Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Isaiah Thomas. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

I met Isaiah back in July at the Parlor Gallery. He walked in and filled the entire gallery space immediately with his infectious positive energy! Isaiah dresses “to the nines” for no good reason other than, he enjoys dressing in suits and looking sharp. He was in wild awe of the artwork. When you see a young person so turned on to art, you stop what you are working on and give them all the time and attention to feed that inspirational fire. Isaiah is a caring, intelligent and driven model, photographer and conceptual artist living in Asbury Park.

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
I am a self-taught artist with many inspirations around me. When I was young, my brother Fredrick Maldonado, used to draw and paint. Seeing what he created inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I was not as talented as him but drawing was always a great outlet for my emotions. I didn’t know how to process my emotions vocally. I would go into a dark place mentally and just sit in that dark place until I was ready to get out…but drawing was a source of light for me. I never went out my way to learn the details and tricks of artistry because drawing wasn’t a passion for me, it was more therapeutic. I loved how I felt when I created because prior to that, I didn’t feel anything at all.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
It started with drawing to express my emotions. Hell, I even started making my own poems when I was younger to see if I enjoyed that version of expression. I never thought I would do anything more than that so to say that now I am a model, creative director, stylist, photographer, and videographer… absolutely insane to me! It all started with my brother, Joseph Bivins. He sent me a casting for a runway show that I completely forgot about. I never walked a runway a day in my life, so I didn’t expect much out of this casting. After meeting the organizers of the fashion show and demonstrating my walk…I got casted!

I am a creator that expresses feelings for people. Or make you think things that you never thought you would think of and giving you different perspectives using the visual arts. As a child, I used art to express my emotions and what I was feeling. In my family, we didn’t talk about feelings or talk about things, so I used visual art, painting and drawing, for that and I still do. I was passionate. It wasn’t so much that I was passionate about drawing, I was passionate about creating. At the end of the day, art is expression no matter what form it is, it’s expression. I spent a lot of time trying to do things that other people liked, but now I do things that for myself. It’s so much more freeing to do what I like! If people don’t like it, if they hate it, that makes me happy because it’s like, “Good, it made you feel something!” Being able to create that conversation is truly cool to me. Then I like to think, “What am I gaining from this for myself?” “What did I learn from this? and What can I learn for the future?

What inspires you?
I have a lot of peers that inspire me, my closest friends, family, Josh Spio, Bella Durante, Kashaun Covin, Justin Pack, Joseph Bivins, Freddy  Maldonado, and so many more. But what inspires me the most is my pain. I know that sounds pretty dark but it’s the honest truth. I have created concepts throughout my career. But the ones that are most deep to me are the ones that I created at my lowest. Life has a funny way of telling you that you are gifted. Instead of sitting in my despair, I woud much rather see what I can create within it.

If or when you get lost in an “art funk” (like writer’s block for artists), what helps you get back to creating?
Whenever I get into a Art Funk, normally I explore my world. I take a walk throughout Asbury Park, see the art out there. I’ll take a trip to NYC and get inspired with the energy there. Sometimes, I’ll even connect with my peers and see if I can get a spark from that. But one thing I’ll never do is stay content. Stillness is okay, but it must be done with purpose. Without purpose there is no drive. So, I try my best to stay driven with my passion even when I get into a funk. I may be low today, but I hope I’m not low tomorrow.

How do you think the community can better support their artists?
More communication of the Arts of Asbury Park. There are a lot of great opportunities in Asbury Park, but a lot of new artists simply do not know about those opportunities. Also, a lot of artists sometimes confuse their financial situations with opportunities. They block off the thought of being an artist because they feel like they can’t afford it and that’s simply not true. I feel like if we made that message clear within the community it can really help bring more artists together. Lastly, those that are connected in the community could speak up more. There is a lot of knowledge in our minds and if we share that knowledge amongst others, we can all succeed together.

Check out Isaiah on IG: @ISAIAHT722 and on TikTok: @isaiahet722 (at the time of our chat, he had 383,000 Followers on TikTok)

Suzanne Anan


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Suzanne Anan. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

Polar Opposites in Belmar

When I first saw Suzanne’s beach life paintings in a group show at the Parlor Gallery, I fell in love with them. They were not your typical “Jersey Shore Beach Art”. You know, the typical “Sunsets and Sailboats”, they were snapshots of beach moments and the lifeguard life of Belmar beach. Not sure what I mean? Close your eyes and imagine being kicking back on the beach reading this on a busy, hot and steamy Saturday in late July. What do you see? You see a Suzanne Anan painting! However, the next time Suzanne was in a Parlor show, I saw a completely different side of Suzanne’s work, a more dark, romantic, sensually strong poetic side with the subject based on her favorite poems and literature.

Tell me about your art background.

