Art gallery takes a closer look at nature

A cool morning breeze can almost be felt by viewers with Dr. Naar’s ink and watercolor interpretation in Early Morning Ocean.

By Nicole Veenstra

This winter’s weather encouraged dreams of spending the day outdoors long before spring began and Rider’s Art Gallery has embraced the trend by showcasing images of nature.

The most recent exhibition at Rider’s Art Gallery features works of its director, Dr. Harry Naar, professor of Fine Arts. The Outside from Within: Envisioning Forest and Sea, which is open until Sunday, April 15, displays 25 of Naar’s most recent works.

Although Naar has plenty of experience working at the art gallery, this is his first solo show. He said that he decided to display the exhibit because faculty and students frequently ask what his work looks like.

Centered on landscapes, Naar hopes his drawings and watercolors will transport viewers from the art gallery directly into the image.

“There is a tendency for people to [associate] landscape with distance,” Naar said. “I want viewers to feel as if they are in the landscape, not just viewing the landscape.”

Naar said the landscape images came together after he realized that he had not presented them to an audience before, though he admitted most of his pieces are inspired by unsolved problems of the past.

“Usually what happens is I wind up working on a series so that one image will lead to the next,” he said. “I work on one image and feel I haven’t solved a visual problem so I create another image.”

One can imagine taking a walk through nature with Into the Woods, one of many ink drawings centered on the forest.

Naar, who has been a professor at Rider since 1980 and an artist for even longer, is constantly looking for ways to reinvent his image. His latest experiment came from simply switching the writing utensil he worked with.

Though it has become second nature for him to pick up a pencil and start to draw, lately he has traded in the beloved device for a ballpoint pen.

“In a strange kind of way [the ballpoint pen] made it freer for me because I realized I couldn’t erase,” Naar said.  “I thought, ‘Gee, what would happen if I made these bigger and used a bigger pen?’”

Mel Leipzig, a New Jersey artist, professor at Mercer County Community College and friend of Naar’s, feels the most recent exhibit shows Naar’s success.

“There is nobody I can think of that’s doing such inventive work right now,” Leipzig said. “He’s gotten better and better. He’s showing his strongest work now.”

Leipzig and Naar have known each other for a long time and Leipzig was given the opportunity to exhibit his realist paintings at Rider’s gallery last year.

He says he appreciates Naar’s exhibited work because, “It’s sensual. You can tell he’s very involved in what he’s doing.”

Although Naar does not credit one particular place as his muse — some images stemmed from the Delaware River, while others were inspired by Long Beach Island — he is not surprised that some visitors have said they recognize the images. However, he hopes that viewers will also find something new after examining his pieces.

The sea becomes more colorful in Morning Tide. Although the majority of the exhibition is made up of ink drawings with accents of color, some earlier works are pure watercolor paintings.

“I want the viewer to recognize familiar and recognize new,” he said. “I want them to find something they might not have thought about before.”

According to Dennis Levy, director of Financial Aid, Naar has done just that.

“His landscapes are exciting and deeply compelling,” he said. “The more you look, the more you realize each tells a story.”

The positive reviews that The Outside from Within: Envisioning Forest and Sea has received are not necessarily what will push Naar forward toward his next project, however. Instead he sees each of his exhibitions as more of a learning experience than an opportunity to receive praise.

“Once you take your work out of the studio, you start to think about it in a slightly different way,” Naar said. “What’s important with exhibitions is they allow you to discover new things in your work, both successes and failures.”

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