Art Strings 2014–15 Painted Violin Raffle

Art Strings combines the visual and performing arts to raise funds for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s extensive music education and community engagement programs. Ten local artists were commissioned to create individual works of art using unfinished violins as their canvas, drawing inspiration from a musical program or work the NJSO is presenting in its 2014–15 season. NJSO volunteer ambassadors generously donate their time to display the violins at NJSO concerts and select art galleries throughout New Jersey.

Having completed its 14th year, this wonderful project has featured more than 150 violins—each and every one created by a different New Jersey artist—and has raised more than $150,000!

Read an NJSO: Backstage profile on the Art Strings program.

2014–15 Art Strings Collection

Click on photo to enlarge and view both sides of the violin.

Photos by Fred Stucker Photography


Artist: Tammy DeVoe
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Florence Jennes, Teaneck

“I painted this violin with inspiration from Strauss. I often paint while listening to music, so this project was very appealing to me. The Serenade for Winds gave me a feeling of a walk in the hills on a bright sunny day. I researched a few old photos and paintings of the Bavarian countryside from the time this music was written, and I began a subtle landscape while playing with layers of color. The backside of the violin shows the countryside colors as even more abstract. Finally, I wove a leather strap into the top as an appropriate way to hang this Serenade-inspired violin.”

With a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Tammy DeVoe paints abstract landscapes based on the beauty of environments and cultural details of varied travel destinations. The colors, shapes, energy, textures, trees, earth, sky, architecture and cultural elements of a location all contribute to the development of each painting. Sketches and studies become the start of a piece worked with multiple layers. After spending 12 years in Manhattan as a designer and painter, DeVoe now lives in New Jersey. She has years of experience with commissions, gallery exhibitions and freelance opportunities in painting and design.


Artist: Mike Fenton
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Gary Vickers, Newark

“I selected ‘Motown’ as my theme because the music it represents is not ambiguous and the images created in my mind are almost universally recognizable. The characteristics of the music and the people who performed it represent a unique period in American music. At first I thought about using caricatures of some of my favorite artists, but when I did this the results appeared cheesy and disrespectful. Motown is a genre that is better served in a more representational manner. I chose Stevie Wonder as the male icon and my female icon is dominated by Tina Turner [on reverse], with added emotional elements of the Supremes and the young Aretha.”

Mike Fenton resides in Morris Plains, NJ.


1415-Violin3-thumb.jpgViolin 3: CLASSIC VIENNA

Artist: Martha Ferguson
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Sanders Book, Morganville  

“I am very excited to have chosen the theme of ‘Classic Vienna: Mozart, Strauss Jr. & Schubert’ for my violin. I have always loved Vienna and wanted to capture the beauty of the ballrooms and the essence of Vienna in the violin’s design. I used gold paint to illuminate the piece, keeping to the traditional look of the chandeliers and ballroom dancers."

Martha Ferguson is a visual artist who divides her time between the picturesque towns of St. Augustine, Florida, and Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Here she finds ongoing inspiration for painting, allowing her to capture the essence of the subjects she loves. A graduate of Flagler College with a BA in Fine Art, Ferguson teaches watercolor at the Main Avenue Galleria in Ocean Grove.


Artist: Robert Greco
Email: [email protected]
Winner: William Patterson, Staten Island, NY

“I was inspired by Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5 due to its romantic nature, the rush and mania to complete it and the initial confusion in numbering the piece. I have spent time in Prague, which I found to be very dark, gothic and romantic, so I reflected back to my experience of exploring catacombs, churches and after-hours nightclubs.  My violin process was covering the raw piece in a black wax medium. I then added hundreds of pieces of crystals and finally embossed the entire piece. I allowed myself five hours (Dvořák completed his piece in five months).

Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5 eventually became one his more famous and recognizable pieces so I painted the back red in homage to ‘red heeled shoes,’ which represented privilege and style in the 17th and 18th century, as well as contemporary Louboutin design.”

Robert Greco’s work includes contemporary abstract encaustic paintings and sculptures that are both poetic and expressive. He works with layers, textures and varying color palettes to create dreamlike compositions that inspire introspection and demand interaction. Greco has extensive experience in curating contemporary artwork, including more than 150 shows. He studied at Long Island University and Fairleigh Dickinson University. Greco resides in Verona.