In my younger years, I enjoyed drawing. A health issue kept me home and I found comfort spending my days drawing to my heart’s content. In college, I earned a BFA from Kean University with a concentration in Design. My last class was an elective for painting. It was a first level course in stretching canvases and mixing paint

After graduation, I longed to find purpose for art making. I was managing a group of designers at the Asbury Park Press. Shortly thereafter, I wound up taking a position at the Star-Ledger as an illustrator/designer. I was not getting enough creativity managing others and this position. I decided on a whim to apply for a master’s degree at NYU in a study abroad program in Venice, Italy. I knew it would be a stretch to get accepted being that I lacked a formal fine art background in painting. I didn’t let it stop me. I poured my whole heart into my cover letter and sent my application off with art samples. It was a long and agonizing wait but, I was accepted. Now the real trick was explaining to my boss that I was leaving a job I loved for two years to live in Italy to pursue a master’s degree. It was the best experience of my life!

What inspires you?

I get so inspired from reading poetry. There is usually one line in a poem that captures my attention and I turn it into a painting. For example, for my painting, “The Terrace in the Snow” I took inspiration from the last lines of a Chinese poem by Su Tung P’O, “The icicles on the eves, drone in the wind like the swords of murderers”. Another example, “The Dark Night” inspiration came from a poem by St. John of the Cross, “I stood and forgot who I was, my face leaning against Him, everything stopped, abandoned me, my worldliness was gone, forgotten among the white lilies.”

You paint in two completely different content styles with the beach pieces and the more poetic pieces. Do you find you paint more of the lifeguard / beach scenes in the summer?

I find myself completely absorbed with summer living. Yes, my attention is completely focused on what surrounds me. I am in progress of creating several scenes of the shore, lifeguards and all the beauty and colors associated with these very vivid scenes. I have so many images in my head that I hope to have enough time in my life to get them all out.

Being a Monmouth County artist, what would you like to see happen in our county art community?

I would like to see a Monmouth County artist network or database created. One that lists your skill, your location, your style of art and your interest in work or volunteering. Whether or not you would like to donate or receive work for payment, this is a great opportunity for collaboration. For example, I volunteer and give away almost as much as I get paid. Personally, I try to keep that balance. There are many an occasion that people ask me about a mural artist or, perhaps a portrait painter, maybe someone specifically who would volunteer for Liz’ Linen’s or Mary’s Place to help a 501c3 create a portrait of a sick loved one, or a mural in someone’s bedroom who is convalescing. This type of project could be part of a volunteer organization’s budget, who fundraised to fulfill their mission. Another example would be mentoring younger artists. This type of one-stop network can build a stronger community of volunteerism and a great source for future prospects for work.

Eleanor James


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Eleanor James. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

Years ago, yours truly owned a punk rock/rockabilly/vintage and consignment clothing store called, B Unique Clothing on the “Arts Bloc” of Cookman Avenue in downtown Asbury Park. Next door to me was Heaven Art & Antiques. Whilst chatting outside our shops, Malcolm Navias, in his exquisite and cultured South African accent would greet customers by saying, “Welcome to Heaven!” while I would welcome folks to…the other option – that was darker, louder and scarier! In case you were unaware, there is gallery space on the second floor of the shop. On Saturday, April 29th, Heaven is hosting an opening reception for a solo show titled, “Unconditional” showcasing the art of Farmingdale artist, Eleanor James.

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
At age 13, I remember locking myself in my small bedroom with a canvas in front of my face, listening to Janis Joplin and feeling at home in my creative space. My focus on art and design really started blossoming from then. Before going to Rutgers to get my degree in Landscape Architecture, I went to Brookdale and took several art classes in painting, color theory, figure drawing and 2D design where I learned skills and technique from some amazing teachers.  My work after that has been self-taught and continues to evolve through a lot of experimentation.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
Death and Love have been the main driving factors in my work for many years. I have had the challenge of losing a lot of my dear friends and family members to drug overdoses and suicides. Being introduced to this kind of loss at a young age made life seem fragile and temporary. There have been many times for me, and all of us, when we have a choice in life: to fall into the pain and darkness or to find the beauty and carry on. On some days the darkness creeps in and tries to take over. My work reflects this fight within me and within us all to stand up over and over again, day after day, to find the light and the magic in this world.

“Unconditional” is the word I have chosen to reflect this never-ending battle of love and loss. My work shows this juxtaposition of dark and light and presents the challenge within us all to love ourselves and one another.

