Green-Wood Cemetery, according to its website, was founded in 1838 as “one of America’s firs rural cemeteries.” It consists of 478 acres with 560,000 ‘permanent residents.’
The main entrance on 25th Street and 5th Avenue is a beautiful architectural feature more reminiscent of a gothic church then a cemetery gate. Driving up to the gate I was greeted by a friendly guard who provided a map of the grounds. Until that moment I didn’t truly appreciate the enormity of 478 acres. The map with all of its avenues and paths was overwhelming. No matter though – I was up for the challenge.
Green-Wood echoes a time when the general public wasn’t afraid or ‘weirded out’ to walk through a cemetery and enjoy the art and landscape. Twenty-two years after its creation, Green-Wood was attracting 500,000 visitors a year – which according to my trusty map rivaled “Niagra Falls as the country’s greatest tourist attraction.” I wish more people today walked through these historic cemeteries and appreciated them as artistic and historical gems – all the while respecting and honoring those buried within them.
There were several angels that caught my attention, but one really grabbed me. Endless shooting from every angle possible commenced. It is an exquisite bronze sculpture referred to as the ‘Resurrection Angel.’ The inscription on its base reads: Ego Sum Resurrectio et Vite (translated to: I am the resurrection and the life). The artist was an Italian, Adolfo Apolloni (1855-1923), a true master of his craft.
It was time to head home after a couple hours of driving around. I knew I couldn’t cover the entire cemetery in just one day, so I’ll definitely be back. I’ve already updated the Stone Angels Gallery with all the new finds, so check them out when you have a chance.
Pilvax Players Theater Company – an independent, Hungarian-American acting company – featured paintings by artist, Mark AJ Szep, in its recent production and world premier of MEGÖRÖKÍTVE (Eternalized) in New York (in Hungarian). The play was written by Maria Marton and directed by Timea Zsedely.
‘Eternalized’, a heartfelt comedy, will feature prints of Mark Szep’s original oil paintings including The Couple, Lost in Thought, Cosmic Sunburst, The Creature, Surrounded and Man’s Face.
Newark’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which opened in 1843, consists of 40 acres of rural landscape. The cemetery boasts an impressive gothic styled main gate made of brownstone. After a quick internet search it appears to be Portland Brownstone – which according to one website is “deposits of reddish-brown sandstone lying in long, narrow bands along the eastern seaboard from Nova Scotia to North Carolina.” Many of the brownstone row houses in New York City were constructed of Portland Brownstone. I believe there was a quarry in Belleville which operated for many years and may have been the source of brownstone used in Northern New Jersey projects. There are several local examples of brownstone including Oakeside in Bloomfield and the train bridge on Ridgewood Avenue in Glen Ridge. Any time I take the train into New York City I can’t help but look at the old brownstone and observe its slow decay – brownstone is a type of sandstone after all and will eventually erode away.
Mount Pleasant captured a lot of the charm and natural beauty of other grand cemeteries like Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, but it unfortunately lacked great examples of stone angels. I still made the best of the trip and pushed aside my mild disappointment – there were plenty of other interesting monuments. One in particular – utilizing the popular obelisk form – was dedicated to deceased members of the Newark Fire Department. Atop the monument was a firemen pointing to the heavens. Below, along the base, there were reliefs of three vintage fire trucks. The carvings were impressive and indicative of a skilled hand.
One particular mausoleum also caught my attention. The Dryden Mausoleum was built on a grand scheme and is a lovely example of neoclassical design. According to Newarkhistory.com – John Fairfield Dryden was the founder of Prudential and a US Senator from 1902 to 1907.
In this photograph, I love the effect the black and white creates – there is an interesting play between the hard cold edges of the stone and the tranquil softness of the structures’ surroundings.
The last interesting find for the day was the final resting place of Thomas A. Edison’s first wife – Mary Stillwell (1855-1884) who died at age 29 (from either a brain tumor or morphine poisoning – see Edison’s Wikipedia page). Mary is not buried with her famous inventor husband. I checked. Instead, Edison is buried behind his house located in the Llewellyn Park community in West Orange NJ.
