ART IN BLOOM, UP AT McKAY’s

danschroll

Brookdale Community College faculty member Dan Schroll (upper right) is the subject of the solo art show DOCUMENTS • FLOWERS, opening Friday at McKay Imaging Gallery.

By TOM CHESEK

It’s been several months since we’ve been able to bring you news of an exhibit at McKay Imaging Gallery, the Red Bank studio established by the husband/wife team of Robert and Elisabeth McKay as a venue for promoting local interest in photography as fine art.

On Friday, the McKays break their unusually long interlude with another in a series of public-invited opening receptions in their walk-up space at 12 Monmouth Street. It’s an event that’s positioned as “Breaking Away” from the gallery’s mission of focusing upon the captured image — even as it strikes a personal note that Bob McKay says “comes full circle” back to the origins of the successful family business.

Entitled Documents • Flowers, the solo installation assembles recent collages and drawings by Brookdale Community College faculty member Dan Schroll — a veteran of 30-plus years in the BCC Visual Arts department, and a respected educator whose graphic design class just happens to have been the place where Bob and Liz first met.

lily-study

LILY STUDY is among the recent drawings on display at McKay Imaging Gallery by Dan Schroll, the latest in a “Breaking Away” series of exhibits that depart from the gallery’s theme of art photography.

As Bob McKay explains in an email, “Some 15 years ago, I walked into Dan Schroll’s classroom on the first day of the semester and met the woman who was to become my wife and partner, Elisabeth Koch-McKay…Dan loves to take credit for this, but in truth, we did it all ourselves : )”

While that matchmaker story would make for a perfectly serviceable angle to any art opening announcement, the McKays have also suggested that there’s an even more inspiring backstory to the Schroll show; one that stands as “testament not only to his immense talents, but to his personal strengths as well.”

As Bob McKay explains, “Some years ago, a debilitating illness took away Dan’s steady hand and concentration. It was only his strong will and perseverance that brought him back from the brink and the rebirth of his abilities that inspired him over the last year or so to create these wonderful works of art.”

Schroll’s protracted battle with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease caused the Notre Dame alumnus and Vietnam vet to table his own career as a fine artist, with a decision to concentrate upon his work as a professor of graphic design at BCC, where he also teaches ceramics.

Schroll — whose art has been featured in such locales as the Whitney Museum, the corporate headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, and the Zhejiang Museum in Taiwan — came to Monmouth County in 1975, following a “low paying, but highly educational” stretch with the silkscreen company that produced all of Andy Warhol’s gallery work, in addition to pieces by Jasper Johns.

“It was a pretty exciting time; I got to meet Warhol several times and learned a lot about the art world,” Schroll recalls.

While his past successes and struggles have all served to inform his approach to art, the 65-year-old Schroll prefers to focus on the present — explaining that when he tapped into a resurgent sketching ability in 2009, “I got back into it in a big way. I did over 200 drawings.”

Many of the featured drawings are of a favorite subject — the flowers of the show title — a subject that the longtime commercial designer finds fascinating for their “texture and linear quality.” The documents portion of the exhibit collects a series of collage pieces “based on autographs, letters and certificates” that incorporate typography, stamps and “subtle images.”

Noting that all but three or four pieces in the exhibit were created within the past year, Schroll adds that “I haven’t even seen some of these pieces framed. There are some good-size pieces in the show — as big as 50 by 40 inches.”

Schroll’s work will be on display and offered for sale during Friday night’s opening reception, which runs between the hours of 7 and 10p — and which promises as always to be a stimulating party, with the artist himself promising to “be there, with bells on.”

The Documents • Flowers exhibit continues on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1p to 7p, or by appointment, through May 13. Call (732)842-2272 for more info.