From "New Works" to the "First Decade," Hunterdon Art Museum Opens Two Exhibitions from New Jersey Artists
He is a veteran artist who has spent the last 10 years doggedly doing the same task every single morning: cutting up the daily newspaper and turning it into a collage.
She is a former art school student who gave up painting for decades for a job in the business world, only to throw herself passionately back into art five years ago.
New Jersey artists Peter Jacobs and Lisa Macchi will have their work on display in separate exhibits at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton through September 6. But their shows overlap in at least one way: both of their careers have unfolded in unusual manners.
Jacobs, a 54-year-old Montclair resident, is now in the 11th year of a project he called “The Collage Journal” — producing one collage a day from the New York Times delivered to his porch each morning. When he’s traveling, he uses that area’s local paper.
“If I’m in Paris, I use Le Figaro,” he says. “If I’m in Woodstock, I use the Woodstock Times.”
So far, the project has yielded about 3,700 pieces.
“A newspaper can be transcended and transformed,” Jacobs explains. “There are images and colors and forms and icons.”
Jacobs, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, has been a working collage artist for more than 30 years. He got hooked at age 9 when his mother took him to the Brooklyn Museum.
“There was a table there that seemed endless, with materials spread out all over it,” Jacobs recalls. “I remember loving the process of cutting and layering.”
He studied photography at SUNY-Purchase but also continued to refine his collages. He met his wife, Elizabeth, at the school, and the couple relocated to Hoboken right out of college in the early 1980s. They moved to Montclair by the end of the decade.
It was Elizabeth, a sculptor, who actually sparked the idea for the newspaper project. They were sitting at breakfast on March 31, 2005 when it happened.
“She made a comment: ‘I think I’d like to make something every day. You should, too,’” Jacobs recalls. “So I thought about it. And I had the paper in front of me.
“I felt angst about the political division of the country at the time,” he continues. “There was a war. It was the Bush years. I felt I wanted to have a visual dialogue with the paper, to have a response. I started cutting it up that day and haven’t stopped since.”
He starts working each day soon after waking up around 7 a.m.
“I don’t even brush my teeth,” Jacobs says. “I do that after.”
His wife gets up about a half-hour earlier to peruse the paper before Jacobs’ knife gets to it. He uses an X-Acto knife, a glue stick, and a watercolor pad. And he downs a couple of cappuccinos during the two-hour process. But there’s no food while working.
“I can’t eat,” Jacobs says. “It interrupts the process.”
The early years, he says, featured more political and social commentary. But in recent years, the collages have become more abstract and “painterly.”
“Ultimately, it should have some appeal as a visual art form and not be too didactic or too narrative,” Jacobs explains.
The pieces tend to be vibrant and filled with color — with faces and figures that pop out in an arresting fashion.
The Hunterdon exhibit, called “The Collage Journal — The First Decade,” features 120 pieces, 12 from each of the project’s first 10 years.
Jacobs is aware that his material — printed journalism — is constantly being labeled as a dying medium. But he doesn’t see an end to his project any time soon.
“I joke that I’m probably going to outlast the newspapers,” he says. “I’m still feeling that it’s going strong. I’m very interested in how I can pursue it in a fresh way each day. It’s more than the creation of the collage.
“It’s so embedded in my daily practice, it’d be difficult not to do it. I can’t imagine.”
It was the early 1970s, and Lisa Macchi was looking at a bright future in art.
She was educated at the Taylor School of Fine Arts at Temple University in Philadelphia and soon moved to New York City. She studied with renowned artists Knox Martin and Peter Golfinopoulos.
“I was beginning to get some notoriety, to make my way in the art world,” Macchi remembers. “Then I came to a sort of epiphany. It would take an incredible amount of stamina and resilience to pursue a career in art.”
So she decided to move in a completely different direction: she spent years as a vice president of marketing for a large regional developer.
“I put my art away for a while,” Macchi says. “It turned out to be quite a while.”
But Macchi says she somehow “always knew” she’d return to painting. And about five years ago, she was struck with the passion to pick it up again.
“At this juncture in my life, I have all that stamina and resilience,” she explains. “I’m creating something for myself. Art is an evolution, a commitment, an addiction at this juncture.”
And it all came back naturally.
“It reminded me of riding a bike — you never forget how to do it,” Macchi says. “In my mind, paintings paint themselves. Your hand knows better than you mind. It goes off on its own.”
Macchi, who now has a studio in Bernardsville, makes abstract paintings from acrylic and mixed media. She uses collage elements and various instruments: graphite, ink, crayons, colored pencils.
“I draw a lot of inspiration from the world around me — landscapes and nature,” she says. “But I’m reluctant to talk about my work. I want the viewer to come to their own conclusions. I want them to find out their own relationship to the work.”
The Hunterdon exhibit, “New Works On Paper,” includes pieces she’s created over the last year.
Macchi hopes her story resonates with people worried that time has passed them by.
“It’s an interesting story,” she says.” I think it speaks to people who had a passion and perhaps couldn’t pursue it. But at 40, at 50, at 70, you can make a conscious effort and make it happen for yourself.”
Peter Jacobs' "The Collage Journal — The First Decade" and Lisa Macchi's "New Works on Paper" on view now through September 6 at the Hunterdon Art Museum, 7 Lower Center Street, Clinton. Gallery Hours are Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm. Suggested admission is $5 per person.