June 5, 2013
INTO THE GARDEN: Hopewell’s fine art photography gallery features works by Martha Weintraub, whose “Conservatory,” shown here, is one of several garden images on view. Ms. Weintraub creates hand-colored gel transfers from her photographs to yield whimsical and often surrealistic landscapes. (Image Courtesy of Gallery 14)

INTO THE GARDEN: Hopewell’s fine art photography gallery features works by Martha Weintraub, whose “Conservatory,” shown here, is one of several garden images on view. Ms. Weintraub creates hand-colored gel transfers from her photographs to yield whimsical and often surrealistic landscapes.
(Image Courtesy of Gallery 14)

Photographers Martha Weintraub, Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, and Wiebke Martens feature in a joint exhibition at Hopewell’s fine photography Gallery 14, opening Friday June 7 and running through July 7.

Ms. Weintraub has a series of “Into the Garden” images in the show. “Since the ancient Egyptians, people have been taming the wilderness into spaces reflecting beauty, style, and status,” says Ms. Weintraub, who likens a garden to a work of art “Like painters, garden designers plan perspectives of foreground, middle, and background in their compositions. Designs thus express more than the flowers, trees, shrubs, and water features they may include; history and geography influence design; European and American gardens differ from the gardens of the Far East, which value irregularity and surprise.”

Ms. Weintraub approaches her photography as if it were painting rather than a record of reality. In Photoshop she often improvises, combining and modifying different elements to create a composition. Some of her work is whimsical and surrealistic with imaginary and colorful landscapes, while other work is sensitive consisting of lovely botanical renditions. In either case the viewer is invited to immerse oneself in quiet contemplation.

She has visited many gardens near her home and in travels abroad. For her garden images, she creates hand-colored gel transfers, post computer. She begins by taking photographs, which she then converts to black and white positives and prints on transfer film. Using a gel medium and a roller, she transfers the positives to artist’s water color paper and then hand-colors each image using water color pencils and acrylic paints.

The results are impressions of gardens, not literal translations. Her work is reminiscent of illustrations found in 19th century English literature, etchings, and Chinese and Japanese wood block prints.

Ms. Weintraub’s photographs have been chosen for a number of local and national juried shows. Her image City of Books was awarded Best in Show at Phillips’ Mill Annual Photography Exhibit in 2012. She is the current president of Gallery 14 and her work can be viewed at: www.martha

Both painter and photographer, Ms. Kassof-Isaac is a founding member of Gallery 14 and has been inspired by the group’s growth and reputation. “This gallery is a place where professional photographers gather to discuss, share, and explore the new directions that the art of photography is moving toward. Inspiration thrives, grows, and is content in this atmosphere,” she says. The collection of her works on show is titled “Look Again.”

Of the relationship between painting and photography in her work, she says; “Is this like having two languages? The two media speak with each other and offer greater inspiration.”

Ms. Kassof-Isaac is also a teacher and a psychoanalyst. She has lived in Switzerland and Italy for many years. Her photographic work is enhanced by painting on each image.

Ms. Martens has been fascinated by photography ever since receiving her first camera at age 12 and concentrated on travel and landscape when she grew up.

In recent years, she has significantly expanded the scope of her work, exploring the great variety of textures, patterns, and colors in nature.

Last year, on a tour of Iceland, she was captivated by the landscapes, from farm houses in lush, green, pastoral settings to surreal black tuff ring volcanoes. Looking closely, she discovered small flowers covering an orange rock face, algae growing on stones like hair, and beautiful basalt formations. Her images capture the contrasting colors of Iceland. Her collection “Colors of Iceland” is in Gallery 14‘s Goodkind Gallery.

Her work has previously been exhibited at Dalet Gallery in Philadelphia, Art Way Gallery in Plainsboro, and the Bank of Princeton in Lambertville, among others.

For more information and gallery hours, call (609) 333-8511.

May 29, 2013
PASTORAL PRINCETON: Charles McVicker’s oil painting, “Mustard Field, The Great Road”, will be one of his works on show in the joint exhibit with Lucy Graves McVicker opening with a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. this Sunday, June 2, at the Sawmill Gallery at Prallsville Mills, Route 29, Stockton.(Image Courtesy of the Artist)

PASTORAL PRINCETON: Charles McVicker’s oil painting, “Mustard Field, The Great Road”, will be one of his works on show in the joint exhibit with Lucy Graves McVicker opening with a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. this Sunday, June 2, at the Sawmill Gallery at Prallsville Mills, Route 29, Stockton. (Image Courtesy of the Artist)

Although they share their home and their lives, and have the creative impulse in common, husband and wife artists Lucy Graves McVicker and Charles McVicker rarely exhibit their artwork together. So, the show that opens this Sunday, June 2, at the Sawmill Gallery at Prallsville Mills in Stockton, promises to be a rare treat.

The exhibition, for which there is a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, is titled “Opposites Attract,” appropriately enough. This is their first joint show in many years.

As the exhibition will demonstrate, each artist has maintained a unique approach borne of differing personalities, temperaments, and conceptions of art. Although they have worked side by side for many years, the couple say that they have not influenced each others’ output. Rather, with encouragement and humor, each has watched the other develop an individual artistic path.

Through critiques, art classes, and individual teaching, the couple has affected a broad range of local artists over the years.

The McVickers married after college when Charles was in the Army. Lucy supported her husband while he studied at The Art Center College of Design on the GI Bill, and raised the couple’s three daughters when they came to Princeton, during which time he commuted to Manhattan as a free-lance illustrator. When their youngest daughter, Heather, was in school, Lucy commuted to Parsons School of Design for two years to renew her own interest in painting.

WATER WORLD: This acrylic painting titled "Deep Water's Treasures," by Lucy Graves McVicker will be  on show in a rare joint husband and wife exhibition opening, Sunday, June 2, and running through June 15 at the Sawmill Gallery at Prallsville Mills, Route 29, Stockton.

WATER WORLD: This acrylic painting titled “Deep Water’s Treasures,” by Lucy Graves McVicker will be on show in a rare joint husband and wife exhibition opening, Sunday, June 2, and running through June 15 at the Sawmill Gallery at Prallsville Mills, Route 29, Stockton.

Mr. McVicker, then became an assistant professor of art at The College of New Jersey, and both artists began to enter local, statewide, and national juried exhibits.

Both have won significant honors and awards in state and national competitions and both are called on to serve as jurors for art exhibitions.

Charles McVicker has works in the permanent collections of the U.S. Capital, The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, and Princeton University. As one of the founders of the Princeton Artists Alliance, he has seen this organization expand the scope of art through significant venues such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Gallery, The Newark Museum, and the Noyes Museum in Oceanville, NewJersey.

Artwork by Lucy Graves McVicker is in the collections of Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson and Johnson, AtlantiCare, and ADP Corporation. She was represented by Janet Hunt of the Coryell Gallery in Lambertville for over 15 years.

Both have paintings in the collection of the DuPont Corporation, and their artworks have recently been selected to be hung in both the Capital Health System’s new hospital, and The University Medical Center at Princeton.

The exhibition benefits the Delaware River Mill Society and takes place through June 15 at the Sawmill Gallery at Prallsville Mills, Route 29, north of Lambertville, Gallery hours are: Tuesday through Sunday, 1-6 p.m. Charles McVicker will lead a gallery “Talk and Tour” on Wednesday June 5, at 2 p.m. and Lucy Graves McVicker will offer a watercolor demonstration on Saturday, June 8 at 2 p.m.

May 22, 2013
ART, INNOVATION, IDEAS: Faith Ringgold will be one of four artists and teachers judging submissions from local students to The College of New Jersey’s exhibition, “Art, Innovation and Ideas,” opening Sunday June 2. Students from high schools in Princeton and Lawrenceville will be featured in the TCNJ art gallery. An opening reception will be held at the gallery, Sunday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, call (609) 771-2633, or visit: visit www.tcnj.edu/artgallery.

ART, INNOVATION, IDEAS: Faith Ringgold will be one of four artists and teachers judging submissions from local students to The College of New Jersey’s exhibition, “Art, Innovation and Ideas,” opening Sunday June 2. Students from high schools in Princeton and Lawrenceville will be featured in the TCNJ art gallery. An opening reception will be held at the gallery, Sunday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, call (609) 771-2633, or visit: visit www.tcnj.edu/artgallery.

This summer, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) will showcase artwork by New Jersey’s K-12 students alongside innovative lessons designed by their talented art teachers.

Students from Princeton High School, The Hun School, Maurice Hawk School in Princeton, as well as students from Notre Dame High School and Slackwood School in Lawrenceville have artwork accepted to the exhibition, “Art, Innovation, and Ideas,” which is co-organized by Dr. Lisa LaJevic, assistant professor and program coordinator of art education at TCNJ, and Emily Croll, director of TCNJ’s Art Gallery.

The exhibition opens in the college’s Art and Interactive Multimedia (AIMM) Building on Sunday, June 2 and continues through June 23. An opening reception will be held at the gallery, Sunday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Of the more than 440 artworks submitted to “Art, Innovation, and Ideas,” 121 submissions were accepted after review by a jury of contemporary artists, curators, and educators, including internationally acclaimed artist, illustrator, and author Faith Ringgold.

Known for her painted story quilts, Ms. Ringgold has works in the permanent collections of many museums including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her many awards include 22 honorary doctorates. A devoted advocate for art education, she has illustrated sixteen children’s books, eleven of which she authored. Her first book, Tar Beach, was a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration.

Other jurors include New Jersey artist and educator Aylin Green; Baltimore-based sculptor and fine artist Christine Tillman; painter and director of Art Collaborations in Princeton, Heather Barros; and TCNJ Gallery Director Emily Croll.

Ms. Green is currently the membership director at Grounds for Sculpture. She holds a Masters of Ed from Tufts University in Boston, Mass., and a BFA in Sculpture from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her mixed media paintings and cast metal sculpture has been exhibited at galleries and art centers throughout the region including Philadelphia, Princeton, and Trenton. She has taught classes for adults and children in a variety of traditional and experimental media in a range of educational settings including private studios, city and county programs, public schools, and art centers.

Ms. Tillman is primarily a sculptor who draws. Her main interests lie in ideas surrounding handmade celebrations and man-made interpretations of natural forms. She earned her MFA in painting and drawing from the University of Iowa.

Ms. Barros directs Art Collaborations, an art school in Princeton offering year-round classes for children, teens and adults. She began teaching children at the Arts Council of Princeton in 1990 and now directs art programs and summer art camps at the Arts Council, Montgomery Cultural Center, Charter School of Princeton, and now with Art Collaborations. She studied oil painting with Gregory Perkel for ten years and paints every day, en plein air every week. “I’ve visited art museums around the world and I’ve seen some of the greatest art ever made, but children’s art work is still my favorite genre,” says Ms. Barros. “I once thought that if I surrounded myself with children’s art long enough that I could do it as well. I’m not even close.”

“Art, Innovation, and Ideas” is intended to connect student learning and art to current real world issues. It aims to exhibit meaningful two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and media artworks and to recognize efforts by New Jersey art educators to push the boundaries of the arts in K-12 schools. Submissions were received from more than 100 cities and towns across the state.

“As the world is changing, it is vital that arts pedagogy and curriculum reflects the world in which we live,” says Dr. LaJevic. “As such, I support innovative art making that connects student learning and art to the real world, academic subjects, social issues, big ideas, and/or contemporary art.”

TCNJ Art Gallery is located in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM) on the campus at 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing. In June, the gallery is open to the public free of charge, Wednesdays and Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. and by special appointment for groups and school visits.

For more information, call (609) 771-2633, or visit: visit www.tcnj.edu/edu/artgallery.

May 15, 2013
TIGERS ON PARADE: This Princeton reunion scene is among the works by artist Jay McPhillips in a new exhibition opening, Saturday, May 18 and running through June 14 at Jane on Spring Street. The artist will be on hand to greet visitors from noon to 4 p.m. For more, visit: www.jaymcphillips.com.

TIGERS ON PARADE: This Princeton reunion scene is among the works by artist Jay McPhillips in a new exhibition opening, Saturday, May 18 and running through June 14 at Jane on Spring Street. The artist will be on hand to greet visitors from noon to 4 p.m. For more, visit: www.jaymcphillips.com.

The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop Show opens at Jane on Spring Street this Saturday, May 18, with a Meet and Greet with the artist from noon to 4 p.m.

Jane is a consignment and fair trade shop owned by Jane Henderson Kenyon and her daughter Isabelle Kenyon. In addition to selling men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry, and home goods, the store has recycled and fair trade items.

It has also made room for original artwork by local artists.

Store manager Johnna Hooban, who has worked at Jane for two years, recalls the first time James (Jay) McPhillips stopped by. “He’s funny and personable and phenomenally talented,” recalls Ms. Hooban. “He was interested in the fact that the store consigns artwork and he brought along his oil paintings. We thought his work was out of this world.”

Since then, Mr. McPhillips has had oil paintings regularly on display at Jane alongside items such as T-shirts. His work has also been featured at Small World Cafe, in the NJ Skateshop, 72 Witherspoon Street, and at the Chapman Gallery, 46 E. State St., Doylestown, Pa.

The former Comedy Central TV staffer and advertising agency art director, whose diverse clients have included The Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Chewing Gum, has worked in the Princeton area for over a decade, five of those, from 2002 to 2007, as McCarter Theatre’s graphic designer.

His work has been exhibited on Times Square billboards, gallery paintings, clothing, bumper stickers, and numerous print and web publications. He has an ear for humor and an eye for visual puns. Witness his T-shirts sporting the face of musician Prince above the word Ton. His book of humorous stories, drawings, and notions, Staff Pick is available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

A native of Philadelphia, now residing in Doylestown, Mr. McPhillips was living in Lambertville when he first came to Princeton to work for McCarter. Before that, his two-hour daily train commute to Manhattan for his job at Comedy Central was compensated for by his love of the work there, creating ads for shows such as South Park and The Daily Show.

While working at McCarter and cutting across the Princeton University campus on his way into town, the artist began painting local scenes. “The architecture in Princeton is incredible,” says Mr. McPhillips who has also painted scenes of Bucks County and Doylestown.

Since leaving McCarter, the artist has been focusing full-time on painting and on producing his own greeting cards, T-shirts, bags and other items. He’s received several local commissions for his work and hopes that the exhibition at Jane will result in more exposure. The exhibition will feature some 15 oil paintings, influenced by the Pennsylvania Impressionists and the early 20th century Tonalists, ranging from the elegantly moody to the wildly humorous.

When Jane, which also sells vintage Princeton ephemera, was thinking about upcoming graduation and reunions, the idea of an exhibition was born. Mr. McPhillips’s scenes of Princeton were an obvious fit. The exhibition will include Princeton paintings, giclee prints and greeting cards, T-shirts, and bag designs as well as Art Mini’s (bagged, tagged hand-painted mini paintings of famous works throughout art history).

The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop Show at Jane, 7 Spring Street, opens Saturday, May 18 and continues through June 14 with a second Meet and Greet with the artist on Saturday June 1, noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit: www.jaymcphillips.com.

May 8, 2013
LIGHTPAINTING: The cover of Eva Flatscher’s newly published book shows one of the colorful images for which she is known. Ms. Flatscher has been a Princeton resident for less than three years and finds the town conducive to artistic creativity. With Princeton as her base, she continues to work in New York City and in Europe. She is currently preparing an exhibition based on the artwork “LightPainting,” available online via Amazon.com. For more information, visit: www.evaflatscher.com/book.

LIGHTPAINTING: The cover of Eva Flatscher’s newly published book shows one of the colorful images for which she is known. Ms. Flatscher has been a Princeton resident for less than three years and finds the town conducive to artistic creativity. With Princeton as her base, she continues to work in New York City and in Europe. She is currently preparing an exhibition based on the artwork “LightPainting,” available online via Amazon.com. For more information, visit: www.evaflatscher.com/book.

“If Van Gogh were living today, he’d be painting digitally,” says Princeton resident Eva Flatscher. Instead of the traditional tools of paint, brush, and canvas, Ms. Flatscher uses light, a grip pen (the equivalent of a mouse in stick form), and a graphic tablet. “I paint live. It’s not prepared and its projected on stage against a white background with dancers.”

