Colors of springtime showcased in exhibit

Paintings, photos of two artists featured through end of May

JAMESBURG – Indications that spring has finally arrived come in various forms.

It could be seasonal allergies, or waking up to the chirping of birds that have returned from winter migrations.

But art fans and residents of the Jamesburg area need only pay a visit to Family Framers, East Railroad Avenue. Spring is the theme of the local art gallery’s current exhibit, which features the works of Monroe Township artist Peggi Kahn Heller and Long Island photographer Larry Gottlieb.

“Everyone who’s seen it just feels good,” said Teddy Ehmann, owner of Family Framers. “Everybody’s happy when they see her paintings. It just warms you up.”

Heller, who lived in East Brunswick before moving to Monroe four years ago, has been painting for about 50 years.

“I just like reproducing, working with paint,” Heller said. “And I love color and I enjoy doing it.”

Heller said she prefers to paint flowers, which fit perfectly with the first exhibit of the season, because of the freedom it affords her to use multiple colors in each painting.

“My paintings are composed of strong and vibrant colors combined with soft-moving and free-flowing washes, combined with overlays of blended colors,” Heller said.

Heller began painting as a hobby in high school, and went on to receive a bachelor of fine arts degree from Syracuse University, where she majored in painting, fashion illustration and design. She has also studied art at New York University and The National Academy of Fine Arts.

After painting for many years, Heller found a job where she could put her art background to use when she was hired as a makeup artist.

“It was a time that I wanted to start actually working more seriously than painting, and I decided to go into makeup artistry and make up faces,” Heller said.

She worked in several local salons, and even did freelance work for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

“And I combined that with painting, so I did both things, which is very nice, because I could do the painting at my leisure and work as a makeup artist,” Heller said, adding that she found time to paint about two or three times a week.

She said her influences include Renoir and Monet, two of her favorite artists.

“I just love the way they paint — the freedom in the way they paint and the colors that they use,” she said.

But, Heller said, over the years she

                                                 "Orange              Poppies" by Peggi Heller    “Orange Poppies” by Peggi Heller has developed her own style. She said those artists have inspired her more than they have influenced her work.

“You kind of look at them for ideas and reference if you like that kind of work, but I just basically do my own thing,” Heller said. “I’ve been doing that for years.”

Heller has had her work exhibited at the East Brunswick Library, and is a member of the Ward-Nasse Gallery in New York City, where her paintings are often on exhibit.

She has also participated in a program called Art Through Healing, a nonprofit organization that promotes the healing power of both visual and performing arts to the public, and her work was included in a show at a rehabilitation hospital in Morristown.

Gottlieb’s work, also part of the exhibition, consists of close-up photographs of flowers, in stark contrast to Heller’s broad scenes of large groups of flowers, Ehmann noted.

“I would say that 80 percent of his photographs are of a single flower,” Ehmann said. “His detail is phenomenal. He’ll even have a butterfly on the flower and you see every little detail of that butterfly.”

Heller said that while painting isn’t always relaxing, it is always rewarding.

“I feel very accomplished when I finish a painting, so that’s what really makes me very happy,” she said. “I really feel very accomplished.”

Ehmann said that, despite the inclement weather, over 60 people attended last weekend’s reception for the exhibit, which will run through the end of May.

Family Framers of Jamesburg is located at 15 Railroad Ave., Jamesburg. Ehmann can be reached there at (732) 605-7900.