County College of Morris’ Art and Design Gallery is holding its first solo exhibit since opening in 2014, displaying 29 pieces of artwork by New Jersey-based artist W. Karl Burger from Sunday, Oct. 23 to Friday, Jan. 20.
Born in 1925, Burger served as professor emeritus of art at Kean University, where he taught for more than three decades before resigning in 1993. Burger also worked as an adjunct professor at CCM.
Todd L. W. Doney, CCM visual arts professor and director of the gallery, said that he considered Burger an important figure in New Jersey art.
“To me, he seems almost like a Jersey icon with his artwork,” said Doney. “This is our first one-man show, and we were trying to think, ‘Who would we get that would be worthy of the first one-man show here at County,’ and we thought Karl Burger. Basically, that’s it, and he’s had such a great career, and like I said, it’s a no-brainer.”
Doney said that he wanted to hold a solo exhibit to have diversity in what the exhibit displays.
“Most galleries at some point or another have one-person shows,” said Doney. “You don’t want to be known for just having group shows. I think it’s kind of fun to see one person’s identity in 25 or 30 paintings to see where they go and how their artwork develops, where it moves.”
Pat Moran, a graphic design major who works in the galley, said that Burger’s paintings inspire his own artwork.
“Some of the things that I find super interesting about Karl Burger’s work is what he does with the watercolor paper,” said Moran. “He’ll take water colors, and then he lets them bleed out, and it creates this soft texture, which I think is nice. The stuff he does with graphite, too, it’s out in the hall over there, is incredible … I wouldn’t be able to think of even begin a piece like that.”
Moran said that he believes that Burger’s work gives off an energy rather than a message.
“I feel like there’s more of, not so much, messages that I get from it, as like, an energy or a certain type of feeling,” said Moran. “Definitely the watercolor ones have more like a calming feeling to them. The New Jersey Turnpike [‘Turn Pike #3’], I think it’s hectic, and it’s crazy, but there’s a lot going on in it.”
Liberal arts major Natalie Otero classified Burger’s watercolor painting “Turn Pike #3” as her favorite piece of work in the gallery.
“I’m someone who was born in New York, and for some reason, it reminds me of the city or when you’re going into the city,” said Otero. “And it brings back memories.”
Otero said that she found interest in Burger’s color scheme.
“Some are dark, but it’s not like very dark, I guess you could say, and it’s definitely a variety of things,” said Otero. “You have some very bright colors … It’s a mix of a little bit of everything, I guess you could say because you have some bright colors, and then you have some grayish and some dark colors that help blend in with everything that’s going on.”
Doran said that “Jersey Wood,” a painting by Burger on display at the exhibit, reminds him of his own artwork.
“It sort of reminds me of my paintings and the way I design my paintings over here, so I see kind of a relationship,” said Doran. “He’s painting some sort of tree painting, and I like painting trees, so it’s soft of connected to that.”
The gallery, located on the first floor of the Learning Resource Center, opens at 12 p.m. every weekday while this exhibit is on display.