West Windsor artist Jose Anico finds inspiration in the West Windsor landscape, a place he calls home with his wife and two children. Anico often gets out into the woods in West Windsor and walks until he finds a spot that captures his eye. He takes sketches of places of interest, and if he likes the elements in his sketches, he will create a painting in his West Windsor studio, a space he converted from a former garage. Anico’s art is inspired from places in our environment, and this summer, Anico hopes his viewers will take a moment to reflect upon his work and contemplate “what is going on” in their surroundings.

Anico’s art will be on display in two exhibits in New Jersey during the summer months. Anico’s paintings are part of “Ready or Not: 2014 New Jersey Arts Annual: Fine Art,” at the Newark Museum through Sunday, September 7.
His work is also currently on view in Lambertville in a two-person show at the Artists’ Gallery, along with the work of Jane Adriance, through Sunday, July 6.

On his website, Anico describes himself as “a figurative artist who integrates conceptual elements such as political, environmental, and emotional issues into his subject matter.” In “What’s Going On,” pictured above, we see a group of people, clad in coats, on a street that could be Trenton or Lambertville, looking up at the sky, beyond the electrical lines from the utility poles. What are they looking at? Anico wants the viewer to wonder.

Anico, who also works in the mediums of sculpture and drawing, has been displaying his completed art in a variety of group shows and exhibitions over the past 10 years. Currently on display in the Lambertville Artists’ Gallery are two paintings specific to the West Windsor area. “Millstone River” is a small painting Anico did of a scene from the Millstone River, and “After the Harvest” is a scene from a farm in West Windsor that captures the specific feel of a cornfield after a harvest.

Jose Anico emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1996 and moved to West Windsor in 2008. As a young boy, he grew up isolated from the center of the city and had no real artistic role models. Neither of Anico’s parents were educated, although Anico recalls, “My mother came from a smart family, and she always encouraged our education.” To support Anico and his seven siblings, his mother worked in government service, while his father was never able to hold a regular job — unemployment hovers between 14 and 30 percent in the country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Anico’s need to express himself prompted him to take his own early steps towards an arts education. “I remember feeling a need to express something because I was always shy in school and shy to express myself vocally,” he says. When he was 10 years old, a friend owned a set of 200 color paints, and for fun, they would use the friend’s paints to draw whatever came to mind.

At 14, after passing an admittance test, Jose enrolled at the Fine Art School of Santiago. Then from 1988 to 1991 he studied art and architecture in Moscow, but he felt lost there due to the country undergoing a big transition (following Perestroika). In 1996 Jose earned a scholarship to complete his BFA at Parson’s School of Design in New York. After that, he went on to earn an MFA in painting and drawing from the New York Academy of Art, where he was awarded the Eric Fischl Scholarship and Prince of Wales Fellowship.

Anico moved to West Windsor after he met his wife, Camie, the former manager of publishing operations for LexisNexis, in Central Park. The young couple lived in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, then moved to Montclair, and ultimately West Windsor, when his wife began working for the West Windsor office of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit that helps the academic community use digital technologies. Anico and his wife have two children, ages 8 and 10, whom he sometimes uses as models for his work.

When he’s not watching his children or working on his painting, Anico teaches at Mercer County Community College, the Arts Council of Princeton and Princeton Adult School. “I don’t teach for the money but for the service,” he says. “I like to get out of the studio and talk.” English is his second language, learned when he came to the U.S. at age 28.

When it comes to teaching, Anico allows the passion to come about organically. Anico works to teach art to his two children, Maya and Cooper, but he does not pressure them. “I try to teach them a little bit. I don’t force them to go into the studio and put up an easel,” he says. If they are in the mood and Anico has the time, they will work together in the studio.

Outside of the home, Anico is pleased with the arts education his children receive in West Windsor township schools. “They are doing a great job. The teachers encourage them, and I see the type of projects they are doing,” he says. The same can be said for the music arts — Anico’s son started music this past year, and so far the family is very happy with the school program. Anico does wish there was more time during the year for the children to dabble on their art, but he recognizes that children in West Windsor have more opportunities in the arts and music than in other cities or towns.

In the future, Anico hopes that he can personally participate more in the local arts in West Windsor. He has been twice to the West Windsor Arts Council to check out the center and see how everything works. When there are fewer distractions, Anico plans to get more involved in the center and promote a class.

Three winters ago, Anico did a show in his West Windsor studio of all of his art featuring the West Windsor area. He displayed his work twice in his studio for the public but has since moved his shows to Lambertville for a change.

Anico finds more of a professional artist’s community outside of West Windsor in places like Lambertville, where Anico is part of the Artists’ Gallery, a group of eighteen local artists with rotating shows each month. Anico hopes that West Windsor will finish its project to build a village-style downtown center, which would help “bring character to the town and give it personality.” Like in Lambertville, a main street area would be a place where people could congregate, art could be shared, and residents could get more involved.

A town center would also attract more professional artists to West Windsor. Anico has yet to meet fellow artists in the West Windsor community, although he does know a couple of artists in Princeton. This is something he hopes will change in the future. “It’s always good to have other artists living nearby. In the future, when that happens, we can get together,” he says. Until this occurs, Anico is content with the quiet community that West Windsor has to offer and the inspiration he finds on his walks in the local woods.

Jose Anico and Jane Adriance, Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville. Thursdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Through Sunday, July 6. Free. 609-397-4588 or www.lambertvillearts.com.

Ready or Not: 2014 New Jersey Arts Annual: Fine Art, Newark Museum, 49 Washington Street, Newark. Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., Through Sunday, September 7. Suggested admission $7 to $12. www.newarkmuseum.org or 973-596-6550.