Jonathan Charles Fox’s ‘painterly photography’

‘It’s a Camera, Not a Magic Wand’ debuts at Gallery 222

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 5/4/22

HURLEYVILLE, NY — When Jonathan Charles Fox put out a call to borrow some easels for his upcoming exhibit, easels came in from all over Sullivan County.

In “It’s a Camera, Not a …

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Jonathan Charles Fox’s ‘painterly photography’

‘It’s a Camera, Not a Magic Wand’ debuts at Gallery 222

Posted

HURLEYVILLE, NY — When Jonathan Charles Fox put out a call to borrow some easels for his upcoming exhibit, easels came in from all over Sullivan County.

In “It’s a Camera, Not a Magic Wand,” Fox will show his painting-like photographs at Gallery 222 in Hurleyville in May, starting with an opening reception from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, and ending with a closing reception on Saturday, May 28.

But back to the easels.

“I gathered easels of all shapes and sizes frantically from artists and photographers I know throughout the county,” he said.

The Delaware Valley Arts Alliance came to his rescue. So did photographer Jerry Cohen. Paola Tawa loaned him a lovely one. Artist Allan Rubin provided one along with an explanation of how to open and close the plein-air easel.

The whole saga poses a question: why does an artist need to borrow easels?

Because these are, as the show promotion puts it, “painterly photographs.”

Fox is well known as the photographer for the River Reporter, and his Facebook page is loaded with photos he’s taken around Sullivan County.

But these are special.

Several years ago, Fox happened to snap a photo of two boys playing on a dock at Kauneonga Lake. “It was a happy accident,” he said now. “I got home, looked at the picture, and told the dog ‘It’s nothing but a blur.’”

Then—“‘Wait a minute,’ I said. I blew it up and looked at it. And said ‘Maybe… it’s kind of like a painting.’”

Technology means that one can print on “a number of surfaces,” he said. “Including canvas.” Which he did. “I threw it in a frame and was in love.”

Fox got in touch with artist Ramona Jan and bought old frames from her, beautiful ones, he said. Old, glittering. “‘Oh,’” he said as he contemplated the framed prints. “‘This kind of interests me.’ And that’s how I spent the pandemic.”

The best photos are the ones without a lot of detail. Then he manipulates it with Photoshop for a “painterly” effect. “Everything is done in this style with this purpose.”

(In an aside, he reminded readers that no River Reporter photo is altered.)

“One piece is a photo I loved of a wall of skates. I love the image.” But in a photo, it was busy, he said. On canvas, it worked.

This is his first exhibit since 2015, when he showed photographs at the Forestburgh Tavern.

“I’m a nervous wreck,” he said. “A tremendous amount of work goes into this.” There’s furniture to move in and pedestals to add, creating different levels on which to exhibit work. “I want people to have an experience when they come into the gallery,” he said. “It sounds artsy-fartsy, but it’s true.”

In this new show, “I cover a wide variety of subjects,” he said. “I’m trying to weave a bit of a spell with these pieces.

There’s a farmhouse in Cochecton, shot in both black-and-white and in color. “They’re very different,” he said.

Fox is often a public face of the River Reporter, appearing at shows and events with his camera. He’s a people-person, so maybe it’s not surprising that there are three receptions in May (see dates and times below).

On Friday, May 13, he’ll be joined by musicians Fisher & Kean.

He praised HPAC, the Hurleyville Performing Arts Centre, of which Gallery 222 is a part. The Tango Cafe is right across the street, he added, so after people see the exhibit, they can eat and drink and then go to the latest offering at HPAC.

And Les Kristt, of the Kristt Company and the Frame Game, arranged for coupons so people who purchase prints can get them framed, enhancing the painting effect.

Fox plans to continue creating painterly photos. Maybe he’ll recreate works by famous artists. “Norman Rockwell,” he said thoughtfully. “I’m looking at pieces of art I like.”

“I don’t consider myself an artist,” he said. “I do consider myself a photographer… but there is artistry in these particular pieces.”

“It’s a Camera, Not a Magic Wand,” will be exhibited at Gallery 222 from Saturday, May 7 through Saturday, May 28. Receptions will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on May 7, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 13 and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 28.

For more information, call the gallery at 845/693-4119, email gallery coordinator Ellyane Hutchinson at ellyane@hacny.org or visit gallery222.org.

Catch an interview with Jonathan on Sabrina Arpel’s “Trailer Talk,” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday May 4 on WJFF. It can be accessed through their archive after that.

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