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Opening This Weekend: A Not So Ordinary Art Show At Plain Jane’s

BETHEL — Plain Jane’s Restaurant at 208 Greenwood Avenue in Bethel will be anything but plain by the time Bethel artist Adele Moros finishes hanging the art work of six of the restaurant’s regular patrons on Saturday, August 3.

Billed simply as “The Artists of Plain Jane’s Art Show,” the more than 70 original cartoons, acrylics, oils, and watercolors by Orlando Busino, Frederick Carpenter, Joseph Farris, Dana Fradon, Jack Medoff, and John Smallwood-Garcia will be on exhibit to the public beginning Sunday, August 4, through the month of September. An opening reception will take place Sunday, August 18, at 2:30 pm.

The men are among a group of artists, authors, teachers, and scientists who have been meeting at Plain Jane’s for lunch and laughter every Wednesday for the past 15 years. Originally numbering nearly 20 men, the group has been lunching together since 1969, at various restaurants in the area, until finally settling on the comfortable surroundings of Plain Jane’s.

The lunch group does not linger long on work-related chat, although Mr Smallwood-Garcia, the group’s newest member as of 2007 (“We’re still deciding if he’s okay. He’s on probation,” said Mr Farris) describes the weekly gathering as “dinner and a show,” with plenty of cartoon gags flying around the table.

“As a rule,” said Mr Farris, “we don’t talk about cartooning.”

“It’s politics, social issues, and that kind of thing,” piped in Mr Medoff.

The artists showing at “The Artists of Plain Jane’s” have known each other for years, through career connections. “We all use to see each other in New York City all the time,” Mr Fradon said. “We worked for many of the same magazines together,” he said, and several of the cartoonists of that 1960s era lived in the western New York and Connecticut towns and took the same train down to the city each day.

“Not only did we know each other, but we liked each other,” Mr Fradon said. The lunch group developed out of their commonalities and has served as a social function since.

If the artists’ names are not familiar, their distinctive works are. They have appeared in internationally known publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Playboy, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post for the past half century.

Mr Busino, of Ridgefield, sold his first cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post, and made his career since as a cartoonist. Semiretired now, he continues to draw. Well-known as an animal cartoonist, he has been the illustrator of the Boy’s Life “Gus” cartoon, since the 1970s. Mr Busino has been the recipient of the Best Magazine Cartoonist of the Year Award from the National Cartoonist Society, three times. Twenty of his cartoons will be shown at Plain Jane’s.

Frederick Carpenter is a retired English teacher from New Canaan High School, who has been published in The New York Times, and who took up oil painting “about 20 years ago,” he said. Mr Carpenter, who lives in Bethel, will have six of his oil and acrylic paintings of landscapes, seascapes, and figures in the August and September show.

“Think Vincent van Gogh,” suggested Mr Fradon, referring to his friend’s artwork.

Joseph Farris plans to exhibit 15 of his works. He is known for his covers done for publications such as Barron’s, Harvard Magazine, and Industry Magazine, and has been a contract cartoonist with The New Yorker for more than 40 years. His artwork has been shown in several galleries and exhibitions, and his paintings and cartoons can be found in private and public collections. In November 2011, National Geographic published his book, A Soldier’s Sketchbook. The illustrated memoir is drawn from the letters, sketches, snapshots, and mementos of Mr Farris, a Danbury native and current resident of Bethel, as an infantryman in World War II.

Dana Fradon is the only Newtowner in the group. Mr Fradon’s relationship as a cartoonist with The New Yorker dates back to 1950. His more than 1,400 cartoons published in that magazine over the years are often wickedly witty stabs at politics and business. Mr Fradon has turned his talents to writing and illustrating children’s books, more recently. Harold the Herald, Sir Dana: A Knight, and The King’s Fool mix humor and history, and The King’s Fool won Mr Fradon an award as one of two best children’s books in 1993. Sixteen paintings and watercolors, as well as cartoons from his days at The New Yorker will be Mr Fradon’s contribution to the show. “One third of them will be cartoons; one-third oil paintings; and one-third watercolors,” Mr Fradon said. As with the other exhibitors, many of Mr Fradon’s pieces will be available for purchase.

Jack Medoff has also spent decades in the cartoon business, drawing for newspapers, magazines, and advertisements. While he has drawn many cartoons over the years for Playboy and Penthouse, Mr Medoff also draws kids’ humor books that focus on “a play on words,” he said. The Weston cartoonist continues to contribute works to magazines. His artwork has been exhibited in Westport galleries, and at Square Circle Gallery in Rockport, Mass.

“I started out drawing editorial cartoons in San Francisco, where I grew up,” said Mr Smallwood-Garcia. He was looking for a life drawing class after moving to Brookfield in 2007. Googling around the Internet, he stumbled upon an article mentioning Mr Busino “and he was silly enough to have his phone number in the phone book,” he said. He called Mr Busino and asked if they could meet. Before he knew it, he was joining the men’s group for lunch each week at Plain Jane’s.

Trained as an illustrator, Mr Smallwood-Garcia has led design teams in San Francisco for corporate communications and exhibition design. He has been a recipient of the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, and his works are in permanent collections at the Cartoon Art Museum and the Contra Costa Civic Arts Gallery. He is currently working on an animated cartoon, and will exhibit several of his cartoons and watercolors at “The Artists of Plain Jane’s.”

Plain Jane’s has long supported local artists, with featured art shows changing every two to three months. “The Artists of Plain Jane’s Art Show” can be viewed during regular restaurant hours throughout August and September. Plain Jane’s is open Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 9 pm, and on Sunday, 10 am to 2:30 pm.

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