To paint live means that this artist’s work is very much of the moment. It’s a digital performance that, according to Wilfried Seipel, is nonetheless rooted in the Dutch masters of the 17th century. “Johannes Vermeer knew, that with the first stroke of the brush a painting is ready and readable for its entirety,” says Mr. Seipel in the introduction to Ms. Flatscher’s newly published book LightPainting (Long Pipe, LLC., New York, N.Y.).

Mr. Seipel is the executive director of the Museum of History of Art (KHM) in Vienna, a major cultural institution with a rich collection of Dutch Masters such as Bruegel and Rembrandt. His high praise is enormously gratifying to the artist and his is not the only voice expressing delight in Ms. Flatscher’s unique approach. Michael Birkmeyer, director of the School of Ballet at the Vienna State Opera, who worked with Ms. Flatscher in Austria, speaks of her as a “pioneer” who makes music visible. Her performances are an “avant garde combination of painting, dance, and music.” The Princeton resident has performed with jazz and classical musicians here in the United States and throughout Europe, to which she returns with some frequency.

Her live performances have taken place in the Jewish Museum in Vienna; the Festival Hall, St.Pölten, Austria; the Schauspielhaus, Bremen, Germany; and the Musikvereinssaal, Vienna.

Ms. Flatscher’s work “transforms traditional understanding of fine art and takes it to an entirely new level,” says Mr. Seipel. “At times, Eva Flatscher’s productions recall the Traumpfade, the ‘song lines’ or ‘dream lines’ of the Australian aborigines, who by dancing and singing seek to decipher the mystery of the cosmos, of ‘dreamtime,’ in a pictorial realization of the past.”

As a record of her work, Ms. Flatscher created 40 pieces, not on canvas, but on satin. These are the paintings in LightPainting, and that will be presented in a upcoming exhibition that is still in the beginning stages of preparation.

Created during live performances in venues spanning the globe, the paintings were meticulously finished in the artist’s Princeton studio.

Originally from Vienna, Ms. Flatscher and her husband, journalist Alfons A. Flatscher, moved to Princeton just under three years ago and have made their home on Birch Avenue close to the center of town. The artist, who describes herself as a city-lover, says the move was prompted by a desire for a comfortable town with good schools that would be a safe environment for the couple’s two children: David (17) and Alina (15), now a junior and freshman at Princeton High School.

“There is a high quality of life here in Princeton, especially for a painter,” says Ms. Flatscher who describes the move as having been surprisingly easy. She describes the people here as “warm and welcoming.”

LightPainting by Eva Flatscher is available online via Amazon.com. For more information, visit: www.evaflatscher.com/book.

May 1, 2013
CAN THIS REALLY BE CLAY?: The black and white image shown here does little justice to the iridescent greens and blues of Hideaki Miyamura’s porcelain “Bottle with Starry Night Glaze.” Mr. Miyamura achieves a result that you would swear could only be achieved on glass. His work will be on display and for sale this weekend as part of Morven in May’s weekend celebration of art, craft, and garden at the Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street. For Friday night Preview Party tickets, call (609) 924-8144, ext. 113. For more information, visit: www.morven.org.

CAN THIS REALLY BE CLAY?: The black and white image shown here does little justice to the iridescent greens and blues of Hideaki Miyamura’s porcelain “Bottle with Starry Night Glaze.” Mr. Miyamura achieves a result that you would swear could only be achieved on glass. His work will be on display and for sale this weekend as part of Morven in May’s weekend celebration of art, craft, and garden at the Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street. For Friday night Preview Party tickets, call (609) 924-8144, ext. 113. For more information, visit: www.morven.org.

If April is Communiversity, May is Morven. Coming on the heels of last weekend’s town-wide festival, this weekend’s “Morven in May: A Celebration of Art, Craft, and Garden” promises a more leisurely pace but just as much interest for those inclined toward the arts, crafts, and gardens.

The event starts on Friday evening, with a special preview reception, and runs through Sunday, May 5.

The museum has selected 20 professional artists and artisans from throughout the northeast region of the U.S. to present their works in glass, ceramics, decorative and wearable fiber, mixed media, jewelry, furniture, and fine art.

Included among them is the Japanese-born ceramicist Hideaki Miyamura, now based in New Hampshire. His work is compelling and exquisite. To look is to want to touch.

Mr. Miyamura’s fine porcelain is much-collected and can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, Newark Museum of Art, Sackler Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, and Wheaton College, Newton, Mass. He is revered by serious private collectors.

Known for his experimentation with traditional Chinese glazing techniques and for recreating the Yohen Tenmoku glaze of the Sung Dynasty, the artist’s interest in glazes stems from ancient Chinese tea bowls with such ancient and rare glazes that no one has been able to reproduce. He set out to create new iridescent glazes that convey inner feelings of purity and peacefulness.

During a five year apprenticeship in Japan, he developed new glazes, mainly Tenmoku, those dark brown/black glazes with a varied iridescent quality, and “oil spotting.” His research involved over 10,000 test pieces. Ultimately, the hard work paid off. Mr. Miyamura discovered the iridescent glaze on a black background, his original contribution to the art of Yohen Tenmoku.

“Over the last few years”, says Mr. Miyamura on his web site, “I have experimented to discover new glazes which combine crystallization with iridescence. I have researched crystal glaze techniques in the United States, Europe, Japan, and China. In the long history of crystal glazes, I could find no iridescent crystal glaze.”

The artist’s search, which he describes as a “ten-year long passion” for an “iridescent crystal glaze which has never been made anywhere, at anytime in history,” yielded his newest glaze: the Yohen Crystal Glaze, inspired by the “stars glistening in a night sky.” According to Mr. Miyamura, it’s “the most complicated glaze formula and firing process that I have ever done.” A fitting culmination to a lifelong passion.

While glazes may be at the heart of Mr. Miyamura’s work, form is not forgotten. He creates his own interpretations of the classical. “I am very conscious of the ways in which a form interacts with the space around it,” he says. “I want my pieces to feel in balance with their environment, to feel as though they co-exist naturally with their surroundings. When I create my pieces, I hope to make people feel good when they look at my work. My goal is to try and evoke a feeling of inner peace and tranquility.” To see more of Mr. Miyamura’s work, visit: www.miyamurastudio.com.

Along with Mr. Miyamura’s stunning work, this year’s event includes: beaded sculpture by Tristyn Albright; wearable fiber arts by Tess Colburn and Gary Temple, and Pamela Bracci; baskets by Martha Dreswick; ceramics by Katherine Hackl and Phoebe Wiley; jewelry by Sheila Fernekes, Beth Judge, and Sue Sachs; furniture from John Landis and Brad Smith; glass artistry by Karen Caldwell and Nick Leonoff; fine art paintings by Meg Michael; turned wood by James Ruocco; decorative fiber arts by Erin Wilson; clothing designs by Tess Crowninshield; and floorcloths by Elie Wyeth. Their hand-crafted offerings will be displayed for sale in gallery-style booths, under a grand tent on the museum’s Great Lawn.

Heirloom Plant Sale

For many locals, the arts and crafts sale is the highlight of Morven in May. For others, it’s the museum’s heirloom plant sale, which has grown in the last few years to become a stellar source of unusual heirloom perennials and annuals.

For the general public, the sale is open Saturday May 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday May 5, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Friends of Morven get to preview the plant sale on Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. Not only do Friends get first pick, they receive a 10 percent discount, which might well make it worth your while to join the group. The individual $40 level gives you free access to the museum, discounts, and other benefits. For more information, including a list of all the plants available, visit www.morven.org.

Garden enthusiasts will find this sale a must for heirloom vegetables and classic herbs. You will also find perennials, biennials, peonies and tree peonies, shrubs and roses, climbers and cascading plants, as well as plants suitable for containers. The online listing is peppered with timely tips (like mulching with straw instead of that smelly black stuff).

On Saturday at 2 p.m., botanical artist Wendy Hollander, will speak about the edible plants that grow in fields, forests, even your own backyard. Ms. Hollander is the illustrator and co-author, with Dina Falconi, of Foraging and Feasting, a combination field guide and cookbook that will be published next month. She will draw upon her “food for free” enthusiasm for forgotten skills that once allowed many to recognize edible plants in the wild and bring them in the kitchen to create delicious and nutritious meals. Admission to her talk is free with art show admission.

Before you leave the garden, however, look out for Artful Trellises in the Garden, featuring freestanding trellises designed and built by local community groups, individuals, and businesses. These will be going up and planted with annual vines over the summer at Morven.

Sponsors for this year’s event, proceeds from which help fund the museum’s collections, exhibitions, historic gardens, and educational programs, include: Rago Arts and Auction Center; Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty; PNC Wealth Management; Saul Ewing, LLC; Munich RE; Masterminds Agency; Contemporary Graphics; and Jack Morton Exhibits.

“Morven in May: A Celebration of Art, Craft and Garden” at the Morven Museum and Garden, 55 Stockton Street, starts Friday, May 3, and runs through Sunday, May 5. Preview Garden Party tickets are available by calling the museum at (609) 924-8144 extension 113.

Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday public sale are available at the door and are $10 per person ($8 for Friends of Morven). No ticket is necessary for the plant sale. For more information and to purchase tickets: visit: www.morven.org.

For Preview Garden Party tickets, call (609) 924-8144, ext. 113.

April 24, 2013
THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL: “Jacob Wrestling the Angel of God,” by the hands of iconographer Maureen McCormick is one of 20 images currently on display in the exhibition “Locating Prosopon: On the Path Towards the Divine Countenance” in the Erdman Gallery at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 20 Library Place. For more information, call (609) 462.0975, or visit: www.prosoponschool.org.(Courtesy of Maureen McCormick)

THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL: “Jacob Wrestling the Angel of God,” by the hands of iconographer Maureen McCormick is one of 20 images currently on display in the exhibition “Locating Prosopon: On the Path Towards the Divine Countenance” in the Erdman Gallery at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 20 Library Place. For more information, call (609) 462.0975, or visit: www.prosoponschool.org. (Courtesy of Maureen McCormick)

God really is in the details in an exhibition of icons currently on view at the Erdman Center Gallery in Princeton.

The icons are by master iconographers and advanced apprentices of the Prosopon School of Iconology, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

The exhibition, “Locating Prosopon: On the Path Towards the Divine Countenance” features 20 sacred images including several by the school’s founder Vladislav Andrejev.

Born in 1938 in St. Petersburg, Mr. Andrejev studied illustration and fine art at a time when sacred art was forbidden in the Soviet Union. Iconography had flourished in Russia, reaching its apex during the post-Byzantine era. Mr. Andrejev’s interest in the centuries old tradition of icon and fresco painting led him to independent study with a monk who was an iconographer in his native land. He came to the United States in 1980.

In 1988, he founded the Prosopon School of Iconology. Icon is a Greek word meaning “image” and prosopon, also Greek, can be translated as “face,” but was adopted by early Christian theologians to denote the “Countenance of God.”

Mr. Andrejev’s sons, Dmitri Andrejev and Nikita Andrejev, also teach at the school which boasts an estimated 4,000 students since its inception.

Prosopon iconographers work in the traditional medium of egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed wood panels. The work is distinctive for sparkling, painterly highlights and luminous, textured surfaces achieved through careful layering of multiple transparent glazes of paint.

Exhibition curator and iconographer Maureen McCormick describes the technique as challenging. “It takes years just to become adept at using these materials,” she says. Egg tempera is an emulsion made from raw egg yolks and water mixed with white wine as a stabilizer (vinegar was used until it was discovered that wine works equally well and smells sweeter). Natural dyes like indigo and carmine, and pigments such as lapis lazuli, malachite, and azurite are used. “My favorite is one we don’t use any more,” comments Ms. McCormick of a pigment called Indian Yellow, the dried urine of oxen fed with mango leaves. Many are expensive. A tablespoon of the best lapis from Afghanistan, for example, can cost around $200. “It’s hard to make something ugly when working with such beautiful materials,” says Ms. McCormick who became intrigued by the medium when she attended a Prosopon workshop 17 years ago. At first, she intended it as a hobby, but soon volunteered as workshop coordinator. Some thirty students from across the U.S. and abroad are expected to sign up for the six-day, $700-workshop at Trinity Church, in Princeton, this July 7 to July 12.

Besides teaching at the school since 2005 and organizing exhibitions since 2007, Ms. McCormick is Iconographer in Residence at Trinity Church, where she produces commissioned icons and offers classes and lectures to parishioners and church and community groups in central New Jersey. Until recently, she was the chief registrar and manager of collections at Princeton University Art Museum.

The Exhibition

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a recent icon by Mr. Andrejev and never before exhibited. Also on display are depictions of the Archangel Barachiel, 2013, by the hands of Vladislav Andrejev and Dmitri Andreyev; and Christ Emmanuel, 2011, by the hand of Vladislav Andrejev.

Subjects include: Saints Maximos the Confessor, Gregory Palamas and Symeon the New Theologian; Jacob Wrestling the Angel of God; Archangel Raphael with Tobias; Angel Hesychia; as well as depictions of Christ and Christ as a child with his mother. Several icons of the same subject by different iconographer are grouped together for comparison.

Other iconographers with work in the exhibition include: Dmitri Berestova; Lynette Hull, Nikita Andrejev, Susan von Medicus; Dmitri Andreyev; Mary Kay LaPlante; Kristina Sadley; Tatiana Berestova.

You won’t find names of the artists writ large by these works of art. That’s not the tradition with sacred art. The preferred terminology is “by the hand of.” Ms. McCormick explains: “This is because we don’t feel that we are the author of these images but rather the means through which they are made incarnate.”

In orthodox Christianity, icons convey “the Gospel in light and color.” They are described as being “written” rather than “painted.” As letters of the alphabet combine to form meaning, so the colors, compositional elements, and conventions of depiction are thought to create “a symbolic language capable of compressing complex Biblical narratives and theological truths into images that can be comprehended in an instant,” explains the exhibition curator.

Most viewers will be able to recognize familiar saints, angels and, sometimes, stories. And if you are puzzled, there is usually a name written on the icon. For anyone who may feel uneasy about the “graven image’ aspect of icons, Ms. McCormick explains her own rule of thumb for distinguishing icons from idolatry. “The difference, as I see it, is that if it points you toward God, it is not an idol, but if it points toward yourself or something else, then it is an idol,” she says. “As human beings we relate to faces but how to represent the godhead is still a disputed issue.”

In 726, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III declared icons to be idolatrous on the basis of the Second Commandment, which prohibits the making of “graven images.” “People lived and died over this issue,” said Ms. McCormick. The Second Council of Nicea in 787, also known as the Seventh Ecumenical Council, was convened specifically to address the problem.

With degrees in fine art and printmaking, Ms. McCormick thinks of herself as a creative artist. In response to those who would describe her as a “copyist,” she says: “Would you call Glenn Gould a copyist?”

Although icons are created according to a strict canon, unlike the art of the west, which places a high value on artistic originality and innovation, there are, says Ms. McCormick, opportunities for the artist to be creative within the canon and Prosopon School icons are as unique as they are similar. “As an artist working in sacred art, one is bound by many constraints, and yet in that there is infinite freedom,” she says.

Like a poet working within  the form of a sonnet, one has to observe rules of prosody. Poetry is a great analogy, she believes, because like a poem, an icon compresses. “An icon can teach you volumes like that! she says with a snap of the fingers. “It bypasses the rational mind.”

As in any atelier, the school has developed new conventions for depicting garments, in wool and silk, and even, as was a recent challenge to students, painting a garment made of light.

“The act of writing, an icon for me, is an act of gratitude. We live in the world surrounded by beauty and there is a transfiguring of these raw materials in offering them back to God. This is an act of devotion,” says Ms. McCormick, “something for me to do with my hands while I pray.”

“Locating Prosopon: On the Path Towards the Divine Countenance” continues through June 30 in the Erdman Gallery at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 20 Library Place. Admission is free and the event open to the public, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (609) 462-0975, or visit: www.prosoponschool.org.


April 10, 2013
WORLD WITHIN WORLDS: David Wiesner’s “Fish” from his award-winning children’s picture book, “Flotsam,” is among the images on view in Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery. The exhibition continues through April 24 and may be viewed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when school is in session; and by appointment on weekends. For more information, call (609) 924-6700 or visit: www.pds.org.

WORLD WITHIN WORLDS: David Wiesner’s “Fish” from his award-winning children’s picture book, “Flotsam,” is among the images on view in Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery. The exhibition continues through April 24 and may be viewed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when school is in session; and by appointment on weekends. For more information, call (609) 924-6700 or visit: www.pds.org.

