Love it or hate it, the BP Portrait Award is back again. It is often either exalted as a wonderful exercise in human soul searching and a celebration of the artist’s skill, or derided as “the art equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest” before that became ironic, as the Guardian’s Jessica Lack put it. This year, open to all artists over 18 (rather than just those under 40, as in previous years), the competition has attracted 1,870 submissions, a record high since its inception in 1980. The sixty selected by this year’s jury are on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh until April, representing a staggering diversity of both subjects and approaches. Friends, family members, celebrities and even an anonymous commuter are rendered in styles ranging from the poor end of an evening art class to intense photorealism, loose impressionism and surrealism. Not bad, considering that painted portraiture was once considered to be ‘dying out’ in the modern world. In some ways, encouraging painted portraiture in the modern world is difficult, given how tricky it can be to divorce the idea of a painted portrait from its most basic: a realistic representation of a person. And unfortunately, few paintings in the exhibition manage to get past this. The many photorealistic portraits, for example, are an interesting demonstration of technical skill, but not necessarily of artistic ability. Some of the submissions, however, do make attempts to engage with the genre in a new way. In “Nisha” by Darvish Fakhr, a young girl sits on a stool in a Disney princess ball gown and plastic children’s jewellery – a dark and cheapened take on Velazquez’s paintings of Spanish court princesses. Timothy Hyman’s “She and Me” is inspired in composition by Rembrandt’s self portraits of the artist poised at the canvas, yet in execution is highly expressionistic. Emmanouil Bitakis’ “Portrait” sets the subject in a surreal landscape in which he floats beside a flower, a fly and a moth, with a separate painting of a male nude below. The genre is bent in other ways too. For example, “Time to Talk” by Lynn Ahrens, which depicts a strange, distorted, unidentifiable, androgynous creature whose semi-abstract form is strongly rooted not in the quality of the subject, but of the paint, moves us uncomfortably away from what we expect from a portrait. The surreal “A. C. Grayling” by Thomas Leveritt shows the professor sitting reading in the midst of a melting ice-flow of dripping words, dissolving into his element, as it were.However, whilst there are interesting interpretations of a genre that initially seems limited, the ultimate issue is not the genre, but the generally dull level of the exhibition. For, despite the increased number of applicants, the diversity of style and the technical proficiency that many display, there seems little in the way of expressive power. Much of it is reduced to clever play, rather than any genuine exploration of the people depicted or the mode of their depiction. Perhaps the competition either needs to find some way to attract a higher calibre of painter, or to expand its repertoire to explore portraiture through more diverse media.by Hannah Dingwall
New Year’s Eve revelers will be entertained by an array of family-friendly entertainment, including this show by the Franklin Institute. (Photos courtesy City of Ocean City) OCEAN CITY MUSIC PIERTHE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE – Want to experience the Franklin Institute’s brand of interactive science right here in Ocean City, N.J.? Experience the magic of science with the Franklin Institute’s high-energy, family-friendly and energetic Traveling Science Shows. Live science shows are some of the best ways for people to see experiments and demonstrations of how science impacts our everyday lives.DISNEY’S IMAGINATION MOVERS – The Emmy Award-winning Imagination Movers bring their interactive, family-friendly rock concert to the Ocean City Music Pier for First Night 2020. Get ready for some high-flying toilet paper, ginormous balloons, vortex cannons, streamers and music, music, music. You’ll hear all your favs – like “Jump Up & Brainstorming” – and some new songs, too. This concert promises to be an amazing, interactive concert the whole family can enjoy.THE TRAMMPS – Philadelphia’s disco band THE TRAMMPS will headline the Music Pier. The band’s first major success was with their 1972 cover version of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.” The first disco track they released