Timeless Talent Portrayed At Toms River Senior Art Exhibit

Mary Prendergast’s sculpture of a warrior woman took more than four years to create. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  TOMS RIVER – Ocean County government offices and the Toms River Art Community (TRAC) joined hands to curate the 2023 Ocean County Senior Art Exhibit, a remarkable event celebrating the artistic talents of local senior citizens.

  The exhibition represented a collaborative effort between TRAC, the Ocean County Offices of Senior Services, and the Ocean County Tourism office. Every inch of space within the TRAC gallery showcased works from Ocean County artists over 60.

  As the doors opened, the gallery buzzed with excitement, with both the artists and visitors stepping in to witness the display of breathtaking creations. The standing-room-only event led to some aminated discussion with the artists who shared the inspirations leading to their work.

  Among the participants was Mary Prendergast of Toms River, a professional artist who has been honing her craft for many years. Her captivating sculpture of a warrior woman caught the attention of visitors and judges alike. The piece mirrors Prendergast’s journey of resilience and determination, having overcome a life-threatening spider bite years ago.

Manchester resident Leunish “Leon” Devero shows his work on the bottom right: “Every Day is a New Beginning.” (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  “She’s a warrior who just needed a little rest,” Prendergast explained. “She’s been traveling and traveling, and now she just needed to take a break with her spear – and is just whittling away and making another feather.”

  Prendergast’s dedication to her art was evident in the time she invested in creating the warrior sculpture made of oil-based clay and epoxied to a wooden base. It took Prendergast nearly four years to complete the piece, showcasing her patience and attention to detail.

  The event featured several framed art pieces, including Leunish “Leon” Devero’s “Every Day is a New Beginning.” Devero, of Manchester, recently retired as a Linden High School art teacher.

  Devero said his painting was intended to convey a powerful message, spotlighting a man gazing out at a serene morning scene.

  “The open door shows that He lets you know that it’s a new beginning each day,” said Devero. “I wanted to show that it’s up to all of us to take the incentive and do something great each day.”

  TRAC’s president, Lisa Cifaretto, revealed that a total of 78 artists submitted their entries for consideration in the art show. The professional and non-professional participants competed in 11 distinct categories, including Acrylic Painting, Craft, Digital Art, Mixed Media, Oil Painting, Photography, Pastel, Print, Sculpture, Watercolor, and Works on Paper. This diverse range of artistic disciplines ensured a rich and varied display of talent throughout the event.

Toms River resident Mary Petrosino, 96, is proof that talent is timeless. She painted the cloud piece on display when she was 90. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Before announcing the winners, Maria LaFace, Director of the Ocean County Office of Senior Services, spoke about her department’s role in the community.

  “At Senior Services, we help people find food every week,” said LaFace. “We help people who are struggling with homelessness and people who can’t pay for their prescriptions. It gets very heavy at times, but this is something to celebrate and to see older adults still being creative and contributing – thank you for bringing all this beauty to the county.”

  Challenging the notion that artistic talents wane with age, Toms River resident Mary Petrosino received special recognition as the event’s oldest participant. At 96 years old, her artwork from six years ago was prominently displayed, showcasing that age imposes no limitations when crafting beautiful masterpieces.

  “We just wanted you to know we love your art,” Cifaretto said to Petrosino. “We appreciate your love for art and it’s because of people like you that we keep doing this.”

  Gladys Rivera was awarded first place in Acrylic Painting in the Professional Division, while Robert Villar secured the top spot in the Non-Professional division for the same category. Second and third place recognition in the Professional Division went to Zenka Sommers and Margaret Greener, with Kami Simpson earning an honorable mention. Arthur Rone took second place in the Non-Professional division, followed by Veronica Pearce in third place, and honorable mention awarded to Susan Farbor.

  The judges selected Samuel Sinelnikov as the blue ribbon recipient in the Professional Division’s Craft category, while Denise Fitzgerald emerged as the winner in the Non-Professional Division.

  Robert Henne’s Digital artwork earned him first place in the Professional Division of that category.

The Ocean County Senior Art Exhibit featured something interesting to see in every inch of the TRAC gallery. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  In the Mixed Media category, Jane Brida secured the first place in the Professional Division, with Christine Sleckman and Carole Gernett awarded second and third places. Leon Devero claimed the top spot in the Non-Professional Division, with second place recognition awarded to Carol Bricnell.

  Valerie Morone and Debbie Rooney emerged victorious in the Oil Painting category, securing the first place in their respective divisions. Following Marone in the Professional Division were Mary Jo Austin and Thomas Nulton in second and third places. Alice Van Note earned honorable mention. In the Non-professional Division, second place was awarded to Renate Kupatt, third to Michelle Dilion, and honorable mention to Ruth Bernarducci.

  Debbie Gentile and Raymond Crouch showcased their remarkable photography skills, earning them the first place in the Professional and Non-Professional divisions, respectively. Candace Ross received a red ribbon for her work in the Professional Division. In the Non-Professional Division, Haya Gray was awarded second place, Roy Winograd, third, and Tom Quattrocchi, an honorable mention.

  Jo Lynn Tritto Jacobino and Charles Sulkowski claimed first place ribbons in the Professional and Non-Professional divisions of the Pastel category. Margarete Noesner was selected as the second place winner for the Professional Division. Liz Quattrocchi and Patricia Mono Autore earned second and third place recognition in the Non-Professional Division.

The Senior Art Exhibit featured top talent from around the county. (Photo courtesy TRAC)

  Jo Guscott’s print artwork stood out in the Professional Division as the first place winner, with no exhibitors noted in the Non-Professional Division.

  In the Sculpture category, Mary Prendergast and Ilene Van Duyne’s works earned first place in their respective divisions. Following Prendergast in the Professional Division, Mark Dornan was awarded second place, and Victor Sevceuko, third place.

  Clara Sue Beym and Janet Grossart triumphed in the Watercolor category, selected as blue ribbon winners in the Professional and Non-Professional divisions, respectively. Janice Nelson received a red ribbon in the Professional Division, as did Clint Lehman in the Non-Professional Division. Donna Burton was awarded third place in the Non-Professional Division, with Judith Schimmel acknowledged with an honorable mention for her work.

The Senior Art Exhibit featured top talent from around the county. (Photo courtesy TRAC)

  Charles Wesley and Tracy Sette topped the Works on Paper category in the Professional and Non-Professional divisions, respectively. In the Non-Professional Division, Jamie Fox received second place, Grace Mataka, third place, and George Chaphain, honorable mention.

  The first place winners from each category will have their artwork showcased at the state level as part of New Jersey’s annual Senior Citizen Art Show. Their exceptional creations will be displayed alongside the winning artworks from other counties across the state. In 2022, eighteen of New Jersey’s 21 counties participated in the statewide exhibit.