Artist: Barry Giblin
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Addyson McCullough, Newark, DE

“I was inspired to respond to the glory of the Christmas season and by the triumph of the Gospel. The theme is based on ‘the Messiah’ composed by George Frideric Handel. The spiritual savior, Jesus Christ, is depicted by the symbol of the cross. The cross is repeated within a stained glass-like motif. The process used a base color of gold metallic paint and surround the crosses with a rainbow of metallic paint colors. A small amount of latex paint was also used. It was an honor to attempt this violin painting.”

Barry Giblin received his MA from Montclair State University where he studied under Peter Barnet, Leon Deleeuw and John Czerkowitz. His works are currently exhibited at the Main Avenue Galleria in Ocean Grove. Giblin resides in Verona.

1415-Violin6-thumb.jpgViolin 6: THE MOLDAU

Artist: Jill Jackson
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Gil Mandel, Pine Brook

“Originally I chose ‘The Moldau’ by Smetana because the theme is the same tune as ‘Hatikvah,’ the Israeli national anthem. They are both based on an old European folk song. Having lived in Israel for 17 years, I assumed I would collage a violin depicting Israel. However, as I delved into some of the history of the Czech Republic and the peoples’ struggle for self rule, I felt drawn to combine both stories. Just as the collection of six tone poems is named ‘Ma Vlast’ (‘My Homeland’), my creative process resulted in a merging of both homelands. The rolling hills on the violin are actually a Czech landscape that expands out from a barren dessert similar to the Negev. It was the music that enabled the collage to emerge. The melodious sound of the river’s ebb and flow, its splashes and rushing water took on a visual form. The patterns, colors, and lines became The Moldau (‘Vltava’ in Czech) that mighty river, the homeland (‘Ma Vlast’) and the hope (‘Hatikvah’).”

Jill Jackson is a mixed media artist who studies at SOMA Adult School with Barbara Minch. She has twice won first prize at the Essex County Senior Art Show for Mixed Media. She finds comfort in cutting paper and then combining patterns, rearranging concepts and creating collage. Jackson resides in South Orange.

1415-Violin7-thumb.jpgViolin 7: WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE

Artist: Craig R. Johnston
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Maureen Keane, Eatontown

“This violin illustrates the legend of folk hero William Tell. Tell was an expert with a bow and arrow who lived in the mountains of Switzerland. As legend goes, Switzerland had a tyrannical ruler named Gessler who thought he was so important that he should be saluted even if he wasn't there. So he put his hat on a pole in the center of town and commanded the citizens to bow down to it whenever they passed it. When Tell arrived in town one day with his son, he refused to salute the hat. Gessler was outraged and challenged Tell to shoot an apple off his son’s head in one shot, which he did successfully.

“The body of this violin is painted with a Renaissance-style portraiture of a young boy, with a straightforward pose in a dreamlike landscape. The neck and waist of the violin were painted in ‘Faux Bois,’ a painted finish used to simulate figured wood. The original cardboard box that the violin came in has been painted to look like a 19th century wooden violin case. The handles, latches and label painted in ‘Trompe L'oeil’ or ‘Fool the Eye,’ a centuries-old style of painting.”  

Craig Johnson, a painter in the realist tradition, is a resident of Basking Ridge. He is a graduate of the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, with independent study in Italy and England. He also has attended the Art Students League and National Academy of Design Art School, both in New York. His paintings have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the area. Featured articles on his work have been published in American Artist, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest and Good Housekeeping. He is a member of the Salmagundi Club of New York City and The Welcome Society of Pennsylvania.

1415-Violin8-thumb.jpgViolin 8: A HERO’S JOURNEY

Artist: Christopher Lynch
E-mail: [email protected]
Winner: Sharon Ransavage, Flemington

“The inspiration for my art piece is the everyday hero like Barack Obama. He is a man that came from nothing and now holds one of the top positions in the world. He has broken stereotypes and demonstrated that a man of a different color can achieve such an accomplishment. He has inspired me and others of color to believe that there is hope for everyone. Life is no longer History (his-story) and now a new story that makes history.