As a boy growing up in Bridgewater, New Jersey, David Wiesner was known to his classmates as “the kid who could draw.” In high school, he made silent movies and drew wordless comic books. Then he went on to hone his talent at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he not only committed his future to art but furthered a passion for visual narrative.

Ultimately, Mr. Wiesner found his niche in picture books. The exhibition, “World Within Worlds,” currently on view in the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School, features rarely-seen drawings, preliminary sketches, and finished works from the artist’s personal collection as well as an animated video of his book Tuesday, with music by Paul McCartney.

“The idea is the process, or writing and drawing, and how the stories come together. I’m including pieces I drew during high school and earlier, to show how visual themes reoccur in my work,” he says.

A public reception for the artist will take place on Thursday, April 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the gallery.

As part of Princeton Day School’s annual “Imagine the Possibilities” program, Mr. Wiesner will spend time with PDS students on Thursday, April 18, and Friday, April 19, sharing his ideas and discussing his process. The “Imagine” series is made possible through the John D. Wallace, Jr. ’78 Memorial Guest Artist Series Fund, which has been bringing authors, illustrators, and poets to the school since 1996. The artist will spend time with students at all grade levels.

According to his website, Mr. Wiesner generally “spends several years creating each new book. Many versions are sketched and revised until the story line flows smoothly and each image works the way he wants it to.” To explore imagined creatures like flying pigs and standing lizards, he creates three-dimensional models so that he can become better acquainted with the objects of his fancy. This is the sort of attention to detail that lends authenticity to his drawings.

“By his redeployment of everyday items — a fish, a string bean, an amphibian — Wiesner suggests that fantastical things are happening all around us, that our dreams are closer than we think — whether those dreams belong to humans, clouds, or frogs,” said Andrew Leonard in the New York Times Book Review.

The author/illustrator is one of the best-loved and most highly acclaimed picture book creators in the world. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have won numerous awards in the United States and abroad.

Three of his picture books have become classics and each is a Caldecott Medal winner: Tuesday in 1992, The Three Pigs in 2002, and Flotsam in 2007. He’s one of only two artists to win three medals in the award’s long history.

“We are overjoyed to be exhibiting David Wiesner’s personal works at the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery,”’ said Gallery Director Jody Erdman. “Sometimes spending several years on one book, with at least a half a dozen galleys and sketches, the detail, and beauty of his
illustrations is both intricate and remarkable,” said Ms. Erdman.

But it’s not Mr. Wiesner’s images alone that inspire the smiles. He brings a new wildness to the familiar. Take his telling of The Three Little Pigs. In Wiesner’s version of this oft-told tale, the big bad wolf blows the three pigs into a whole new imaginative landscape, where they wander — and fly — through other stories, encountering the likes of a dragon and a cat with a fiddle along the way. The story engages grownups as much as kids.

In Flotsam, Mr. Wiesner taps into grownup’s memories of days at the beach, rummaging among the treasures of say, the New Jersey Shore. But in Wiesner’s story, the kid on the beach, a bright, science-minded boy, finds a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera with secrets to share … and to keep.

“World Within Worlds,” runs through April 24 in the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School, 650 Great Road. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when school is in session; and by appointment on weekends. For more information, call (609) 924-6700 or visit: www.pds.org. For more information on the artist, visit: www.davidwiesner.com.

April 3, 2013

AlgonquinWe went to the Algonquin for lunch …. We sat in a big round booth built into the wall that felt cozy like a clubhouse.

—Margaret Salinger


I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure I was the only person on the packed-to-the-gills Manhattan-bound Jersey Transit train who was reading a 57-year-old paperback edition of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. Aside from the fact that I still spend time rereading Salinger’s fiction while still foolishly looking forward to that legendary trove of unpublished work (hey, it’s only been, what, 47 years?), my choice made perfect sense. We were on our way to a night at the Algonquin, the crown jewel of New York’s literary hotels, where Salinger and his then-editor at the New Yorker, Gus Lobrano, often met to talk about these selfsame stories, all but one of which first appeared in the pages of that magazine. And when the reclusive author made forays into the city from his New Hampshire sanctuary, he would revisit the hotel for lunch with his New Yorker pals William Shawn and Lillian Ross. If you have any doubt about the symbiotic relationship between the magazine and the hotel, take a look at the decor on the hall outside your room and you’ll see framed New Yorker covers from the golden years and framed vintage New Yorker cartoons.

In the time-honored tradition of hotel guests everywhere, I came home with some souvenirs, but you can be sure that this is the only hotel that provides a blue cocktail napkin bearing a quote from playwright George S. Kaufman (“When I was born I owed twelve dollars”); a note pad illustrated with an Al Hirschfeld caricature of the Round Table crowd; a postcard of Natalie Ascendios’s painting of Dorothy Parker and “The Vicious Circle”; and a handsome postcard portrait of Matilda, the hotel’s resident feline. And if you are someone who writes every single day of your life, how can you resist bringing home a card for maid service that says Quiet, Please. Writing the Great American Novel on one side and Service Please. Went Out to Find Some New Ideas on the other.

I almost forgot to mention the Algonquin stationery I made off with. As if anyone could forget the item that at the moment most famously represents this hotel’s intimate connection with literary greatness. You read about it just the other day in the March 27 New York Times article, “Faulkner’s Past Isn’t Dead Yet: You Can Buy It at Auction,” which reports that the sheet of Algonquin stationery on which William Faulkner wrote the first draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech is among the pieces of his undead past expected to fetch between $500,000 and $1 million in a June auction at Sotheby’s.

Room 512

We’d always heard that the rooms at the Algonquin were, uh, well, you know, small, and Room 512 was no exception. The fact is, however, that small, cleverly set-up rooms are preferable to big impersonal spaces if you’ve come to the Algonquin hoping to spend quality time in the proximity of the luminaries who have stayed, are staying, and will always stay there. Speaking of Faulkner, you’re also that much closer to the author of Light in August, particularly if you’ve read of his lifelong devotion to the hotel and of the binges he slept off in one or another of its 170-plus rooms. According to various biographies, including Faulkner at 100: Retrospect and Prospect, the novelist was in New York during the fall of 1937 trying to finish The Wild Palms when the woman he’d been having an affair with abandoned him to marry a concert pianist. As a result, he went on “an enormous bender” and “passed out in his hotel room at the Algonquin, with his bare back against a radiator steam pipe, and suffered third degree burns.” The wound was slow to heal, had to be skin-grafted, and made it impossible for him to sit and type for more than an hour at a time. On his next visit to New York, Faulkner resumed seeing the woman for liasions at the Algonquin, where they apparently resumed the affair.

You don’t need a plaque on the wall saying Faulkner made love or suffered or wrote in Room 512. What matters is knowing that by reading, sleeping, passing time in his favorite hotel you’re entering into a literary continuum housed by the Algonquin, and should you doubt it, the image of Matilda, the most recent incarnation of the resident Algonquin cat, is posted on the door to your room with a quote from a typically scathing Dorothy Parker review: “This is not a novel that should be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” The room service breakfast menu contains this choice tidbit from the inimitable Mrs. Parker: “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” Walk into the corridor to take the elevator, and you see that every door has its quote from this or that Round Table wit, along with the aforementioned framed reproductions of New Yorker covers and cartoons.


Until last Saturday the only time I’d visited the Algonquin was many years ago for an interview with veteran newspaperman Harry Hansen. All I have to jog my memory of that occasion is a Chicago Tribune article (“A Young Hoosier Author Looks at Writing Game”) that begins, “A studious young man of 20 was talking quietly about the way books get written, in a room where, 36 years before, F. Scott Fitzgerald had aired similar views.” Hansen sets the stage (“It was the cocktail hour at the Algonquin”), noting that “a member of the junior class at Indiana University” was getting “his first glimpse of the red carpet and stained walls that had seen hundred of authors lift a drink in times past.” That was it. I remember neither the carpet nor the walls nor anything else, but my wife does, having met with authors there a number of times over the years in her capacity as an editor at Rutgers University Press. This was her first visit since the recent refurbishment, and though the infrastructure is the same (dark oak woodwork, grandfather clock, black cast-iron stairs), she misses the overstuffed chairs and sofas and other pieces of atmosphere-saturated furniture that made it possible to at least imagine being in touch with authors and editors from the hotel’s Round Table prime. She also misses the miniature four-poster bed near the front of the lobby occupied by the resident Matilda, as all female cats since the 1930s were named; it was Hamlet for the males, thanks to John Barrymore, who named the first stray to cross the threshold.

Regardless of the updated furnishings, the Algonquin aura was all around us when we had breakfast in the lobby with the Ascendios painting of Dorothy Parker and the gang at the Round Table for company (including an upside-down Matilda), not to mention thoughtful service from the Algonquin staff. The legend continued in the Blue Bar with its framed Hirschfeld caricatures of show biz and literary stars, among them Princeton’s Bebe Neuwirth in Chicago.

Lost Time on 35th

That time and memory would figure so prominently during our day in the city was inevitable, and not merely because the first place we went after arriving at Penn Station was to the Morgan exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. The Morgan also happens to be in close proximity to the church where we were married a longlost time ago, with a statue of St. Francis looking on, and one of the running jokes of our marriage is that neither of us is ever quite sure which street it’s located on. I said I was sure it was 32nd Street, my wife doubted it, and as we came to within a block of the Morgan, she pointed toward a nondescript structure halfway down 35th Street. Can’t be, said I. Is, said she. We checked, and what do you know, she was right; she usually is.

Proust and Degas

Like our room at the Algonquin, the Swann’s Way exhibit, on view through April 28, was small but striking, a Parisian extension of the continuum marked by a quote from Abbé Mugnier: “Proust? No one is less dead than he is.” We followed the course of his writing life, from ideas scribbled in the tall, slender, elegant cahiers, then the larger student exercise tablets, then the school exam book where he jotted down subjects for Swann’s Way and sketched a bird at the top of one page and at the bottom a slender female presumed to be Albertine. By the time we got to the actual correction-ravaged typescripts, we could see the Abbé’s meaning in the work’s labyrinthine additions and vehement deletions.

On the Morgan’s second floor there’s a fascinating exhibit on view through May 13, focused on a single work by Degas, Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando (1879), his only painting with a circus setting.

A Salinger Moment

In the Jersey Transit waiting room at Penn Station and on the train home, I started reading J.D. Salinger’s For Esmé with Love and Squalor” in my Signet paperback of Nine Stories. The pages are yellowed, faded, and fragrant with the cozy scent of the same cheap paper comicbooks were made of, and it’s pleasant to think back on our night at the Algonquin and to imagine that Salinger and Gus Lobrano met there to talk about this story that never fails to charm and move me and that apparently had the same effect on the many readers who wrote him letters about it after its appearance in the April 8, 1950 New Yorker. We were on the train home when I finished “For Esmé.” As I looked up from the book, I saw a little girl effortlessly forming words on the fluid surface of the iPad being held by her mother, who smiled to see me admiring the beauty of a child seemingly writing on air, and when the mother saw my book, she smiled again, a little sadly, as if she knew the story I’d just read, with its flawless, subtly felt picture of two children, a brother and sister, in  a dark time. Or maybe she was only smiling at the oddity of anyone in 2013 reading a 47-year-old paperback. Any way you looked at it, it was a Salinger moment.

COOKING SCHOOL: Mel Leipzig’s acrylic on canvas painting,“The Cooking Teachers,” features from left: Frank Benowitz and Doug Fee of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management program at Mercer County Community College. Mr. Leipzig, who has taught at MCCC since 1968, will presents “Portrait of a College” at Mercer County Community College’s Trenton Campus on Wednesday, April 10 at noon in Kerney Hall, 102 North Broad Street. For more information, visit www.mccc.edu.

COOKING SCHOOL: Mel Leipzig’s acrylic on canvas painting,“The Cooking Teachers,” features from left: Frank Benowitz and Doug Fee of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management program at Mercer County Community College. Mr. Leipzig, who has taught at MCCC since 1968, will presents “Portrait of a College” at Mercer County Community College’s Trenton Campus on Wednesday, April 10 at noon in Kerney Hall, 102 North Broad Street. For more information, visit www.mccc.edu.

Art critic Burton Wasserman once described Mel Leipzig as “New Jersey’s greatest living painter.” Ask anyone at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), where he’s taught since 1968, and you’ll find equally enthusiastic accolades.

Being painted by the professor of Fine Arts and Art History is regarded as an enormous privilege. He’s considered a gem among the faculty.

After teaching there for 45 years, Mr. Leipzig has announced his retirement. “I just want to paint,” says the artist, who turns 78 next month.

“Professor Leipzig has been a treasured member of the Mercer faculty,” says College President Patricia C. Donohue. “Not only has he taught countless numbers of artists who have gone on to professional careers in the arts and to teaching the arts, he’s chosen to make College faculty, staff, and students part of the canvas of his life.”

To say that Mr. Leipzig paints portraits of family and friends hardly does justice to his work or its subjects. This is a unique kind of portraiture, one that captures not only individuals but their entire milieu. He records his subjects relaxing at home, or working in their offices.

His paintings are direct and unsentimental. His peers are the realist figure painters Edward Hopper, Ben Shahn, Alex Katz, Larry Rivers, and Philip Pearlstein.

Mr. Leipzig uses acrylic paints, which are brighter and more intense in color than oils, with a palette that he reduced to four colors: dark blue, dark red, yellow, and white in 1990. His paintings, which are done directly from life, have been described as being “filled with vitality and joy of life.”

Asked what keeps his work fresh over a 60-year career, and the painter replies that he has “an epiphany every ten years or so” that usually brings fresh vigor to his work. In 2008, he changed his approach to working directly with paint on canvas. His recent work is some of his best, he says, singling out a five panel painting of Michael Graves. He’s been doing a lot of diptychs and triptychs recently, painting in situ and working fast, he says.

Although his style has often been described as “photorealist,” Mr. Leipzig doesn’t work from photographs. These days he foregoes even using sketches drawn from life that he would once take back to his studio. In fact, these days, Mr. Leipzig says that his studio is more likely to be his subjects’ homes, where he’ll set up for as long as it takes to complete a painting.

“I studied with abstract painters, so I do a lot of things realists typically don’t,” says the artist, noting that he occasionally distorts perspective and uses white paint that most realists shy away from. “I’m a realist in subject matter, I want to do paintings that are scenes of everyday life; the personal environment reveals a lot about an individual.” Focus on context began, he says, in 1991 with paintings of his son and daughter. “My son’s room was covered in graffiti and my daughters in posters.”

“Great figure painting is always integrated into its background,” says Mr. Leipzig, describing his favorites Manet and Degas as “masters of integrating the figure skillfully into context.”

Community College

In recent years, Mr. Leipzig has included his MCCC colleagues as subjects, featuring images of people in myriad roles in more than 100 portraits of college faculty and staff.

Take for instance his portrait of Frank Benowitz and Doug Fee of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management program at MCCC. They are shown in the space that is so important to them.

“While best known for his painting, he was also MCCC’s specialist in teaching art history,” comments Ms. Donohue. “We will always remember his passion for his teaching and for bringing out the best in his students; everyone here is proud and deeply grateful that Mel chose Mercer as the destination for his professional life,” she says.

With a scholarship to study art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Mr. Leipzig went on to study art at The Cooper Union, at Yale University, and Pratt Institute. He’s had numerous one man shows at museums and institutions and has been featured at the Henoch Gallery in New York City.

His works are part of the permanent collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale Art Gallery, the National Academy Museum, Cooper Hewitt Museum, New Jersey State Museum, and the White House Collection in Washington, D.C. In 2006, he was elected to the National Academy of Design in New York.

Artist’s Talks

Before he leaves the college, Mr. Leipzig will present two lectures and slide presentations. The first, “Portrait of a College,” takes place at noon, April 10, in the College’s Kerney Hall at 102 North Broad Street in Trenton.

In the second, “A Lifetime Devoted to Painting,” the artist will review his 60-year career from his high school years to the present day, at noon, April 23, in the Communications Building, CM107, on the West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. This will be his last lecture before retirement.

Both lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call (609) 570-3324 or visit www.mccc.edu/events.

March 27, 2013

jhumpalahiriAt last week’s monthly meeting of the Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees, Programming Librarian Janie Hermann gave out the scoop on upcoming celebrities who will be stopping by the library in the coming weeks and months.

