By Jess Scanlon
Each year 30 artists are chosen to display their artwork at the New York Academy of Arts & Letters’ Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts. This year, Professor Harry I. Naar of the Fine Arts Department and director of the Rider Art Gallery is one of them.
“I was very excited to hear the news,” Naar said. According to a university press release, he was first informed in November.
To receive this prestigious honor, an artist must first be nominated by a member of the Academy. Naar was one of approximately 175 nominees and doesn’t know who submitted his nomination.
After learning that he was nominated, Naar had to submit 10 pieces of artwork to be considered for selection. His 10 were all drawings, which is unusual because he is also known as a painter. When the committee responsible for choosing the 30 artists decided to include his work, he had to narrow it down to four.
The four drawings are done with black felt-tipped pens on acid-free boards or, in the case of the largest, Arches paper.
All are of landscapes composed of what Naar refers to as “abstract marks.”
From up close, “the drawing is abstract, but from far away it comes together as a landscape,” Naar said.
The landscapes depicted may be familiar to some because all are of New Jersey locations. They were drawn from reference photos “in the most casual way” and from memory to the best of Naar’s ability before he “eventually invents.”
“I want the viewer to feel more a part of the environment,” Naar said. This is as opposed to “the traditional view of seeing it from a distance.” The drawings were on display at the Academy’s New York gallery from March 10 to April 5. These landscapes will be eligible for eight awards from the Academy.
However, one of the drawings will not be returned. It was purchased by the Academy, which will donate it to an art museum after the piece is held for the Academy’s Ceremonial Exhibition, which will run from May 21 to June 14. This is an opportunity for Naar as an artist because the landscape could travel “as far as California.”
His artwork has been displayed in many museums and other displays including the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, the Newark Art Museum, the Jersey City Art Museum, the Hunterdon Art Museum, the Montclair Art Museum, the Noyes Museum of Art in Atlantic City, the corporate offices of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, the Bristol-Myers Squibb headquarters in New York and even the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.
As an artist, Naar likes to use mediums such as pencil, charcoal and ink for drawings and sketches, and acrylics and watercolors when he paints using “oil-painting methods and no glazes.”
His educational background consists of a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Philadelphia College of Art, a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University and a brief period studying art in Paris with French painter Jean Helion.
Naar has been at Rider University for 29 years, starting his career at the university as an assistant professor in 1980.
“What I teach is exactly what I do,” he said. “I see it all together.”