When Graham Nash isn't busy touring the country as one-third of the famous folk-rock group Crosby, Stills, & Nash, he can usually be found with a paintbrush or camera in hand, creating original works of art.

"I must confess, I need to express my opinion in any way that I can," Nash says. "Whether it's music or painting or pastels - it's all the same energy to me. I need to speak my mind. I'm lucky to live in a country where I'm allowed to speak my mind."

But Nash's artistic hobby was just that - a hobby - until his longtime friend, artist representative Gene Luntz, happened to see some of his paintings. Luntz, whose clients include pop culture icon Peter Max, knew that Nash had a gift.

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"When (Luntz) came to my house in Hawaii, he sees my work and he goes, 'What's this?'" Nash recalls. "I said, 'Oh, it's just something I do on the side.' He goes, 'What do you mean? This is really fine work.' And that kind of stunned me, you know? I don't really know what I'm doing, but I have a good time doing it."

Luntz, however, saw something special. He arranged to have Nash bring his work to Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor - the same gallery where Max has had successful showings.

Beginning Thursday, June 28, the public will get its first-ever glimpse of Nash's original works in South Jersey. The Art of Graham Nash exhibition will be on display at Ocean Galleries through Sunday, July 8, and will include 91 paintings, pastels and artistically enhanced photographs.

Nash will be at the gallery signing purchased artwork 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 1, following his performance with CS&N on Saturday night at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. 

"They just loved (the work), and it was stunning to me," says Nash, who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. "(The gallery owners) seemed to know what they're doing. So that's how I ended up there."

Nash uses a variety of techniques in his artwork, many of them stemming from his experimentation with photography and digital printing. (His company's original IRIS 3047 digital printer is now housed in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution). Several of his pieces incorporate block print or newsprint, mixed with photography.

Nash, who was born in Blackpool, England, admits to picking up a camera before a guitar.

"We were a very poor family from the north of England, and my father was a very hardworking man," Nash says. "One of his joys was taking images. He set up a crude darkroom in my room. … I still remember when he took my blanket off of my bed and put it up on the window to black out the light. My father said, 'Wait.' I said, 'Wait for what?' And then this image came floating into view out of nowhere. I never lost that magic."

Since then, Nash has gone on to photograph dozens of famous friends - Johnny Cash, bandmate David Crosby, onetime girlfriend Joni Mitchell. A few copies of a handmade, fine press book celebrating his photography and music, titled "Love, Graham Nash," will be available for purchase during the exhibition. - for $12,000.

"It has original scribblings with photographs of the people that I wrote about, and they're all signed by David (Crosby) and Stephen (Stills) and Neil (Young)," Nash says.

Nash, who has been involved with digital imaging since the earliest days of the technology, embraces all of the latest advances despite a love for old-school photography.

"I love immediacy," Nash says. "I love an immediate response to a song. I love the response to something we just played. So that (advancing technology) has made the process much faster for me. I happen to really like that."

For Nash, the inspiration for art, he says, is everywhere.

"I have to be a human being," Nash says. "I have to get up in the morning, thank God I'm alive, watch the news, be with my family. I'm involved in the way the world works, because I'm a member of this planet. The way I deal with my life is I write music. I create drawings. I sculpt marble. I have a printing company. I want to create every single day of my life."

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