Thursday, August 25, 2022

Eat My Cake: Public Art at the Historic Asbury Park Waterfront in New Jersey

Good morning, lovelies!  When I was visiting my sister's family in New Jersey last month, I stumbled upon a fabulous series of public art installations right on the waterfront of historic Asbury Park.  As much as I love the accessibility of fine art in museums open to the public (instead of all art being owned by private collectors before museums became a thing), the art in museums can only impact people who have free time, money for admission, and transportation. Sometimes the art in traditional museums can be confusing and alienating to viewers who haven't had access to the kind of education that enables us to appreciate things like historical context, symbolism, etc.  But contemporary street art?  That's the most democratic art of all, art that meets people in their own communities, speaking in a visual language that is current rather than arcane, encouraging residents and visitors to engage with the artwork on a personal level.

Detail of Eat My Cake by Holly Suzanne Rader

My favorite mural was Eat My Cake by "graffiti glam" artist Holly Suzanne Rader of Hollywould Studios.  Check out this short video by the artist where she talks about her inspiration for depicting Marie Antoinette wearing a candy ring pop on her finger and mirror gem-encrusted Dolce & Gabbana headphones, as well as her hope that her work might inspire more little girls to become artists.

Welcome to Asbury Park

But I know most of you have never been to Asbury Park, so I need to set the scene for you.  This is a town on the northern Atlantic coast of New Jersey that was first developed in the late 1800s as a summer resort destination, with a beautiful carousel and a Beaux Arts Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre complex (built in 1925 to replace a previous structure that was destroyed by fire) that spans the boardwalk and stretches right onto the sandy beach with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Asbury Park thrived as a shopping and entertainment destinationthrough the early 1900s and into the middle of the 20th century, but declined and fell into disrepair (and disrepute) after 1970.  The construction of shopping malls and a modern mega amusement part drew visitors away from Asbury Park just as affordable commercial air travel made it easier for sun worshipping vacationers from New York City to visit faraway beaches in Florida or the Caribbean.

Convention Hall, Grand Arcade Spanning the Boardwalk, & Paramount Theatre 

In the photo above, the 1,600 seat Paramount Theatre is on the right.  The first movie shown there was the silent film Wings, winner of the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture.  Asbury Park Convention Hall is on the left, connected to the theatre by the Grand Arcade that spans the boardwalk.  Designed by the same architects responsible for New York's Grand Central Terminal, the Convention Hall is a 3,600 seat indoor performance venue with amazing acoustics, designed to house an enormous Kilgen pipe organ.  

From the 1930s through 1984, the town's Municipal Organist performed free public concerts to entertain beachgoers.  From the 1950s through the present day, the Asbury Park Convention Hall has hosted rock and roll legends like the Beach Boys, Black Sabbath, James Brown, Janis Joplin, KISS, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Blondie, No Doubt, the Goo Goo Dolls, and of course local music hero Bruce Springsteen, whose 1973 debut album was titled Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.  There is a LOT of music history here.

View of the Asbury Park Convention Hall, Stretching Out Across the Beach

My sister and I were visiting the beach on a weekday and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't crowded.  I took these photos standing in one spot and turning around, because I wanted to give you guys context for how these giant murals are front and center along the shore.

Beachgoers Sunbathing at the Shore

The murals are right on the boardwalk next to the Convention Center, right on the beach.  Clearly visible not only from the beach, but from boats out on the water.  How cool is that!

Wooden Walls Project Murals Line the Boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ

The murals are painted on a vacant building called the Sunset Pavilion that probably housed stalls for skee-ball, whack-a-mole, refreshment stands, T-shirts, and souvenirs.  You can read more about the Asbury Park Wooden Walls Project sponsored by Sea Change AP and its artists here.  Wouldn't this be a FANTASTIC place for taking quilt photos?  My sister told me the fencing around the building is new and temporary because of structural repairs being done to the building right now.  Usually you can get get up close to the artwork and it's a popular place for taking selfies for social media posts -- which has helped to revitalize the area and bring back businesses and visitors.

My Sister Janice

Here's the full view of the Eat My Cake mural by Holly Suzanne Rader of Holly Would Studios that I showed you at the beginning of this post.  The more you look at it, the more there is to see.

Eat My Cake by Holly Suzanne Rader

So many different styles and aesthetics are represented.  Check out the vintage 1950s vibe of Ruthie & Andre by artist Mike "Porkchop" LaVallee.  "Ruthie" is the mermaid and "Andre" is the seal:

Ruthie & Andre Mural by Mike "Porkchop" LaVallee

See more "Art of Porkchop" at the artist's web site here

This next piece reminded me of Karen McTavish's "McTavishing" quilting:

Under a Strawberry Moon by Pau Quintanajornet

Special thanks to reader Suzanne for helping me identify and credit the artist responsible for Under a Strawberry Moon, shown above.  You can see more of Pau's work on her Instagram here.

Colossal Octopus Mural by London Artist Fanakapan

The hyperrealistic octopus mural above by the artist Fanakapan is so interesting when you really stop and look at it.  The pink octopus is a helium balloon, and the view of the boardwalk is "reflected" in the octopus's mirrored sunglasses.  You can see more work by this London-based street artist on his Instagram here.

Me and My Little Sister: Janice (left) and Yours Truly

Here's another favorite.  Artist Mike Shine was inspired by Scandinavian mythology to create his massive Havhest mural below:

Havhest by Mike Shine

I just love the way that piece was designed to fit the space.  You can see more from Mike Shine on his Instagram here.

