New Jersey art gallery opens an exhibit featuring places that no longer exist

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The Rowan University Art Gallery and Museum in South Jersey will soon open an exhibit of hundreds of small paintings depicting nostalgic places that no longer exist

Artist Ellen Harvey began her Disappointed Tourist project 5 years ago.

“They kind of look like those old postcards that were sort of printed in black and white and then hand-colored sometimes,” she said.

Artist Ellen Harvey at work on The Disappointed Tourist project. (Courtesy of Etienne Frossard)

All of the paintings have names and dates on them. The dates are all when those places were destroyed, she said.

“So it’s a room full of almost painted postcards of places you can’t go,” Harvey said. Harvey embarked on this project in 2019, when she began inviting people from around the world to send her suggestions of places they would like to visit, but they only exist in their memories..

She said The Disappointed Tourist collection includes submissions from 40 countries.

“There are lots of, of course, happy childhood memories and places people wish they could have gone, and then of course very sad and traumatic stories as well,” she said.

Gary Marino, 72, of Newfield, New Jersey, had suggested painting the Vineland Speedway because he has fond memories of going there with his father in the 1950s. The Speedway closed in 1967.

He said he was shocked when he found out Harvey had painted it.

“It made me feel like I was there at the time, back when I was young, it’s a feeling of remembrance, the good old days,” he said.

Marino, who works at Rowan University, said he got a sneak peek at the exhibit being assembled.

“I could spend hours in there, every painting looks like a personal postcard,” he said.

Harvey’s Zee Peach Farm painting, part of The Disappointed Tourist collection. (Courtesy of Ellen Harvey)

Harvey, who is now a resident of New York City, said she began working on The Disappointed Tourist at a time when many people felt divided and isolated.

Harvey said the project gained momentum at the start of the pandemic.

“I began to wonder what is it about the physical world that people love, what do they miss, where would they like to be able to go, that’s what I was thinking,” she said. “I wanted to make an art project that was incredibly welcoming to everyone, and that kind of took seriously the fact that we all feel nostalgic for things, but we all have very different nostalgic stories.”

  • January 14, 2024
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