Rediscovering Morristown National Historical Park

Morristown National Historical Park (“MNHP”) celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2023.  This historic milestone presents an opportunity for MNHP – the nation’s first designated historical park – to reintroduce itself to the rapidly changing global and local communities it serves in the 21st century.

Xiomaro
Xiomáro
Photo by Janet Pellegrini

To lead the commemoration period beginning in 2022, the National Park Service commissioned the nationally recognized New York artist, musician, and author Xiomaro (pronounced See-oh-ma-ro) to create fine art photographs of the park’s key features:  the Ford Mansion, Jockey Hollow, and the Cross Estate Mansion/New Jersey Brigade area.

All 2022 Events Are Free

  • June 4 (10 am to 2 pm) Join Xiomaro, the park’s artist-in-residence with a kickoff meet and greet at the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center.

  • June 11 (2 pm to 4 pm) Xiomaro will host a photo walk along Jockey Hollow’s Wick Farm and Grand Parade Trail. 
  • June 18 (2 pm to 3 pm) Xiomaro will present a live café-style, family friendly concert at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum. He will be accompanied by Saint, a singer-songwriter he is producing.  The concert will incorporate an illustrated talk about his National Park photography and its connections with his music. 

For details and a free souvenir print visit www.xiomaro.com or contact Morristown National Historical Park at (862) 400-5972.

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2d Floor:  Aides’ and Guests’ Bedroom - Table and Folding Camp Cot
Ford Mansion: 2d Floor:  Aides’ and Guests’ Bedroom – Table and Folding Camp Cot. Photo © 2022 Xiomaro.com

The Details

  1. June 4 (10 am to 2 pm) Meet the artist at Jockey Hollow Visitor Center at Tempe Wick Road, Morristown.
  2. June 11 (2 pm to 4 pm) Join the artist for a photo walk & talk at Jockey Hollow Visitor Center.
  3. June 18 (2 pm to 3 pm) Join the artist for music and fun at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum auditorium at 30 Washington Place, Morristown.

The exhibitions and programming are made possible by a grant from Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cross Estate Mansion: Main Entrance. Photo © 2022 Xiomaro.com

George Washington’s Encampment in New Jersey Gets Closer Look in Photography Exhibition

George Washington’s Revolutionary War encampment in New Jersey is the subject of a fine art photography exhibition and companion programs. The images were created by Xiomaro, a nationally-exhibited artist, under a commission from the U.S. National Park Service. The exhibition and programming are funded, in part, through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State (a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts). The free exhibition – on display from June 6 to July 31, 2021 – will be on view at the nation’s first national historical park, which was established in 1933 in Morristown to preserve the site of Washington’s headquarters and his troop’s winter encampment of 1779-80. The large photographs are mounted against the windows of the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center, Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, for viewing outdoors in a socially-distanced setting. Videos of the artist’s work with the National Parks and his smartphone photography workshop will also be broadcast.

Over 1,000 log cabins, like the replica pictured above, housed George Washington’s troops at Jockey Hollow during the American Revolutionary War. | © 2021 Xiomaro.com All Rights Reserved.

Arts programming has been severely curtailed by the pandemic. Through a partnership with Morris Arts, the park was furnished with a grant to create a unique Virtual Artist-in-Residence relationship with Xiomaro (pronounced “SEE-oh-MAH-ro”), a nationally exhibited artist. Fine art photographs mounted against the windows of the park’s Jockey Hollow Visitor Center can be viewed from outdoors in a socially-distanced setting. Xiomaro’s illustrated talk and photography workshop will be presented by video.

The free exhibition is on display June 6 to July 31, 2021 at New Jersey’s Morristown National Historical Park.

The exhibition features selections from the first contemporary collection of photographs to artistically document the key features of Jockey Hollow, which were created by Xiomaro (pronounced “SEE-oh-MAH-ro”), under a commission from the National Park Service. The images show the dwellings of Henry Wick (owner of Jockey Hollow), George Washington, his officers, and his troops. By placing these images side-by-side, Xiomaro presents a closer look and context that transcends a physical visit to each location in real time. The viewer is left with a greater appreciation for the vast differences in how these iconic figures of the American Revolutionary War endured the harsh winter of 1779-1780.