was “Love Epidemic” in 1973.However, they are best known for their Grammy winning song, “Disco Inferno,” originally released in 1976, becoming a U.K. pop hit and U.S. R&B hit. After inclusion in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the song was re-released in 1978 and became another hit.OCEAN CITY SPORTS AND CIVIC CENTER INFLATABLES – Visit our indoor carnival with giant inflatables!THE LEGACY BAND – With over 20 years of combined experience in the music industry, LEGACY delivers the hottest party package in the Tri-State Area and beyond.This 9-piece professional lineup packs a high-energy, feel-great punch of a performance to keep the dance floor packed at any type of event. From party classics to the top hits of today, the band carries out the legacy of the most popular dance music throughout the decades, captivating an audience of any age.LEGACY boasts performance and recording credits with Pat Benatar, Eddie Money, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, John Legend, Will Smith, DMX, Jadakiss, A Flock of Seagulls, K.C. & The Sunshine Band, Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin, to name a few.For those who remember the Trammps and for others who never heard them perform, get ready for a show.OCEAN CITY SPORTS AND CIVIC CENTER OUTSIDE BASKETBALL COURTICE RINK – The best synthetic ice-skating rink surface in the world! Skates are supplied for this 40’x88’ rink. Come join this winter wonderland fun as a DJ spins the hits of yesterday and today!GILLIAN’S WONDERLAND PIERBOARDWALK RIDES – Amusement rides with the family in mind! Fun for everyone. Rides will be open 5-9 p.m.OCEAN CITY HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASIUMHARLEM WIZARDS – Get ready Ocean City, NJ: A high-flying, slam-dunking, rim-rattling basketball show is coming to town! The world-famous Harlem Wizards will visit for an evening of great fun that will ring in 2020 with variety of fun, dazzling demonstration of hoops artistry, contests, comedy, awesome slam dunks, audience participation, merchandise giveaways and more.HEGEMAN STRING BAND – A 10-time champion string band brings a unique style and sound to Philadelphia’s Broad Street on New Year’s Day and to performances year-round. With more than 40 members, Hegeman is committed to bringing music and entertainment to people of all ages.HUGHES PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (OCHS Auditorium)“ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE’S ‘WE ARE IN PLAY’ ” – Get ready for a musical experience ripped from the pages of Mo Willems’ beloved, award-winning, best-selling children’s books. The Ocean City Theatre Company production will leave audiences doing the “Flippy Floppy Floory” dance all night long! In Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play,” Gerald and Piggie take to the stage in a rollicking adventure that is perfect for young audiences.Gillian’s Wonderland Pier on the Ocean City Boardwalk will offer fun and adventures for families on First Night. (Photo credit Wiki commons)“LET’S ROCK”: A FULLY STAGED TRIBUTE TO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – This rock-and-roll theatrical experience features a live band, lighting, costumes, dancers and spectacular choreography! Audience members will be transported back in time as we celebrate the music of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s! Musicians, singers and dancers will rock the Hughes PAC with classic rock anthems that will have you dancing in your seats. A perfect way to bring 2019 to a rockin’ end!AUXILIARY GYM OF OCEAN CITY HIGH SCHOOLCHAD JUROS MAGICIAN – Chad Juros is an award-winning magician who has been honored to share his magic with audiences around the world for over 20 years. Chad has brought his talents to such places at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, the Island of Aruba and numerous regions in Canada.You may have also seen Chad on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the CW Network’s “Penn & Teller FOOL US” and A&E’s “Criss Angel Mindfreak.” Chad is one of the longest-running entertainers at Ocean City’s First Night is honored to bring his magic back year after year.COMMUNITY ROOM OF OCEAN CITY HIGH SCHOOLANDREW HINK – A lifelong pianist and singer-songwriter, Hink is an Ocean City native and University of the Arts graduate.In March 2018, Hink debuted his first full-length original musical The Shoobie Show, which is about life by the beach and boardwalk. As 2019 draws to a close, enjoy the sounds of all 88 