You could view the four artists in the new show, Sandy: Destruction/Constructions, as a bunch of grave-robbers.
They have taken bits and pieces of shattered lives and crafted them into artworks commanding handsome prices.
Yet more often than not, according to the artists, survivors of Superstorm Sandy were eager to hand over the wreckage of their once-bucolic Shore homes.
“People were appreciative,” said Laura Petrovich Cheney of Asbury Park, at Thursday’s opening at the Gallery at 14 Maple in Morristown.
“One guy loaded his entire flooring into my car. He was so grateful that it was not going into a dump or a landfill,” said Petrovich Cheney, who teaches art at Ocean County College. One of her works in the show contains fragments of her parents’ pulverized house on Pelican Island.
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Bruce Perlmutter, a retired sheet metal worker from Fort Monmouth, has crafted exquisite bowls and sculptures from trees uprooted by Sandy.
“One person said, ‘This tree meant something to my mother. Make something out of it,'” said the Red Bank man.
If the exhibition has a theme, that’s it.
‘MANNA FROM HEAVEN’
“It’s like a reincarnation,” said Roddy Wildeman, a realtor/carpenter-turned-artist from Ocean Grove. “Something that’s supposed to be tossed and discarded and thrown out is standing up to the storm, saying, ‘No, you’re not doing that to us.'”
He began his artistic explorations just before Sandy, using leftover lumber from construction jobs. His creations were an instant hit; one piece fetched $25,000.
After the hurricane, Wildeman no longer had to scrounge for flotsam and jetsam…it was everywhere.
“It was like manna from heaven,” added Petrovich Cheney, who graduated from quilting to collages of rubble. In her work she finds affirmations: Resurrection, rebirth, redemption.
“It’s breathing new life into something, giving tragedy new purpose. It’s part of the human condition to find reasons,” she said.
“Rather than see it chipped into mulch, I recycle it and make something nice of it.”–Bruce Perlmutter, who makes art from trees uprooted by Hurricane Sandy
The exhibition, which runs through Feb. 12, 2015, was suggested by Chris Daggett, who works upstairs from the gallery as president of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Morris Arts, the nonprofit that runs the gallery, agreed this was an appropriate way to mark the upcoming second anniversary of Sandy, and a committee headed down the Shore to find compelling works, said Dick Eger, curator of the show.
“I love the pieces and how they interact, even though they have nothing to do with one another,” Eger said. “It’s like they became fast friends because they are next to each other.”
If one artist runs against the grain, it’s Kevin R. Burkitt of Manasquan.
His photographs, all taken at night with long exposures, represent the Destruction portion of the title.
“I wanted to show, as truthfully as possible, what we’re dealing with in Ocean and Monmouth counties,” said Burkitt, a media technician at Brookdale Community College.
He was so “shocked” by his selection for this show–his first major exhibition–that he had to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2,000 to print and frame his photos.
“I didn’t think these were anything of value. I just thought they were for my own edification,” Burkitt said.
He staked out evenings for his shots–often shooting into the wee hours–because nobody else was doing it. For him, it hammered home how devastation never sleeps.
“I show the harsh reality,” Burkitt said. “Others show construction, beauty, healing. I just wanted to document it–in a small, sad and isolated way–so that people would never forget how hard it is to live in an area devastated by a superstorm or hurricane.”
The Gallery at 14 Maple is open on weekdays during business hours, on the third floor at 14 Maple Ave. in Morristown. Admission is free.