Xiomaro, a nationally exhibited artist and Morristown National Historical Park’s first Virtual Artist-in-Residence.
Portrait of Xiomaro by Janette Pellegrini.

“Xiomaro’s understanding of history through the lens makes him an outstanding ambassador for our continued efforts to reach all types of learners from more than one perspective,” said Jude M. Pfister, Chief of Cultural Resources. His work and aesthetic philosophy was the subject of “Unseen Beauty,” a short documentary film produced by the National Park Service and its partners.

Funding for Xiomaro’s Virtual Artist-in-Residence has been made possible, in part, by Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Morris Arts facilitates such partnerships to reach an audience of nearly 325,000 residents with hundreds of artistic and educational activities, events, and programs. Additional funding was provided by the Morristown National Historical Park. 

For more information visit the artist’s website for details and a free souvenir print from the exhibition:  http://www.xiomaro.com or contact Morristown National Historical Park at (862) 400-5972.

Weir Farm – Yellow Squash

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April showers bring May flowers…and vegetables.

Movies have scenes that end up, as they say, on the cutting room floor and don’t get included in the final film. Likewise, there are photographs that I intended to include in my book Weir Farm National Historic Site (Arcadia Publishing), but had to be cut due to space constraints. And the image above is one of them. It has never been publicly exhibited or available for acquisition as a print.

Weir Farm is known for much more than the art that has been created there for well over a century. It is also noted for its historic gardens and orchards, which make for inspiring artistic subject matter. The property’s Terraced Gardens and Secret Garden are very popular with visitors as is its Sunken Garden. The latter was so well designed that, in the late 1950s, a prominent photography team was dispatched by Treasury of American Gardens to feature the Sunken Garden in its magazine.

The gardens at Weir Farm were developed for more than just decorative reasons. They were sources of food as well. During World War II, citizens were encouraged by the government to grow Victory Gardens as a way to offset rationing at home and to provide produce for the troops overseas.

Nothing went to waste. When the gardens yielded a quantity of vegetables that was beyond what could be eaten, the excess was canned and stored. The pantry at the Weir House has replica mason jars on display holding faux string beans, corn, peas, carrots, and tomatoes.

I was motived to create the photograph because I was intrigued by the Lilliputian viewpoint and the crown-like composition of buds and stems. The tender shoots in the center are almost like a crowd gathered to admire the emerging yellow squash.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

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1950 Philco AM Radio (Model 51-631)

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For a time, my father had a small radio and television repair shop. We were living in Brooklyn, but I think his place of business was in Manhattan. In his day, working with radios and television sets was on the cutting edge of consumer technology. It’s akin to today’s programmers working on the latest apps and software.

Later on, that interest blossomed into an appreciation for these precursors to the modern-day smartphone. He started buying radios at flea markets, which was supplemented by the advent of eBay. It didn’t matter if the radios were broken. He had schematics, testing equipment, spare parts, and knew how to bring them back to life.

Eventually, he was buying more radios than he had time to repair. It didn’t matter. He liked the way they looked – their design, colors, and the materials of which they were constructed – and how they reflected the aesthetic of their eras. He also liked how his collection was a physical timeline of radios morphing from clunky wooden behemoths with tubes to handheld plastic boxes with transistors.

An ongoing project of mine is to identify, catalogue, and photograph this collection my father left behind. Of course, I am looking to create a traveling exhibition or, at a minimum, a book showcasing these rare pieces of our technological history.

The first piece I decided to photograph is this Philco AM radio (model 51-631) from 1950. It can operate on either AC current or DC current. It also has the option of being powered by two D batteries, which makes this item a portable one.

The radio measures almost 10 inches wide, a little over 6 inches tall, and over 3 inches deep. It weighs four pounds without the batteries. So, yes, portability is relative to the heavier home consoles of the time. And at 15 watts of output, it packs plenty of power to crank up the volume for your next shindig.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

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Planting Fields Arboretum

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Well, this certainly does not look like a street though I suppose the shadows do suggest the paths of several intersecting roads. But I am using “street photography” broadly here.

