“LOW TIDE, VINALHAVEN:” This 28 x 23 inch acrylic painting by local artist Charles McVicker will be on display at the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) alongside work by members of the Princeton Artists Alliance, the group which Mr. McVicker founded with several other local artists 25 years ago. The ACP show features 21 artists and opens Saturday October 11, with an public reception from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-8777, or visit: www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.
It’s been 25 years since the accomplished local painter Charles McVicker reached out to fellow Princeton artists to form The Princeton Artists Alliance (PAA). An exhibition in celebration of the group opens at the Arts Council of Princeton with a reception this Saturday, October 11, from 3 to 5 p.m.
Inspired by Impressionist painters who had met in Parisian cafes and legendary discussions by Abstract Expressionists at the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village, Mr. McVicker got together with Margaret Kennard Johnson, Marie Sturken, Jane Eccles, and Joanne Scott. They each made a list of artists they thought might form an interesting salon; 20 was thought to be about right number, and the artists invited to join were charmed by the idea. The aim was to enrich the Princeton art community with talks, open studios, demonstrations, and exhibitions. To this day, the group has maintained its manageable size and its goal of enriching Princeton’s art scene.
Today, as 25 years ago, its members are painters, sculptors, printmakers, and photographers; some recognized nationally, some internationally.
Recalling the group’s beginnings, Mr. McVicker remembers monthly meetings and exhibits wherever an empty space could be found, in empty stores, model homes, and corporate galleries. “Each artist showed their best work, and the art was diverse,” he said in a statement of PAA history. “At some point it was suggested that we have a ‘theme’ for our next show. Robert Fagles of Princeton University, had just released his highly-regarded translation of Homer’s Odyssey and we liked the idea of using this story as a basis for an exhibition.”
Not surprisingly, the exhibition was recommended viewing for a number of college literature classes. After being shown in a corporate gallery, it went on to the Newark Museum, two college galleries, and a cultural foundation in New York City. After such initial success, PAA produced more themed exhibitions, including several focused on the New Jersey landscape and the need to protect it. PAA members have produced work on the Trenton Marsh and the Pine Barrens, a show which ran at The Noyes Museum. Recently, they have presented work that draws attention to the havoc of Superstorm Sandy and global warming at the D&R Greenway Land Trust. Several years ago, they collaborated with poets for a show at the State Museum in Trenton. And this fall, they will feature in another, “America Through Artists’ Eyes,” curated by Margaret O’Reilly.
Over the years, the group has renewed itself as members have left and been replaced. “But,” said Mr. McVicker, “the dedication of the Alliance to high quality shows and the enrichment of the Princeton art community and beyond has never waned. Like the Impressionists, life-long friendships have been made and the cross-pollination of ideas holds the group together, and benefits the community as well.”
“Little did I realize that joining PAA in 2000 would become a turning point in my work,” said Shellie Jacobson, an award-winning ceramicist, book-maker and teacher. “Not only have I grown more confident as an artist, but over time my focus became stronger and my work more mature as we offer each other suggestions and lend support through our common struggles and accomplishments as artists.” Ms. Jacobson’s artists’ books are part of the permanent collection of the Newark Museum and the Ben Shahn Gallery and she has exhibited in Korea, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Greece. For more of her work, visit: www.shelliejacobson.com.
Alongside such newer members, Mr. McVicker, Ms. Kennard Johnson and others of the original 20-member group, including Marie Sturken, Joanne Augustine, Anita Benarde, and Lucy Graves McVicker, continue as vital members of PAA. Ms. Eccles and Ms. Scott have since moved from Princeton.
Mr. McVicker (www.charlesmcvicker.com), former president of the Garden State Watercolor Society and the Society of Illustrators, is a retired professor of art at The College of New Jersey. His work has garnered many top awards at regional and national juried shows and has been featured in The Artist’s Magazine and International Artist Magazine. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the U.S. Capitol, Princeton University, Dupont and Johnson & Johnson, among others.
Margaret Kennard Johnson (wmgallery.com/Johnson.html) studied with Joseph Albers and taught studio art at the Museum of Modern Art for23 years. Her work is in the collections of the British Museum, The U.S. Library of Congress, and the Tochigi Museum in Japan. The art of Japan, where she lived for eight years, remains a primary influence on her work.
Paper- and print-maker Marie Sturken (www.mariesturken.com) works out of the Dieu Donne Paper Mill in New York City, where she enjoys the “low-tech aspect of making paper by hand, of natural fibers.” Her primary focus of late is to embed a wide variety of materials into the pulp: fabric, yarn, and printed words. Her work is included in public and corporate collections including the New Jersey State Museum, Johnson and Johnson, and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.
Joanne Augustine (coryellgallery.com/artists/Augustine/) has a passion for “flowers and beautiful weeds,” and tries to capture their essence in her work. “I find them a spiritual resource, putting me in touch with my own intuition and reverence for nature,” she has said. “As a metaphor for our own lives, they challenge us to remember that we, too, exist on borrowed time.”
Mixed media artist Anita Benarde (www.benardeart.weebly.com) is also a paper- and print-maker. She has published illustrated books for children, including The Pumpkin Smasher, which is part of the Children’s Rare Book Collection at Princeton University’s Firestone Library.
Work by Lucy Graves McVicker (www.lucygravesmcvicker.com) has been shown in national and state-wide exhibitions and competitions and has received numerous awards, including a Gold Medal from the Audubon National juried show in New York. It has featured in exhibitions at Rider University, Lambertville’s Coryell Gallery, and Kean University, and included in private and public collections like Johnson and Johnson, DuPont Corporation, Capital Health System, Princeton University, AtlantiCare, the University Medical Center at Princeton, and the New Jersey State Council of the Arts.
Arts Council Show
The Arts Council of Princeton will showcase the work of 21 PAA artists. In addition to the above mentioned, the show features works by the late Nancy Lee Kern, combining the artist’s love of nature and color. The other artists are: Hetty Baiz, (www.hettybaiz.artspan.com), whose large-scale mixed-media images of animals were the centerpiece of last year’s Woodrow Wilson School exhibition “NonHuman Animals: Eat, Test, Love;” painter, mixed media artist, and poet, Joy Barth (www.joybarth.artspan.com); the English-born Zenna Broomer (www.zennabroomer.com), currently exploring printmaking to visualize abstraction in the urban landscape, and incorporating steel, copper and metal shavings into her work; Jennifer Cadoff (www.jennifercadoff.com), a signature member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Society; Rajie Cook (www.rajie.org), who creates three-dimensional sculptural assemblages; photographers Clem Fiori (www.fioriworks.com) and Thomas Francisco (www.thomasfranciscopho
tography.com); landscape painter Carol Hanson; Harry I. Naar (www.harrynaar.com), director of the art gallery at Rider University; sculptors James Perry (www.jimperrystudio.com) and Richard Sanders (firstname.lastname@example.org); Madelaine Shellaby (www.madelaineshellaby.com); and watercolorist Barbara Watts.
The Arts Council of Princeton will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Princeton Artists Alliance with an exhibition of work from Saturday, October 11 through Wednesday, November 26. Related events include gallery talks on Saturdays, October 25, November 8, and November 22, from 2 to 3 p.m.; and a panel discussion, Saturday, November 1, from 2 to 3 p.m.
The Arts Council of Princeton is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-8777, or visit: www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.