Featured authors include Ann Leary, Shannon K. O’Neil, and Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccalieri of The Sopranos). Ms. Leary will speak about her newly published novel, The Good House, on April 3; Ms. Neil will discuss Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States and the Road Ahead, on April 18; and Mr. Schirripa shares his insights as the father of two daughters in his new book, Big Daddy’s Rules: Raising Daughters is Tougher than it Looks on May 15.

But perhaps the biggest suprise in store for library patrons this year will be talks by Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook and Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Indian American author of Interpreter of Maladies (1999), The Namesake (2003), and Unaccustomed Earth (2008).

Ms. Lahiri’s visit is something of a coup. It has been five years since her last book.

“When I took on this job five years ago, my goal was to add A-list authors to the roster of local author and book group events that were then taking place at the library. When we got the call about Ms. Lahiri, I knew we had made it,” Ms. Hermann told the board. “We will be looking for a venue for Jhumpa Lahiri’s talk, which we expect will draw a larger audience than the library can accommodate.” The library estimates that more than 200 people will want to attend the event and since the Community Room on the first floor holds a maximum of 150, another space will have to be found.

Last year, using social media, Ms. Hermann was able to attract Molly Ringwald to the library. “I had tweeted her agent to see if she was available”, said Ms. Hermann. “She wasn’t but it put us on the radar and when later she had a cancellation in her book tour, she reached out to me.

“Twitter has been great in connecting with publishing houses and authors,” said Ms. Hermann, adding that Ms. Ringwald received no payment for the visit and that all of the money for these events, as for all public programming at the library, comes from funding such as a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Friends of the Princeton Public Library; no library funding from local taxes is used.

Ms. Hermann was also quick to point out that as exciting as such big name visitors are, Princeton has more than its fair share of homegrown talent. So much in fact that there is just not enough time in the annual calendar to feature them all. Hence Local Author Day, which this year will be held on Saturday, April 13.

This year, Local Author Day will include Admissions author Jean Hanff Korelitz; Meg Cox, author of The New Book of Family Traditions; John W. Hartmann, author of Jacket; and the writing team John P. Calu and David Hart with their new novel Spirits of Cedar Bridge. A further 40 local writers will have a chance to share their work. “Local Author Day celebrates the writers in our midst as well as several book publishers and editors. This year, there were 80 applicants for 40 spots,” reported Ms. Hermann.

Ms. Hermann was also excited to announce the library’s selection of The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick as this year’s Princeton Reads, the town-wide literacy and literary celebration that is held every other year. “We are very lucky to have the author because he is much in demand right now,” she said, referring to the film adaptation of Mr. Quick’s book that was nominated for no less than eight Academy Awards earlier this year. Described as “super engaging, warm and sharply funny,” the film stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Chris Tucker. Ms. Lawrence won the Oscar for Best Actress. Mr. Quick, who hails from southern New Jersey and is a former high school teacher, will be coming to the library to promote The Silver Linings Playbook and his new young adult novel Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

Timing invitations to authors is something of a fine art that Ms. Hermann has mastered. “People constantly make suggestions for big name authors but what they don’t realize is that unless authors are on a book tour when they will come for free or for very little, most high profile writers can command fees of the order of $10,000. The library doesn’t have a budget for that, so I try to find authors who not only fit the needs of the library but are available to us for free.”

The board commended Ms. Hermann for the successes of her first five years and asked about her goals for the next five. She said that while continuing to draw “big names,” she wants to serve the local population including the 30-45 age range, a notoriously difficult demographic to attract, and to reach out to Princeton’s Latin American community. “There’s a balance to be achieved between keeping it local, providing something for everyone, and having recognized authors,” she said.

Mr. Quick’s talk will take place on November 15; Ms. Lahiri’s on October 2. Added to all of this is the annual benefit hosted by the Friends of the Library, which this year will be held October 19 and bring the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New Yorker editor David Remnick to the library for a conversation with Princeton’s own John McPhee and Paul Muldoon. Now that’s a line up!

For more information on library programming, visit: www.princetonlibrary.org. For more about the October benefit,call The Friends of Princeton Public Library: (609) 924.9529, ext. 280 or email gcampanellasnow@princetonlibrary.org.

THE TOOL COLLECTOR: Thomas Kelly’s 32 inch by 40 inch acrylic on canvas work, will be one of 16 whimsical and colorful paintings by the local artist in his solo show “All I Have Learned, Until Now” at the Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, from April 1 through April 30. A reception will be held April 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and the exhibit can be viewed by appointment during school hours between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-7206.

THE TOOL COLLECTOR: Thomas Kelly’s 32 inch by 40 inch acrylic on canvas work, will be one of 16 whimsical and colorful paintings by the local artist in his solo show “All I Have Learned, Until Now” at the Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, from April 1 through April 30. A reception will be held April 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and the exhibit can be viewed by appointment during school hours between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-7206.

Local artist Thomas Kelly’s whimsical works will be on view in the exhibition “All I Have Learned, Until Now” opening at the Gallery at Chapin School on Princeton Pike on April 1 and running through April 30. A reception for the artist will be held April 3, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

What Mr. Kelly has learned includes “a lot of things,” he says: how to keep at it and how to maintain his own unique vision. He’s happy to share insights gleaned from 15 years as a working artist. His as yet unpublished manuscript, One Hundred Rules for the Aspiring Painter, is a treasure trove of advice suitable for artists visual and otherwise. With one liners to expand upon, such as: “Don’t be perfect,” Get fresh air,” and “Know when to stop,” Mr. Kelly is a popular speaker with community groups.

The artist’s stick-to-it attitude was influenced by his professors at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) from which he graduated with an associate degree in fine arts in 1997. Frank Rivera and Terri McNichol taught him how to draw and renowned painter Mel Leipzig passed on a “fantastic work ethic.” “Mel held down a full-time job and yet he still managed to produce between 10 and 12 paintings a year,” says Mr. Kelly who fits his own creative activity around a day job with the German company, KNF Neuberger, Inc. The firm makes custom vacuum pumps and Mr. Kelly has been with them since starting as an apprentice in 1988. Working in a highly regulated field makes a stark contrast with artistic pursuits, he says. But when he paints, he follows a routine, always having familiar and therefore non-distracting music playing in the background, for example. He works almost exclusively in acrylic paints.

In addition to his MCCC mentors, the artist cites his Bordentown dealer along with some 40 regular private collectors of his work for the encouragement that has kept him going since his first show in 1998. “I get a lot of positive feedback and that’s important to keeping a sparkle and sense of fun alive.” he says.

Over the years, Mr. Kelly has built up a regular following. Between 70 and 80 percent of his work is bought by private collectors, most of them local, although he does have one long-distance admirer who saw his work on a visit to the United States eight years ago and had a painting shipped to his home in Switzerland.

Born 1963 in Trenton, Mr. Kelly has had solo exhibitions at Bordentown’s Artful Deposit Gallery, Trenton’s Urban Word Café, and at the Trenton City Museum. His work has been featured at the Gallery at Mercer County Community College and elsewhere throughout New Jersey. He’s won several awards in juried shows and has works in public collections in the Trenton City Museum, Mercer County Community College, and at the Marriott Hotel Lafayette Yard, Trenton.

Mr. Kelly’s charming and whimsical narrative paintings chronicle common scenes of everyday life. There’s a flat, almost cartoon-like quality to his work. A Kelly painting is easy to identify and easy to connect with. His themes are universal.

Because of the narrative aspect of his work, he’s often asked by viewers about “the story” behind his paintings. He finds, however, that viewers often provide storylines of their own that “rival” his own and so he encourages them to do so. Take for example, The Tool Collector and The Iris Farmer. Viewers will find the urge to interpret beyond the frame to be irresistible. Is that the Iris Farmer’s wife who looks so jaded? Should he spend more time with her and less with his flowers?The tool collector has a wall that is chocabloc with implements and what looks to be a rather grand home and yet he is alone with his dog in an otherwise empty room. He looks happy enough with his newspaper and glass of wine, but is there or isn’t there something missing? What is the painter really trying to tell us? Mr. Kelly is more likely to smile and let you embroider on his work than give his own interpretation.

The artist has taken his whimsy to school playgrounds, most notably the series “Cool Down Fish,” which started as a blacktop mural for one school in Hamilton and then led to requests from others. His brightly colored 45 foot by 30 foot spiral path in the shape of a fish incorporates the values of respect, responsibility, caring, fairness, trust, and citizenship. Besides its attraction as a work of art, the “Cool Down Fish” provides kids with an opportunity to take time out for a calming walk.

“All I Have Learned, Until Now” will run in the Gallery at the Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, from April 1 through April 30. A reception for the artist will be held April 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and the exhibit can be viewed by appointment during school hours between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-7206.

March 13, 2013

GreekArt2Artist Barbara Warren brings together ancient Greek myth and the contemporary medium of digital photography to startling effect in her solo exhibition, “Slaying Medusa: A Greek Myth Retold Through Self-Portraits,” opening at the Arts Council of Princeton this Saturday, March 16. when a reception for the artist will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. The show runs through April 13, a short run, so don’t miss it.

If you recall, the Greek myth relates the story of Perseus who sets out to slay the fearsome Medusa, one of three Gorgon sisters, so gruesome that all living creatures turn to stone at the very sight of them. Perseus travels land and sea in his search aided by the gods Athena and Hermes, sent by Zeus to help him. Athena lends him her shield, polished bright as a mirror. Hermes lends him his sword. He tricks Medusa’s sisters, stealing the one eye they share between them and ultimately slays Medusa. When he cuts off Medusa’s head, the beautiful winged horse, Pegasus, springs from her severed neck

In Ms. Warren’s retelling, she interprets the narrative through a series of self-portraits. To do so, she melds her identity with the persona of each of the myth’s main characters, becoming, in turn, Perseus, Medusa, Hermes, Zeus.

“Storytelling goes back to the Greeks and Barbara is doing what the ancient Greeks did with a contemporary medium and in a unique way by self portraiture,” says curator Ricardo Barros, the show’s curator, who is also a photographer and a member of the Arts Council’s gallery advisory committee.

“The photographs propel the story forward,” says Mr. Barros, “There is an unexpected rhythm to Barbara’s approach; her expressive portraits convey not only the drama and adventure of Perseus’ quest, but also the psychological journey undertaken when one commits to confronting one’s fears.”

Mr. Barros suggested Barbara for an exhibition because of the quality of her work and because of the value of a solo exhibition for an emerging photographer. As a rule, the Arts Council favors group shows, giving exposure to multiple artists. A solo exhibition is a rare honor. “Barbara’s work deserves to be seen,” says Mr. Barros. “It will have a significant impact on those who see it and a significant impact on Barbara’s career.”

SWIFTER THAN THE WIND: Hermes is among the gods and heroes portrayed in an unusual exhibition of photographs, “Slaying Medusa: A Greek Myth Retold Through Self-Portraits,” opening this Saturday, March 16, at the Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. (Courtesy of Barbara Warren)

SWIFTER THAN THE WIND: Hermes is among the gods and heroes portrayed in an unusual exhibition of photographs, “Slaying Medusa: A Greek Myth Retold Through Self-Portraits,” opening this Saturday, March 16, at the Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street.
(Courtesy of Barbara Warren)

The project started as an assignment from Mr. Barros, Ms. Warren’s teacher and mentor, to represent the myth of Perseus and Medusa. With no instructions beyond the subject matter, the artist was free to take off in any direction. The resulting sequence of images were shot using infra red which requires considerable post-processing. A few of the images are composite. All are black and white. Alongside each photograph, the story of Perseus and Medusa is told via selected texts from the book Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire borrowed from the Princeton Public Library.

Putting herself in front of the lens was a learning experience, says Ms. Warren, who makes her living as a professional photographer with portraits and weddings. “I realized what it is like for my clients! But once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. Some of it was great fun, like portraying the Gorgon Sisters and Medusa. Much of it was very challenging, especially portraying the young men in the story as well as the god Zeus. It took around 700 shots to get Perseus’s jawline just right.”

“I’ve never liked photographs of myself. The camera paralyzed me; I ‘turned to stone’ in front of it, just as I had seen others do when I photographed them. This is why I chose self-portraiture to tell this story,” says the artist. “We all have our own Medusa to slay,” she says. “Our culture’s premium on youth and physical beauty, for example, dampens our self-esteem with unrealistic standards of adequacy. But there are many Medusas, each as intimidating as the next, and every one can turn their challenger to stone. This is why we sing praises of those who successfully confront their fears.”

Turning the camera upon herself helped the photographer tackle her own fears and judgments. “My need to be pretty for the camera disappeared as over the course of several months, I photographed myself as each one of the characters. I had the power to be young, old, ugly, frightful, and handsome,” she says, of the year-long project.

Many of the images evoke the androgynous actress Tilda Swinton. Others bring famed photographer Cindy Sherman to mind. Unlike Sherman, however, Warren does not go in for props. “I didn’t want to stage these images but to use facial expression, pose, angle, and lighting to portray character,” she says.

“The significant difference between Sherman and Warren.” says Mr. Barros, “is that the latter’s work uses psychological persona as opposed to the physical persona that is in Sherman’s hallmark. “Barbara is engaged in a dialogue with artists who precede her by thousands of years,” says Mr. Barros. “Her work here is creative and highly crafted.”

Born in Kentucky, Ms. Warren has lived most of her life in Bucks County. Her work has been published in B&W magazine, Photographic Magazine, and American Vision: Images by the Best of Today’s Amateur Nature Photographers. She’s garnered several awards including Best Body of Work 2011 at the Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, Best of Show 2010 at the Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, and Best of Show in Voices of the Marsh 2010. This is her first solo show.

“Slaying Medusa: A Greek Myth Retold Through Self-Portraits” runs March 16 through April 13 in the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts at 102 Witherspoon Street. Barbara Warren and curator Ricardo Barros will discuss the exhibition on Saturday, April 6 at 2 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-8777 or visit: artscouncilofprinceton.org; for more on Barbara Warren, visit: www.barbarawarren.com.

February 27, 2013
LADY OF LEGEND: This 24” x 36” oil on canvas, “Queen Maeve,” by artist Rita Stynes Strow, depicts the legendary Queen of Connacht who, according to Irish lore, initiated the Táin Bó Cúailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley. Part of the Ulster Cycle, the story is an epic tale of war involving the theft of the King of Ulster’s prize bull and the youthful exploits of the hero Cú Chulainn. The painting and others by Ms. Stynes Strow will be on show in the gallery of the Princeton Charter School, 100 Bunn Drive, from March 7 through March 22.

LADY OF LEGEND: This 24” x 36” oil on canvas, “Queen Maeve,” by artist Rita Stynes Strow, depicts the legendary Queen of Connacht who, according to Irish lore, initiated the Táin Bó Cúailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley. Part of the Ulster Cycle, the story is an epic tale of war involving the theft of the King of Ulster’s prize bull and the youthful exploits of the hero Cú Chulainn. The painting and others by Ms. Stynes Strow will be on show in the gallery of the Princeton Charter School, 100 Bunn Drive, from March 7 through March 22.

Rita Stynes Strow has been painting since “time immemorial,” laughs the former art teacher who lives in Kingston. Inspired by her own Irish origins and tales from the Bible and Celtic mythology, Ms. Stynes Strow works magic in oil and canvas.

Her lively and colorful work will be among those shown in an upcoming exhibition at the Princeton Charter School (PCS). The exhibition is to be the first of a series of annual art shows featuring the work of local artists as well as paintings by Charter School students. It opens with a a vernissage or opening reception next Thursday, March 7 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and continues through March 22.

In addition to several canvases by Ms. Stynes Strow, works by Catherine Arnoux, Heather Barros, Jean Becette, Mojgan Salehi, and Jannick Wildberg will be on display

The work featured has been chosen to represent different styles and methods. The idea is to emphasize the importance of artistic individuality and subjectivity to the school’s students. “We wanted to bring local artists to the campus and involve our students from kindergarten through eighth grade,” says Amanda Castner, the PCS art teacher for the school’s 348 students, 100 of whom are participating with the artists.

Ms. Stynes Strow, who has two grandchildren at PCS, Zoe and Cassian Obierne, was delighted to be asked to participate in the exhibition. Her oil paintings, she says, strive to evoke the historic and the mysterious emotions of the Celtic people. “The traditional knot work I use has the inherent strength of design well suited to this goal,” she says.