Much of my work is created for commissions by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). That work is methodically planned out and involves an assortment of equipment as well as historical research. During the course of many months, the resulting images are pored over, selections are made, post-processing is applied, and a sequencing of the images is determined. A formal collection is, thus, presented to the NPS with an overarching visual and intellectual theme.

It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Sometimes, I just want to have fun without having to think too much. And for me, the art of street photography affords that liberty. It’s about limiting my equipment to just one small camera and photographing spontaneously on the streets of New York City. No thinking. Just instinctively responding during a fleeting moment of time to whatever is happening around me.

That approach, however, is not limited to the streets. It can be transferred to other environments like Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, Long Island. I was there in April 2019 just wandering around. Suddenly, I noticed the long shadow of the tree behind me reaching out menacingly across the lawn as if trying to seize his or her fellow trees on the other side.

Perhaps that’s what Arbor Day on April 24 is all about – a reminder to be kind to our trees and nature in general lest we risk the environment meting out its revenge on us.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

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Weir Farm – Library Bookcase

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World Book Day was established in 1995 by the United Nations (U.N.) to promote reading and publishing. It also celebrates the importance of copyright as the legal protection of an author’s written work.

It is celebrated on April 23. The date was initially proposed to recognize the death of Miguel de Cervantes, best known for having written Don Quixote, which many consider to be the first modern novel. The date was then adopted by the U.N. to officially mark the event because, conveniently, April 23 was also the day that William Shakespeare passed away as well as being either the date of birth or death of several other prominent writers.

As I explain on page 89 of my own book, Weir Farm National Historic Site (Arcadia Publishing), Dorothy Weir was an artist, writer, and an avid reader. She and her husband teamed up with her sister and brother-in-law to remodel the original entrance of the Weir House into a library. Bookcases were built into the walls complete with glass-covered doors. The project was completed in 1932, which they commemorated by having their initials hand-painted over one of the doorways.

Dorothy would also come to use the library as her study. For many years, she worked from this room as she diligently prepared a manuscript telling the life story of her famous father, Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919). From the library, she contacted art dealers around the country to create a catalogue of her father’s art work. She died before the manuscript could be completed. But her efforts were not in vain. In 1960, The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir was published posthumously by Yale University.

This photograph was not included in my book due to space constraints. It has never been publicly seen or printed before and was created as part of a commission from the U.S. National Park Service.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

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Kissimmee Billy Strand

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April 22 is Earth Day, an internationally-recognized annual event that began in 1970.

I was invited by the U.S. National Park Service to spend a month at Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve as its Artist-in-Residence. While there, I created a series of photographs to artistically document the invasive species issue that is plaguing the environment there. This included both plant and animal invasives that brought me into close contact with noxious plants like the Brazilian Pepper and deadly snakes like the Burmese Python.

To better illustrate the delicate landscape needing protection from these invasives, I also photographed some of the visually unusual areas around Big Cypress. The preserve is a huge swamp that feeds into the Everglades. So, despite their different names and locations, Big Cypress and the Everglades are one giant ecosystem. What affects one will impact the other and vice versa.

One of the most intriguingly beautiful sights is the Kissimmee Billy Strand in Big Cypress. A strand is essentially a swamp forest of hardwood trees. It is one of the most unique plant communities in the preserve.

My photograph’s compressed view of the strand flattens the landscape into both an abstraction and a study in line, color, and shape. Like some of the other photographs I am offering this month as a White Glove print, the digital negative of this image remained untouched and unseen in my archive until now.

Click here to get a signed print of this and other photographs.

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Street Photography: 210 West 14th Street

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In a previous blog post, I described my experience revisiting West 14th Street, an area I frequented many years ago when I worked in the music industry.  Although the area has changed, I photographed a residential building — number 200 — that stood on West 14th for over one hundred years.

As I continued walking down the street that day, it wasn’t long before I again came to a dead stop to marvel at another red entranceway — number 210.  The door also featured a sculptural piece.  But this one was of greater interest.  Whereas the sculpture in the other building was an architectural trope, 210’s semi-circular one painted in bright yellow seemed custom made.

