September 15, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

It was a madhouse. Everybody was running, women were screaming. All of this pollution coming out of the debris; it was like snow falling out of the sky.

—Sonny Rollins

I didn’t know how to release myself from him, and … I had some backlash, you know, on a personal level.

—Michael K. Williams on playing Omar

My idea of “shock and awe” has nothing to do with the label the Bush administration attached to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, wherein “awe” was supposed to suggest disarray, panic, confusion, and terror. “Awe” is what I feel watching Michael K. Williams’s astonishing performance as Omar in The Wire. And it’s what I’ve felt in the presence of the Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins, another native New Yorker who, like Williams, was hit hard by 9/11. With Rollins at his most wondrous, there’s no end to awe, it’s like his definition of music as “an open sky.” And 20 years on the other side of 9/11, the giant is still standing, having marked his 91st birthday on September 7, the day after the death at 54 of Michael K. Williams.

Toxic Snow

TV reports of New Yorkers being evacuated in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks referred to “an elderly black man carrying a saxophone case.” According to @jazztimes, “Sonny Rollins had been home in his Manhattan apartment, six blocks north of the World Trade Center, when the attacks occurred. From the street, he watched the second tower go down.” The next day the National Guard evacuated him from his apartment, where he’d been living for almost 30 years.

Interviewed on September 11, 2019, Rollins commented, “When that second plane hit, it was like snowfall coming down. And that snow, of course, was just toxic stuff. Anyway, I gulped some of it down. We were waiting until the next day to be evacuated, so I picked up my horn to play. I took a deep breath and felt that stuff down to my stomach. I said, ‘Oh, wow, no practicing today.’ … So yeah, it’s been conjectured that that’s part of what happened to me.” He’s referring to the pulmonary fibrosis that ended his playing days in 2012. As he put it in an NPR interview, “I had to go through quite a period of adjustment after I realized that I couldn’t blow my horn anymore.”  more

TAKING ORDERS: “Waitress” is among the touring Broadway shows to come to the newly renovated State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick this season. (Photo by Jeremey Daniel)

Tickets for State Theatre New Jersey’s 2021-22 Broadway Season are now on sale. The theater has been renovated. Season tickets are also available and come with special benefits.

The series includes Summer: The Donna Summer Musical on November 26-28; Anastasia December 3-5; and An American in Paris on February 25-27. Other Broadway Series shows in 2022 include Waitress April 14-16; and Hairspray, on April 29-May 1.

Additional shows included in the “Buy More Save More” offer include the Jimmy Buffet musical, Escape to Margaritaville on October 8-10; the musical Million Dollar Quartet on November 2; Cats on March 18-20; Riverdance – 25th Anniversary Show on April 19-21; and the new musical, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory on May 13-15.

Visit STNJ.org for ticket information.

Banjo player Bela Fleck presents My Bluegrass Heart, featuring Michael Cleveland, Sierra Hull, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz, and Bryan Sutton on Friday, September 24 at 8 p.m., live at McCarter Theatre.

My Bluegrass Heart is the third chapter of a trilogy which began with the 1988 album Drive, and continued in 1991 with The Bluegrass Sessions.

“I was kind of surprised, frankly, when I sent out the invite for the first touring ensemble, because everyone I asked said yes,” Fleck said in an article on the McCarter website. “So now I can present an incredible first offering, with some of the brightest lights on the scene. I can’t wait.”

Fleck has earned 15 Grammy awards in nine different fields. His appearance at McCarter is the first to celebrate the return of in-person performances. Visit Mccarter.org for tickets.

GILMAN AT WORK: Drawings and works on paper by artist Ann Gilman are featured in “At the still point of the turning world,” on view through December 17 at the  Anne Reid ’72 Gallery at Princeton Day School.

Anne Reid ’72 Gallery at Princeton Day School, 650 Great Road, presents “At the still point of the turning world,” an exhibition of drawings and works on paper by Anne Gilman, on view through December 17.

