The Express-Times
Friday, April 24, 2000

Wild Wonders of Africa captured at Blair Academy

By Jane Primerano
The Express-Times

African art, Blair Academy , and the Hardwick Historical Society seem like an unlikely  trio but they fit together perfectly as an exhibit called Mukatano and the Machakos and Mukueni Project in the Clinton Gallery at the Blair Academy campus in Blairstown.  The vital connection is artist and photographer Mark Scheflen, artistic director of the Visual Arts program at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery in NYC.  The Makutano part of the show is a collection of Scheflen’s photographs and light sculptures.  The Machakos and Makueni project is a selection of paintings and drawings by Kenyan children at workshops taught by Scheflen at community centers and schools throughout that nation.           .  

The exhibit came to Blair at the behest of Scheflen’s grandmother, Roberta Scheflen Dodd, resident of Bloomsbury . A member of the Hardwick Township Historical Society, Dodd explained the Society is trying to get a lease with the state of NJ to take over the historic Voss House at White Lake .  The Society would like to repair damage that has occurred during state ownership and to eventually restore and use it for historic and environmental exhibits and displays. Because the children’s show has been traveling around, she thought it should be shown locally.  Interviewed by telephone, Scheflen said his grandmother saw his show at St. Mark’s and mentioned the possibility of a show at Blair, benefiting the society.  The school’s art chairman, Phil Hedman, saw Scheflen’s work and said “Let’s do it.”

Hedman explained he was approached by Dodd after a Blair show by Virginia Deutsch on the ruins of the Hardwick Church which has been an important project of the Historical Society.  The chairman is excited about having an African exhibit at Blair, especially when the student body includes a prince of Swaziland who is also grandson of Nelson Mandela, as well as two children of the exiled ruler of the Sudan . Scheflen’s collection of wildlife photography has been enlarged into transparencies illuminated with artificial light and integrated into custom made frames of various shapes and sizes.  The frames are of natural materials such as banana bark, wood, copper wire, glass, feathers, and leather.  Some are conceptually made to fit a specific image and others are thematic.  The exhibit runs through May 8th at the Clinton Gallery of Blair Academy, Blairstown is open from 10 am to 6pm Monday through Friday.