’ call for the exhibit she suggested artists read Donne’s poem. Its famous lines are: “No man is an island\ Entire of itself.\ Each is a piece of the continent\ a part of the main.\ If a clod be washed away by the sea\ Europe is the less.\ As well as if a promontory were.\ As well as if a manor of thine own\ Or of thine friend’s were.\ Each man’s death diminishes me\ For I am involved in mankind.\ Therefore, send not to know\ For whom the bell tolls\ It tolls for thee.”

The artists were free to interpret the theme, said Palmeri. She served as curator and was pleased that half of the 16 contributors exhibiting were local artists while the other eight were from New York and other New Jersey towns.     

Suzi Hoffman from Beach Haven Park walked the beach after the storm and collected pieces of driftwood and flotsam and made a construction with a nest symbolizing both the fragility of “home,” and the resilience of life, as birds often have to reconstruct their nests. She added clay and wire figures tangled in the twigs.  

Sandra Mack-Valencia’s piece, “The Love Letter,” is a sweep of yellow across a misty, translucent Mylar screen. She also painted on the Mylar in acrylics and inks. An obsessive scrawled letter to a loved one is written in a childish hand.   

“I loved the fact of the letter. It could be letters that were lost in the storm,” said Palmeri.

Anita Cimino’s abstracts, “Vision in Clouds” and “The Muse,” are accompanied by a haiku poem. For “The Muse,” she wrote: “Alone on this island\ of thought\ just one grain\ one small bit\ of inspiration.”  

Ken Hamilton’s miniature diorama, “Home Sweet Home,” includes every cliché of what a poor trailer habitat might have, from the tiny beer cans and Marlboro cigarette packs to the rabbit hutch out back with tiny rabbit poops made of poppy seeds. Hamilton creates all kinds of intricate habitats and shows them in Philadelphia. “They are made of whatever he finds,” said Palmeri. “I like that there are many pieces in this show that require you to get in close and really spend some time with the art.”

That’s true of Jon Slackman’s large collage made from art and news magazines. “People asked him, ‘Why did you put so many images of guns in the collage?’ and he said it was what was in the news magazines of late,” said Palmeri. Slackman’s “No Man is an Island” collage is sprawling, funny and inspired in part by animator Terry Gillian of Monty Python’s Flying Circus fame. “He loves that show,” said Palmeri of her husband. 

For the exhibit, Palmeri continued her series, “Laundry Meat,” with two monoprints made from the forgotten tissues she retrieves and saves from her laundry. The scraps of paper are then dyed with vegetable dyes and printed by rolling and pressing them on the paper. “Once the shredded tissues are dyed they remind me of meat, like pulled pork,” said Palmeri. “Most of my art is about organic processes and has some connection to the body.” Palmeri used walnut dye for the two abstract monoprints in the show.

Shari Epstein’s mixed media piece, “1953,” is about changing environments – global warming specifically.

Not all the entries seem to have a connection to Donne’s poem but can be enjoyed for their own merits.

The large-scale pastel and acrylic painting by Nikki Schiro, titled “Self Reflecting in the Met, Portrait of Mary Anne Gray,” is a kind of visual joke. The woman whose image has been captured on paper is apparently taking a photo of the artist (or the viewer) with her iPhone.

And New York artist Bridget Parris paints images of the French Revolution. “We All Burn Down Together” depicts collective suffering.       

Local artists represented in the show include Diane Tomash, Cathleen Engelsen, Wendy McKelvey-Cutts, Martha Kremer and Andrea Sauchelli.

Tomash’s “Reciprocal Reliance” monotype continues her fascination with lonely houses depicted in a mysterious atmosphere.

Engelsen’s print of “Tucker’s Island” reminds us that islands are just big sandbars. She is also selling reprints of photos taken by her grandfather, W.C. Jones of Tucker’s Island, when there was still a decrepit hotel and some houses standing on the now-defunct spit of sand to the south of LBI.

“Tucker’s Island was there once. It had a school, it had homes and now it’s gone,” said Palmeri. “When I was a kid my dad used to take us to the sandbar that used to be Tucker’s Island for picnics, but now that’s gone, too. And they are building new homes in Holgate. Hello? Wake up. Tucker’s Island was here once and now it’s gone.”

Palmeri’s mother is struggling with rebuilding her home in Holgate after Sandy. “I lived there when I was 18,” said the artist, “and my mother lives there year ’round. It’s spooky how the dunes are gone. She lives on the bay and there used to be sand and grass and then the bay. Now it’s just the bay.”

McKelvey-Cutts made a ceramic box for her entry titled “The New Box of Rain.” It’s a wooden box covered with clay figures that are reaching toward each other.   

Martha Kremer’s “Hands Across the Divide” is also about people reaching for each other.

Sauchelli’s oil on canvas abstract titled “Runoff” is about chaos and water seeking its own level.

The exhibit continues until May 26. 







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