Gilman is a Brooklyn-based artist who works in varying formats that include large-scale drawings and multi-panel projects. The political, social, and personal concerns that fuel all forms of moods, worries, and psychological states of being are the materials that feed her work. She begins by using her own thoughts and experiences as a starting point, writing extemporaneously across 1/2-inch lines she rules across the page. The resulting drawings are a mapping of information, thought and emotion. The exhibition takes its title from T.S. Eliot’s epic “Four Quartets,” a meditation on the nature of time. Eliot leads the reader through undulations of the past and the future, re-centering us consistently back within the present moment. Gilman does much the same in her artwork; echoing the practice of meditation through observation and acceptance of thoughts and emotions as they come.  more

Gail Bracegirdle’s “Quicksand,” above, and Joseph DeFay’s “Stream,” below, are featured in their dual exhibit on view through October 3 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville.

Gail Bracegirdle and Joseph DeFay are displaying their unique artwork together at the Artists’ Gallery, located at 18 Bridge Street in Lambertville, through October 3.

The exhibit, “Variations,” features DeFay’s photography, which focuses on close views of nature, and Bracegirdle’s textured abstract watercolors paintings, some which include collage elements.

The Artists’ Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. A closing event will be held on Sunday, October 3, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit LambertvilleArts.com.

“THE DOG TEAM TAVERN”: This hand-hooked rug by Lucy Walsh of Clinton has been accepted for inclusion in “2021 Celebration of Hand-Hooked Rugs 31,” sponsored by Rug Hooking Magazine.

The Hunterdon County Rug Artisans Guild has announced that two of its members have been accepted for inclusion in “2021 Celebration of Hand-Hooked Rugs 31,” a premier juried collection of the year’s best hand-hooked rugs sponsored by Rug Hooking Magazine.

Included in “Celebration 31” are the following works from its members:   

In the Rugs Based on Original Designs category: “Bison,” by Judy Carter of Willow Street, Pa. (this is Carter’s 17th appearance in “Celebration”).  Sadly, all who knew Carter grieve her recent passing.  She leaves the rug hooking community a lasting legacy of beauty, knowledge, friendship, and talent.

In the Primitive category: “The Dog Team Tavern” by Lucy Walsh of Clinton, N.J. (this is Walsh’s third appearance in “Celebration”).  Walsh’s rug honors the Grenfell hooking style and influence. 

The mission of the Hunterdon County Rug Artisans Guild is to perpetuate the tradition and art of rug hooking in all its various forms. Visit the Guild’s website (hcrag.com) for information on its programs and activities.

September 8, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

A little bit of courage is all we lack
So catch me if you can, I’m goin’ back…

—Carole King, from “Goin Back”

Looking ahead to Thursday, Princeton’s first day of the new school year, I’ve been going back to school, way way back to my first, McCalla Elementary, which was named for Bloomington Indiana’s first female school superintendent and was an easy two-block walk from home. Otherwise, all my schooling, K-12, took place in the same building, with one notable exception (ninth grade in New York City). The country school where I spent grades four through six is a lesser exception since getting there involved a long school bus ride through hills and valleys and woods to a two-room red-brick schoolhouse called Poplar Grove. That humble building still stands and so does the two-story Classical Revival structure that housed McCalla, which is currently used by the Indiana University School of Fine Arts for sculpture classes.

Lost and Found

After a too-hasty online search, I actually began to fear that the university had demolished the Art Deco building I’d entered as a kindergartner and left as a graduating senior. I was aware that the interior had been gutted long ago because I have a small, neatly cut and polished chunk of the wooden banister with a small plaque attached: University School 1937-1964. On the opening page of my senior yearbook there’s a two-page photograph of U-School’s Indiana limestone facade next to which a “lamentful” sophomore friend has drawn a ballpoint arrow and the words, “Stu, if you’re smart, boy, you’ll stay the hell out of here.”

And so I did for decades, until a classmate and I wandered inside on a June day in 1989. As soon as I walked down the hallway where my locker had been, I realized that I’d been there before in my dreams. I don’t mean nightmares, just dreams of the sort that take you down long, strange, vaguely familiar hallways and stairways and landings, while you try to fulfill enigmatic missions at the urging of various ghostly teachers whose names you’ve forgotten or would prefer not to remember. In these dreams I sometimes end up on the ground floor outside the boy’s locker room, the scene of an ugly, real-life fistfight between a senior class officer and a tough country kid. The class officer was getting the worst of it, his nose bleeding all over his powder blue cashmere sweater. Here were two societal extremes, the elite city kid and the country boy who was never invited to parties of the in-crowd, even if he happened to be a hero on the field.

