For over a century, the Montclair Art Museum has been caring for and sharing pieces from a variety of artists. In 1914 the MAM became the first museum that granted access to the public and the first solely dedicated to art. Numerous artists such as Max Weber, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Ching Ho Cheng as well as many from New Jersey have represented in the collection. Next time you visit be sure to check out the art of New Jersey’s residents both past and present. To aid in your visit we have compiled a list of these artists. Read on for a guide to New Jersey artists featured at the Montclair Art Museum.
Ayana V. Jackson
Ayana V. Jackson was born in Livingston and grew up in East Orange. She is descendant of one of the founding families of NJ’s first Black settlement, Lawnside in Camden County. Her grandfather was also the first African American principal in Essex County. Jackson studies sociology at Spelman College and is known for her photography and film. Her work focuses on Contemporary Africa and the African diaspora.
Featured at the Montclair Art Museum is Jackson’s piece The rupture was the story. Jackson’s piece is inspired by the music duo Drexciya who established an origin myth based on the Middle Passage. The world of Drexciya centers on the creation of an Aquatopia populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women who jumped or were thrown from slave ships. In this piece, Jackson portrays Drexciya wearing a dress made up of stainless steel spoons and flip-flops.
Read More: Art Galleries to Visit in the Montclair Area
Iness is a universally acclaimed master of late 19th-century painting. Born in New York, Iness moved to Newark with his family at five. He was inspired by the natural beauty of Montclair where he lived for a decade so it’s only fitting that 21 of these paintings are featured at one of the town’s two museums. Two watercolors and one print of his are also here. Here at the Montclair Art Museum is the only gallery in the world dedicated solely to the work of Inness. Inness’ pieces have also been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum.
Longtime Paterson resident Gilbert Riou piece Doll is an oil on canvas. Riou describes his particular style as “a study exploring a dark mood using an old worm object.” Riou saw “beauty and vulnerability through years of use ,” in his subject of choice, a doll.
Riou was born in Gourin, France, and later moved to Lodi and finally Paterson. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from the City College of New York. Riou was passionate about his work and taught at MAM Yard School of Art. Riou passed away in 2010.
Margaret Bourke-White was a renowned journalist with roots in Somerset County’s Bound Brook. Bourke-White experienced and photographed a variety of the early 20th century’s major events. She was the only Western photographer to witness the German invasion of Moscow in 1941. She was also the first woman to accompany Air Corps crews on bombing missions in 1942 and she traveled with General Patton’s army through Germany in 1945 as they liberated concentration camps.
In the early 1920s, she attended the Clarence H. Bourke-White School of Photography. In 1929 she moved across the Hudson to New York City to begin work as a photographer for Fortune magazine. Her work, like Insulators, is inspired by industrial objects and celebrates the progress and power of American technology. This close-up angle, dramatic lighting, and geometric elements create a pattern of dark and light revealing the abstract beauty of forms. Bourke-White passed away in 1971.
Pat Lay is a sculptor and Professor Emerita of Art at Montclair State University who lives and works in Jersey City. Since 2005, Lay has been collecting discarded computer parts and assembling them into a series of wire-filled, camera eye heads titled Transhuman Personae Series. Her pieces represent Neo-futurist beauty in which these cybernetic elements present a positive vision of the future suggesting a convergence of technology and the human spirit.
Artist and musician Peter Whitney is based in Newark. Featured at the Montclair Art Museum is his piece At Big Mountain.
Born in Newark, Pope.L is best known for his performance, painting, and public art. This piece is part of his Black Factory project which is a performance tour of interactive streetside workshops that engage with the public in dialogues such as immigration, poverty, feminism, and identity. The book incorporated into this piece previously belonged to a student of his from Montana. The book written by a White supremacist is encased in glue and plastic symbolizing the neutralization of the book’s venomous message. Pope.L has also been featured at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. You can find more of his pieces here.
Breakout art star Vaughn Spann has an MFA from Yale and an impressive portfolio of work. Spann grew up in Orange and currently calls Maplewood home. Featured at the MAM is the piece Zeitgeist.
Crown for the Victor is William Couper’s most popular sculpture. Depicted is a Greek maiden wreathing an olive crown for an Olympian victor. For two decades, Couper lived in Florence, Italy where he perfected the neoclassical style present in this piece. In 1897, he moved across the Atlantic to Montclair where he eventually sold his piece to museum co-founder Florence Rand Lang who donated it to the MAM. Couper was also a trustee of the Montclair Art Museum.
Willie Cole of Somerville is best known for assembling and transforming ordinary consumer and domestic objects such as irons and hair dryers. The piece Mother and Child is composed of four different ironing board tops and related pieces. Embedded in the iron’s handle is a Sunbeam steam iron meant to represent a child in a mother’s backside baby carrier. Inspiring much of Cole’s emotional response to this piece is the multi-generational matriarchy in which he grew up and surrounds him still. You can contact Willie here.