Rudoren mural: 10 Van Vleck St.

Featuring the work of Barbara Rocas ,barbararocas.portfoliobox.net

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Gary Rudoren’s Facebook page shows him standing in front of a mural in Israel. The Rudoren family lived in Israel for four years, while Jodi Rudoren was bureau chief there for the New York Times. Today she is a New York Times associate managing editor and Gary is an architect and teaches improvisation at Montclair Film. The family moved to Montclair at the beginning of 2016.

The Israeli mural, Gary said, may have had a not-quite-conscious effect on the Rudoren family decision to have one painted on a wall that separates their home on Van Vleck Street from the restaurants on Valley Road.

The mural, which features garden imagery, to complement Van Vleck House & Gardens, bright colors and mod looking faces, can be seen from the street. It will have a grand unveiling this Sunday.

Their driveway has a small slice of ground with a wall next to it: it blocks the view of the shops’ HVAC and refrigeration units. That wall had been sheltered by evergreen trees.

The evergreen trees did not survive the winter of 2017.

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READ: MONTCLAIR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS PLAN OVERHAUL OF CHESTNUT STREET MURALS

READ: ARTIST WHO ‘BEAUTIFIED’ GLENRIDGE AVENUE MURAL COMES FORWARD

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They called their gardener to get an estimate on removing the trees, and began thinking about what could replace them.

“And I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a street-art mural,” Jodi said.

They wondered who could paint it. One of their 11-year-old twins, Shayna, is an artist, attending Glenfield Middle School, but wasn’t ready for a project like that, Jodi said.

Gary is an architect, and, Jodi said, “I am a word person.”

“And I am none of those things,” said 11-year-old Lev, who attends Buzz Aldrin Middle School.

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The Rudoren family.

At first the Rudoren family thought of making the project a community project, and they did involve some Montclair High School students who would make the project their senior option.

The girls who wanted to do it worked on a design and began the project, but in the end, the schedules did not really work out.

Enter Barbara Rocas, the artist next door.

Literally.

She lives on the other side of the Rudorens’ fence.

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Barbara Rocas at work. COURTESY GARY RUDOREN

Rocas, a January 2018 graduate of Montclair State University, lives around the corner from the Rudoren family.

Her boyfriend was working at Hot Bagels Abroad, one of the shops on Valley Road near the Rudorens’ house, and that’s how they found her.

“To get the thing approved, Gary had been talking to the landlord of those restaurants, who owns the wall,” Jodi explained. “We own the little dirt in front of the wall.”

A manager of the bagel shop would often check in with Gary and ask how the mural was going. When Gary told him the high school students had fallen through, the manager suggested he talk to an employee whose girlfriend was an artist.

Rocas came over, showed them her portfolio, and signed on to do the job.

They decided to use elements of the original sketch made by the high school girls, and incorporate a quotation and some faces.

The quotation is by Leonard Cohen: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

“That was inspired by her book,” Jodi said. “She had done some very street art-ish style stuff that was for posters for rock concerts, and had included a lot of words that were kind of very arty.”

The Leonard Cohen quotation is one of Gary’s favorites, Jodi said.

Rocas designed the mural to circle around that quotation, and added some faces “to make it more lively,” the artist said.

She painted a large crack in the wall, with blue shining through it: one of Lev’s favorite elements. White sunglasses on the faces is a feature entirely Barbara’s own, Jodi said.

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The Rudoren family mural.

“She took this idea of a garden growing out of a wall, and made it modern, and made it her own,” Gary said.

Rocas has a degree in teaching and currently works as a substitute art teacher, and part time at the Bloomfield Library.

This is her first outdoor piece, and that has had its own challenges. “I was trying to prime one day when it was misty out. I realized outdoor painting would drip when it was wet,” she said with a laugh.

The mural has already attracted notice, and that’s what the Rudorens want.

“We are a cut-through street, to Valley,” Gary said. “And it has taken on a little bit of a community feel for us. I’ve heard from guys who work in the strip center, and people walking by. Barbara’s gotten a lot of compliments from dog walkers.”

“For me, definitely, part of the thing would be that people would stop,” Jodi said. “That people knew in the community.”