piano keys through the years. Come see live piano classics such as Chopin’s “Fantasie-Impromptu,” “The Entertainer, the “Super Mario” theme, plus originals and more!ROBIN GAZZARA – This 30-year-old singer-songwriter hails from South Jersey. Touring the country from the ages of 18 to 22, she has performed piano/guitar/vocals with the bands I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business and Ace Enders and a Million Different People, and shared the stage with bands such as Angels and Airwaves, Copeland, Cute Is What We Aim For, Steel Train and many more.Starting her songwriting career at 14, Gazzara’s song “Identity” was featured on The Early November’s “Friends of the Early November” CD that was sold worldwide. Following that release, she fronted a band named OneTwoThreeFour before taking the road as a touring musician. She has been performing locally at venues all over the South Jersey, mixing covers of current songs to classics, while also operating the Robin Gazzara Music Studio.Chad Juros is back to entertain by popular demand.ORIGINAIRE – Entwining soulful strings with sweetly blended male/female vocals, Originaire captivates audiences with heartfelt original songs performed with engaging chemistry and seamless musical precision. Originaire keeps an audience captivated from the first note to the last and leaves them wanting more.CAFETERIA OF OCEAN CITY HIGH SCHOOLKARAOKE PARTY – You sing the hits as Center Stage Entertainment brings their top-of-the-line karaoke set up to the high school cafeteria. Free and fun for the entire family! Join up with friends to belt out your favorite songs or just come be entertained by the karaoke singers or by the lively “KJ,” who will play dance favorites in between song selections!OBSERVATORY OF OCEAN CITY HIGH SCHOOLOCHS OBSERVATORY – View the stars through the 700-times magnification telescope. Please note this is weather-permitting.OCEAN CITY PRIMARY SCHOOLILLUSIONIST ANTHONY SALAZAR – Back by popular demand, Salazar presents an exciting show geared for the family audience! Witness amazing illusions choreographed to high-energy music, and a carefully blended combination of magic, comedy, dance, mind-reading, and audience participation that will leave you breathless!THE PHILLY KEYS DUELING PIANOS – Bringing you all the fun and good vibes of the dueling piano mentality with song requests, sing-along favorites, crowd participation, and great musicianship, this new concept is revolutionizing weddings, corporate events and private parties. The Philly Keys are leading musicians in the Tri-State area.OCEAN CITY TABERNACLE AUDITORIUMTHE DUPREES WITH THE OCEAN CITY POPS – The Duprees are known the world over for their romantic interpretations of the most beautiful love songs ever written. They have made a career out of giving new life to old hits. Starting out in the early 1960s in Jersey City, The Duprees were discovered by George Paxton of Coed Records.Impressed with their smooth vocal quality, he had them record Jo Stafford’s 1950’s ballad “You Belong To Me” with big band arrangements. It was an instant national hit and the group’s first million seller. Backed by our professional Ocean City Pops Orchestra, this show will have you singing and dancing into 2020!HYMN SING – Sing in the New Year with a joyful time of praise and worship accompanied by the Tabernacle’s own Carolyn Lothian on piano and Jeff Seals on organ. This musical First Night stop is sure to lift your spirits and put a song in your heart.All of the entertainment at First Night is good for all ages.OCEAN CITY TABERNACLE YOUTH CENTERTHE BEACH STRUMS – This ukulele group is going to demonstrate the versatility of the ukulele by playing songs from the Hawaiian Islands to Vaudeville, as well as popular American standards and selections from the Doo-wop era. The program will consist of vocals and instrumentals. During parts of the performance, the group will encourage audience participation.ST. PETER’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH SANCTUARYTHE CAPE SHORE CHORALE – Founded in 2005, the Chorale has approximately 50 dedicated volunteer singers from Atlantic and Cape May counties. Their repertoire includes both secular and sacred music.In addition to annual winter and spring performances, the Chorale has performed with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, at First Night Events in Ocean City and in many other local venues. Since its inception, the Cape Shore Chorale has been under the direction of Scott J. Breiner, one of the