My friend and I were in there no longer than the time it took to hear the spooky quavering of our voices echoing in the hallway. We’d been kidding around, like old times, and the sounds we were making came back at us like something on the soundtrack of a low-grade horror movie.  more

SO PERCUSSION: The ensemble will perform in a free (ticketed) concert in Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Saturday, September 18. The event marks the University Department of Music’s first in-person campus concert since the pandemic.

So Percussion will present a free (ticketed) concert on Saturday, September 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium, on the campus of Princeton University.

This marks the University Department of Music’s first in-person campus concert since the pandemic. The University’s Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence will be joined by guest artist Shodekeh Talifero, a beatboxer, vocal percussionist, and breath artist who pushes the boundaries of the human voice.

The program will feature works by Bryce Dessner, Nathalie Joachim, Shodekeh Talifero, Jason Treuting, and Julia Wolfe, including Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings, a work commissioned by Carnegie Hall for which the composer worked with instrument builder Aron Sanchez of the Blue Man Group to develop new dulcimer-like instruments for the ensemble. Dessner has become a familiar voice on campus, with a new work co-commissioned by Princeton University Concerts to be performed by the Takács String Quartet in February. 

In accordance with Princeton University policy, all concert attendees are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to wear a mask inside the concert venue. Unvaccinated children will not be permitted entry. Free tickets are required, and will become available on Monday, September 13 at 12 p.m. (ET) online at music.princeton.edu. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

Fingers crossed, New York City Ballet’s production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” will be back on the stage of the David Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center from November 26 through January 2. There are 47 performances of the holiday classic, which Balanchine created in 1954. Single tickets go on sale October 11. There are certain protocols in place involving COVID testing for unvaccinated children, and other requirements. Visit nycballet.com for details and online purchases.

Danielia Cotton

After a year and a half pandemic shutdown, Hopewell Theater is reopening its doors on Friday, September 10 at 8 p.m. — the date of the Theater’s four-year anniversary — with a grand reopening show featuring international recording artist Danielia Cotton.

The event begins with a pre-show party at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 8 p.m. live music performance by Cotton.

“Happy to be a part of the official reopening of my hometown theater post COVID lockdown,” says Cotton, a rock singer-songwriter born and raised in Hopewell. “It is my honor to once again perform in this small but mighty theater that has become a true gem in the town I grew up in.”

During the pre-show celebration, patrons are invited to enjoy light gourmet refreshments, and sip to toast the grand reopening. There will also be activities such as a photo booth and prize giveaways. Patrons can enter to win giveaways such as Danielia Cotton merchandise and a dual membership to the theater. Additionally, all attending patrons will receive a free gift, courtesy of the artist and Hopewell Theater.

“We are relived to be reopening and grateful to our patrons for their support during this long shutdown,” says Sara Scully, co-owner of Hopewell Theater. “We cannot wait to see everyone together again in out theater at our reopening celebration, September 10.”

The theater has taken the necessary precautions for the safety of its patrons, staff, and artists, including HVAC upgrades, thorough cleaning and sanitation before and after shows, and requiring all patrons, talent, and staff to wear a mask when in the building.

Tickets for the reopening celebration are for sale for $30-35 ($36 on day of show) and can be purchased at tickets.hopewelltheater.com.

Following the reopening celebration, the theater will reopen at full capacity with an eclectic lineup of fall programs.

Hopewell Theater is located at 5 South Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell. For more information, visit HopewellTheater.com.

The Nassau Club of Princeton, 6 Mercer Street, will present an Artist’s Reception with Charles David Viera on Sunday, September 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. Viera will discuss his current exhibition, “Reality Revisited: Paintings by Charles David Viera,” on display at The Nassau Club through September 26. The reception is free and open to the public but due to COVID restrictions, no refreshments will be served, and visitors are encouraged to wear masks. For more about the artist, visit charlesdavidviera.com.

“CROSSWORLDS”: This work by Jeff McConnell is part of a pinhole photography exhibit, featuring photographs by seven local artists, on view at Small World Coffee on Nassau Street September 9 through October 5. A reception is Sunday, September 12 from 12-3 p.m.

