An artist looks at Ocean City past and present

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Route 52 Ocean City Bridge, by Marie Natale.

Watercolor artist Marie Natale likes to paint New Jersey Shore landmarks that are the kinds of places that people have loved for generations — like Ocean City’s Ninth Street Bridge or its iconic Yacht Club — but may have changed over the decades in a nuanced way few readily notice.

Her latest exhibit, “Looking Back/Moving Forward,” provides just that contrast. The Ocean City-centric offering, which is on display July 1 through July 31 at the Ocean City Arts Center, features a look at local places from past decades and today.

For example, the new and old bridge and the former Mack & Manco, now called Manco & Manco after a family dispute changed the name of the beloved pizzeria. In the collection are the Flanders Hotel with its famous salt water pool, the restaurants Hogates and Chris’s Seafood, and a travelogue of other locally famous places. All the paintings are for sale.

“This show demonstrates the strength of Ocean City’s year-around and summer residents and visitors in rebuilding after natural disasters and other adversities,” said Natale, of Egg Harbor Township. “The paintings remind us that Ocean City respects tradition and yet has remained fresh during the past decades to maintain its reputation as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”

Natale, who holds a master’s degree in art education from Rowan University, keeps an ambitious schedule teaching watercolor throughout the U.S. and abroad and she also offers a weekly class at the Ocean City Arts Center. She spent much of her artistic career teaching in the public school system, while designing a line of children’s clothing and creating unique garden containers for retailers such as Lowe’s and Wal-Mart.

Her paintings have long graced the covers of Ocean City Magazine and the resort’s annual guide books.

Natale was a driving force three years ago in an exhibit at the Noyes Museum in Oceanville to raise money for the young children of a fellow artist, Chun Yan Hilyard, who was murdered. Hilyard’s husband, John Hilyard, a casino dealer, was convicted for the crime and sent to prison.

A free “Meet the Artist” reception will be held 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 12, at the Ocean City Arts Center, 1735 Simpson Avenue, Ocean City. The arts center is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed Sundays. Further information about the arts center and the exhibit may be obtained at or by calling 609-399-7628.


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