A majestic great blue heron soars above the Abbott Marshlands in Bordentown. A stream runs through the snow-covered Sourland Mountain Preserve. A rainbow reaches over a red barn at Hopewell’s St. Michaels Preserve. All of these scenes and more are depicted in “Portraits of Preservation,” a traveling exhibit of watercolor paintings by artist James Fiorentino. See these detailed, photo-like works weekdays through February 28 from 9 am–5 pm at the Johnson Education Center.
The center, a restored barn in Princeton, is home to the D&R Greenway Land Trust. Through programs, exhibits and lectures, the nonprofit works to protect New Jersey land.
Since its founding in 1989, D&R Greenway has permanently preserved more than 20,000 acres, including 31 miles of public trails. This educational exhibit highlights some of these safeguarded lands and their inhabitants.
“It shows it’s important to preserve these properties for people but also for all these animals to thrive,” says Fiorentino, who has been a D&R Greenway trustee for about two years. Some animals that live on these lands are endangered or threatened species.
“In our 30th year, this is an opportunity to raise awareness about not only what we have accomplished but also about what there still remains to do,” says D&R Greenway CEO Linda Mead in a press release.
In 2016, Fiorentino had a similar exhibit for the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “Based on the success of that show, the D&R Greenway thought how cool would it be to do a show of their properties?” says Fiorentino.
He traveled to preserved locations, took photos and made sketches. Based on those and other supplied photos, he created the nearly 30 works in “Portraits of Preservation” from his Raritan Township home studio.
Fiorentino says he has always enjoyed painting nature portraits, but much of his career has focused on sports art.
At 15, Fiorentino’s portrait of Reggie Jackson was featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. His painting of Roberto Clemente remains in the museum’s permanent collection.
As a senior in high school, Fiorentino became the official artist for Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,131 consecutive game streak. Fiorentino has also met and painted Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, Buzz Aldrin, and many others.
At Drew University, Fiorentino combined his passions by playing baseball and majoring in art. In 1999, he also painted baseball cards for Topps Heritage.
Fiorentino’s national and international sports-art clients are surprised to learn he creates landscape paintings as well. They’re also amazed by the scenes he finds to paint in the Garden State. “They don’t realize how beautiful New Jersey is,” says Fiorentino.
Fiorentino’s original paintings will be for sale at the exhibit. Reproductions on items such as pillows and wooden canvases range from $100–$300. A portion of the proceeds benefits D&R Greenway.
Next, the exhibit will travel to Studio 7 in Bernardsville, where it will be displayed from March 6–April 26. The opening reception will be held on March 20 from 5-7 pm.