Small World Coffee, 254 Nassau Street will host an exhibit by seven local artists working with the historical photography process of pinhole photography. On view Thursday, September 9 through October 5., the exhibit will be open daily during business hours. A reception with the artists will be held on Sunday, September 12 from 12 to 3 p.m.

Pinhole photography requires the artist to use a rudimentary lens-less camera, oftentimes homemade from recycled materials, to capture an image through a small pin-sized hole. This type of camera lends itself to creating photographs with long exposures with almost infinite depth of field, possible light leaks, and warped perspectives.  more

 

Warren Street downtown Trenton, St. Joe’s Avenue in East Trenton, the Roebling Wire Works building, and Artworks’ main galleries will be bursting with art and activities as a combined Art All Day/Ciclovia returns on Saturday, September 18 from noon to 6 p.m. Mindful of the continuing threat of COVID-19, organizers are again planning an event where safety is a priority, featuring outdoor activities and multiple safety protocols for indoor sites.

Highlights include the Freedom Skate Park and Trenton Circus Squad at the Roebling Wire Works, live mural painting outdoors and artist open studios and two special exhibits inside at Artworks, plus an activated open Warren Street downtown in partnership with the Trenton Downtown Association, and another open street on St. Joe’s Avenue at Breunig Avenue Park in partnership with the East Trenton Collaborative. more

“THE LOOK”: This mixed media mosaic by Helene Plank was featured on the cover of the National Button Bulletin, and will be on display at the New Jersey State Button Society’s Fall Show September 11 at the Union Fire Company in Titusville. Measuring 25 by 31 inches, it uses buttons, sequins, and beads made from glass, plastic, metal, wood, and ceramics, and it took 118 hours to complete.

Celebrating its 80th birthday, the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) will open its Fall Show and Competition to the public, for free, on Saturday, September 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Union Fire Company and Rescue Squad hall, 1396 River Road in Titusville.

“We’re offering special activities for those new to button collecting, says Barbara Figge Fox, NJSBS president. “Safety is our first priority. Masks, available at the door, will be required at all times.”

Members of the NJSBS share an interest in studying, collecting, and preserving clothing buttons, both old and new. Sewers, knitters, quilters, costume designers, and re-enactors will be able to choose from thousands of clothing buttons offered by dealers from the eastern seaboard.

Button displays will celebrate its birthday, and Frank Sinatra song hits from 1941 (“Oh Look at Me Now”) will signal the hourly drawing of door prizes. On view will be button art by Helene Plank, who has created more than 20 prize-winning button mosaics, each using from 1,700 to 1,900 buttons, sewn onto the canvas.

For information on “Together Again,” the first in-person button show in the tri-state area since COVID, go to NewJerseyStateButtonSociety.com, email ButtonsInNewJersey@gmail.com, or call (609) 759-4804.

September 1, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

A smile relieves a heart that grieves.

—from “Waiting On a Friend”

It’s July 1981, I’m walking down St. Mark’s Place in the East Village when I see Mick Jagger standing in the doorway of Number 96 and pretty soon here comes Keith Richards smoking and smiling his way through the sidewalk crowd. After a clumsy hug, the two head for St. Mark’s Bar & Grill on First Avenue, where Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts are waiting, everything’s cool, it’s time to play, and for some curious reason, no one knows the Rolling Stones are in the house and about to deliver a free performance. The way the video for “Waiting On a Friend” spins it, these five guys are only neighborhood musicians. The folks at the bar take no notice and could care less that the character looning about as if he were Mick Jagger really is Mick Jagger.

This East Village street-life fantasy began with last week’s news of the death of drummer Charlie Watts. Making the rounds of obits, remembrances, and videos, I learned it was thanks to Watts that tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins agreed to play on “Waiting On a Friend” and two other songs on the Tattoo You LP. “My love for Sonny goes a long way back,” Watts says in an “American Legends” article in the January 23, 2010 Guardian. “I first saw him in 1964 at the original Birdland club on 52nd Street, playing with a trio. To sit there and watch Sonny Rollins, my God! In those days he did this fantastic thing: he used to start playing in the dressing room with no band, then walk out and go around the stage, using the room to bounce the sound off. It was amazing. I’d never seen anyone do that.”