The man in the relief sculpture is wearing a loose garment and is holding some kind of an instrument. So my thought was that maybe the building was originally some kind of a shop or small factory and that the man was a generic representation of the work that was done inside.  But what kind of work would that be?  To me, it looks like he’s holding a soldering iron, except that there is no electrical wire connected to it and its unclear what it is that he is holding that is being soldered.

It was a nice surprise to find out that the apartment building was the residence of the famous French artist, Marcel Duchamp (1887−1968), a key figure in the avant-garde Dada movement that swept Europe in the early 1900s. He moved into the building’s top floor in 1942 and remained there until his death in 1968. Duchamp is probably best known for his radical sculpture, titled Fountain, which was a urinal layed on its back and placed on a pedestal.

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Fountain by Marcel Duchamp. Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz. As if the piece was not baffling enough, Duchamp intentionally signed it as “R. Mutt.”

Differing accounts identify the building as having been constructed in either 1910 or during the 1840s.  But what of that mysterious piece above the door?  I came to learn that it’s called a tympanum and that the figure is not representational, but bears the likeness of another artist named Pompeo Luigi Coppini (1870-1957), who also lived in the building.

Coppini emigrated to the U.S. from his native Italy.  Not able to achieve recognition in New York, he moved to Texas where he consistently procured commissions to produce monuments commemorating George Washington, the Declaration of Independence, and many confederate figures.  His studio in San Antonio continues as the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts.

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Old Mastic House

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April 13 marks the birth of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). He was a Founding Father, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the owner of Monticello, a southern plantation worked by slaves. There are, of course, many other aspects of his life that have made him a complex historical figure.

Up north, there was William Floyd (1734-1821). Like Jefferson, Floyd was also a Founding Father and a Declaration signer. His plantation in Mastic, New York, was also worked by slaves. But, unlike Jefferson, much of Floyd’s life remains shrouded in mystery.

During the Revolutionary War, the British commandeered the plantation while Floyd and his family sought refuge in Connecticut. As a result, his personal effects were destroyed leaving only the barest traces of Floyd’s history.

What is known, however, is that Jefferson visited Floyd at his plantation’s Old Mastic House. One can visit the house today, go on a tour, and step through the same rooms that both of these influential leaders walked in. Floyd was a general in the Revolutionary War and served under George Washington. Jefferson would go on to become the third president of the United States. James Madison succeeded Jefferson as the fourth president and he, too, visited Floyd at Old Mastic House.

By 1810, Floyd had five slaves remaining. Within six years of his death, slavery was outlawed in the state of New York. By the time of Jefferson’s death in 1826, his estate still had well over one hundred slaves. His home state of Virginia would not come to abolish slavery until 1865.

This image has been widely exhibited. A few of the venues it has appeared in include the Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York City, the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, and the U.S. Customs House in Philadelphia.

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Cathedral of St. John the Divine

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For some, Easter is not complete without attending a church service. For the Episcopal church in Morningside Heights, commonly known as St. John’s, that sense of incompleteness has lingered for well over a century.

Construction of the church began in 1892 and the first service was held in 1899. And, yet, the structure remains unfinished. The delay in building the remaining one-third of the church has been caused by a combination of design changes, lack of funding, and other logistical challenges.

One example can be seen in the photograph above. The southern tower – designed to house a bell – is cut off from its intended height. Construction of the tower began in 1982 and was halted in the early 1990s due to a scarcity of both funding and skilled labor. Indeed, an English stonemason actually had to be brought to teach the ancient art of stone carving to young unskilled workers drawn from the community.

On the left is a sculpture of Michael the Archangel, which is part of the Peace Fountain that was constructed in 1985. And in the church’s grand tradition of incompletion, to date, there is still no water in the fountain. The sculpture is a mélange of giraffes, Satan’s decapitated head, a giant crab claw, a gazelle, the double helix of DNA, and smaller statues made by children. As if that is not odd enough, the grounds by the fountain are known to have live peacocks, including an all-white one, roaming around.

I processed this image not long after I created the initial photograph in 2019. But it is only now that it is being publicly seen and made available as a print.

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