Below is a picture of the monument to Mary Stillwell Edison. The other image is of a Celtic Cross. There were some really striking examples in the cemetery – I may have a whole new genre starting. We’ll see.
I received some great questions this week regarding the Stone Angel photography show now hanging at Oakeside in Bloomfield NJ.
The questions centered around the symbolism present in the depiction of the angels. A friend who had attended the show noticed that a significant number of the angels had their hands clasped together and placed them to their right side. While clasped hands usually signals devotion, I wasn’t sure what the significance might be of the hands resting on the right side of the angel. I’ve done a small amount of research – ok mostly Wikipedia – on the right side, right hand of god, etc. and the entry for the right hand of God mentions that in the Bible to “be at the right side is to be identified as being in the special place of honor.” In many Christian faiths, Jesus is also represented as sitting at the right hand of God. In that vein, it is possible that the angels’ hands on the right side are in honor of these traditions.
There also was a question on the symbolism present in a specific piece in the show – #13 Angel Triad. This angel photograph was taken last year in West Orange NJ.
These three angels are part of an impressive monument in Rosedale Cemetery which was beautifully sculpted and then rendered in bronze. I was able to identify the different symbols used in the piece after a little bit of internet research. Here is what I found – the center angel is holding a lamp with a flame (an eternal flame) representing the immortality of the soul. The angel on the right side is holding a wheat strand and a cornucopia full of fruits and vegetables. Both items are indicative of the divine harvest. The third angel (completing the triad) situated on the left is holding a staff and what I believe to be lilies. I found that the staff is a sign of comfort to the mourning and the lilies symbolize purity.
The entire exchange on the symbolism present in these angels was fascinating and allowed me to dig even deeper into the beauty of these artworks.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the show yet, don’t worry because there is still time. The stone angel photographs will continue to be on display till the end of the month.
I started photographing these stone angels about three years ago. Another hobby of mine is genealogy and family history, which I began over ten years ago. While researching for one’s roots you are invariably led to a cemetery or two or three… As I have family buried in Essex County and surrounding counties, I have visited many of these cemeteries. Almost every time there were one or two angels that I was really struck by – either the intricacy of its carving or the expression on its face or even its overall composition. So in between walking the rows searching for and documenting the final resting places of my relatives, I would capture an angel here and an angel there. Before I knew it the collection was growing.
Once it started to develop and I had decided that I wanted to create a series of angels, I became more focused on how I wanted to represent them. Typically cemetery angels and cemetery monuments are shown amongst the many other monuments and stones surrounding them. I didn’t want that effect for this series . I made a concerted effort to capture each one on its own – recognizing it as an individual artistic piece. I felt this allowed the angels to be appreciated for what it was and allowed the viewer to focus on each angel’s unique attributes.
I also decided from a visual standpoint that black & white was the right choice for these pictures. Viewing the images you can easily see that black & white lends itself to stone monuments and specifically angels.
Over a three year period the angel collection continued to grow in proportion to my genealogy excursions. Eventually I decided that it was time to exhibit these images and share them with others. The first step was of course to review everything I shot and narrow them down to the best of the best. Pouring over each of the images I started to develop a new appreciation for them beyond just the artistry. I had to remind myself that they also served an important function for those who commissioned them and placed them at their relatives’ graves. They were there to watch over them and ensure they were Never Alone. This later realization is what inspired the title of the show.
The exhibit at Oakeside is now the culmination of those three years of searching for, photographing, living with and contemplating the nature of these Angels.
Yesterday’s opening reception for Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels was a great success!
Thanks to everyone who came out to the reception. All of your support is very much appreciated. The mansion was definitely full of life yesterday as everyone perused the Angel exhibit.
The opening reception may be over, but there is still plenty of time to see the show. The exhibit hangs at the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center until the end of August. If you can’t make the show you can check out the online gallery here: STONE ANGELS.
I received a lot of nice comments and had some great conversations on everything from what led me to the subject matter to questions on the use of angels in cemeteries.