And Now, Some Silly Nonsense: Bette's Bombshells

Yes, This Is Me.  Ignore My Hat-Hair.

Another fun find along the Asbury Park boardwalk was Bette's Bombshells, a locally owned shop specializing in mid-century inspired costumes.  It wasn't like authentic vintage fashion recreations; it was more tongue-in-cheek and campy than that.  Like costumes for roller derby or 1950s theme parties, and most of the dresses were unlined and made from quilters' cotton print fabrics combines with cosplay fabrics like vinyl and pleather.  I asked permission to take a picture of this dress, and the shop owner said I could ONLY take a picture if I tried it on -- which is why you are all being treated to a ridiculous photo of me with greasy beach hair trying this dress on over my swimsuit!  Because the fabric they used for this one is AWESOME -- the cartoon captions are hysterical: "SOB!  How was I supposed to know to cut it on THE BIAS???" and "My garment looks HOMEMADE!  I should have used interfacing" and "Sewing helps me to forget... sniff...  EVERYTHING!"

Vintage Inspired Dress in Sewing Woes Fabric from Alexander Henry

No, I didn't buy the dress -- for one thing, it didn't fit me well and the skirt is so narrow I could barely walk in it.  More importantly, where on Earth would I wear something like this?  However, I was able to locate the Sewing Woes Fabric from Alexander Henry on Etsy here (affiliate link).  It would be really cute for a tote bag or pajamas or something like that.

Different Day, Different Town: Dublin House in Red Bank, NJ

Me and Janice Looking Cute at Dublin House for Lunch

Had to share this photo because we look so cute in it!  Taken on another day, in another town, in front of the Dublin House Restaurant & Pub in Red Bank, NJ.  The restaurant is in a 175+ year old Victorian home that has been moved twice (and remodeled many times) since it was originally built in neighboring Middletown, NJ.  Good Irish food, Guinness on tap and loads of character.

Dublin House Restaurant and Pub in Downtown Red Bank, NJ

Finally, A Quilt Photo

Did you think I would subject you to this many vacation photos without treating you to at least ONE quilt photo?  It's a scary one, though.  Be forewarned.  This is like the Living Dead of baby quilts, and I'm pretty sure it wants to eat my brains.

What Remains of James' Baby Quilt in 2022

This is only the fourth quilt I ever made, using the Storybook Alphabet collection of machine embroidery designs by Sarah Butcher for Cactus Punch.  The embroidery design collection is currently available on here.  I remember struggling to figure out what kind of stabilizers would prevent the densely stitched designs from puckering my lightweight quilting cotton background fabrics, and as you can see, most of the embroidery designs ripped right out of the quilt over years of wear and tear.  In retrospect, these embroidery designs would have been better suited for a cloth alphabet book than for a quilt.

Me with James and Anders, 2006

The photo above is the only one I thought to take when the quilt was newly finished.  That's me (and no, that's not my natural hair color either!) with my nephew James on my lap and my son Anders is the chubby blond cherub in the Bulldozer shirt.  James will be a Junior in high school this Fall and Anders is a sophomore in college.  How the time flies!  

And that was the real reason for my trip -- the years slip away from us so quickly, and babies grow into teenagers in a blink of an eye.  Way too much time had passed since I'd seen my sister's family!  Here's me with my niece Petunia (not her real name, but she'll always be Princess Petunia to me) and my nephew James:

Sarah/Petunia, James, and Aunt 'Becca

Alright, I promise to return to our regularly scheduled programming containing pictures of quilts that are not destroyed next time.  Thanks for indulging me today!  


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

always so great to visit a sister and have silly times - cute dress :)

Sandy said...

What fun! It sounds as though your vacation with your sister was a huge success and just what we all need from time to time. :) said...

What a great trip and visit! That dress was cute and the sentiments printed on it were funny!

SJSM said...

What a wonderful time to be with your sister. The beach, the art and time to catch up. What a memory treasure you built.

Cynthia Marrs said...

Love the vacation pics. You and sis sure had a great time. Those murals are fantastic.

I want you to know that I really enjoy reading your blog. Well written and full of fun and ideas.


Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

Beautiful family and looks like all had a great vacation! Glad for you! Hugs

LA Paylor said...

I lOVE NJ but never knew about that park when we lived nearby. sad. I think we might end up moving back east

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

What a great trip and beautiful family! More memories to have and hold. Hugs

piecefulwendy said...

Having only a brother (who I dearly love), I've always thought it would be fun to have a sister to do things with. You two clearly enjoy spending time together, and I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You look so cute in that dress! The street art was very fun to see!

Andree G. Faubert said...

Hi Rebecca, what a cool trip. Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful public art!

The Joyful Quilter said...

This post felt like old home week, Rebecca. My SIL works at the hospital just down the street from the spot you photographed in Red Bank. DH lived just over the river when he was growing up and we went to a Home Show at the Convention Center in Asbury Park in the early 90's. Yep! It IS a small world because you and I now live just 3 hours apart.

Suzanne said...

That was fun for me because I grew up in Fair Haven (next to Red Bank) and know all those sights well! The artist for the McTavish-esque work is Pau Quintanajornet, by the way. It’s called Under the Strawberry Moon.

Rebecca Grace said...

THANK YOU!! I updated the post with links to Pau’s web site and Instagram. ❤️