Local artist Bill Curran knows the colors and the shapes that define the streets of Hoboken after 28 years of dedicated walking along a changing urban landscape. His observations of trees, plants, bushes, and gardens have greatly influenced his creativity as an artist.
He paints what moves him and inspires him in the moment, whether it is a tree hidden at the end of an alleyway or the trees on Stevens Institute’s Campus or the bright yellow flowers outside of City Hall.
He has an exhibit titled “Trees of Hoboken” at City Hall that features 18 paintings and two drawings through July 31. The paintings span the most recent 10 to 12 years of his work while the drawings date back to the late 1980s when he was just beginning to “see.” His works in the exhibit are primarily oil on canvas.
Love of nature blooms on canvas
“My first love was nature and gardening,” said Curran.
He moved to Hoboken in 1983 after living in Freeport, Long Island, where he learned a reverence for the natural world. He enjoyed cutting the lawn, taking care of plants, and watching the sprinkler go back and forth.
His love of nature made its way onto the canvas as he took time to appreciate the beauty of the color and shape of trees, especially on walks by Stevens Institute. Curran paints plein air style, and sets up his canvas outside like the French Impressionists once did. He describes his work as representational with Impressionistic qualities.
“How could I not pay homage to these blades of grass or huge trees at Stevens?”– Bill Curran
He finds daily inspiration from the view of the garden outside his apartment window.
Curran can also see the landscaping around City Hall from his apartment. He said that through the years the trees, bushes, and flowers that surround the building have served as an inspiration.
In the painting “Forsythia in Bud” he paints the vivid yellow of the Forsythia bushes outside City Hall.
“To see that color in the spring is just so joyful,” noted Curran.
For the painting “On Newark Street” Curran depicted a tree he discovered a few years ago down an alleyway on Newark Street that was rather bare and had autumn-colored leaves. It wouldn’t have been so captivating if it hadn’t been mid-July during a heat wave. He enjoyed the juxtaposition between the off season colored leaves against the backdrop of the summer heat.
“Something like that that is so arresting…it is so captivating to the eye,” said Curran.
“In some way [the trees] speak to me in their shape and in their color and in an environment that is so drastically being stripped of trees,” said Curran.
Capturing a changing landscape
Curran noted the ephemeral nature of the trees in Hoboken and how often the landscape changes, which has taught him to paint at a moment’s notice if he spots something compelling on a walk.
“If something speaks to me you have to [paint] it in the moment,” said Curran.
A number of trees and bushes he has painted over the years have disappeared as the city grows, changes, and buildings inhabit spaces once occupied by leafy green trees.
“One might see something beautiful that is inspiring but sometimes it would be a work in progress, and before you know it, they either chopped it down, or moved the house.”
The backyards on Garden Street depicted in the painting “October Exterior,” for example, were excavated and replaced with an apartment building.
The off season trees that inspired the painting “On Newark Street” disappeared but the fencing and the driveway also depicted in the painting remain.
“You have to get them when you see them because they just leave us in some shape, way or form,” said Curran about the trees and gardens.
Background and influences
Curran has held several positions in the commercial art field. He was Art Director and Illustrator for Lord & Taylor in New York City for 16 years. He earned a degree in Advertising Design in 1979 at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before studying art in New York City at the School of Visual Arts, Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Design, The National Academy of Design, and The Arts Students League.
He aspires to be like painter Fairfield Porter and considers Claude Monet his first teacher. Curran currently works at the Hoboken Historical Museum and exhibits his work locally at galleries and during art festivals and the open studio arts tour. He has also taught privately. He is currently working on two series, one on the Flags of Hoboken and the other on Hoboken in Bloom that features shrubs and flowers.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.