The Belskie in Closter's Museum

The Belskie in Closter's Museum

Journeys into Closter

A few years back for the celebration of Closter's 100th anniversary, an exhibit was staged which chronicled the role Closter’s sculptors played in the production of art in the twentieth century.  This sculpture ranged from large public monuments to intimate medallic art, as well as medical and technical sculpture. A January 11, 2004 New York Times article titled “A Tradition of Sculpture” succinctly summarized Closter’s long and distinguished sculpture tradition, referencing the notable leaders in the field who trained and practiced in Closter.

Those names include the likes of J. Massey Rhind (1860-1936), who is best known for the marble statue of Dr. Crawford W. Long located in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington D.C. (1926), and Marcel Jovine (1921-2003), who though born in Italy produced his best works while living in Closter. That work included he developed toys that included pirate ships and military vehicles. His anatomically accurate models, "The Visible Man" and "The Visible Woman", created in the early 1960s, were his best-known creations. Switching over to designing coins and medals in the 1970s, Jovine designed pieces for the 1980 Winter Olympics and for a $5 gold coin issued in 1987 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution. He also created bronze sculptures of notable horses that were distinguished by their lifelike appearance.

The most recognizable these days of the sculptors of Closter is Abram Belskie - mostly now for the museum named after him. The museum was started to preserve, house and exhibit the works of Belskie, a scupltor, medical illustrator and resident of Closter.

Belskie was born in London and grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. He graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 1926. In 1929 he emigrated to New York, USA, to work for British sculptor John Gregory.

In 1938 Belskie was introduced to physician Robert Latou Dickinson and subsequently applied his skills to create medical models, some of which were exhibited at the World's Fair of 1939. In 1942, he created two sculptures, Norma and Normman, based on data collected by Dickinson, intended to represent the statistical ideal female and male figure. After Dickinson's death in 1950, Belskie instead created medallions (occasionally medicine-related).

Belskie died in 1988 and, in 1993, the Belskie Museum of Arts and Science was opened. It was entirely funded by membership fees, donations, grants and local subsidies.

Today the museum exhibits ten shows yearly; it also has a collection of works donated by exhibiting artists. The museum is also a place of innovation for modern day artists - working in collaboration with the Art Students League of New York and the Vytlacil School of Plain Art Painting in Sparkill, New York in producing exhibits by instructors and students. As part of Northern Valley Regional High School's community service program, senior students organize, install and mount their own works of art each May under the guidance of their teachers and the museum.

The Belskie at once celebrates Closter's traditional artistic roots as it nurtures and encourages new generations to continue to create next chapters in this legacy.

It is a local gem.

Photo Acknowledgement and credit: Belskie Museum