When Amy Lee needs a pick-me-up, she heads outdoors for a hike through the Sourland Mountains with her dachshund, Macaroni.
Lee, an artist, has worked in a number of media, but has become known best for her metalworking. The England native lived in New York City for many years before recently settling down on six acres in northern Hopewell.
“My inspiration comes from nature,” she says. “There’s nothing better when you’re feeling down than going for a walk through the woods and you immediately feel amazing.”
That feeling is one the Hopewell Valley Arts Council and the Arts and Healing Committee at Capital Health hope to capture with their ongoing exhibition, Joy in the Everyday, featuring works by members of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council like Lee.
The exhibition is on display at the Investors Bank Art and Healing Gallery at Capital Health Medical Center through March 25. Organizers say it “captures in visual and written representation the colorful relationship between joy and art.”
An opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 10 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Many of the artists whose works are on display will be in attendance. (A complete list of artists can be found at the end of this story.)
Artists in the exhibition are both amateur and professional, both self taught and professionally trained.
“This is our first annual member’s show and there was an amazing response,” says Carol Lipson, president of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council Board of Trustees. “Almost too many to handle. Also a lot of new artists appeared to get involved. We are very pleased.”
Amy Lee is a relatively new member of the arts council and one whose works will be on display. The one-time interior designer happened upon a technique for working with metal and has been honing it since the day she discovered it.
“It was one of those happy accidents,” she says. “I was making a candle holder out of wood, and I wanted to do a tiny one-inch metal rim along the top. As I was pouring the (hot) metal, I saw it splashing on the floor and I was mesmerized — it was so beautiful. I kind of never looked at the candle holder again. And I was like, how do I work with this?”
What she does is this: she takes bars of metal and melts them down until they are molten. When she’s got the metal at the temperature she wants it, she takes it and throws it against a variety of different materials, including wood, glass and ceramic. “It’s all in the wrist, how I throw it and where I throw it, if I want a round glob or something shiny,” she says. “Whatever it hits, it cools within three seonds and it takes on a different shape depending on what it hits. Then I start working with it. I have a few seconds to do what I need to do.”
When her metal pieces are the way she wants them, she mounts them on wood or paper. “The materials I use are pretty crude. “They’re not really feminine or delicate, but I like to let them be what they are and they end up this feminine, delicate thing,” she says. “And I like to allow it to have its character. Sometimes the metal will burn a little bit and go gold, and I love that and embrace it. I just let it be what it is.”
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Cheryl Bomba is another artist taking part in the show. The photographer says that in sharing her photos, she hopes theose who see the exhibition see the things that give her joy and can relate it to themselves, remember a time when they were in a similar place and experienced that same joy. The ones she chose to exhibit “tended to be the ones that I find myself just going back to over time,” she says.
By day, Bomba is a teacher working with students who are on the autism spectrum. One experience in particular set her on a course to becoming an art photographer.
“Students with autism generally have problems with verbal communication,” she says. “Back in the 90’s, the district I was working for purchased Polaroid cameras. The idea was that we were supposed to take picturess of our students throughout the day and we could send those home with the children in their backpacks. If the children couldn’t tell what they did in school, they could show what they did.”
The experience, she says, was not a good one. “I would see what the kids were engaged with at school, but the photos would often be terrible. And of course you coudln’t see what you did until the picture came out of the camera. It was not my favorite thing to do,” she says.
Things changed toward the end of that year, when she visited a friend who was also a teacher in the district working with students on the spectrum.
“Her pictures were stunning,” the Hopewell resident says. “I said, ‘I had no idea you were such a great photographer!” And she said, ‘No, I have this new thing, it’s called a digital camera.’ This is when the top-of-the-line camera was one megapixel.”
Everything changed for Bomba after she got her first digital camera. “A lot of my first photography was pictures of my students being the kids that their parents knew they were,” she says. Freed from the limitations of film, she was able to snap shots until she felt she had got them right.
One day her husband suggested she submit some of her photos to a juried exhibition at Mercer County Community College. She was shocked when both the images that she had submitted were accepted. “And then just fortunately, I was really successful over the years,” she says, adding that she has enjoyed the experience she’s had as a member of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council.
Some of Bomba’s photographs are photorealistic, while others are digitally manipulated and still others are digitally embellished with features that never existed in the original. She says she doesn’t have a cognitive process for how she works. “It’s how I feel when I look at it,” she says, noting that for every photograph she has in her portfolio, there are hundreds or thousands that didn’t make the cut.
She says in terms of photo editing and using software to alter her photos, she has benefited from her roles as a resident artist and assistant gallery director of the Centre for the Arts in Bristol, Pennsylvania. “Instrumental for me moving forward with my technique was being involved in the gallery, being with other artists and learning from them,” she says.
Other artists whose works are on display include Teri Anderson, Tyler Bell, Kristen Birdsey, Janis Blayne Paul, Marissa Blossom, Linda Bradshaw, Connie Cruser, Morris Docktor, Jennifer Driscoll, Lora Marie Durr, James Feehan, Gary David Fournier, Mary Galioto, Spirha Gupta, Lori Johansson, Joy Kreves, Lori Langsner, Rory Mahon and Linda Martin-Mills.
Also taking part in the exhibition are Patrick Mateescu, Sylvie Mayer, Helene Mazur, Ken McIndoe, Susan Mitrano, George Olexa, Leslie Pell, Bill Plank, Helene Plank, Janet Purcell, Erika Rachel, Leon Rainbow, Susan Roseman, Judy Snedeker, Lucia Stout, Janneke van der Ree, Annelies van Dommelen, Jane Zamost.
The Hopewell Valley Arts Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing art awareness and appreciation in the greater Hopewell Valley. The group looks to celebrate “art in the everyday” by cultivating all types of creative exploration and artistic expression.