Artist showcases local eateries through new series
JERI GREENBERG doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t drawing, even as a child. “It was my escape and my sanctuary. I have early memories of sitting on the floor of my bedroom drawing figures I saw in magazines. It’s what I’ve loved from the moment I picked up my first crayon,” she says.
Greenberg attended Parsons School of Design in New York City obtaining a degree in fashion illustration and advertising art. She took a job as an illustrator at a time when major newspapers like The New York Times were using artists to advertise major department stores. When illustrators were replaced by photographers, Greenberg transitioned into the fashion industry where she worked with designers for many years and even had her own line of sportswear.
“But I missed the art part of the process,” she says. So Greenberg shifted to the world of advertising doing art for book designs.
After having children, Greenberg and her family moved to the suburbs where she found herself floundering, working part-time and trying to be what she called a “Martha Stewart cook.” At the suggestion of her husband, Greenberg took some art classes at nearby Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. It was here she found her joy again when instructor RHODA YANOW introduced her to the world of pastels. She took a step back from the stress of the garment center. “I stopped commuting and started painting for the joy of it, without a deadline,” she says.
Greenberg says she landed in Wilmington accidentally. She was teaching art workshops in Charlotte and Greensboro and visited good friends who had moved to Leland. In June 2019, Greenberg relocated her family to Wilmington where she found a close connection to the town and a welcoming and supportive art community.
As COVID waned and restaurants opened back up, Greenberg had an idea. “I love painting people who don’t know I am there watching and observing. I love telling a story in my work and making the ordinary extraordinary,” she says. Greenberg took her idea to paint Wilmington restaurant scenes using pastels to AMY GRANT, owner of Art in Bloom Gallery, and TERRY ESPY, owner of MoMentum Companies.
“Amy and Terry both loved the project and introduced me to restaurant chefs and owners who were on board from the get-go,” Greenberg excitedly recalls.
Greenberg describes the Restaurants + Art ILM project as a love letter to Wilmington and the industry that has been not only surviving but thriving. So far, Greenberg has painted scenes at S&L New York Style Deli, Winnie’s Tavern, Floriana Wilmington, Tarantelli’s, Elijah’s, The Basics, Quanto Basta: Italian Eatery & Wine Bar, and the CAM Café. The pastels are currently on display at Art in Bloom Gallery. Restaurant owners have first dibs on purchasing their paintings. A percentage of each sale will go to Nourish NC, a nonprofit dedicated to providing healthy food for children in New Hanover County.
Greenberg doesn’t know how many restaurants will ultimately be in the collection. And while she has a favorite painting so far, she says she will never tell.
To Greenberg, the studio is her refuge. “I can go up there and clean supplies if I just want to be in the space. Pastels always need cleaning,” she explains. When she’s not in her studio, Greenberg is teaching art classes at the Cameron Art Museum and on Zoom and hosting workshops. She encourages all of her students, whether painting for the love of it or competing in exhibitions, to have fun and keep the joy.
“Yes, I am a wife and mother, but artist is the title I give myself. It was hard-earned. This second act has been a wonderful gift. I am totally grateful,” Greenberg concludes.
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com
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