Neither had I when I saw Rollins two blocks up St. Mark’s Place at the Five Spot. That night he started playing in the kitchen, warming up amid the rattle of glassware, plates, and cutlery. When the giant with the mohawk haircut pushed through the swinging door, he had a garland of bells around his neck jingling and tinkling as he strolled among the tables lifting and dipping his tenor sax like a divining rod.  more

By Anne Levin

Approaching the 125th anniversary of Princeton University Concerts (PUC) a few years ago, staff and board members of the music performance series began thinking about how to best mark the significant milestone. Among the original ideas was a coffee table book.

Gustavo Dudamel

That concept has evolved into something very different. Ways of Hearing: Reflections on Music in 26 Pieces is an anthology that asks prominent musicians, poets, visual artists, scholars, and others — from conductor Gustavo Dudamel to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to share thoughts on their favorite music and how it has influenced their lives.

Published by Princeton University Press, the book debuts with a virtual book launch on Wednesday, September 29 at 6 p.m., taking place at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. Princeton’s Labyrinth Books is taking pre-orders for the volume until September 15.

“This was such a nice collaboration between the three of us,” said PUC director Marna Seltzer, who edited the book with University Professor Emeritus Scott Burnham and Labyrinth co-owner Dorothea von Moltke, both of whom are board members with the presenting organization. “We all have different strengths. The idea just evolved and blossomed in a way that I don’t think would have happened if we hadn’t come together.”

The collection of essays, poetry, interviews, visual art, and more spans different styles and subjects. Violinist Arnold Steinhardt shares his thoughts on Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. Ginsburg, who was a noted opera fan, talks about what she considers the sexiest duet in the genre. Writer Pico Iyer offers meditations on Handel. more

“CONSTANT REPEATING THEMES”: The Arts Council of Princeton will present a collection of works by New Jersey photographer Aubrey J. Kauffman from September 11 through October 9. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, September 11 from 3 to 5 p.m.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will exhibit “Constant Repeating Themes,” a collection of photography works by Aubrey J. Kauffman, in its Taplin Gallery from September 11 through October 9.

The themes of urban landscape and man’s impact on the environment have long intrigued Kauffman as a photographer.

“I witness this in constructions as simple as building façades in a strip mall to the deserted athletic fields in parks and playgrounds,” said Kauffman. “Through my viewfinder I seek to contrast and compare the interactions of natural and man-made elements. I tend to seek out landscapes that speak to a certain stillness. In the buildings and structures that I photograph, I emphasize their architectural quality in the space that they exist. Geometry, shadow, and light play major roles in my image making. I consider my work to be informed by traditional landscape photography. My interpretation reflects a sense of solitude that I wish to convey onto the viewer.”  more

“BLACK LIKE BLUE IN ARGENTINA”: This work by Adama Delphine Fawundu is part of “Gathering Together / Adama Delphine Fawundu,” opening September 4 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s downtown gallery space, Art@Bainbridge, 158 Nassau Street. It will be on view through October 24.

A selection of works by multimedia artist Adama Delphine Fawundu that explore cultural inheritance and collective creation through photography, fabric-making and video will be on view in “Gathering Together / Adama Delphine Fawundu.” The installation will include 10 works by Fawundu acquired by the Princeton University Art Museum earlier this year. The exhibition’s title simultaneously alludes to Fawundu’s artistic practice, which gathers together multiple strands of history; to the installation, which assembles several bodies of her work across a range of media; and to this shared moment as we begin to gather together again.

“Gathering Together” will be on view September 4 through October 24 at Art@Bainbridge, the museum’s gallery project in Bainbridge House (1766), one of the oldest buildings in Princeton. The installation is organized by Beth Gollnick, curatorial associate, with Mitra Abbaspour, Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Princeton University Art Museum.

“Adama Delphine Fawundu’s extraordinary multisensory work reminds all of us of the power of experiencing compelling works of art in the original in time and space,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “We are honored to showcase this artist’s work — work that is part of a more pluralistic story of global art making — first in our downtown gallery space and later in our collections galleries in the new, David Adjaye–designed Museum scheduled to open in late 2024.”  more

“HE LOVES ME NOT”: This quilt by Gay Bitter of Princeton has been selected to compete in the 2021 Great Wisconsin Quilt Show’s 100 Years of Art Deco Challenge. Virtual attendees can vote for their favorite quilt September 9 to 11 at quiltshow.com/vote.

