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Photography exhibit tells toy stories, and more
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Photography exhibit tells toy stories, and more

JCC’s Gaelen gallery features works about the human image

Lisa Suss, visual arts manager for JCC MetroWest’s Gaelen Center for the Arts, views Howard Heyman’s “Portraits: Toy Soldiers,” part of the “Photographer/Provocateur” exhibit at Gaelen Gallery East at the Cooperman JCC.
Lisa Suss, visual arts manager for JCC MetroWest’s Gaelen Center for the Arts, views Howard Heyman’s “Portraits: Toy Soldiers,” part of the “Photographer/Provocateur” exhibit at Gaelen Gallery East at the Cooperman JCC.

Perhaps fitting for a gallery that shares a building with a fitness center, the human form gets a workout in a new photography exhibit at the Cooperman JCC in West Orange.

The images in “Photographer/Provocateur” at JCC MetroWest’s Gaelen Gallery East “all have the human body represented in some way,” said Lisa Suss, Gaelen Center for the Arts visual arts manager, as she gave NJ Jewish News a tour of the exhibit on Jan. 20. “But they are unusual takes on the figures and unusual subjects for the photographers.”

Four of the five artists whose works are on display are MetroWest residents. The fifth, a New Yorker, is a professor at Rutgers University in Newark. All use human figures — be they disjointed or disfigured, sometimes standing alone, sometimes coexisting in a frame with other images. Apart from that, the artists’ themes and photographic styles have little in common with one another’s.

Jasin Lifshin, a resident of Randolph, uses tar, ink, and light in photo development.

Lifshin has written that his intent is to “smash art” with controlled explosions and weapon collisions to modify photographs.” “His work is quite edgy,” said Suss.

In contrast, Miron Abramovici of Berkeley Heights, a retired scientist and engineer, combines his camera work with a computer to explore themes of urban decay, unconventional beauty, and the grotesque.

“He uses the computer to make his distortions a little strange,” Suss said.

The work of Nick Kline, a New York resident and a professor of visual arts at Rutgers-Newark, includes four photos from a series on drivers he found sleeping in their parked cars.

“He told me he took them at a time when there were murders of sleeping drivers in New York,” said Suss. “It makes a comment on sociology and shows people doing something you don’t normally see them doing.”

Susan Evans Grove of South Orange, who said she played with Barbie dolls “until an inappropriate age,” photographed them in real-life situations that manufacturers at the Mattel Toy Company would never have envisioned.

One photograph is titled Barbie with Skin Cancer. The doll’s mane of long blond hair has turned into an ill-fitting wig that barely covers her blotchy bald head.

Another, Homeless Barbie, shows the doll lying on a park bench, her blond hair tousled, her pretty face smudged with dirt, her blue eyes staring vacantly into space.

“Like most girls, my fantasies of Barbie’s life were led by Mattel’s marketing, where she was a stylish woman, mother, and wife whose life looked nothing like that of the real women I saw around me,” Grove has written. “This series documents what Barbie’s life would more likely be like if she were a real woman rather than a misleading icon of American feminism.”

Using a collection of miniature military figures from all over the world, Howard Heyman of South Orange created a series he calls “Portraits: Toy Soldiers.” Heyman wrote that his work asks viewers to “reconsider the real faces of warriors past and present, not as heroes, but as sons and daughters and lovers and strangers. The intent is not to glorify, but to find in these inanimate objects what we avoid seeing when confronted with ‘real’ photographs of war and conflict.”

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