Wednesday, January 29, 2014


by John J. Boylan

Gallery U is proud to welcome 2014 with a very special exhibition. The work of the local  art collective, Contemporary Art Group (CAG), an organization which displays various mediums and styles, are on display. CAG represents a broad spectrum of work by its members. Some of these members are included in this exhibit.

Contemporary Art Group is a non-profit organization of active artists in North Central New Jersey.  From it’s inception as a special interest group in the Westfield Art Association, CAG redefined “contemporary” to mean, “alive and currently producing art.” Participating artists include, Francesca Azzara, Millicent K. Brody, Virginia Carroll, Michael Endy, Maryann Ficker, Diane Gallo, Maxine King, Howard Levine, Linnea Rhodes, Sharon Sayegh, Dorothy Siclare, Rosalia Verdun, Keri Ann Wandlass, and Gail Winbury. An opening reception was held on Thursday January 9, 2014. Many attended. The exhibit will be on display until February 6, 2014.

Sixteen pieces of art are represented in this show. All of the pieces are exceptional, but three stand out above the rest. My favorite painting by Sharon Sayegh entitled, “Love Thy Neighbor” is a complex piece open to many levels of interpretation. At first glance the painting appears blasphemous. Grotesque comic figures gaze at a crucified Christ. It can be taken as a farce; a critique of organized Christianity, but as one spends time with this captivating piece, other possible meanings emerge. The non-descript figures could symbolize Christianity’s mass appeal. The young woman in the foreground is an enigma. One is struck by this otherwise realist portrayal accompanied by a French poodle. The small child in the front of the poodle also raises questions concerning this work of art. Perhaps the biblical story of the Christ’s encounter with children is implied-“Blessed are the children.” The woman’s love for the child is further testimony of her religious zeal. The presence of the poodle remains a mystery. It is perhaps a tribute to the woman’s humanity. I am left puzzled by the artist’s underlying meaning of this interesting piece of art. The comical figures in this painting convey the improbability of the Christian myth. Is it religious, or a farcical critique of Christianity? 

An oil on canvas piece, “A Peaceful Place,” by Rosalia Verdun is another painting that stands out. It is a pastoral scene of a country cottage done in the seventeenth century high Dutch style. It is reminiscent of a Rembrandt. The many layered textures of this piece are pleasing to the eye. One can imagine that they are transported to Holland’s countryside. The muted colors of the trees in the foreground put the viewer in another state. The Realist image of the laundry on the line is a compliment to the cottage in the background.  The broad brush strokes that the artist employs are another tool to calm the senses. The clouded sky further enhances this painting. The overall impression brings to mind the enjoyment one feels in a pastoral environment. 

“Into The Woods,” By Kerrie Ann Wandlass is the last piece I would like to review. It is a tumultuous experience. The windswept swirling leaves at the base of multi-textured tree trunks create a dizzying  effect. The intricate treatment of the branches draws one into the heart of this painting. The texture of the tree bark adds to the feelings of breathtaking vertigo.

Contemporary Art Group is comprised of many talented artists. The quality of the artwork reminds me of what hangs in MOMA. In April Gallery U will once again exhibit artwork from CAG which will include members that were not shown in the present show. Gallery U’s reputation is spreading. This is evidenced by the quality of work that we display.

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