Dozens of quilters submitted their best work for judging in this year’s Great Wisconsin Quilt Show quilt challenges. Gay Bitter of Princeton and her quilt “He Loves Me Not” have been selected to compete in the 2021 Great Wisconsin Quilt Show’s 100 Years of Art Deco Challenge.

Every quilt has a story, and Bitter fashioned her quilt from an Art Deco era illustration. “I chose my inspiration image because of the lovely lines of this woman in her Art Deco inspired dress and furnishings,” she said in her artist’s statement. “It’s hard to detect exactly what she is up to, but once you look closely, you know there is a story behind her actions.”  more

“LUCID”: This work by Arushi Patel is part of “Well-Being Ourselves: Reflect, Reimagine, Connect,” on view through October 23 at West Windsor Arts in Princeton Junction and Whole World Arts in the MarketFair mall on Route 1. An opening reception is September 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. at West Windsor Arts.

West Windsor Arts presents a multimedia exhibition of the work of 22 diverse artists in “Well-Being Ourselves: Reflect, Reimagine, Connect,” on view through October 23 in the galleries at West Windsor Arts, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, and at the new Whole World Arts in MarketFair mall on Route 1. The opening reception will be in person at West Windsor Arts on September 12 from 4 to 6 p.m.

For this exhibition, artists were invited to explore well-being in a time of growing awareness around mental health, including emotional, psychological, and social aspects. According to West Windsor Arts, our shifted context has led to the potential for a revision of well-being. This caused us to ask, “How have conventional concepts reflected this shift for your lived experience? Has this impacted ways you have been able to sustain yourself, your challenges and resilience?” Recent social justice tides have brought sweeping momentum, action, and calls to reimagine justice and movement building. Intersecting legacies of injustice and trauma can impact mental health and well-being. West Windsor Arts wanted to know how artmaking reflects interdependence of communities and intersectional identities. They sought art that could envision new ways of being that are relational, fight stigma, dismantle ableism, and uphold disability justice.

The jurors for the show are Chanika Svetvilas and Gwynneth VanLaven, whose works explore mental health issues with engaging and thought-provoking art through installations, videos, mixed media, and photography.

Exhibiting Artists include Kelly Becker, Terrance Cummings, Jayme Fahrer, Guga, Joseph Goldfedder, Nancie Gunkelman, Barry Hantman, Margaret Kalvar-Bushnell, Ray Kopacz, Nelly Kouzmina, Eleni Litt, Claire Moore, Sara Niroobakhsh, Avani Palkhiwala, Arushi Patel, K. Rose Quayle, Anandi Ramanathan, Joy Sacalis, Rooma Sehar, Aurelle Purdy Sprout, Chanika Svetvilas, Gwynneth VanLaven, Susan Winter, and The-0.

For more information, call (609) 716-1931 or visit westwindsorarts.org.

August 25, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

But the point is to live.

—Albert Camus (1913-1960)

So ends “An Absurd Reasoning,” the four-part essay Albert Camus begins by declaring, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” In his penultimate paragraph, Camus suggests, after 45 pages, that “it’s no longer even a question of judging the existential leap,” which “resumes its place amid the age-old fresco of human attitudes.” That leap “is still absurd,” for even “as it thinks it resolves the paradox, it reinstates it intact. On this score, everything resumes its place and the absurd world is reborn in all its splendor and diversity.”

Camus in Islam Qala

On July 9, 2021, a month before the Afghan government fell, the BBC reported the Taliban’s capture of the “key border town” of Islam Qala. Government officials acknowledge “the loss of one of the biggest trade gateways into Iran, generating an estimated $20 million in monthly revenue for the government.”

“Trade gateway” sounds deceptively grand. From what can be seen of Islam Qala in videos of the Taliban takeover, it’s as desolate now as it was when I spent four days stranded there in the late sixties. I was one of a group of Americans “indefinitely detained” on the edge of the 18-mile stretch of no-man’s-land between the Afghan and Iranian borders. It’s more than likely that the rifle-bearing young soldiers guarding the border and keeping a wary eye on us were the future grandfathers of the soldiers trained by or fighting “side by side” with the post-9/11 U.S. Forces.