In typical photographer fashion, I’m also including some pictures from the opening.
I am very lucky to have the Oakes Mansion be the home of my first photography show – Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels.
If you are wondering about the Oakeside Mansion, the house was constructed in 1895 by architect, Charles Granville Jones – a well known local architect who resided in Belleville, NJ. He also was known for designing Bloomfield High School and many other schools, banks, etc. in the Essex County area.
The house was built by the Oakes family – a prominent Bloomfield dynasty. The Oakes family settled in Bloomfield in the early 1800s and were the founders of the Oakes Woolen Mill which operated for 117 years before its final closing in 1943.
Upon the death of Jean Doswell Oakes, the house was donated to the township of Bloomfield and shortly afterwards the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center was formed to provide: “community-based programs in the areas of historical interpretation, arts programs and education, horticulture and gardening, and recreation and cultural events.” For more info on Oakeside visit: www.oakeside.org.
The below photos showcase the beauty of the Oakes Mansion and grounds. You have to admit it is a grand place to visit.
Today – August 1st – was the start of my firs solo photography show – Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels. It was a great day at the Oakes Mansion preparing, planning and hanging the angels. This beautiful turn-of-the-century Mansion is the perfect place for a photography show. If you have never been to the Mansion you definitely need to visit and attend one of the many cultural events hosted here throughout the year.
Thanks to great friends – Cindy Summers and Corinna Sowers-Adler – the angels went up very easily and look amazing.
From the first picture hung to the final one – it felt surreal to see all of MY pictures hanging on these walls. One of my dreams has always been to have my own solo art show – whether photographs or paintings. So this is truly a dream come true… a wish fulfilled.
I am very excited now to share this work with the world and to allow these angels to fly…
I am really excited to announce a dream come true… My first solo photography exhibit is going forward in August at the amazing and beautiful Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center in Bloomfield NJ. The show – Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels – will run at Oakeside from August 5-31 and be open to the public Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Evening viewings are by appointment only.
Never Alone is the culmination of a three-year project I undertook to document the use of stone angels in cemeteries throughout New Jersey. I carefully selected each image for this debut show to demonstrate the beauty and craftsmanship that went into creating these funerary objects. Stone angels were often used in the beginning decades of the last century especially among the newly arriving immigrant populations from Europe.
This angel exhibit not only presents each angel as a work of art in its own right but also focuses on the vital role they play as guardians watching over lost loved ones and ensuring they are never alone.
The elegance of the Oakes Mansion’s turn-of-the-century architecture is the perfect environment for this show and I couldn’t be any more thrilled to have my first show here.
There is an opening reception on Sunday, August 11 from 2-4 p.m. which is open to the public.
I look forward to seeing everyone there to appreciate these wonderful works of art.
The Hope After Sandy Art Benefit was held Saturday, May 18, 2013 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, NJ. The event was sponsored by Wee Little Arts, a groundbreaking visual arts program, delivered in preschools and other locations by qualified professionals, dedicated to engaging and empowering children by helping them discover the creative process, and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, which was consecrated in 1853 making it one of the oldest churches in the area.
The benefit coincided with the Annual Charter Day Street Fair & Festival. According to the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills website, Charter Day, “commemorates the anniversary [2013 is the 253rd] of the granting of a township Charter by King George II of England, establishing Bernardston Township.” Today’s Bernards Township includes Basking Ridge, Lyons, Liberty Corner, and West Millington. For more information on Charter Day check out the website.
There were 30 artists represented in the show with over 70 works on display. My submissions to the benefit included Purple Beauty, a wonderful example of a purple Iris from the Presby Iris Garden in Upper Montclair NJ and the Barnegat Lighthouse from Long Beach Island NJ.
All proceeds of the art benefit are going to the Center for Community Renewal, a charity helping those most affected by Hurricane Sandy, located in Keansburg, NJ. The Center provides breakfast and lunch seven days a week, has social workers on site to help those with mental health needs, has an extensive food pantry, and provides a sense of community to people who are still affected by super storm Sandy.