"Most people that come in go right up to the Ken Drake pieces," said Jaime Masso, the gallery sitter at the Atlantic Community College Art Gallery in Mays Landing. "It's really great stuff. It speaks for itself."
Meanwhile, Ken Drake, of Mays Landing, is examining the work of another artist: plastic gems and buttons glued onto painted paper. His works, several lateral sculptures, tower in the center of the room and are arguably the centerpieces of the show. Drake has been teaching visual art at Atlantic Cape for 12 years. He's been a sculptor even longer, but, at the ACCC Art Gallery Facutly and Staff Exhibit, he shares the floor with trained and untrained colleagues.
"It's not just faculty. It's faculty and staff," said Buddy Jacobs, who has curated the gallery since 1999. "Anybody who works here, who gets a paycheck - office workers, anybody from custodians to professors. Anybody who works here can put in anything that is made by hand."
The gallery at Atlantic Cape changes monthly. The exhibits generally feature established artists like Dressler Smith and Steve Kuzma, but every September for the past 19 years the room is filled with the work of the college's employees. It's free to the public, and it's open every day but Sunday.
The range of the artists' abilities play with the definition of art. The juxtaposition between high art and low art is a highlight of the show.
"I've had deans put work in." Jacobs said. "I've had people who work in the teacher's office. We had a security guard years ago that carved fish out of wood, and they were truly great."
Jacobs, too, has some art on display. In the corner of the room is a sparsely detailed portrait of Abraham Lincoln on a worn tablet.
"I've been working on clay slabs there," he said. "They're not charcoal drawings. They're actually high-fired gas kiln pieces of clay. It's just that the glaze ... happens to be inside a pencil. It's encased in wood. You're able to draw with it. It smudges a little bit but then it gets fired, and it's like any piece of earthenware."
Drake admires Jacobs' slabs.
"This is great," he said. "I really love this."
Then he moves on to a giant photo.
He makes only one critique as he rounds the gallery - when he finally gets to his own sculptures.
"This one seems to be crooked," he said.
It bothers him. He tries to right it.
"I should have brought duct tape," he said. "I usually bring duct tape everywhere."
The sculpture is tall and slender. The exterior is made of a faded green dry stone. It's called "Caryatid," and it mixes ancient sculpture with the modern idealized female body.
"The Greeks used images of females to hold up buildings," he explains. "The Greeks called that the Caryatid. Except mine is obviously a modern Barbie that's cast."
His other displayed works include a relief sculture, a portait of his daughter and a sculpture that looks like a giant octopus tenticle reaching up toward the ceiling.
The latter is the piece that, according to the gallery sitter, everyone goes to first.
"That's because you can't help it," Drake says laughing. "The only reason it's there in the middle. That's why."
Contact David Simpson:
If you go
ACCC Faculty and Staff Art Exhibition.
The gallery tentatively open 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Satrudays. The gallery is closed on Sundays. Call before visiting to verify hours. The Faculty and Staff show will be on display until Sept. 28.
The Mays Landing ACCC is located at 5100 Black Horse Pike in Mays Landing. The gallery is in building C in room 125. Use parking lot 3.
Visit atlantic.edu/artgal/artgal.html or call 609.343.5040.