What is your process with your art making?
My emotions are the driving force behind my art. My process of creation usually starts with music and an itch of sorts. I lock myself into my studio and invite my dear friends to join (Cat Power, Radiohead, Chopin, T-Rex, Velvet Underground, etc.). I work in watercolor and ink or acrylic and ink mostly and have two differing processes for each. Similarities of the two mediums include setting down my base tone, often yellow ochre, and sketching out the concept. Backdrops often consist of calmness, soft landscapes and an ease of movement. This portion of my painting sometimes takes on a life of its own. There is a freedom here that isn’t planned or set to a reference. It’s an expression of mood and rhythm.
I then move on to my subject which is often a skeletal or botanical study and requires extreme focus and precision. Knowing how and when to apply control and when to apply a lack of control is paramount in creating my pieces. I appreciate both parts of the process, just as I try to appreciate the ebbs and flows of life. Some pieces will be created in a few hours (watercolors) where some of the larger acrylic pieces can take years to finalize. I find joy in it all and will not allow anything to take away from my love of creating art. Art is MY space to bare my soul, to laugh, cry, shout and scream.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the contrasting energies of the earth. I am inspired by a delicate wind or raging tornado, a delicate beam of sunlight or scorching desert heat. I am inspired by all of nature in its power and wonder.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?
Since I am a Landscape Architect by trade, I am pretty new in the art world. I thought working with seasoned contractors was hard, but it seems easy in comparison to emerging in the art world. It’s overwhelming and can at times seem very closed off.  I am very happy when I see galleries (like Heaven) that create opportunities for emerging artists! It’s so great to hear that we have high level artists involved in juried shows. I would love to see more of that in Monmouth County! I would also love to see galleries engage and offer local residencies to our native folk and to see the community work together to promote one another.

Eleanor’s art can be found on:

Vanessa Maestri Armadillo


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Vanessa Maestri Armadillo. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

One afternoon at Christmastime, I was wandering around the magnificent Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove. This building has an incredible story that hopefully we will see printed in this rag one day (hint! hint!). I was admiring the architecture and all the creative businesses that rent studios there. The studios are former classrooms in this Victorian era architectural award-winning former school. When I happened upon the Armadillo Tintype Photography Studio, I needed to know more and reached out to its proprietor, Vanessa Maestri. Vanessa invited me to her studio for a chat, photographed me with her vintage 1900’s camera and then showed me the developing process which was fascinating to watch!

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?  
I am mostly self-taught.  I did one semester at my county college for Photography before I realized that setting was not the right learning environment for me.  I continued working at it on my own with the academic pressure off.

What brought you to create the art that you make?  I found it by accident.
I saw work in this process by another (female) photographer, Joni Sternbach, in a magazine. It was so strikingly different from the photography we are used to seeing. I felt compelled to learn it.  Once I understood how different the process is from traditional photography and also how autonomous it is, I was hooked.  It completely changed my approach to photography and how I see the world.

What is your process with your art making? 

A lot of my ideas are inspired by paintings, cinema and design.  I keep a notebook where I flesh out ideas I want to try and I sketch.  I have a lot of ideas I’ve tried that didn’t end up working out.  I would say 75% of what I work on doesn’t see the light of day!  I try not to get discouraged, it’s all part of creating work with your hands, it’s imperfect.

Wet-plate process is one of the oldest photographic processes dating back to the early 1850’s.  It was used during the Civil War and through the later part of the 19th century.  While I love history, that is not what attracted me to this process.  The images are made using an emulsion that isn’t sensitive to panchromatic light (what our eyes see), so it has a really haunting way of capturing people and scenery.   My hands are on the plate through the entire process making it a truly handmade image.  There is nothing quite like it.

Can you explain the development process?
The process is wet plate collodion. I mix two salts with a syrupy substance called, collodion (which is cotton dissolved in nitric acid) and apply it to a metal plate. When submerged in a bath of liquid silver, the salts applied to the plate become silver halides rendering the plate sensitive to light. The plate is then exposed in the camera and upon development will become a direct positive image. The images are one of a kind.

Wet plate collodion became less popular in the late 19th century when dry plates were introduced. This eliminated the need for plates to be immediately developed and did not require a mobile darkroom to be carried along for on-site or traveling photography.

How do you think the community can better support their artists?
I’d love to see the art community come together in a co-op setting where all the artists involved are accountable for planning, setting up and cleaning up for an event.  Mentorship programs for young students in the area by more established artists within the community would be lovely as well.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?

I look at these vacant buildings at Sandy Hook and the hotels in the area and think of the artist residencies in hotels like The Object Hotel in Arizona and the Pfister Hotel in Minnesota. I can’t help but think of the opportunities we could have here for area artists.  I would love to see the large business’s, state parks and hotels carve out space for artist residencies and art instruction.

It would be great to see a space where working artists could have subsidized affordable rent and/or no fee shows and a cooperative communal space where each of them was held accountable to keep clean and beautiful.

Find Vanessa’s Tintype photography at:

    • IG: @armadillotintype
    • Web:
    • Her studio is located at the Jersey Shore Arts Center (a.k.a. “The Old Neptune High School”)