Using acrylics, Catherine Arnoux seeks to reproduce the colors of nature or invent colors of her own. Unlike the illustrative paintings by Ms. Stynes Strow, Ms. Arnoux’s work is abstract. Both artists, however, began painting at a young age. Ms. Arnoux still has her very first paint box, bought in the Quartier Latin in Paris when she was 12-years-old. “My grandmother always had dahlias in her garden and I was amazed by their colors and their intricate patterns, especially the heart of the flower,” Ms. Arnoux recalls. “For me, painting is more about showing colors, either reproducing the ones nature decides for us, or inventing the ones we decide to master in an abstract painting. But always, you mix it and it suddenly appears on the canvas as magic.”

Flowers also provide inspiration for Mojgan Salehi, who moved toward art at an early age as well. The artist describes art as a “magical process” she uses to express her love of gardening and flowers. “Painting is my key to the secret garden, my way down the rabbit hole, my looking glass,” she says. “It fills me with a sense of accomplishment and integrity, and has proven to be a most amenable vehicle for translating inner vision to outer reality.”

Through mixed media including including charcoal, oil, ink, and clay, Heather Barros creates landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. Besides being a working artist, Ms. Barros is an accomplished teacher, running her own art school, Art Collaborations, at Princeton Academy.

Before moving to Brittany, Jean Becette taught art for four years at the Princeton Junior School and for 12 years at the Princeton Friends School. In France, he paints the lush seascapes of the Cotes d’Armor (formerly known as the Côtes-du-Nord on Brittany’s north coast).

Jannick Wildberg creates abstract paintings in oil, plaster, fabric, and pigments to create texture and evoke the elements of nature. Her realistic portraits are intended to capture the physical uniqueness of her subjects while representing the inherent energy and vibrancy of life inherent in each. Ms. Wildberg says of her art that it “springs from a desire to communicate about the intense experience of being in this world, about our need to slow it down perhaps, or to gather ourselves and seek tranquility.”

Besides large-scale oil portraits, the exhibition includes abstract works by Ms. Wildberg, who uses plaster, fabric, and pigments to create texture and to engage on a more visceral level.

Besides the eclectic artworks on view by these adult artists, the PCS exhibition will also include work by Princeton Charter students who collaborated with Ms. Barros and Mr. Becette.

The public is invited to attend the opening reception at which light refreshments will be served. For more information, contact PCS art teacher Amanda Castner at (856) 217-4922 or acastner@princetoncharter.org.

February 20, 2013
RECENT FIND: This poster dated April 20, 1865, advertising a reward for the capture of John Wilkes Booth and other conspirators involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was found among other items in the library at Princeton University. It will be among almost 100 historic pieces on view in the exhibition “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” opening this Friday, February 22 at Firestone Library. (Courtesy of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University)

RECENT FIND: This poster dated April 20, 1865, advertising a reward for the capture of John Wilkes Booth and other conspirators involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was found among other items in the library at Princeton University. It will be among almost 100 historic pieces on view in the exhibition “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” opening this Friday, February 22 at Firestone Library.
(Courtesy of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University)

The serendipitous “rediscovery” in the Princeton University Library of a wanted poster offering a $100,000 reward for Lincoln’s murderer “couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time,” says Curator of Manuscripts Don Skemer. The poster was found as Mr. Skemer and his team were completing descriptive labels for a new exhibition, “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox,” opening this Friday, February 22 in the main gallery of the University’s Firestone Library.

The important historical artifact will be among almost 100 items on view. “It’s a wonderful item that came to us with the Livingston and Delafield Family Papers in the mid-1980s,” says Mr. Skemer: “Because of its size, it was housed in a flat file, separate from the rest of the papers when they were being arranged and described; we rediscovered it in December when rehousing collections as part of the ongoing renovation of Firestone Library.”

According to Mr. Skemer such “discoveries” are by no means unusual. “The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has very rich and extensive collections, so we regularly discover or rediscover important items, especially in large collections that can contain hundreds of document boxes, cartons, and other containers,” he says.

Debuting on George Washington’s birthday, the free exhibition, which traces the American experience from 1607 to 1865, is open to the public through August with special events planned for Tuesday, March 5, in commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

Items on display, several for the first time, are drawn from the library’s holdings of American historical manuscripts and include: autograph letters, rare books, maps, photographs, and other materials from the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) and the Scheide Library. Besides the wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, there is a first-hand account of Colonial life in Jamestown.

Also on display will be such notable items as English writer William Strachey’s 1612 account of the early American settlement in Jamestown, Virginia; George Washington’s land surveys; John Trumbull’s final sketch for his painting of the Battle of Princeton; pages from Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book; a letter on slavery by abolitionist movement leader Frederick Douglass; Abraham Lincoln’s manuscript draft of a speech on sectionalism; and General George McClellan’s collection of Civil War photographs.

“The exhibition represents the growth of the American nation, from European colonization to the American Revolution, and from westward expansion to the end of the Civil War, against the background of an evolving natural and man-made environment,” says Mr. Skemer. “It bears witness to the diverse peoples and defining events that helped shape America and created an enduring political union.”

According to Anna Chen, assistant curator of manuscripts, it took more than a year to select items from the thousands in the RBSC and Scheide Library holdings. “We have a wonderful and deep American historical collection, but it’s rarely exhibited because there is just so much from which to choose,” says Mr. Skemer.

The exhibition title, “A Republic in the Wilderness,” was inspired by the 1866 writings of American historian George Bancroft, who summarized the nation’s previous 250 years thus: “In the fullness of time a republic rose up in the wilderness of America.”

“One of the themes that connects the pieces in the show is the importance of the land and the environment to America’s understanding of itself and the many cultures it comprises,” says Ms. Chen, citing examples such as a 17th century land deed of New Jersey signed by English settlers and Lenape Indians, and views of landscapes and wildlife by artists George Catlin and John James Audubon.

The exhibition also tells the stories of African Americans brought here as slaves, including a broadside diagram of a slave ship. Encounters between Native Americans and European settlers are also included. “The exhibition recognizes what happened to the indigenous people in America, as well as the history of slavery in this country,” says Mr. Skemer.

On March 5, there will be a one-day display of rare items from the Civil War, such as souvenir copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, both signed by Lincoln. Civil War expert James McPherson will give a public talk, “The Civil War and the Transformation of America,” at 5 p.m. in McCormick Hall, Room 101. On May 5, Sean Wilentz, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, will give a special exhibition lecture in McCormick Hall, Room 101. Both events are co-sponsored by The Friends of the Princeton University Library.

For more information on Firestone Library gallery hours, visit: www.princeton.edu/~rbsc/exhibitions/main.html.

February 13, 2013
SMITHSONIAN IN NEWARK: This headrest from the Luba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dating to the mid- to late-19th century, is from a show organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art that will be included in “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts,” opening at the Newark Museum on Wednesday, February 27. For more information, call 973-596-6550 or visit: www.NewarkMuseum.org. (Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Franko Khoury)

SMITHSONIAN IN NEWARK: This headrest from the Luba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dating to the mid- to late-19th century, is from a show organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art that will be included in “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts,” opening at the Newark Museum on Wednesday, February 27. For more information, call 973-596-6550 or visit: www.NewarkMuseum.org.
(Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Franko Khoury)

Two exhibitions opening in Princeton and Newark this month take a close look at art for discoveries of African cultural and scientific influence. Inspired by collections in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., respectively, each exhibition is designed to prompt discussion by visitors, students, and scholars alike.

In Princeton, “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe,” which opens this Saturday, February 16, at the Princeton University Art Museum, examines paintings, sculptures, prints, manuscripts, and printed books from the Renaissance period to reveal the roles that Africans and their descendants played in that society.

In Newark, “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts,” opening on Wednesday, February 27, focuses on the legacy of African astronomy as it is revealed in African art, both traditional and contemporary.

The Princeton show is described as providing a narrative for an often forgotten social group in Europe from the late 1400s to the early 1600s. One goal of the exhibition is to create an avenue for understanding the social issues of color, class, and stereotypes of the day. Africans living in or visiting Europe during this period were artists, aristocrats, diplomats, slaves, servants, and saints: witness St. Benedict, the Moor, who was not only widely revered in his lifetime, but is also one of the African-Europeans of the 1500s with an impact to this day. According to scholars, they came partly because of the European drive for new markets and diplomatic and trade initiatives by African monarchs. In exploring their hitherto little known presence and that of their descendants, the exhibition creates a new perspective on European art.

Originally organized by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the exhibition features some 75 works from the Walters collection as well as items from museums in the United States and Europe, and from private collections. It includes pieces by Rubens, Pontormo, Dürer, Veronese, and Bronzino depicting diverse views from street scenes to portraits created from life.

“We hope this exhibition will be a vehicle for conversations about cultural identity,” says Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum. “Through great art, visitors will be able to make personal connections with Africans who lived in Europe 500 years ago.”

Among the exhibition highlights are scenes from daily life such as the Netherlandish painting, Chafariz d’el Rey in the Alfama District, circa 1570-80, showing a square in the city of Lisbon. At this period, people of African descent made up nearly 10 percent of Lisbon’s population, more than anywhere else in Europe and the diversity of their social positions is represented by a slave in chains and a knight on horseback.

Also featured is the painting that is considered to be the first formal portrait of a child of African ancestry in European art: Portrait of Maria Salviate de’ Medici and Giulia de’ Medici, by Jacopo de Pontormo. Painted around 1537, Pontormo’s image shows the little girl Giulia de’ Medici enjoying an aristocratic lifestyle. Her image contrasts with Portrait of an African Slave Woman, attributed to Annibale Carracci in 1580, which shows a serving maid from a fragment of a larger picture. Although unnamed, the woman is a remarkable presence; her facial expression is ambiguous.

“Recognizing the African presence within Renaissance society opens a new window into a time when the role of the individual was becoming recognized — a perspective that remains fundamental today,” says Joaneath Spicer, the Walters’ curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art. “We are just beginning to understand the contributions of people of African ancestry in that society, so this exhibition raises as many questions as it answers.”

Such questions will no doubt be raised when Ms. Spicer joins several others for a panel discussion, moderated by Anthony Grafton, Princeton University’s Henry Putnam University Professor of History, on Thursday, April 25, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in McCormick 101. The other panelists will be Anthony Appiah, the Ghanaian born British-American philosopher and novelist and Princeton University’s Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy, and Adam Beaver, assistant professor of history.

The exhibition will run through June 9.

Science Influencing Art

“African Cosmos: Stellar Arts,” opening at the Newark Museum, is described as the first major exhibition of its kind. The show originated with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art where it ran for six months before coming to Newark, its only appearance in New Jersey.

With more than 70 works from all corners of the continent, the exhibition captures Africa’s early engagement with celestial observations and their connections to the visual arts from the earliest of days. It moves chronologically from a selection of ancient Egyptian pieces by African artists Romuald Hazoumè, Gavin Jantjes, William Kentridge, Marcus Neustetter, and Karel Nel.

Highlights include Dogon sculptures and masks from Mali; chiefly regalia and other Akan arts from Ghana; Tabwa and Luba works from the Democratic Republic of Congo; and models of the cosmos created by Nigerian Yoruba artists.

“African Cosmos highlights the historical contributions of Africans to our knowledge of the heavens,” said Christa Clarke, the Newark Museum’s curator of African art and senior curator, Arts of Africa and the Americas. “The spectacular works on view demonstrate how this knowledge has informed and inspired the creation of art on the African continent for millennia, from ancient Egypt to present-day South Africa.”

As artist-in-residence, Mr, Hazoumé will be installing, Rainbow Serpent, a 12-foot construct of recycled containers used to transport gasoline, on February 21, 22, and 25. He is also scheduled to lead a master class for Newark school children on February 27. Mr. Hazoumé will lead a tour of the exhibit with a special focus on the artist’s large sculpture, followed by a discussion.

“African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” will run through August 11 at the Newark Museum, 49 Washington Street in the Downtown/Arts District of Newark. Hours are: Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Suggested admission: $10 (adults); $6 (children, seniors, students with valid I.D.). For more information, call (973) 596-6550 or visit: www.NewarkMuseum.org.

February 6, 2013
LET’S TALK ABOUT ART: Artist Geoffrey Dorfman (left) discusses his upcoming exhibit at Rider University’s Art Gallery with gallery director Harry I. Naar. There will be an opening reception Thursday, February 7 from 5-7 p.m., and Mr. Naar will lead a talk with the artist on Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m. For more on Mr. Dorfman’s work, visit: geoffreydorfman.com.(Photo by Jon Naar, 2012.)

LET’S TALK ABOUT ART: Artist Geoffrey Dorfman (left) discusses his upcoming exhibit at Rider University’s Art Gallery with gallery director Harry I. Naar. There will be an opening reception Thursday, February 7 from 5-7 p.m., and Mr. Naar will lead a talk with the artist on Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m. For more on Mr. Dorfman’s work, visit: geoffreydorfman.com. (Photo by Jon Naar, 2012.)

Geoffrey Dorfman describes the paint he works with as holding everything necessary to “create a world that … unlocks the sensation of being that lies at the root of our existence.” As an abstract painter, Mr. Dorfman imbues his work with color, texture, and light.

An exhibition of 18 of Mr. Dorfman’s paintings and six monotypes opens at the Rider University Art Gallery tomorrow evening, Thursday, February 7, with a reception for the artist from from 5 to 7 p.m. Titled “Geoffrey Dorfman: Eye and Mind, the exhibition continues through Sunday, March 3. Gallery Director Harry I. Naar will lead a discussion with the artist on Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m.

In an interview with Mr. Dorfman in the Gallery, the artist described his process: “Every stroke gives you an indication of your next move. If things are working well, a painting can be done quickly but if not, the effort can be futile.” He doesn’t work from a prior sketch. He doesn’t spatter or throw paint. It’s a misconception, he says, that abstract artists work in a frenzy, throwing paint around in drugged abandon. “I’m not an athletic painter. If anything, I have a strong classical streak.” His antecedents are Willem De Kooning and Milton Resnick but there’s also a dash of French influence.

“Dorfman comes out of a long and strong tradition of painting out of ‘discovery,’ searching and finding and developing images. He pushes, pulls, and twists the paint, across and through the surface of the canvas with rhythmical, gestural forms, and calligraphic marks,” says Mr. Naar. “Spend time looking at his paintings and you’ll begin to discover a world of strong feelings and sensations. Some are dramatic and bold while others are soft and quiet. His work is strong and quite beautiful.”

The result of 45 years of putting paint on canvas, Mr. Dorfman’s paintings are all different and yet they are his paintings. “You are not going to see work like this anywhere else,” he says. The artist has no affectations about his art. He doesn’t call himself an abstract expressionist and he doesn’t care to be compared to Kandinsky, whose work he regards as cerebral. “My work is more felt,” he says.

He’s an intuitive artist and while his starting point is always the same, the paintings he creates are endlessly varied. First, he “activates” the canvas by applying paint in an arbitrary way. He likens his process to chess, which has well-defined moves at the start that require little thought. But as his work develops, there’s a lot of movement. It’s not all additive, he says, a lot of paint gets taken off and elements get moved around. “My paintings expand, although there are moments of concentration within the whole.”

“Art is a form of play and always has been,” he says. That’s not to trivialize it, on the contrary, play is a fundamental part of the creative process.

How does he know when a painting is finished? “That’s the most important aspect of a painting; sometimes I realize I stopped too early and go back into it. There is a moment when it just ‘comes together.’ Cezanne described it thus, says Mr. Dorfman linking his fingers together in demonstration.

“The hard task of any art is bringing unity and variety together. That’s the play of art, abstract or representative,” he says. “Achieving either one alone is easy but bringing them together is not.” Unlike Rothko who stained the canvas with paint, applying it in a way that erases its substance, Dorfman embraces the substance of his medium. “I like to be frank about the way a painting is made. I like the idea that people might feel it’s available to them, that they could do this themselves.

“Some paints are grainy, mineral, and weigh a ton; some are honey and vegetal; some offer friction to the brush; some apply with ease. The oil, the color, the brushwork; all of that is the sensuous aspect, the feeling part. Over time the surface gets increasingly complex and catches light rather than reflects it.”

He uses housepainter’s brushes and applies paint in a way that he says is “straightforward, prosaic rather than poetic.” Which is not to say that the end result is prosaic. Anything but, as the Rider exhibition demonstrates.

The majority of the work included is recent and each is titled. “The idea of numbering my paintings, as Jackson Pollock did, is too dry for me. Besides it can be confusing. Even in music this type of numbering can be confusing. A poetic or imagistic title sticks in your mind.”

