The Great Art War Exhibit at Island Library

By PAT JOHNSON | Feb 07, 2018
Artwork by: Carol Freas ‘It’s Over Boys’ collage by Surf City artist Carol Freas.

It was the war to end all wars: the Great War, the First World War. With 32 countries involved, it was the first fully mechanized war, the first war to use poison gas, the first war to use air power, and it was the war that resulted in the League of Nations, embodying a desire by countries to negotiate conflicts without shedding blood.

It was a bloody war: An estimated 10 million soldiers on both sides perished, over 7 million civilians were killed, and 21 million military men were wounded.

It started in 1914 and lasted just four years, with the United States entering in 1917.

The Friends of the Long Beach Island Library, together with the Great John Mathis Chapter DAR, are honoring the centennial of the end of the war with an art exhibit, “The Great Art War,” during the month of February. This exhibit features a mix of art from 15 area artists that includes photography, oil paintings, pastel paintings and watercolors through the month, with a Meet the Artists reception planned for Saturday, Feb. 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a historical lecture on the war by Jeff Brown, U.S. history and government teacher at Southern Regional High School, at 2 p.m. Refreshments will be served at noon.

Some of the artists have more than a passing interest in commemorating the war. Elizabeth Harrigle, a lifelong resident of the LBI and the Stafford Township area, painted “In Remembrance of Papa,” a watercolor of poppies. Poppies are the remembrance flower of military casualties because red poppies were the first flowers to cover the cemeteries of soldiers in France and Belgium along the Western Front, where fighting took place in trenches.

Harrigle said her great-grandfather, Dr. Frederick N. Bunnell, was a medic in WWI. “My mother told me he amputated limbs in the field. I can hardly imagine. … In honor of his service, I named it (the painting) after him.”

Cathleen Engelsen of Surf City is known for her historical paintings, and she has two in the show, an original oil of “Skeeters,” a cottage owned by her family in the 1800s on Tucker’s Island, and a print of “The Tuckerton Wireless.” Engelsen’s grandfather, W.C. Jones of Tuckerton, took many photos in the early 1900s, and she used his photos of the Tuckerton Wireless as a model. The wireless was the first radio connection between the U.S. and Europe and was built in Mystic Island in Little Egg Harbor by a German company. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, the German workers were arrested and interred. A contingent of Marines was sent to guard the wireless.

Carol Freas, also from Surf City, is making a statement with her two collages. The first, “Oh Brother,” reminds us of the headline “War to End All Wars” and the sentiment that lasted a mere 21 years, as unresolved issues within the peace process led to the World War II in 1939. The second collage is one of mourning, titled “It’s Over Boys.”

Linda Ramsay’s oil painting “Civilian Lookout” pays tribute to the men who walked the beaches of LBI during the war years searching for German U-boats and all the men and women who worked for Civil Defense.

Pine Shores Art Association artist Paul Hartelius focused on the joyous aftermath of the war with his pastel and charcoal depiction of the “Victory Parade (Triumph Arch at 24th Street, NYC 1919).”

Bernadette Callanan, chairwoman of Amergael’s Celebrate Irish Arts, is also vice president of the Friends of the Island Library and active member of Pine Shores Art Association. Her mixed media work “Over There” combines a painting of the flag and actual Poppy Buddy pins. She also painted “In Flanders Fields.”

Jo Clarke of Barnegat also found poppies a worthy subject for a watercolor and an oil painting. Her portrait painting of “Margreet” is something of a mystery. Why is she showing only half her face?

A photograph of the American flag reflecting in rippled water by Connie Pinkowski is intriguing. It seems to convey the turbulent wars that our country, although relatively new on the historic timeline, has become embroiled in.

Other artworks in the exhibit don’t seem to have a connection to WWI, but they are enjoyable nonetheless. Laura Maschal exhibits three scenic LBI photos, and Steve Miller exhibits a painting of “Happy Days,” also known as the “Shack.”

Two acrylic paintings by Prax Serrano, “Hummingbird’s Paradise” and “The Beach,” and “Dunes in Winter” and “Flag and Crow” by Linda Ramsay help to beautify the meeting room.

All of the works are for sale, and the artists are donating 10 percent of their proceeds to the Great John Mathis Chapter of the DAR and 10 percent to the Friends of the Island Library. The Island branch of the Ocean County Library is located at 217 Central Ave., Surf City. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

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