On July 2nd, 11 year-old Autumn de Forest – hailed as an international prodigy – awaited anxiously beside Morey’s Piers chief executives Jack and Will Morey at Adventure Pier’s brand new artisans’ colony. Previously labeled “a pint sized Picasso”, Autumn and a large crowd of Wildwood visitors and interested press geared up to marvel at the largest replica of a de Forest original painting to date. Displayed on the front side of the artBOX colony’s only vertical shipping container, the painting was veiled with a tarp that hung from a massive crane. Autumn and the Morey brothers climbed atop a lift to kick off the much anticipated unveiling.
“On behalf of Morey’s Piers,” started Jack Morey, “we’d like to welcome Autumn to Wildwood…Having Autumn here helps us celebrate our newest project, artBox.” Jack described Autumn’s celebrity appearance as the “cherry on top” of artBOX’s grand opening celebration. This first-of-its-kind boardwalk artist colony is made entirely from re-purposed shipping containers, features the original works and studios of five renowned local artists, and has been described by the Morey brothers as a tribute to the inherently quirky Wildwood culture.
Autumn then took the mic to explain her vision for this commemorative piece. Originally from Las Vegas, Autumn made her very first trip to the Jersey Shore last summer for her hugely successful premiere exhibition at Ocean Galleries. “Last year when I came to Stone Harbor for my show, I met so many friends,” started Autumn. “When I heard about this terrible, terrible hurricane that hit the area I was scared for my friends,” explained the compassionate young artist. It was then that young Autumn decided to do a commemorative painting to honor post-Sandy reconstruction efforts and assist her Jersey Shore friends and connections. The original version of this tribute painting will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund.
Autumn was inspired by her previous charitable pieces benefitting relief support for both Haiti and Japan. “As I tried to do in my paintings for Haiti and Japan, I wanted to incorporate the flags of both New Jersey and New York,” explained Autumn. Autumn thus painted the figures of two of the women that can be found on the New Jersey and New York state flags holding hands and looking at peace. “They represent a uniting of states,” Autumn informed the crowd. This impressive metaphor for the victims most affected by Super Storm Sandy is a testament to Autumn de Forest’s great talent. “If we can unite, then I think no storm can stop us,” concluded Autumn, echoing the words painted across the bottom of her commemorative piece.
Though Governor Chris Christie could not be in attendance, he sent his heartfelt congratulations and gratitude to the young artist via a personal letter read by Will Morey. The governor sincerely thanked Autumn for using her “beautiful work” to raise support and awareness for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Christie continued, stating that this magnificent commemorative piece was an “outstanding example” of the heartfelt response he has seen in the wake of Super Storm Sandy.
After the dramatic reveal, Autumn signed her name across the the 8’ x 30’ installation of her original painting, finishing it with one of her signature hearts. After enjoying the amusement rides of Morey’s Piers, Autumn plans to prepare for her second ever Ocean Galleries exhibition. The “Prodigy Returns: A New Collection of Artwork by Autumn de Forest” opens on Thurs., July 4, 2013 and runs through Sun., July 14, with Autumn making special gallery appearances at receptions from 7- 10 p.m. on Fri., July 5 and Sat., July 6, and from 1- 4 p.m. on Sun., July 7.
By Megan Kummer