Nothing pedestrian about floor art Buyers encouraged to walk all over Tinton Falls artist’s work

Staff Writer

By linda denicola

Nothing pedestrian about floor art
Buyers encouraged to walk all over Tinton Falls artist’s work

JEFF HUNTLEY Canvas artist Marie Maber of Tinton Falls says her paintings and digital prints are inspired by mosaic tiles. Her artwork is on display at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters, Manalapan, until Nov. 27 JEFF HUNTLEY Canvas artist Marie Maber of Tinton Falls says her paintings and digital prints are inspired by mosaic tiles. Her artwork is on display at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters, Manalapan, until Nov. 27

The idea of walking on art is something that has to be cultivated. After all, we have been inculcated with such a deference for fine art that we whisper when we walk into a gallery or a museum out of fear of seeming unsophisticated.

Nevertheless, a Tinton Falls artist is creating canvases that are meant to be walked on, but, said Marie Maber, many buyers say they are going to hang the piece.

Maber said she often has to reassure buyers that the piece was made to be walked over. "But if they insist on hanging it, that’s fine," she said.

The designs in Maber’s floor and wall canvas paintings and reprints are inspired by mosaic tiles. They look simple but are really quite intricate and require overlays of color and design, according to the artist.

Each one takes many weeks to complete, so she does not want to see them disintegrate because they are not properly protected.

In order to make her canvas floor pieces durable, she coats the surface like she would an acrylic painting, with acrylic gesso. Then she applies latex house paint. "It’s very durable," she said. "I use acrylic paints for the design. When the design is complete, I coat it with artist-quality acrylic polymer and then three layers of acrylic polyurethane. The final layer is a coat of wax."

Maber said she coats the bottom with three layers of paint on rubber, which protects the canvas from water and creates a non-skid surface. She also hot glues the edges to prevent raveling and curling.

The original impetus for her style was cloth prints that she saw at the Afridesia Gallery in Red Bank. "I began by creating traditional and hand-dyed cloth, which is made by a primitive printing method using hand-cut, potato-relief blocks."

That was two years ago, she said. Her work has evolved from primitive block prints to the latest in digital fine art called giclée, a blend of fine art and technology.

Giclée (pronounced g-clay) is a process of digital printing that creates extraordinarily accurate reproductions. Giclée prints can be original art generated in the computer, multiple originals based on artwork created in or out of the computer specifically for the process, or high-quality reproductions or original art work.

These reproductions can be printed on canvas, paper or fabric.

Maber has three giclée pieces in a show at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters on Symmes Drive in Manalapan. She had one of her original canvases reproduced and then embellished them by hand to create three new pieces.

"They are labeled, but you can’t tell which of the 12 pieces on exhibit are giclées," she said.

Maber said she uses a printmaker named Chuck Gettes in Melrose Park, Pa. "He’s actually a software developer who developed software to run his scanners," she explained.

Of the 12 pieces on display, four are wall art and the rest can be used on either the floor or wall, she said. The exhibit runs through Nov. 27.

Maber explained how she went from producing cloth wall art to canvas floor art and giclées.

"After the first year into this art form, I showed a year’s worth of pieces at the Art Alliance November ’99 show. They were hand dyed and printed on muslin, using linoleum blocks or hand-cut stencils.

"When I saw the pieces on the walls of the gallery, I realized that I didn’t like the random look of some of the pieces," Maber said. "I was letting the dye flow, but found that I liked the areas that showed more control."

That’s when she decided to make pieces that are functional.

"I read a book on floor cloths and began making them kind of like quilts by overstitching and adding borders," she said. "I found that I’m a terrible sewer. I have a friend who is a fabulous sewer and she said, ‘Don’t show those pieces.’

"You really can learn from friends," she added. "I got away from sewing. My new pieces use zero sewing."

Now her floor cloths are made of large pieces of canvas. Most of them are 40 by 60 inches.

She uses a form called tessellation, whereby she lays out a mosaic pattern of geometric shapes.

"Tessellated patterns are a shape that repeats to fill a surface without any gaps or overlaps. Quilters use tessellation all of the time," Maber said.

She cuts her own linoleum blocks with designs she takes from a variety of cultures, but mostly Islamic. Some are simple, some more intricate.

"These pieces are about color. I premix them to have a limited palette. There is no way my pieces are going to come out lacking harmony," she said. "What’s stamped on top unifies the piece."

Also in the Manalapan show are two pieces that she calls slices. They are 30-inch half-moon shapes that can go on the floor in front of the sink. One is of her dog, Millie, who died last year. She calls it "Schnauzer Power."

"I like to use whimsy sometimes. My daughter was very happy that I did a painting of Millie," she noted.

Maber, with her husband and two children, Christine, 5, and Robert, 6, lived in Red Bank before moving to Tinton Falls four years ago. They live in a split-level house with a number of extra rooms where she can lay out her canvases and not have to worry about putting things away each time she works on a project.

The rooms are near the family room where the children play. "I get up before the rest of the family because that is when I’m most creative. At night, after the children have gone to bed, I do the more mechanical work of gridding out the squares," she explained.

"When I was about 20 years old and still a college student, I had a professor who said the process itself has to fit into your life. I didn’t know what he was talking about at the time, but I do now."

Maber has a master’s degree in art history from the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia and has been an adjunct art history teacher at Brookdale Community College, Middletown, since 1993.

Right now, she is working part time writing about art for a Manalapan-based magazine called Digital Fine Art.

Maber also has taught at the Art Alliance of Monmouth County on Monmouth Street in Red Bank. "I made many new friends who are artists. We share and learn from each other. Everybody has something to offer,

"Teaching at non-traditional places is wonderful," she said.

A board member of the Art Alliance since 1996, she has exhibited there and at Cleopatra Steps Out Gallery, Asbury Park; Monmouth Museum and Thompson Park Visitor Center, both in Middletown.