SUMMIT, NJ - The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, beginning January 19, will debut a site-specific art installation responding to the space in the Art Center’s main stairwell entitled 'Stair-Gazing: Rhia Hurt', featuring colorful, organic shapes that can be considered both paintings and sculpture.

Defying the conventional rectangular canvas, Hurt takes her inspiration from nature, materials in her studio, and color field paintings that originated in the 1950s. She creates multiple elements by stretching canvas over three-dimensional wire forms, using improvisational techniques to construct and apply color to her work, and often soaks the canvas in kiddie pools to blend the pigments.

“There is an element of surprise and discovery that is captivating,” said Hurt. These organically shaped canvases seem familiar -- suggesting images of sea anemones, flowers or starbursts -- but they are abstract forms. Hurt has a personal connection to nature that centers her, something she acknowledged when she commented, “You can have a connection to nature no matter what is going on, no matter how challenging -- no one can take that away from you. There is a lot of strength in that.”

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Currently based in New York City, Hurt received her MFA in Painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009. She has shown her art in California, New York, Berlin, and Toronto. Her work is in private collections throughout the United States. In addition to her studio art practice, Hurt is the Executive Director of Brooklyn Art Space & Trestle Gallery, an arts organization in Brooklyn.

'Stair-Gazing' is curated by Katherine Murdock, and will be the focal point of a free and open-to-the-public opening reception January 19, from 6-8 p.m.

For a complete list of current exhibitions, gallery hours and admission fees, or other information visit artcenternj.org. The Visual Art Center of New Jersey is located at 68 Elm Street.