“I also incorporated the family, displayed by a father, mother and children, the last of a dying breed. There is no better hero than a father to guide the family and give the protection, discipline and guidance needed to help the family to survive. Then we have the mother, the greatest of heroes. She gives life to carry on the family and nurture them along their way. Then we have the children that will carry on the family because they are the future. The children’s possibilities are endless of what they can achieve.

“I also depict the fireman-one of the many service people that put their lives on the line and take risks that others do not. I once saw a fireman run into a building and, as the building was totally engulfed in flames and with no regard for his own life, come out with a little girl in his arms. This was one of the most amazing feats and displays of heroism that I ever seen.

“I incorporated the music scale with notes to what all heroes and normal people have in common … Music, the road to tie us all together in the Journey.

“I made the interpretation of a Hero using acrylic paint on the crisp wood of the violin showing the pure grain to represent the pureness of the heroes’ spirit. I used the bright colors of our country’s patriotic flag–reds, whites and blues-as well as some purples and browns, my favorite colors.”

Christopher Lynch was born in Bronx, New York. He graduated from the School of Art and Design, studied painting and illustration at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and served in our U.S. Army overseas in Germany as a company artist. He works in airbrush, pen and ink, watercolor, acrylics and pastels. Lynch is the owner of Chris Lynch Artistries, a home improvement company that incorporates his artistic talents. He resides in Plainfield.

1415-Violin9-thumb.jpgViolin 9: A TAKE 6 HOLIDAY WITH THE NJSO

Artist: Rudy Martin
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Peg Pipchick, Cranford

“I painted the front and sides with gilded gold and silver and the back with a gesso ground. I rendered a non-religious Christmas scene on the front with a half wreath border of holly and berries with bells in the center surrounding the collaged Take 6 and NJSO logos, painted the ‘Joy to the World’ title and added a generic snow scene at the bottom, indicating a White Christmas. I rendered a religious scene on the back, collaged the Take 6 faces on a rendering of six angels over the ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ title and added the nativity scene (taken from a painting by Rueben) at the bottom. I used acrylics and finished the entire violin with two protective coats of satin polyurethane. I am grateful to be one of the 10 New Jersey artists to be chosen for such a worthy cause.” 

Rudy Martin was born in Newark, New Jersey, and has been drawing and painting since early childhood. He attended Arts High School and the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts. He retired in 2004 after a successful career in advertising and design and graphic arts. He is now a full-time artist, creating painting and drawings in oils and other media. Martin believes that there is emotion as well as motion in art. His forms, colors and dimensions, both natural and geometric, create identifiable and interpretive forms of life and living.

1415-Violin10-thumb.jpgViolin 10: SCHEHERAZADE

Artist: Marilyn Rose
Email: [email protected]
Winner: Aref Assaf, Denville

“My vision was to adorn the instrument with richly-painted surfaces punctuated by sparkling jewels and metallic accents that, like Scheherazade’s stories, would bedazzle the audience. The excitement lies in visually evoking the rich and seductive tapestry of undulating themes that make up the symphony by my choice of imagery, as well as by the manner in which I painted the violin. On the front of the violin, Scheherazade weaves her stories for the Sultan. The visual patterns, like the stories the heroine tells, intertwine the two protagonists. Using the sensual shape of the violin, the f-holes and the strings, I created a work of art that is not simply painted on a violin but is intrinsic to the shape of the instrument itself. On the back of the violin I want to take the viewers’ breath away as they discover Sinbad’s ship, viewed from the keyhole portal of the palace, as it traverses the magical space between dusk and dawn. The antique quality of the decorative metallic patterning on the sides of the violin suggest inlay and pay homage to the time and place of the narrative.”

Marilyn Rose is a fine artist, graphic designer and writer. A signature member of the Northeast Watercolor Society, New Jersey Watercolor Society, Garden State Watercolor Club and the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, her paintings have won numerous awards in statewide and national exhibitions and plein air competitions and are in private and corporate collections across the U.S. and Canada. She teaches classes and workshops at many cultural institutions including the Art School at the Old Church, in Demarest, New Jersey, and she has served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University. Last summer, Rose was selected as an artist in residence by Bryant Park, in Manhattan. Her illustrations and graphic design work have appeared in national magazines and corporate publications. Rose grew up in Chicago and earned her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis as a Fred Conway Fine Arts Fellow.