Over the River and Down to the Shore
Having spent the Thanksgiving week in Ocean City, New Jersey, I am brimming with the benefits of food, family, and fun. But my time away was also rich in aesthetic experiences—from homemade table décor to the beauty of the off-season seaside to Ocean City itself festooned for the holidays. But of special note was a visit to “Art on Asbury”, the gallery for the Ocean City Fine Arts League. The league is a membership organization that “promotes public participation and appreciation for the arts through exhibition and sale, education and special events designed to reach diverse audiences locally and throughout the region.” Each month the gallery fills with a new themed group show. For this month (November), the theme was “Anything Goes”.
“Anything Goes” is not actually an exhibition of cutting-edge or wild art work. Although the Art on Asbury Gallery has and supports a variety of works—from ceramic, glass, mosaics and jewelry to painting, mixed media and photography—the majority of the offerings are relatively traditional and expected from a community of artists who live at and are inspired by “America’s Greatest Family Resort”, the motto for Ocean City. The handmade craft items are lovely and well done. They include seashells painted or printed with scenes of family vacation. Shells are also included in some of the pieces of jewelry and miniature sculptures arrayed in the front window or on a shelf unit toward the back of the gallery. But most of the space is devoted to pictures and here there are aplenty. They line the walls and divider walls
hung salon-style (floor to ceiling). Most are of relatively modest size. But this is to be expected for two reasons. One, the prospectus for all exhibitions states that work (including the frame) may not exceed 50 united inches and that the gallery cannot fit large 3-dimensional pieces. Two, the market for the artwork would be those who are looking for decoration for their homes or tourists who would like a memento. This also explains the proliferation of “pretty pictures”-- nostalgic-type scenes, saturated palettes, recognizable subjects. This is not to say that the work is not interesting. I found the variety remarkable with each piece embodying its own distinctive vision even as similar theme was at hand nearby.
There is a lot to be said for this inclusiveness, especially from an artist’s standpoint and from the Fine Arts League’s mission (stated earlier in this blog). All artists are welcome to submit to their art shows with member artists paying less for submission than non-members. This definitely gives talented artists from the region a place to present their talents. But for a viewer it can become overwhelming. I came in with three other individuals, all non-artists—and each left before seeing every wall. I, an artist, found myself not lingering at any piece, too distracted to find out more information. What I found funny, though, was that some art work was singled out for distinction (a prize ribbon), but overall the room seemed unarranged and far too full. Maybe the same person/people who juried the prizes could curate the entire exhibition.
Just for edification, here are the works awarded prizes:
Overall, my visit to Art on Asbury was a very pleasant experience. The woman overseeing the space for the day (a volunteer) was pleasant and informative, handing me information about Ocean City Fine Arts League (membership is a mere $35 for the year) and its opportunities from arts classes to events. It is surely a shop that I will visit often in my future comings to Ocean City.
To learn more about the Ocean City Fine Arts Guild, its happenings, submissions, and member artists, go to www.oceancityfineartsleague.org.