Fellowship Artists in Oceanville

Sculptor Jed Morfit featured in a visit to his Collingswood studio on State of the Arts.

By Susan Wallner

Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville, NJ.

Sculptor Jed Morfit and Photographer Wendel A. White create works that engage the past, although in dramatically different ways. Morfit’s bas-reliefs use cast urethane elements –- skeletons, wheelbarrows, bottles, cows –- that are juxtaposed so that new meanings are constantly suggested. White’s photographs are monumental images of historical objects related to the earliest days of African Americans in this country.

Both Morfit and White are featured in an exhibition of 40 artists at the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville. The common element is that all the artists received a New Jersey State Council on the Arts fellowship in photography, sculpture, crafts, or painting. The fellowships are intensely competitive grants awarded by independent peer review panels, worth up to $12,000.

Morfit and White are part of what the Arts Council calls our state’s “creative capital.” Both are professors at Stockton College, where learning the context and history of art is as much a part of the process as making the work itself.

Jed Morfit’s bas-reliefs use classic sculptural forms, but have a completely contemporary presence. In a recent review in The New York Times, the artist was quoted as saying that he’s “thinking of Josiah Wedgwood and 19th-century decorative plaster and cherubim. I like that my work has all those historical resonances, but at the same time tells a 21st-century story.”

Wendel A. White’s photographs evoke another time. The past is a place where photographers – who after all, specialize in the present moment – rarely tread. White does his time travel by focusing on books, musical instruments, and tools that have been collected by historical societies and museums. He uses a large format 8×10 view camera to make images of these objects that become almost talismanic in their isolation. “Day is Dawn” is a portrait of a book important to the abolitionist movement, now honored with a monumental image.

"Day is Dawn, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, NE," 2011, 24”x 32”, Pigment inkjet print by Wendel A. White.

To see work by all 40 fellowship winners (from 2009 and 2011), visit the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville. The museum, tucked away in a quiet corner of South Jersey, is just 15 minutes from Atlantic City, off Route 9 on Lily Lake Road. While there, take the opportunity to see the museum’s other exhibitions. In “Toylanders,” artists reflect on childhood play and “larger than life toys become vehicles for sentimental and peculiar narratives.” Cape May pastel artist Stan Sperlak has a one-man show, “Into the Night,” featuring his landscapes of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby marshes and fields. These and other exhibitions run at The Noyes Museum of Art through the summer.

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts sponsors a Visual Arts Fellowship Showcase every other year. In 2013, fellowships will be awarded in the categories of interdisciplinary performance, the media/digital/electronic arts, painting, prose, and works on paper. The deadline for artists to apply is July 16, 2012. To find out more about exhibitions or fellowship competitions, visit the Arts Council’s website.

Susan Wallner is an award-winning producer with PCK Media. She is a long-time contributor to State of the Arts, airing on NJTV Sundays at 8 pm.