most respected musicians in South Jersey. The Chorale rehearses regularly at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Ocean City. Their First Night presentation is entitled “American Classics: Cole Porter/Gershwin/Hoagy Carmichael.”THE MEN OF BROADWAY II – The men of the Ocean City Theatre Company will return after last year’s hit show. Be wowed by the sounds of Broadway as leading men perform classic selections by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein, Webber, as well as contemporary selections from today’s hottest Broadway shows.ST. PETER’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH’S STAINTON ROOMJOHN PIZZI, VENTRILOQUIST – One of the hottest rising comics in the entertainment industry, Pizzi has brought his unique brand of family-friendly comedy to audiences around the country! You may remember him from Season 6 of “America’s Got Talent.” He was an opening act for entertainers like Jerry Vale, Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, Joy Behar, Weird Al Yankovic, The Trammps, The Regents, Al Martino, Clint Holmes and many more! He also has been a national headliner at comedy clubs, resorts, colleges, and theaters across the United States.OCEAN CITY AQUATIC AND FITNESS CENTERPOOL OPEN – It is open swim at the Aquatic and Fitness Center’s 25-meter indoor pool.OCEAN CITY LIBRARY LECTURE HALLOCEAN CITY HISTORY – Learn about the early history of Ocean City: as a whaling waypoint, a part of the Lenni-Lenape way of life and a home to the first settlers. The lecture includes a presentation on the US Lifesaving Station No 30.THE TESTOSTERTONES – This vocal group hails from St. Augustine Preparatory School under the direction of Mr. Matthew Wolf. The all-male a cappella ensemble is in its fifth year and has performed and competed in various events across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including many events here in Ocean City. The TestosterTone’s repertoire features strictly a cappella music with an emphasis on contemporary music.QUIZZO LIVE TEAM TRIVIA – Quizzo is a 7-round, 70-question trivia contest between teams. The game rounds include General Knowledge, Celebrity Picture Identification, Sports, Geography/ History, Entertainment and a Bonus round. Teams can guess (they don’t lose points) and they can choose to double the point value in a single round by using the “Joker.” Spelling does not count and the only rules are no cheating (using phones etc) and never call out the answer.OCEAN CITY LIBRARY CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY ROOMSTORYTELLING – Laura Kaighn of Lady Hawke Storytelling will be sharing stories of celebration, peace and promise. Perfect for the young and young at heart.OCEAN CITY COMMUNITY CENTER ATRIUMDJ AND FUN – Celebrate the end of 2019 with a dancing, crafts/activities and family fun in the atrium.OCEAN CITY SENIOR CENTERDAN CAIN MENTALIST – Cain has specialized in the art of mentalism for over a decade. He is the only person in the history of mentalism to predict the winner, final score and specific highlights of Super Bowl 46 — three months before the game!There will even by some country line dancing.COUNTRY LINE DANCE EXPERIENCE – Have a boot-scootin’ fun time with our interactive country line dance experience. The evening will feature country music and professional country line dancers who will teach everyone the hottest country line dances!OCEAN CITY HISTORICAL MUSEUM OC HISTORICAL MUSEUM – The mission of the Ocean City Historical Museum, Inc. is to delight, inspire and educate the public about the story of Ocean City and to collect, preserve and promote items relevant to its heritage, traditions and memories. Come visit, explore and learn!OCEAN CITY LIFE SAVING STATION OCEAN CITY LIFE SAVING STATION – First Night attendees will get an opportunity to visit the newly restored U.S. Life Saving Station 30 at the intersection of Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue.The station operated in Ocean City from 1885 to 1915 as part of the U.S. Life Saving Service, a precursor to the modern Coast Guard. Lifesaving stations up and down the U.S. coast were positioned not only to rescue ships and sailors in distress but to serve as places of shelter and medical clinics on shorelines that were often sparsely inhabited and remote.They were staffed with men whose motto was, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” The Ocean City station will become a living history museum that will give visitors a glimpse of what life was like there in 1905.