There were many, many victories at the big opening of the Hiding In Plain Sight show at the Ann Coen Gallery in Surf City last Friday. Wildlife fanatics packed the house, creating a line out the door, a run on prints, and the second largest opening in the history of the Gallery. We’ve already raised buckets full of much-needed money for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ. We laughed, and we cried. Seriously, I cried twice that night talking to people about this amazing Island we live on and our shared experiences here.

But of all the victories, perhaps the greatest of them all was that “Dinner At Loveladies” was the first thing to sell, and was quickly snatched up by an amazing couple before the show even formally started.

It took a little finagling to get Ann Coen to allow this piece in the show. I remember when I first presented it to her: “Ann, prepare yourself. This is my Masterpiece.”

She grimaced.

“I’m not sure. I told you to go easy on having too many blood covered Osprey.”

“But Ann, it is my Masterpiece. It represents everything about us living together with the animals on the Island. And look, he is not that bloody… he is dropping fish intestines all over the beautifully carved Welcome to Loveladies sign.”

“Exactly,” she responded. “It’s disgusting, a little offensive, and I don’t think people want to hang that on their walls.”

“I’d hang it on my wall,” I replied.

“Exactly,” she responded again. “That’s what makes me so nervous. But I like it.”

The True Masterpiece: Ann Coen and Amazing Gallery
The True Masterpiece: Ann Coen and her Amazing Gallery (Photo by Ben Wurst)

But the real Masterpiece to come see is Ann Coen and the incredible culture she has created from thin air in Surf City. Ann is like some alien life form from some very, very happening place somewhere far away who was probably hurled to our Island like a meteor, exploding in culture.

I’m not a very enlightened individual, so talk of Art, Galleries, and Photography have normally made me feel as sleepy as talking about “regular birds”. I’ve felt horribly uncomfortable and prematurely out-of-place with the whole concept of doing this show for months. At a bare minimum I knew I’d have to put on a shirt and shoes. But what many of us experienced there surely did not meet, and clearly exceeded, our expectations.

Ann Coen is a brilliant being and a seriously powerful force, who knows how to bring people together and give them the experiences they seek at the Shore. Her amazing Gallery with it’s bright, open air feeling and clean simplicity just feels like an extension of the Beach and a part of the Island. Indeed, you’ll sometimes see folks and families strolling through to have a look, literally all sandy-toed on their way home from the Beach, or stumbling through in the evening after a Vanilla Soft Serve with Rainbow Sprinkles from the Big Dipper across the street. It’s inviting, it’s easy, it’s fun. You can enjoy the experience on your own, or with a huge crowd of people. Just like the Shore. Ann has just nailed it and her Gallery breathes so much life into Surf City. You should come by to see the show just to see what a great piece of LBI she has built.

Opening Night. We tried to Hide In Plain Sight, but we spilled over into the street. (Photo by the talented Ryan Johnson. Thanks for having the foresight to take pictures Ryan. I wore my camera all night and did not take one photo, I was so overwhelmed.)
Opening Night. We tried to Hide In Plain Sight, but we spilled over into the street. (Photo by the talented Ryan Johnson. Thanks for having the foresight to take pictures Ryan. I wore my camera all night and did not take one photo, I was so overwhelmed.)
All our favorite animals, in one place.
All our favorite animals, in one place. (Photo by Ryan Johnson)

If the above photos give you severe social anxiety, you are in luck. The big opening weekend is over, the beer is kicked, but the show remains. So many buyers have been so gracious and have left the pieces on display for everyone to enjoy for the rest of the week.

Come enjoy the perfectly tuned informality and laid back experience at the Ann Coen Gallery. Drop in for even just few minutes while you’re out cruising through Surf City to see the show. Not only has Ann created an incredible space on the Island, but she orchestrated an amazing show.

Somehow she effortlessly achieved the impossible and coaxed out of Readings From The Northside a visual experience that does not need captions. It has been a thrill every time I stop in the Gallery to hear folks laughing and saying “Wow!” and having a virtual experience of being absolutely stunned by a rare encounter with our amazing, rare animals on the Island. And all in one place, at the same time. And all the artists (Eric Hance, Ben Wurst, Ann Coen, and myself) can often be found at the Gallery if you want to have “story time” and hear some of the amazing stories behind the images on display.

Make sure to come by and see the Masterpiece. And while you’re there, enjoy “Dinner At Loveladies”

And if you find anything you want to take home there, please remember: 100% of any of the proceeds from the show due to Readings From The Northside are being given directly to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ so we can continue to have wild animals to enjoy down the Shore.