New Jersey photographed in popular exhibit

April 4, 2008 6:09:48 PM PDT
Traffic, jewelry, smokestacks, armpits, a slab of beef - this is New Jersey in the Internet's imagination. A new exhibit features more than a thousand "photographs of New Jersey" collected online from artists around the world - most of whom have never set foot in the state. It opens this weekend at South Orange's Pierro Gallery, in a community center near Newark.

With personal snapshots, Google searches and pop culture references, these digital artists document the Garden State in their mind's eye.

"Welcome to New Jersey - Taxes, Tolls, Traffic," announces one cleverly retouched picture of a highway sign submitted by artist Karenann Sinocchi.

Plenty of the images deal in familiar first impressions of the state, from Jersey girls to iconic native sons.

In homage to Bruce Springsteen, Daniel Everett, a Chicago art student, submitted a photo of his CD player with the speaker wires taped down in the shape of the state. In a caption, he noted the speakers were playing "Born to Run" as he worked on the project.

Artist Dominic Episcopo carved a New Jersey-shaped steak.

Curator Laurel Ptak said the state's outline was a common theme, because most of the 189 artists in the show had seen New Jersey on a map but never in person.

Ptak began the project with an open call online for images of New Jersey. She was surprised to find her request translated and circulated around the Web in several languages. Work soon arrived from 19 countries as distant as Argentina, Lithuania and Turkey.

The exhibit includes at least one picture from every artist, whether in a three-foot print or on screens playing slideshows around the gallery. The show runs from Sunday to May 25.

Ptak, who normally curates a photography blog, said her task in this exhibit was "physicalizing a Google image search for the words 'New Jersey."' The results are as diverse as the state itself.

"You don't get one picture of New Jersey at all," Ptak said. "When you look at it all together, you realize that everyone has their own version of New Jersey."

The lyrics are part of a love ballad penned to Hillary Rodham Clinton by a Montana band, aptly named the Clintons.

The Bozeman-based band has been around since late 1999, when Clinton's husband still occupied the White House, although band members say they are not named after the famous couple. They say the band name was completely random.

Now, the Clintons are earning some national attention as a result of their ballad, "A Love Song for Hillary Clinton." They were part of a short segment on CNN and their video has received more than 4,600 hits on YouTube.

Band members say they decided to write the song after once again hearing jokes about Monica Lewinsky.

"We feel her pain," singer-songwriter John McLellan told the Missoulian. "We can't get no love, so let's love each other."

The song opens with McLellan singing: "Strong women turn me on. It's sexy when a woman knows exactly what she wants. And you're that girl. I think you're great. You're taken for the moment, so I'll just have to wait."

It so happens that the Democratic presidential candidate will be in Montana this weekend, attending the state party's annual dinner Saturday in Butte and a fundraiser the following day in Missoula. The band's schedule has them in Bozeman on Saturday night.

"If we get connected somehow to see her, or play a song for her, or take a photo, that'd be pretty cool," said bass guitarist A.J. Miller.

As for the jokes, the band says they have mostly gotten used to them over the years, and aren't above poking fun themselves. The name of the band's fan club?

The Interns.