A Tale of Two Cities :: An Interview with Irene Pomianowski

“I feel there is a soul and an unknown story behind every face”
An Interview with Irene Pomianowski


I was intrigued by this particular artist submission because I share a lot of the same sentiments as painter/photographer Irene Pomianowski. We both love the advantages of living and working as an artist in two cities at the same time. ParkTowers, and has access to the Secret Garden in Orange. Read how this has inspired her and what she likes to photograph the most and more from our interview below:

Patricia Rogers: What is your favorite subject to paint/photograph? Why?

Irene Pomianowski: Photographing people is my favorite subject because I feel there is a soul and an unknown story behind every face.  In my favorite photos, I hope I captured just one fleeting moment of that story.  Although I consider composition and contrast, I would like the viewer to connect with the subject and wonder “who is he or she?”

ireneI am also an admirer of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Street  Photography.


And then I do something just because it’s fun!

This is my “Starving Artist Collage;” photograph the pears; paint the pears; eat the pears!


But painting is a whole other side of my brain.  When I photograph a landscape or seascape, or an architectural detail, I see an abstract painting.

If someone has some time to kill, they can check my Flickr site and see many different ways I photograph and paint (all 4000+ postings)!  Flickr.com/photos/bellearielparis.  If they only have 46 seconds, check out YouTube


Which exhibitions have you exhibited at the Firehouse Gallery?

I entered and was accepted for two Juried Exhibitions at the Firehouse Gallery:

Open Orange – This was the first time I ever had my work exhibited in a Gallery, so I refer to myself as the “Grandma Moses” of photography! I was accepted for the juried exhibitions “Open Orange” in May 2014 and “Slice of Orange” in October 2014.  There is a juried Open Orange exhibit coming soon, but I missed the application deadline.

Processed with MOLDIV

Processed with MOLDIV

Slice of Orange – These photos each contain the color Orange, but show very different aspects of the city.

Processed with MOLDIV

Processed with MOLDIV

How did you feel about being in a group show with other local artists?

Besides the Firehouse Gallery exhibitions, the upcoming Exhibit at the West Orange Gallery in May will be the first time I will be in a show with four other local artists.  I am looking forward to seeing their work and meeting them.

How did you come to the Valley Arts District? What attracts you about the Valley?

My first introduction to the Valley Arts District was taking the walking tour.  A photo I took was included in an article written by another tour participant. I was so excited about what was happening right in my own backyard (literally…our Rear Garden is located in Orange) that as a Newark Museum volunteer, I arranged for the Walking Tour to be part of the Museum’s annual volunteer trip, including a backstage visit to Luna Stage and a delicious buffet luncheon at Hat City Kitchen.


What do you do for fun in the valley arts district? what else have you seen at luna stage? 

I have been a Season Pass holder at Luna Stage for several years and have seen many excellent and exciting performances.  One of the most memorable was “American Moor,” a 90-minute solo play written and performed by Keith Hamilton Cobb.  It was Shakespeare’s Othello as seen through the life experience of the actor.

What do you like about living in two cities? How has your photography benefited from that?

What an interesting question….I have actually lived in “two cities” most of my life.  As a kid, I lived in Lambertville, NJ, and often walked across the bridge to New Hope, PA;  I also lived in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and walked the bridge between them; and for the last 33 years, I’ve entered my 14th floor apartment from East Orange, while the bedroom windows overlook the Rear Garden which is in Orange!

As a photographer, I get to take pictures of the changing seasons in both cities, the sunrise in the East and sunsets to the West, and the most amazing Fireworks on July 4th.  My photographs of the garden were used in articles in both the Newark Star-Ledger and the South Orange Patch.

What do you like about living in Harrison Park Towers?

It is a beautiful building, well-maintained by an efficient staff.  There are great amenities, such as the large garden, in-house Fitness Center, Community Room,

24-hour Door Attendants, and a Commuter Van between the building and the Brick Church Train Station with Midtown Direct Service to Penn Station, NY.  More details can be found on the Website harrisonparktowers.com; I took the photos of the building and grounds.

Among our residents we have Artists, Musicians; at least one poet and one playwright; a Board Member of the East Orange Arts Council, and four residents who are Volunteer Docents at the Newark Museum.

Over the years, I have made good friends with caring, considerate and fun neighbors.  It’s kind of an inside joke, but I’ve been nicknamed “the short sister.”  Just last night, five of us attended the Luna Stage production of “Old Love, New Love.”

What is the secret garden? Describe where you live to an artist who may want to move there?

The garden was designed by William T. Gotelli who was the contractor who built Harrison Park Towers in 1956.  It was first named “the Secret Garden” in the 2005 Star-Ledger article because you can only see it from inside the Rear Lobby of the building.  It was built on top of the two-story underground parking garage.

While Harrison Park is not specifically designed for artists, there are a number of residents who are artists.  We featured them in a recent issue of our newsletter.  There are great views, and the convenient location by car or public transportation.

Talk about your journey as a photographer/visual artist

I was always interested in drawing, but like many people of my generation, my education was based on “okay, but what’s your day job.”  I’ve never had any formal training but have taken numerous Adult Ed classes and Workshops in Painting, Sketching, Monoprinting, and Photography.  In fact, Artist/Photographer Mansa Mussa was my instructor in a couple of Photography classes at the Newark Museum, including a 3-day film class.  This is one of the photos which I took, developed the negative and printed at the photo lab in NJIT during the class.


A Valley Arts Drink & Draw class is on my “to do” list.  Perhaps Craft Beer will inspire Orange-ian Artists the way Absinthe inspired the Parisians!

If you were not a visual artist, what would you be doing?

Perhaps a Travel Writer, or a Food & Wine Critic…..but at age 81, I don’t think there’s much chance of that happening!

How do you want your work to make an impact on the world?

If people would just take the time to really see one another (even if it’s only in a photograph), perhaps we would stop hurting one another. 

What is the most important aspect of being an artist? why?

The ability of an artist to create a visual representation that connects to the viewer, without the need for words.  This becomes a new work of art that is a collaboration between the artist and the observer. 

…….Or as my friends would say, “OK, Irene….no more wine for you!”

Tell us about any future projects, exhibitions you have coming up

My photos will be in a Pop-up Exhibition in May 2016 at the West Orange Arts Center Gallery and shop at 551 Valley Road, West Orange.  Artists Godfrey Pinder, Debbie Weber McCollum, Catherine Delett and Chrissy McIntyre will also be in the show. My photos will be in the “Pop-up” exhibit along with the works of four other artists, from May 7 thru May 28, 2016.  The West Orange Arts Council is at 551 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ.  The Gallery hours are Saturday & Sunday, Noon-4:00 PM.  Unlike the Firehouse Gallery, each participant is responsible for hanging their own works.  This is a first for me…hammer, nails, level, and a friend’s help required!  More info is available at:  www.woarts.org

A future project may be a series of photographs entitled “Men in Hats.”  That might be an appropriate exhibit for Hat City Kitchen….don’t you think??

Written by Patricia Rogers

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