We were hoping to catch a ride into Iran on one of the numerous west-bound oil tankers, but when we asked customs officers in a building like the one shown in the BBC video, we were told that a “Muslim holiday” had shut everything down; no one would tell us when it would be over. They had confiscated our passports and we were under house arrest, although a “kinder, gentler” phrase would be protective custody. For food and drink we depended on the whims of a shifting crew of uniformed customs office functionaries. We were the only occupants of the ground floor of a one-story building across the highway from the customs headquarters. It was a big open room covered by a faded carpet, no beds, no chairs, no tables, just us and our packs and sleeping bags. I had nothing to read but Camus’s Exile and the Kingdom in a Penguin paperback that had passed through many hands before it landed in mine, and it’s possible that I’ve read the total desolation of Islam Qala into my memory of that space, along with the similarly bleak landscapes described in Camus’s stories. The time would come when waiting without hope made reading Camus in and of itself an act of existential desperation.  more

BACK ON STAGE: Annie Johnson, Shaye Firer, and Erikka Reenstierna-Cates in Amy Seiwert’s “World, Interrupted,” among the works planned for American Repertory Ballet’s upcoming season. (Photo by Eduardo Patino. NYC)

American Repertory Ballet (ARB) has shared details of its 2021-2022 season under the new leadership of Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel.

“It is with great optimism that American Repertory Ballet returns to live performances after this extended intermission,” said Stiefel. “The 2021-2022 season embraces a sense of starting anew and creating fresh and diverse perspectives in ballet. Every program outside of The Nutcracker presents either world premieres, company premieres or works that have never been seen live by our audiences before. ARB invites everyone to come to the theater and once again connect, converse, and reaffirm the value and meaning dance and live performance have in uplifting our spirits and our communities.” more

OUTDOOR ART: The annual Artsbridge Outdoor Art Sale returns to Prallsville Mills in Stockton on Sunday, September 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event features member art at reasonable prices.

The annual Artsbridge Outdoor Art Sale will take place on Sunday, September 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Prallsville Mills, 33 Risler Street, Stockton. The event is rain or shine; if it rains, the exhibit will be held inside the mill. There is no entry fee.

The pandemic has kept many artists busy creating in their studios; this exhibit gives them the opportunity to showcase their hidden treasures. With most works priced under $300, collectors can scoop up fine art at reasonable prices. The works for sale may include paintings, jewelry, sculpture, photography, and crafts. In addition to the art show, visiting the historic Prallsville Mills, along the Delaware River, will make for a lovely Sunday in September.

In an effort to protect artists and patrons, please practice social distancing. Masks are recommended.

For more information about Artsbridge, visit artsbridgeonline.com.

This painting by Jill Crouch is part of “Recovery,” the Garden State Watercolor Society’s 51st annual juried exhibition, on view by appointment only through October 17 in the Muriel L. Matthews Art Gallery at D&R Greenway Land Trust, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton.

“DOUBLE JONQUIL PROFILE”: This photograph by Charles Miller is part of the “Members Welcome Back Exhibit,” on view September 18 through October 24 at Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography in Hopewell.

After being closed for a year and a half, Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography in Hopewell is ready to reopen with its first exhibit of the year. The “Members Welcome Back Exhibit” will run from September 18 to October 24, with an opening reception scheduled for Saturday, September 18 at 12 p.m. There will also be an artist meet and greet on Sunday, September 19 from 1 to 3 p.m.

The exhibit will feature works by all of Gallery 14’s member artists: John Clarke, Pennington; Alice Grebanier, Branchburg; Larry Parsons, Princeton; Charles Miller, Ringoes; Philip “Dutch” Bagley, Elkins Park, Pa,; Martin Schwartz, East Windsor; Joel Blum, East Windsor; John Stritzinger, Elkins Park, Pa.; Mary Leck, Kendall Park; Barbara Warren, Yardley, Pa.; David Ackerman, Hopewell; and  Bennett Povlow, Elkins Park, Pa.  more