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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Five Founding Artists of Gallery 23 Showcased Through February

This month Gallery 23 is celebrating its five original founding members, Curtis Engesser, Diane Pratt, Kathy Riss, Sheila Godsky and Jan Swift.

Newly elected president, Robin Rickard said, “This month for Valentines, it is fitting to honor the special people who have given their time, enthusiastically creating this gallery. They have inspired us all with their abundant talent. Each one is actively producing and showing their work, lively and vibrant in their artistic life.”

The show will be up from February 1st through February 25th. A reception will be held on Saturday, February 11th from 1 to 4 p.m.

Enjoy the day and meet the artists that have depicted our world so beautifully. Refreshments for a Drwill be served.

Gallery 23 is a cooperative endeavor comprised of 35 juried artists. The artists include potters, painters, fiber artists, jewelry artists, woodworkers, sculptors, glass artists and photography. The Gallery has been located at its present location at 23 Main Street, Blairstown for 21 years.

Local Color Art Gallery was founded in 2001 by Laura Corio. She thought it would be nice to get some local artists together with the mission of promoting their art, as well as raising the awareness and appreciation of the various art forms. At that time the gallery was located where the Gourmet Gallery is today. Corio and a small group of artists ran Local Color for three years. Corio retired, the concept remained, a new business called Gallery 23 moved into its present location. 

“It is remarkable for a small business in a small town to have served so long and still be in the black,” said one of the founding members, Jan Swift.

Meet the 5 Founding Artists of Gallery 23

Photo compilations created by MB Journe, January 2023 and story generated from interviews and website material.

Curtis Engesser

Curtis Engesser is a self-described plein air oil painter; a term that refers to the practice of
painting the entire finished picture outdoors. Originally from Morris County, he relocated to rural Northwest New Jersey in 1981. His vast inventory of oil canvases exemplifies his love of rural landscapes. Engesser recalls his compelling need to draw in his preferred graphite medium. With its monochrome shade and line, pencil was best for capturing the structural nature of his favorite subject matter – landscapes.

In his early 20’s, he switched completely to oil painting on small canvases. His greatest influences come from both American and French Impressionist painters such as Frederic Edwin Church, from The Hudson River School, and The French Impressionist Claude Monet. Their plein air approach inspired him to step outside into the world of color and the capturing of light in a moment in time. The 19th century German/American painter Albert Bierstadt is specifically mentioned by Engesser. Between Bierstadts’ huge canvases of lavish, sweeping landscapes and the “dabs” of color that also define light from The French Impressionist, his small canvases, being less cumbersome allow him the freedom to create a finished piece without planning or thought. His landscapes “just happen”. His favored landscape locations are The Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area and Sandyston, in Sussex County.

Sheila Grodsky

My paintings are multi-faceted since I use a wide variety of aqua media and subject matter to express my ideas and emotions.  Creating a work of art for me is like playing improvisational jazz.  From a few chords of color, shape and texture, I compose the work as I go, without a preconceived plan.  I prefer to paint purely experimental work which is generally non-objective.  I work with strong color, design and texture in an experimental manner by pouring, mono printing, using resists, spraying, spattering, stamping and collaging.  The materials evoke the subject matter, if any.  It is the process of improvisation and discovery that leads to a finished piece of work. Finally, the work is fine-tuned until it satisfies my criteria for a well-designed piece of art.  Sheila’s paintings have won numerous prestigious awards, including several for Best in Show in local, state, national, and international competitions.

Diane Pratt

Diane Pratt is a photographer who creates images utilizing many photographic processes. Her most recent work includes stunning sunsets and landscapes, beautiful lighthouses viewed from many shorelines, garden flowers and textures. These images are printed in a variety of styles using printing methods including printing on metal, canvas and traditional photographic papers.  Pratt also uses black and white photographs of still life and landscapes to show a time and place often missed in our busy lives. Black and white infrared images create a feeling of “reflection,” or “memories” of another time. Pratt then adds color to selected images using transparent oil paint and pencils to create “mood” or “drama”. She features black and white infrared images of local places such as Blair Academy, Blairstown and regional gardens.  

“My love of nature, architecture and gardens is reflected throughout my work,” Pratt said. “I become inspired by the fleeting moments in the light on my surroundings wherever I travel and aspire to show the beauty that I see.”

 You can contact Diane at Email  and
web site:

Kathy Riss

Kathy Riss is a photographer whose images consist primarily of local animals, plants, woodlands and other scenes from nature.  Her work also includes photos of local sites and natural settings beyond her hometown of Blairstown. Her photographs are available in the Gallery as canvas wraps, framed prints, small, matted prints, and photo cards.

Jan Swift

Jan Swift is a renowned water colorist known for her landscapes, still life, architectural settings and floral works. She says, “I just love to paint anything and everything. Watercolor is so exciting, especially when “happenings” involving line, color, shape, space and texture occur. I don’t like to get locked into any one thing.”

A resident of Blairstown, Swift graduated from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia with a B.S. in art education. She earned a master’s degree in education at Temple University and Tyler School of Fine Arts. Now retired, Swift taught art in NJ public schools for 25 years after supervising the art programs for 11 elementary schools in Bucks County, PA, before moving to Blairstown. She holds the Governor’s Award for excellence in teaching and has published articles in Arts and Activities, a leading art education magazine. Swift is a member of Pocono Arts and has captured 1st Place in watercolor for three consecutive years. Her paintings are represented in private and corporate collections.

Yelens Choban
MB Journe, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

MB has been a resident of Frelinghuysen for the past 22 years. She lives in an old farmhouse on the side of the road. She enjoys the simple life, puttering in her flower garden, practicing Qi Gong under her redbud tree, or creating art on the deck.
MB's experience as a journalist began when her son was quite young, she began writing for The Paulinskill Valley Chronicle, often bringing him to work with her. Her responsibilities were writing articles with photos, selling ads, and billing. This suited her, as a single mother not wanting to be separated from her small child.

She considers herself a lover of nature, often seen photographing its beauty. She has worked as a seasonal employee of YMCA Camp Mason for the past 17 years. She is a teacher and mentor of children, always emphasizing the YMCA’s core values - caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. She tries to listen carefully to each individual she interviews, getting their viewpoint. That is why she likes to write about the interesting people and places that make Warren County such a nice place to live.