The reference to music comes naturally to Dorfman, who is also a concert pianist. Having pursued composition at the Manhattan School of Music, he has performed in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Bechstein Hall, the Marjorie Deane Little Theater at the Westside YMCA, Columbia University, the Cooper Union, and at Great Britain’s Marlborough Summer Festival. But classical music has scores to be followed or interpreted. Dorfman decided on painting instead. “Art isn’t a discipline in the sense that music is,” he says.

When asked about the exhibition’s title, “Eye and Mind,” Mr. Dorfman launches into a discussion on perception. “What makes something complete is a matter of mind,” he says. “Perception involves interpretation by the mind; fragments don’t interest me, in abstract art this is crucial, fragments just show the activity of the brush; to create a whole in abstract expressionism takes a great deal of work.” Dorfman may work for weeks or months on a painting, often going back again and again to a piece over time. In a “good” year, he’ll created around 16 paintings, half of that in a “bad” year.

Mr. Dorfman lives in the historic Mill Hill district of Trenton. He received his BFA from Cooper Union and his MFA from Syracuse University. Since 1978, he’s taught at the College of Staten Island/CUNY and he’s the author of several articles on painting for ArtForum, as well as the book Out of the Picture: Milton Resnick and the New York School, published by Midmarch Arts Press in 2004.

He received the Henry Ward Ranger prize from the National Academy of Design and was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship Grant, and he has curated numerous exhibitions, most recently “Hans Hoffman: The Legacy” at The Painting Center in New York City.

In the conversation with Mr. Naar that is included in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, Dorfman describes the effect that the 1969 New York Painting and Sculpture show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had on him. “The Hans Hofman room just knocked me out,” he says. “The mountains of saturated pigment made the pictures look like slabs of chroma; it was quite dazzling. The paintings spoke of an ecstatic state. Frankly there was nothing in figurative painting of that time that could compete with it.”

Appeal of the Abstract

“Abstract art is not appealing to everyone,” says Mr. Dorfman. “In art as in literature, there’s been a retreat from Modernism, and Abstract Expressionism appeals to a particular kind of person: one who is intrigued by complexity, who is is not discouraged if they don’t get an immediate sense of what something is about and who doesn’t dismiss something out of hand if it doesn’t immediately speak meaning to them.” According to Mr. Dorfman, vision and understanding are not identical, even though we often conflate the two as when we say “don’t you see,” when we mean “don’t you understand.”

Abstract art works at a more visceral level than representative art, says Dorfman. “It has to do with feelings and a kind of recognition that is basic to knowledge.”

Mr. Dorfman isn’t one for neat predictable endings. He prefers to be kept in suspense. Of his upcoming discussion with Mr. Naar at the Gallery on Valentine’s Day, Mr. Dorfman says he prefers not to know what the gallery director has in mind to talk about in advance. “That way it will be much more interesting.”

“Art is a constant joy,” he says “Sometimes I get so excited that I have to leave the studio. If people feel a sense of ebullience when looking at my paintings that’s wonderful, but it’s not something I set out to achieve, I wouldn’t know how.”

“Geoffrey Dorfman: Eye and Mind,” will be on view at The Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville through March 3. All except one of the paintings is for sale. Gallery hours are: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (609) 895-5588, or visit: www.rider.edu/artsgallery.

January 16, 2013
COUR, 7 RUE DE VALENCE: On display in “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander” through March 10, Eugène Atget’s photograph, printed by Berenice Abbott, is from “Eugène Atget Portfolio 1922,” printed 1956. Gift of David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920.(Courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum)

COUR, 7 RUE DE VALENCE: On display in “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander” through March 10, Eugène Atget’s photograph, printed by Berenice Abbott, is from “Eugène Atget Portfolio 1922,” printed 1956. Gift of David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920. (Courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum)

The mind-finger presses the release on the silly machine and it stops time and holds what its jaws can encompass and what the light will stain.

—Lee Friedlander (1934—)

These are simply documents I make.

—Eugène Atget (1857-1927)

No one knows who coined the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It might have been an American newspaper editor in 1911 or it may go all the way back to Confucius. If you visit the Princeton University Art Museum’s new photography exhibit, “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander,” you’re almost sure to hear it or think it, but there’s a mystery guest in Atget’s Paris and Friedlander’s America who renders the old adage meaningless, turns it on its head, blows it to the moon. Depending on which translation of the four thousand-plus pages of Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu, also translated as In Search of Lost Time) you’re referring to, Marcel Proust’s multi-volume work contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200,000 words, any number or combination of which are worth a thousand pictures. You need more than mathematics to comprehend the magnitude of Proust (1871-1922). Walter Benjamin describes a “Nile of language” that “overflows and fructifies the regions of truth.” Virginia Woolf admits that her “great adventure is really Proust …. What remains to be written after that? One has to put down the book and gasp.”

A single sentence by Proust contains a quantity of phenomena even the most accomplished photographic artists would be hard put to keep up with, not to mention the translators E.M. Forster imagines confronting one such sentence, which “begins quite simply,” then “undulates and expands, parentheses intervene like quick-set hedges, the flowers of comparison bloom, and three fields off, like a wounded partridge, crouches the principal verb, making one wonder as one picks it up, poor little thing, whether after all it was worth such a tramp, so many guns, and such expensive dogs.”

Looking for Partridges 

Besides the edition of In Search of Lost Time (2000) illustrated by Atget’s photography, there’s A Vision of Paris,in which Proust’s words accompany Atget’s images. Although the pairing makes decorative sense, Atget would have assembled his Paris no less memorably and selectively had Proust never existed. On the other hand, in introducing Lee Friedlander, Photographs (1978), Friedlander feels close enough to Proust’s way of reimagining reality to quote in full a sentence from the master every bit as far afield as the one Forster’s word picture of hedges and flowers is describing. Here it is in all its Proustian glory (see if you can find the “partridges”):

Apart from the most recent applications of the art of photography — which set crouching at the foot of a cathedral all the houses which, time and again, when we stood near them, have appeared to us to reach almost to the height of the towers, drill and deploy like a regiment, in file, in open order, in mass, the same famous and familiar structures, bring into actual contact the two columns on the Piazzetta which a moment ago were so far apart, thrust away the adjoining dome of the Salute, and in a pale and toneless background manage to include a whole immense horizon within the span of a bridge, in the embrasure of a window, among the leaves of a tree that stands in the foreground and is portrayed in a more vigorous tone, give successively as setting to the same church the arched walls of all the others — I can think of nothing that can so effectively as a kiss evoke from what we believe to be a thing with one definite aspect, the hundred other things which it may equally well be since each is related to a view of it no less legitimate.

The foremost partridges that Proust’s “hunting party” of prose has been deployed to shoot down are the verb “bring”andthe “kiss” that occasioned the whole fabulous outing in the first place. This is a kiss the narrator, Marcel, has been longing for, dreaming of, since childhood. When he finally plants his lips on Albertine’s cheek, the world turns over, the city of Florence is vigorously realigned, rebuilt, repainted, above all seen — much as an inventive American photographer chooses to see a world unencumbered by rules of time and space and logic.

Stroll through Friedlander’s half of the “Two Views” exhibit and there’s no doubt how closely the photographer’s vision coheres with and reflects Proust’s approach to time, place, and memory. It’s almost as if the theatre of Friedlander’s imagery were shaped according to the stage directions provided in that exhilaratingly interminable prelude to a kiss, spaces contracted, disparate elements brought together, structures displaced and thrust into new formations, along with the urban horizons, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, compressed within the spans of bridges, in the “embrasure” of windows and mirrors, or “among the leaves of a tree.”

Stunt Man

The centrality of cars to Friedlander’s art would seem to set his work apart from both Atget and Proust. It’s not the car as subject that attracts him so much as the car as force, catalyst, enclosure, and high-octane photographic accessory. In Friedlander’s Hillcrest, New York (1970) you sit in the driver’s seat watching automobiles moving in opposite directions, at clumsy angles, against multiple backgrounds, where a distant human figure is walking downhill while still more distant human figures occupy a bench, as if in another dimension, everything expressing degrees of impediment and displacement, the template of a degraded reality that Friedlander is attacking like a stunt man driving through a plate glass window.

I wonder if Friedlander knew about Proust and fast cars. According to William C. Carter’s biography, Marcel Proust: A Life (Yale 2000), the novelist enjoyed speeding around Normandy in a red taxi with a professional driver (“It’s like being shot out of a cannon”). Too bad Friedlander couldn’t be there to photograph “the distant spires” Proust saw “appear and disappear against the horizon in constantly shifting perspectives” as he “marveled at the phenomenon of parallax and relativity so keenly felt in an automobile.”

Concerning Atget, it’s worth noting that the brightest image in his predominantly sepia portion of the “Two Views” exhibit (Cours, 7 rue de Valance) is centered on a resplendent Renault touring car. In The World of Atget: Modern Times (Museum of Modern Art 1985), a note by editor John Szarkowski says that because Atget preferred to see Paris on his own terms (“I can safely say that I possess all of old Paris”), he “withheld recognition of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe” and was equally reluctant to focus on automobiles — at least until he discovered that particular Renault, in Szarkowski’s words, “as handsome and strange as a heathen conqueror, in the homely, decaying courtyard.”

More important than the car, however, is the courtyard. Friedlander would appreciate the natural convergence of forms and angles (no need to do any fancy photographic shape shifting), and the same could be said of Proust, who would conjure wonders of literary art from this “homely” courtyard’s wealth of surfaces, the texture of the sloping roof of the garage and the masonry, the yawning dormer windows of the structure opposite with its stairway sheltered by yet another sloping roof. There are at least six or seven suggestively weathered canvases on which paintings could be imagined by the writer who turned a “patch of pale yellow” on a wall into “something rich and strange” in Remembrance of Things Past.

The End of Life

The month before Atget’s view of the “decaying courtyard” dated June 1922, Proust ventured outdoors for what may have been the last time (he died in November), his goal the Jeu de Paume, where one of his favorite paintings, Vermeer’s View of Delft, was on display. Even before he reached the street, he was feeling faint and needed help from a friend, who escorted him to the museum and the Vermeer and later said that he was shaken by the outing. Proust’s shaky last viewing of the Vermeer inspired one of the most celebrated and haunting sequences in his work: the death of the writer, Bergotte, who is also feeling unwell as he gazes into the View of Delft at the “little patch of yellow wall” that was “like some priceless specimen of Chinese art, of a beauty that was sufficient in itself.” His dizziness increasing, he fixes “his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall.” He finds himself thinking, “That’s how I ought to have written,” that he ought to have made his language “precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall.” Repeating it to himself, “Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall,” he sinks down on to a circular settee, thinking it’s “nothing, merely a touch of indigestion” when a “fresh attack” strikes him, he rolls from the settee to the floor, and dies.

The long paragraph pondering spiritualism and other worlds that follows the moment of Bergotte’s death is, according to Carter’s biography, as close as Proust ever comes to “declaring some sort of belief in the afterlife.” The writing is also noticeably less difficult than the prose Forster playfully improvised on and Friedlander used for a preface. The paragraph ends with a rather flat summary, for Proust, “So that the idea that Bergotte was not dead for ever is by no means improbable.” Proust improves on the same idea after describing Bergotte’s funeral: “They buried him, but all through that night of mourning, in the lighted shop-windows, his books, arranged three by three, kept vigil like angels with outspread wings and seemed, for him who was no more, the symbol of his resurrection.”

Proust will experience a resurrection of sorts in 2013. It was 100 years ago, November 14, 1913, that Swann’s Way, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past was published in Paris. The Morgan Museum and Library’s upcoming commemorative exhibit, “Marcel Proust and Swann’s Way,” begins on February 15.

Curated by Peter C. Bunnell, photography curator emeritus at the Princeton University Art Museum and former curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “Two Views” will run through March 10.

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE DOMINION: Dylan Thomas’s defiance of death notwithstanding, Federico Castellon portrays an entirely different sentiment in this 1968, 12 x 8¼ inch lithograph titled “And The Red Death Held Illimitable Dominion Over All.” The image, which comes from the collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, is one of a series on show together with works by Francisco Goya in a new exhibition opening on Wednesday, January 23, in the gallery at The College of New Jersey.(Image Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York.)

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE DOMINION: Dylan Thomas’s defiance of death notwithstanding, Federico Castellon portrays an entirely different sentiment in this 1968, 12 x 8¼ inch lithograph titled “And The Red Death Held Illimitable Dominion Over All.” The image, which comes from the collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, is one of a series on show together with works by Francisco Goya in a new exhibition opening on Wednesday, January 23, in the gallery at The College of New Jersey.
(Image Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York.)

In an exhibition appropriately titled “Fear and Folly: The Visionary Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon,” the art gallery at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) features prints by two artists who have much in common even though they are separated by about a century and a half.

Both Francisco Goya (1746–1828) and Federico Castellon (1914–1971) were born in Spain. Their work on display here focuses on the human condition and at times gives the impression that the two were contemporaries.

Famed as a romantic painter and printmaker, Goya is regarded as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns whose work influenced the likes of Picasso and Francis Bacon. He was a court painter famed for flattering portraits, but his work took a darker turn later in life after a serious illness left him deaf. A bleak outlook and fear of insanity can be seen in such works as the nightmarish Saturn Devouring His Son, which Goya painted directly onto the wall of his home.

Castellon is a mid-twentieth century Surrealist who moved with his family from Spain to Brooklyn, New York, when he was just seven years old. Largely self-taught, he became a friend of the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera when his mother took him to a lecture given by Rivera during his installation of the murals at Rockefeller Center. Rivera helped Castellon achieve his first solo exhibition when he was just 19 years old. Castellon went on to win several prestigious awards, including two Guggenheim fellowships, and to a career in teaching at Columbia University and elsewhere. He also created illustrations for Life magazine and for numerous books.

The TCNJ exhibition, which opens on Wednesday, January 23, and continues through March 7, was organized by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan. It’s an exhibition in which artistry and literature collide.

Each artist is represented by a series of prints: Goya’s etchings from Los Disparates (The Proverbs) and Castellon’s lithographs for Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. “Many artists have been drawn to things dark and fantastic, but few have probed the human condition with the insight and truthfulness found in these images,” comments exhibition curator, Greg Waskowsky of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Los Disparates was the last of Goya’s major series of etchings, and it was unfinished at the time of his death.

The prints in the Los Disparates series contain some of the most horrifying, fantastic, and enigmatic creations of his imagination: strange bird-men soaring through dense darkness, a wild horse abducting a woman, and hosts of witches and grotesque imaginings in dark shadows.

The images that Castellon created for The Masque of the Red Death are considered among his most remarkable accomplishments, technically and artistically. His work on Poe’s classic horror tale was a commission from Aquarius Press of Baltimore in 1969. His imagery maintains the spirit of Poe’s story.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Professor Amze Emmons will discuss the history of prints as a means of communication, as well as contemporary print making practices in a special lecture titled “Print Culture, Past and Present,” on Friday, February 15, at 11:30 a.m. in Mayo Concert Hall in the Music Building. A relative newcomer to TCNJ, having been appointed just last year in the department of art and art history, Mr. Emmons is an artist, illustrator, and curator. He has an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa where he focused on printmaking, digital media, and photography.

The art gallery at TCNJ Art Gallery is located in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM) on the campus at 2000 Pennington Road in Ewing. It is open to the public free of charge on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit tcnj.edu/artgallery or call (609) 771 2633.

December 19, 2012

“It’s so fun to be reading with Gerry,” said poet Alicia Ostriker on Saturday afternoon at Labyrinth Books.

“Gerry” was another poet, Gerald Stern, a Pittsburgh native who has written 17 poetry collections and won the National Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and the Wallace Stevens Award, among others. He currently lives in

Ms. Ostriker, a former English professor at Rutgers University and current resident of Princeton, was born in Brooklyn. Her writing includes 14 poetry collections as well as several books on the Bible, and her prizes include the Paterson Poetry Prize, the William Carlos Williams Award, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, and the National Jewish Book Award.

The two are good friends, and on Saturday they complemented — and complimented — each other with their introductions, rapt attention to the others’ readings, and easy banter. It is not surprising to learn that they are currently sharing an “Arts of Respect” residency at Drew University.

Introducing Ms. Ostriker, Mr. Stern noted that her latest collection of poems, The Book of Life, is a reference to the Jewish belief that, on Yom Kippur, people’s fates for the coming year are sealed in a heavenly book. “Jews are so obsessed with books that their God is even a librarian,” he joked.

Ms. Ostriker described the volume as a “diaspora of poems” that “speak to each other” about what it means to be Jewish, female, and a poet, “yesterday and today.”

Her selections on Saturday afternoon included a poem about being with her relatives Becky and Benny in Far Rockaway, a place that “is past the last subway station” where aging Jews, “warty like alligators,” soak up the sun “as if it were Talmud.”

Segueing from that first generation that was “so full of yearning for the young ones,” she read poems about the joys of being with a grandchild; Allen Ginsburg’s saintliness; being in Israel; and, more than once, arguing with a God who allows tragedies like the bombing of Kosovo to take place. “Judaism is at a turning point,” she observed as she finished. Although we “don’t know how yet,” she suggested that these differences would occur because “women will help imagine it.”

Ms. Ostriker transitioned to her role as introducer, by walking around the podium three times. She described Mr. Stern as “our mad poet … a cross between Whitman and Rimbaud,” who deserves his many prizes.

Reading from a recently published book of essays, Stealing History, Mr. Stern cast an eclectic net as he considered everything from dragonflies to Turkish restaurants in Paris.

Wearing a cap and well-worn jeans, Mr. Stern explained that rather than being “essays,” the works in Stealing History were divided into “sections” that reflect the “chaos you will encounter” in life. “Essays would be more meditative,” he observed. “This gets right to it.”

One reviewer described the book as “patient and wise, but also frenzied, angry — kind of wild. It’s loose and free, but also elegantly written. The work is a trip, full of humor, wit, and wisdom.”

The essays are very personal, as is Mr. Stern’s poetry. A poem about Eleanor Roosevelt in In Beauty Bright imagines Mrs. Roosevelt meeting Vice President Henry Wallace for lunch at One Fifth Avenue so that they can plot on ways to get Franklin to do good. Briefing the audience on Saturday about the poem, Mr. Stern said that as a young man, he regularly read Mrs. Roosevelt’s column, “My Day,” and that he kept a photograph of her next to one of his grandmother. “’Did you know her?’” he reported someone asking. “’Sure,’” he replied. “’But you didn’t,’” said the other. “’Sure I did,’” responded Mr. Stern. “’I wrote a poem about her.’” Other poems were about Whitman in Camden (“Broken Glass”), a little white Fiat (he had to run with it and then jump in to get it started), and Nietzsche (“he suffered from shame and sadness in different cities”).

“I’m a spy on myself,” said Mr. Stern. In their awareness of what’s human, unjust, inexplicable, and very funny, Mr. Stern and Ms. Ostriker are members of the same ring.

November 21, 2012

I have the uncomfortable feeling that I am carrying a volcano around with me. My salvation is in being loved.

—Woodrow Wilson, from a letter to Ellen Axson

When I saw the floodlit, misty, gloriously chaotic fountain facing the Woodrow Wilson School one night not long after we moved to Princeton, I didn’t know its name, but I had a notion of the story it was telling. I’d been learning about Wilson’s triumphs and tribulations while working on Alexander Leitch’s A Princeton Companion. I thought of it simply as Wilson’s fountain even after learning that its official name was the Fountain of Freedom and that its stated message was “to symbolize Woodrow Wilson’s vision of lasting world peace” or, according to another source, “to symbolize man’s quest for peace and freedom.”

While it’s possible to connect the quest for freedom with the force field of water splashing, jetting, gushing up and down and in and out of the craggy contours of the 20-foot-high bronze sculpture, it’s a real stretch to imagine a “vision of lasting peace” in all that tumult. Everything’s at cross purposes, like a massive celebration of disorder and conflict, with the jets coming and going every which way, some at angles, spilling mist and spray in all directions. There’s joy, poetry, and music in the play of light and the sound made by the water, but the total effect is best reflected in the title “Woodrow Wilson: A Complicated Man,” the election-of-1912-centennial site honoring the Princetonian who on the eve of his election as governor of New Jersey in 1910 said “men are not put in this world to go the path of ease; they are put in this world to go the path of pain and struggle.”

Speaking of pain and struggle, consider how Caligariesque the sculpture becomes when the water’s shut off. This bleak, twisted mass sculpted by James Fitzgerald (1910-1973) could just as easily serve to mark a battle scene where great losses were sustained.

Achievement and Adversity

It’s a short walk from Wilson’s fountain to Wilson’s top hat, which can be seen in Firestone Library’s Milberg Gallery exhibit, “The Election for Woodrow Wilson’s America.” Too bad the display can’t be on the main floor where more people could view that lustrous black topper. It’s also worth a trip to the second floor to see a photo of a handsome 20-something Wilson sporting a mustache or maybe to read the letter from 1884 when he was courting Ellen Axson, in which he writes, “I’m making a fright of myself for your sake. I am letting my hair grow long for the sake of the look you want.” Jump ahead 31 years and there’s a more familiar President Wilson beaming, in his element, at the 1915 World Series between the Red Sox and the Phillies.

I keep coming back to the top hat. What a sheen it has, so dark, so deep, so rich. But it looks too somber, too grounded somehow. Too much J.P. Morgan, not enough Fred Astaire. It needs to be blown about or perhaps tossed into the fountain’s stormy vortex and set bouncing and bobbing until the topper’s dancing on the top. Though the exhibit commentary informs us that Wilson wore this hat when campaigning for the presidency, most photographs online show him wearing it or its mate in Europe, at Paris and Versailles with Lloyd George and Clemenceau. Wilson is glowing, the Great War is over, he’s signed, sealed, and delivered it, and put the U.S.A. on the center stage and now he’s got big plans for world peace.

(Dream on, says the fountain. Stay the course, says another spray. Keep fighting, says a jet shooting in from the side.)

James Chace’s book, 1912:Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs — The Election that Changed the Country (2004), begins with Wilson in his glory, enjoying a hero’s welcome in France, flowers raining down on him, the streets of Paris thronged with “the largest number of Parisians ever to welcome a foreign leader,” banners reading “Honor to Wilson the Just,” reporters writing “No one had ever heard such cheers …. Oh, the immovably shining smiling man!” All through December 1918 it was more of the same, cheered in England, treated like a king in Rome, where he was “met with near-hysterical demonstrations,” and “blew kisses to the crowd.”

Not so fast, says the fountain, don’t forget that back home the Republicans have won both houses of Congress and are denouncing the “shining smiling man” — “Mr. Wilson has no authority whatever to speak for the American people.” Same old, same old, achievement blown to a mist by adversity. Think of what Senate leader Cabot Lodge and the Republicans did to Wilson’s dream of the League of Nations. The chapter, “Woodrow Wilson: The Conservative as Liberal,” in Richard Hofstadter’s American Political Tradition (1948) is full of references to Wilson’s combative character, his volcanic intensity and need to be loved (as in the quoted admission from another letter to Ellen Axson). The chapter also features phrases from Wilson’s 1912 campaign that could be taken from media coverage of the campaign of 2012: “the middle class is being more and more squeezed,” “the interests that have squeezed out the middle class are the same that control politics,” “the laws do not prevent the strong from crushing the weak,” and “the business of government is to organize the common interests against the special interests” [Wilson’s emphasis].

In his way, Wilson seems nearly as unlikely a president in 1912 as Obama was in 2008. Even now, consider how improbable it would be for someone like Wilson to be elected and sworn in on Inauguration Day: a scholar, an intellectual, historian, author of numerous academic texts, a visionary who, in Hofstadter’s words, “learned to look upon life as the progressive fulfillment of God’s will and to see man as ‘a distinct moral agent’ in a universe of moral imperatives.” If anything, such a person seems as far out of the mainstream as an African American with a Harvard degree, two books under his belt, and a more practical, flexible concept of priorities and imperatives.

The Movie

My sense of Wilson, the flawed hero striving for the greater good (that star-crossed quest for peace played out in criss-crossing streams of his fountain), has little in common with the depiction of the 28th president in Darryl F. Zanuck’s wartime biopic Wilson (1944). As James Agee put it in his long, typically brilliant August 19, 1944 review in The Nation: “With the best intentions in the world, Hollywood took a character and a theme of almost Shakespearean complexity and grandeur, and reduced the character to an astutely played liberal assistant professor of economics.” What follows is a litany of similarly fatal reductions of themes and events: “the millennial, piteous surge of hope and faith which bore Wilson to Paris,” “the colossal struggles between Wilson and Clemenceau and Senator Lodge,” “Wilson’s terrifying, possessed trip around the United States,” all reduced to “a high-grade sort of magazine illustration.”

Wilson was the most expensive film ever made in Hollywood up to that point, costing even more than Gone With the Wind. In fact, Zanuck was so devastated by the resulting box office disaster (it lost millions) that he decreed that Wilson never be mentioned again in his presence. The film does include numerous Princeton touches (students serenading Wilson with “Old Nassau” after he’s been elected) that may move all but the most jaded alums. The rub is that a true Princetonian named Jimmy Stewart might have saved the day if he hadn’t been serving in the U.S. Air Force at the time. Instead of Alexander Knox, a little-known actor with minimal presence, you’d have had a major star who would have brought his tensely suppressed fire-in-the-belly ferocity to the part.

The Fountain Rules

The last image you see in the Milberg exhibit is an extraordinary piece of pointillist photography from 1918 by Arthur S. Mole in which 21,000 officers and men at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe Ohio have been assembled to form a “living portrait” of Wilson. The photographer climbed a 70-foot-high tower to shoot the picture of the human tide he’d shaped to the president’s approximate likeness. It’s a magnificent image, but it doesn’t really do Wilson or his story justice. For that, go to the fountain — or to the various Princeton exhibits and events marking the 1912 election centennial (http://wilsoncentennial.org/). On December 8 (2 p.m. and 4 p.m.), The Historical Society of Princeton is hosting a walking tour of places in the community that were a part of Wilson’s life as a student, faculty member, and president of the University. $7 adults; $4 children. To register, call (609) 921-6748 x102, or email eve@princetonhistory.org.

The Harper’s Weekly cover is on view in the Milberg exhibit, which runs through December 28. The man in the rear is Wilson’s vice-president, Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana, who during a Senate debate once famously announced, “What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar.”


November 14, 2012

AT THE BATTLE MONUMENT: Artist Jean Lareuse’s 1998 ceramic with portraits of Generals George Washington and Jean Baptiste Rochambeau, is at the foot of Princeton’s Battle Monument.

Artist Jean Lareuse was born in 1926 to Catalan parents in French Guiana, Africa, and while his career has been international in scope, he has left his particular stamp on one of Princeton’s favorite historic sites: the Princeton Battle Monument adjacent to Morven and Borough Hall.

A ceramic frieze created by Mr. Lareuse in 1998 and located at the foot of the Monument, commemorates the August 31, 1781 meeting in Princeton of the army of King Louis XVI, commanded by General Rochambeau, and the army of General Washington, during their march to victory in Yorktown. The work was commissioned by the American Society of Le Souvenir Français, and French officials were present at its dedication. Mr. Lareuse’s wife, Caroline, was included in the day’s celebration, having been invited to join the Honorary Committee of the French Consulate in New York City.

Longtime residents of Princeton, the Lareuses live in an art-filled house on Shadybrook Lane. Chagall, Mr. Lareuse’s favorite painter, is well-represented along with Miró and Picasso, who was friends with Mr. Lareuse’s father. Other shelves are lined with sets of books handed down by Ms. Lareuse’s family, which included several Princeton alumni.

Mr. Lareuse continues to paint — at an admittedly slower pace — in a well-lit, back room of the house. An area of the garage has been designated for packing and mailing paintings, as well as copies of Mr. Lareuse’s books. These include a heavily illustrated catalog, Jean Lareuse: Le Plus Catalan des Peintres Américains (The Most Catalan of all American Painters); a tribute to his adopted country called L’Amérique, la magnifique (in French); and a children’s book, Devils in the Castle (in English). The artist is looking forward to a new show of his paintings in Toulouse, France, this spring.

Mr. Lareuse’s subjects cast a wide net. His early youth was spent near the Longchamp Racecourse in France, and scenes of jockeys tensely poised above their competing horses is a favorite theme, along with depictions of well-dressed men and women watching in the stands. A later childhood experience, growing up among priests to whom he was sent after his mother’s death, is reflected in a variety of religious images, and include work in stained glass. Still later, the colors used by Impressionists appealed to Mr. Lareuse’s Catalan sensibility. A recent cataract procedure has restored his passion for bright color after an interval of painting darker pictures.

Mr. Lareuse reported that he actually began painting at the age of 13, and studied in the south of France. He eventually attended the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. His first one-man show, in 1948, was in Paris at the Galerie Ariel, and his second, also in Paris, at the Galerie Drouant-David in 1952. Since then, he has taken part in many group shows, including the Biennale de Menton and the salon d’Automne. His paintings hang in galleries in London, Caracas, New York, Montreal, and Washington, D.C., among others.

There’s sadness when Mr. Lareuse talks about his mother’s early death (he was six), and when he talks about publishing his children’s book — which is actually related to his mother’s death. While he was sent to a school run by priests, Mr. Lareuse’s sister was sent to a convent school, and Devils in the Castle was inspired by her experiences there. Unfortunately, he said, when it was published in 1979, critics suggested that his images of uniformed girls were based on Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeleine stories. Since the stories that inspired it took place long before Madeleine, perhaps, Mr. Lareuse suggests, Bemelemans copied him.

Mr. Lareuse will be appearing at Labyrinth Books next spring at a time to be announced. In the meantime, signed copies of Jean Lareuse: Le Plus Catalan des Peintres Américains are available by calling Labyrinth at (609) 497-1600.

October 3, 2012

“LIFTING A SECRET”: Fertile Crescent artist Nezaket Ekici will be performing this piece on Thursday, October 4 at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Matthews Acting Studio, 185 Nassau Street. Audiences are invited to visit the installation in progress from 2 to 8 p.m. and to return at 8 p.m. for the culminating performance.

Miss Butterfly is going to meet the sun; as she is looking for a way out and reaching for the light, she becomes caught in a spider’s web. —Shadi Ghadirian

The piece of impromptu performance art recounted here happened in Turkey long ago at a crossroads clearing near Eregli, 243 kilometers south of Kirsehir, the birthplace of Nezaket Ekici. I’d begun the previous day’s journey in Izmir, where Ebru Özseçen was born. Ekici and Özseçen are among the 24 artists represented in the Rutgers Institute for Women and Art’s “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society,” a complex, many-faceted show of unparalleled scope that is currently spreading the wealth over multiple venues through the enlightened leadership of curators Ferris Olin and Judith K. Brodsky.

I’ve been scanning the faces of the women on the Fertile Crescent website (fertile-crescent.org), with its “signature images” of the artists and their art. The faces are remarkable. Strong and delicate, sultry and refined, some sly, some shy, some witheringly stern. For reasons that will soon become apparent, I’m trying to imagine what these women looked like when they were children. Since the impending scene takes place once upon a time in Turkey, I’ve been paying special attention to the photos of Nezaket Ekici, who has a bold, no-nonsense air, and Ebru Özseçen, who appears demure and unassuming, although her video “Jawbreaker” is edgy and erotic.

The closest I’ve come to finding the features of the child I’m searching for is in the smile of the Iranian artist Shiva Ahmadi whose work is described in the online commentary as “at once meticulous and loose, playful and somber, mythical yet very much dealing with the real.” These are qualities similar to those of the performance-artist-in-the-making I shared the roadside stage with late one hot August afternoon. Since Ahmadi’s contribution to the Fertile Crescent won’t be on view until Thursday, October 4, at the Arts Council, I have yet to see her work in person, but the samples displayed online in Google images are stunning and the equal of anything in the exhibit, even including the Iranian photographic artist Shadi Ghadirian’s darkly impressive “Butterfly Series” at the Bernstein Gallery.

In the Clearing

It’s the hour before sunset and I’ve been dropped off at a spot that appears to be the province of children. Earlier in the day at a Turkish version of a truck stop cafe where men sat talking and sipping tea while women in heavy robes worked in an adjacent field, I’d seen, not for the first time, an example of what women were up against, at least in the provinces.

After the long hot hours in the open back of the truck from Konya, I head for the nearest shady spot, stow my pack, and prepare to relax. Not for long. I have company in the person of a sunny, forthright little blonde of around ten, whose name I later learn is Atalette; she’s accompanied by a tawny-haired barefoot sprite of maybe six (possibly her little sister) who is hopping and peek-a-booing and dancing in place behind her. The name this mercurial being goes by is Gül (pronounced “Jewel”), according to Atalette. They want me to join them out in the clearing where the other kids are waiting, as if a show with a guest appearance by a skinny, unshaven, 20-something American had been advertised in advance of my arrival.

What can I do? Hot and tired as I am, I obey the call. It soon becomes clear that I’m to be merely the go-between, the prop, the sorceror’s apprentice. The sprite is focused on my shabby, shapeless straw hat. Lurching forward, dancing backward, spinning sideways, she sees something outlandishly, overwhelmingly desirable in the ludicrous object that I’d been wearing ever since a friend abandoned it on Mykonos. She has plans for that hat; designs on it, you might say. Too shy and too short to put her plan into action (she’d need wings or a ladder), she turns to Atalette, who mimes the message: Gül wants not merely to hold the hat but to put it on. And perhaps something more, something unlikely and unimaginable that is still only beginning to take shape for her. So I hold it out, here, take it, try it on, but that would have been too easy, too prosaic, too adult. Instead, after circling me, coming at me and backing off, she performs an impish pirouette and charges across the road, splashing happily in and out of a stream before disappearing briefly behind some trees; then back she comes in a zestful zig-zag, one dirty hand outstretched, only to retreat again, giggling, as if she were teasing me and herself and the boys who have been stolidly watching us the whole time.

Finally the moment arrives when the artist artfully and artlessly commands me to put the misshapen yellow blob on her head, a slapstick coronation, as she all but disappears under it. Then off she goes, a sudden gust of wind forcing her to hold the hat with one hand while wildly paddling with the other as she dances down the road followed by one of the older boys, who retrieves the hat, and solemnly returns it to me, like a diplomatic enforcer dealing with a potentially punishable indiscretion.

Meanwhile the sun has begun to set, giving the moment an aura of melancholy glory. So dazzled and disarmed am I by this time that I want her to have the hat, for good, forever, it’s hers, she’s given it a new life. I want to see her go dancing off with it again, and so she does, only to surrender it once more, tearlessly, bravely, wisely, to the relentless boy, who grimly brings it back to me. At this point Atalette has had enough: she tears into the enforcer, punching and kicking him in a kind of ecstasy until he slinks off. A beautiful moment, and it’s only the beginning now that both girls have the hat, and off they go, shouting and laughing down the road, passing the enchanted entity between them, until it seems to take flight on its own, glowing golden in the sunset light.


A truck is coming, it’s a ride clear to Adana. I grab my pack, ready to leave the hat with them, but Gül hands it back with a wise old look that seems to say, “It’s not for us, it won’t ever be ours, that’s how it is, that’s life.”

All the children are waving as the truck pulls off. I’m standing in the open back. Gül has stopped moving, it seems, for the first time since I got there. She’s giving me a strong, steady look I can’t help reading something into, perhaps some dawning awareness in her of the wider world at the other end of that road. Most children at her age still have a spark of genius in them but she’s aglow with it, burning with it, and I’m thinking of the lounging men and laboring women I’d seen earlier and what it suggests about “gender and society,” and I know, with a heavy, sinking certainty, that one day not that far in the future both these brilliant girls will be working in the fields while the grown-up boys sit drinking tea and talking politics and watching the women work.

Dream On

I’d like to think that the artists of the Fertile Crescent, Nezaket and Ebru, Negar and Sigalit, Shazia and Shirin, Farah and Parastou, are grown-up, productive, liberated versions of Atalette and Gül. I thought as much four years ago when I met Arzu Komili, a Princeton senior from Turkey whose exhibit at the Lewis Center I visited at Communiversity 2008. Ed Greenblat’s photograph of her has been cheering up my work space, smiling out at me, ever since. Arzu may have been born and raised in Istanbul, in a well-to-do household, but there’s a hint of the roadside sprite in her smile.

The two Turkish artists in “The Fertile Crescent” website may be half a generation younger than Atalette and Gül would be now, but the boldness of their themes and concepts suggests that they have fought the good fight against similar odds. Born in 1970 a half day’s drive from the crossroads near Eregli, Nezaket Ekici lives in Germany now and will be at the Lewis Center tomorrow, Thursday, October 4, in a performance piece she calls “Lifting a Secret,” in which she’s drinking coffee and reading passages from an adolescent diary she kept about a forced marriage arranged by her father. As her anger mounts, she spatters the wall with coffee, which, as it drips down, reveals the passage from the journal she’s been reading and that she’d written on the wall with petroleum jelly before beginning the performance. She refills her cup over and over again, slopping the coffee on the passage until all her words have emerged. Coffee makes the case nicely; it’s a darker and more dramatic developing fluid than the tea the men in the cafe were drinking while watching the women work.

For 41-year-old Ebru Özseçen, who also lives in Germany, indulge me for a moment and imagine the sort of art Gül would produce if by some miracle she’d run off to Europe to become a dancer or singer or sculptor or filmmaker, lured by the glow of that moment when the hat became her creation. In her artistic statement, Ebru plans to explore mundane reality in order to discover “its magical and unseen aspects, in the process, revealing a space where fantasy and memory hide in plain sight.”

You can see Ebru Özseçen’s brief video Jawbreaker on YouTube, as well as a four-part conversation apparently taking place in the proximity of the White Cliffs of Dover. In her proposal for a competition on “New Forms of Remembering and Remembrance,” she writes of a “memorial kindergarten” that “will be visible in the evening after the children go home …. The other phase will be seen in the morning, when the walls are lowered, and the children enter the kindergarten. When the children sleep, the work … stands guard”

Princeton Venues

Nezaket Ekici will also take part in the Arts Council of Princeton’s portion of The Fertile Crescent, from October 4 to November 21, along with seven other Fertile Crescent artists, including, as mentioned, Shiva Ahmadi, whose work can be seen on page 15. For full details about other venues, including the Princeton Public Library and the Princeton University Art Museum, visit http://fertile-crescent.org/signatureartists.html.

Note: In the unlikely event that readers of this column have read or may read my book Indian Action: A Journey to the Great Fair of the East, they will find an expanded version of the scene in the clearing with additional players and a different focus.

July 25, 2012

On my way across campus to the University Art Museum, I see a single leaf drifting toward the September 11 memorial garden at Chancellor Green. I’m in a don’t-take-anything-for-granted mood, my reporter’s notebook in my hand, my objective a show called “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery,” which opened July 14 and will be on view through September 23. At the time, I know nothing of the work of Gabriele Münter and the only Aurora I know of is the Aurora Borealis.

In art exhibits you go from one work to another, looking, attending, thinking, so it must be because I’m already in a museum state of mind that I’ve been paying attention to this one yellow leaf. How come it’s falling now, in the middle of summer? I’m waiting to see where it ends up so I can have a closer look.

As it’s about to come to earth by the 9/11 memorial bell, the leaf flutters to life and flies away. Though I’m not in the museum yet, I take out my pen and write, “Butterfly = leaf.” The real exhibit has begun.

The Shadow of Aurora

The carnage at a Colorado multiplex showing The Dark Knight Rises seems a long way from an art museum on the campus of an Ivy League university. Yet the same film opened across the street from the campus at the Garden Theater with a midnight screening a day before the midnight show in Aurora. Meanwhile, visitors to the exhibit are going to see it differently now than they would have if, like me, they had come to it the day before the shooting.

A large, attractively designed hand-out showing a plan of the museum is accompanied by a colorfully printed essay about the exhibit that refers, appropriately enough, to “commonality,” “cultural encounters,” “entangled interaction, mutual impact,” and “points of contact” that “occur across place as well as time …. Such encounters elicit curiosity, bemusement, or, sometimes ardent condemnation and rupture” (the last word is printed in big pink capital letters against a purple background). When you read the preceding statements after learning that a lone, heavily armed gunman shot and killed at least 12 people and wounded 58, “encounter” becomes the mother of all euphemisms. At the end of the essay, which was apparently co-written by the Curator of Asian Art Cary Y. Liu, Project Coordinator Francesca Williams, and Curatorial Fellow Juliana Ochs Dweck, “rupture” is among the five key words that are highlighted and defined (viz, “to burst open — treaty, nation, body, or belief”).

Because of the killings in Colorado, I’m more attuned to terms of “rupture” and “conflict” than “dialogue” and “discovery” as I look back over my exhibit notes. The words of a New York Times article about the shooting, “Fantasy became nightmare, and a place of escape became a trap,” have me asking the obvious: “Aren’t people going to an art show also looking for a place of escape?” More likely, the long view provided by a presentation that spans centuries offers something more enlightening than a vivid, violent, big-screen vacation from routine; speaking of “fantasy as nightmare,” for instance, there’s Goya’s image of the artist slumped over his desk, his head buried in his arms as a nightmare phantasmagoria of owls and bats hover over him in “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” the etching from Los Caprichos that inspired the most spectacular encounter in “Encounters,” Yinka Shonibare’s massive four-part photographic adaptation of Goya’s original vision.

Encountering Carnage

If you don’t count the leaf that became a butterfly, Le Carnage is the first object mentioned in my notes, an oil on canvas painted by Georges Clairin (1843-1919), described as a “mock Equestrian battle” in the curator’s commentary. My scribbled comment is, “Why ‘mock’? Mock carnage?” You’ve got robed and turbaned warriors and horsemen firing rifles and pistols, the skies in the background blazing like hellfire; there’s a dead horse in the right foreground and on the other side, if you look closely, you can make out at least three corpses. Few museumgoers will be able to view this scene without thinking of the ongoing folk tale of carnage being told in the media and spreading like a virus online. There’s even a lone gunman in the painting, a Hell’s Angel lookalike, the only warrior with a pistol and there’s nothing fake looking about the flame spurting from the barrel.

Before your thoughts can turn to more benign matters, the next thing the museum shows you is a case containing a dagger with an ornamental handle in the shape of a Saracen with sword upraised, about to behead a crusader. And above the dagger is a pen and brown ink sketch by Tiepolo of a Saracen Cavalryman. After that come a legion of Amazons followed by two terra cotta Amazons from 300-280 B.C. in blue leather boots and lavender-colored skirts. As the exhibit brochure suggests, conflict and rupture are everywhere.

The Sleep of Reason

I first saw one of Yinka Shonibare’s massive photographic revisitings of “The Sleep of Reason” at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers four years ago (“Goya’s Book of Dreams: Sharp as the Point of an Etching Needle, Sept. 10, 2008), but the four-fold impact here is considerably more impressive because of visual excitement created by the arrangement. It’s rare enough to speak of a “view” unfolding within the confines of a museum, but what the curators have created is very definitely a view, and a great view at that. You enter the exhibition gallery on your left as if coming to the summit of an old world city — imagine yourself, say, atop the Palatine Hill in Rome peering through a statuary-ornamented balustrade at a Nigerian Sound and Light spectacle fashioned with fabrics from London’s Brixton Market.

Or, to put it another way, less fancy and more fact, what you see is a matchless matching of the photographic clarity and richness of color and design with which Shonibare has clothed the four dreamers, each one representing a continent, Africa, Asia, America, and Australia. The genesis of the work — Goya’s vision remastered in living color — is implicit in Shonibare’s personal history. Born in London in 1962, he moved with his family to Lagos, Nigeria, when he was three years old. At 18, after returning to Britain, he contracted an inflammation across the spinal cord that left him disabled. Because of his disability, he depends on a team of assistants to help him manifest his visions, the essence being composed of the African and Indonesian fabrics he buys himself from the aforementioned London market.

Shonibare includes his MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) whenever he uses his name, to emphasize his hybrid identity. “I have always viewed art as a form of opera, or as being operatic,” he explained in 2004. “And opera is excessive; it is beyond the real, and therefore hyper-real.”

The opera in images arranged around Shonibare’s hybrid, hyper-real aesthetic is all about, according to the museum’s summer 2012 magazine, the pursuit of “the ideas of cross-cultural discovery — and its attendant dislocations — as a common human experience and of the visual arts as a crystallization and visualization of that experience.”

Cosmic Encounters

Instead of presenting the effect of a view across an earthly vista, the other half of the exhibit, which is located in the gallery opposite the one centered on the spectacle of Shonibare’s “Sleep of Reason,” offers views of the moon and the cosmos, with an emphasis on “encounters with the unknown,” including “other spiritual realms or celestial worlds” and “so-called encounters of the third kind.” The epigraph of moment is from Lewis Rutherford, the father of celestial photography, who observed on January 8, 1865: “Few things have inspired as many myths and mysteries as the moon.” The range is stunning. You go from photographer Ruth Bernhard’s shiny, smashed-flat teapot to Howard Russell Butler’s “early scientific visualizations of other planetary bodies” to Liu Guosong’s hanging scrolls, five full moons painted after the first lunar landing.

Having infinitely expanded the dimensions of the subject at hand, “Encounters” allows a larger view of what happened at the Century cineplex in a place called Aurora. For one thing, scientists at NASA have predicted that in 2012, the Aurora Borealis will be the brightest and most intense in 50 years. Last April 24, according to an article in Huffington Post Science, “The Aurora Borealis put on a dazzling show in more than a dozen states,” including Colorado and Illinois. A post from County Antrim in Northern Ireland described “vertical green pillars of light some 60 degrees high accompanied by amazing pulsating motions like the beating of a heart.”

Münter’s Moments 

When you leave “Encounters” make sure to stop by the gallery of 19th − early 20th century art to see the newly displayed paintings by Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), from the repository of works of the Berlin-born artist donated by Frank E. Taplin, Class of 1937, his wife Margaret (Peggy) Taplin, and their family. The paintings include a thoughtful self-portrait of Gabriele in her early thirties, peering at us, at once focused and wistful, from under an extraordinary lampshade of a hat, and an oil on board from 1910 of her fiance-for-a-decade, Wassily Kandinsky, age about 44, holding forth over coffee to a young woman named Erma Bossi.

In a 1958 interview with Edouard Roditi in Dialogues – conversations with European Artists at Mid-century, Münter said, “My main difficulty was that I could not paint fast enough. My pictures are all moments of my life – I mean instantaneous visual experiences, generally noted very rapidly and spontaneously. When I begin to paint, it’s like leaping suddenly into deep waters, and I never know beforehand whether I will be able to swim …. When I painted my ‘Blue Mountain,’ I had learned the trick. It came to me as easily and naturally as song to a bird.”

In the context of current events, murder and mayhem, art shows and butterflies, it’s hard not to think of another Gabrielle, the survivor of another shooting in the west, Gabrielle Giffords. Which brings us back to the present, July, 2012, where a carpenter who makes crosses for the victims of massacres travels from his home in Aurora, Illinois, to Aurora, Colorado, with 12 more.


The image of The Sleep of Reason (Africa), 2008, C print mounted on aluminum, is from the Collection of Nancy and Rodney Gould, courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai.

June 13, 2012

OPENING NIGHT: “For the end of the year show, we try our best to not select or take out any art work,” reported curator Veronika Bychokova. “The purpose of this show is for the students to exhibit their progress throughout the year, so whatever art work they feel they want to show, we fit in. We do set a requirement of no more than two pieces per person, or else the gallery would just be too crowded.” (Photo by Allegra Dobson)

Following last week’s article on the “art scene” at Princeton High School (PHS), Town Topics received photographs of Numina Gallery’s end-of-year show, and curator Veronika Bychkova responded to a series of questions. Ms. Bychkova, who is currently a junior, explained that she assumed the title of “curator” from her predecessor, graduating senior Gabriella Shypula, in an annual “rite of passage.”

“I would just like to mention that I don’t think our community knows about Numina enough,” began Ms. Bychkova. “Each year we make a maximum of eight shows of various topics and try to encourage anyone to come and join us on the opening nights, through posting posters, making blurbs, and sending them to nearby newspapers, as well as announcements. Next year, we have amazing shows planned. The first is a community show where we will display art work that anyone living in Princeton would like to submit. It might be a fundraiser and have an entrance fee, but it won’t be more than $10.”

Plans for next February include a collaboration between PHS and area elementary school students for a combined art show. “As you can see, we really want to engage the community next year, and hopefully get more people to know that there is a student run gallery that is definitely not at a student level,” said Ms. Bychkova.

“I would like to thank all the art teachers in our school for inspiring all of us to express ourselves through art,” she added.