March 21, 2012

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting “Terrace Project: New Sculpture by Rory Mahon” through March 30. “Drawing Beyond: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawing,” with works by Eve Aschheim, Caroline Burton, Theresa Chong, and other artists, is currently on view. On March 27 at 7:30 p.m., Princeton University Professor Susan Stewart will lead a panel discussion with artists in the exhibit about their approaches to their work. Opening March 24 is “Arnold Roth: A Selection of Work from Area Collections.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscoun
cilofprinceton.org.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, is showing “The Capital City College and University Art Exhibition” through April 24. The exhibit highlights the work of emerging and young regional visual artists as well as the centers of art instruction in the central New Jersey region. A reception is March 31, 4-6 p.m. Visit www.artworkstrenton.com.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Illuminating Data: Visualizing the Information that Moves Our World” through April 18 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. The exhibit will showcase how artists engage with data. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu/ or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

D&R Greenway Marie L. Matthews Galleries, 1 Preservation Place, shows “Babbling Brooks and Silent Springs” through May 4. Also featured is “Voices for the Marsh,” a juried photography show about the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh. On April 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., a juried poetry reading, “Water, Water Everywhere,” with flutist Judith McNally, will be presented.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, is showing “Digital Noir: Black-and-White Photographs by Richard Trenner” along with “Ingenuous Tapestries” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac through April 22. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. In the mezzanine gallery is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. Tickets are now on sale for “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, coming to the museum April 21-August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, has a photo exhibit by Philip Liu. Mr. Liu’s work is focused on his cultivation of lotus and water lilies. The show is in the library’s East Lobby Gallery. The library is also holding its Third Annual Trashed Art Contest, in which artists can submit one piece of original artwork in any medium with a minimum of 75 percent recycled content. There are two categories, for adults and children who live in Mercer County. The entries will be on display through April; a reception is April 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 30 is the entry deadline.

Lawrenceville School’s Hutchins Rotunda Gallery on the campus, Main Street in Lawrenceville, presents “Basin Logic” by Lauren Rosenthal, March 26-April 21. A reception is March 30, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, opens “Life Sentence,” drawings by Israeli artist Shai Zurim, March 30. The show runs through April 19, when there is a reception from 6:30-8 p.m.

Mercer County Community College Gallery, West Windsor, is showing “Mercer County Artists 2012” through April 5. On that day at noon, Russian artist and visual art professor Yevgeniy Fiks will speak on his Soviet and Post-Soviet art in the Communications Building, Room 109. Visit www.mccc.edu/gallery for hours.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. On March 31 at 2 p.m., “Puzzles of the Brain: A Discussion of Art, Science and Memory” will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, at McCosh 50, Princeton University. More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, 151 Moore Street, shows “Selected Works from Sara Schneckloth” through March 28. The artist will lead a collaborative workshop with 25 students who will complete a large drawing to be displayed at a reception March 28 at 7 p.m.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,” an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run through June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery presents “The Outside From Within: Envisioning Forest and Sea,” drawings and paintings by Professor of Fine Arts Harry I. Naar. The show runs through April 15. On March 22 at 7 p.m., Judith K. Brodsky, professor emerita and founding director of the Brodsky Center for Innovative Print and Paper at Rutgers, will have a conversation with Mr. Naar in the gallery followed by audience questions. The gallery is in the Bart Luedeke Center on the campus, 2083 Lawrenceville Road.

Straube Center is presenting a “Fine Art Show: Grace, Strength and Freedom,” through May 25. Local artists will be featured. The center is on Route 31 at West Franklin Avenue in Pennington, in buildings 100 and I-108.

Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Cadwalader Park, is hosting the 2012 Spring Forward weekends March 24 and 31. Included will be a morning of workshops for artists on March 24, and an afternoon devoted to writing and visual arts collaboration on March 31. Workshops will be followed by discussion of the Trenton Artist Workshop Association’s upcoming summer show, “Trenton Makes.” Register for workshops at tawaexhibits@aol.com by March 22.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, shows “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” through April 27. The exhibit is the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Visual-Artists.html for details.

HERE WE COME TO SAVE THE DAY: Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum, left) and his partner Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) received their first assignment upon graduating from the Police Academy. They were responsible for patrolling a downtown park and were doing fine until they neglected to read a perpetrator his Miranda rights while arresting him.

Aside from their both missing the senior prom, popular jock Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and social outcast Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) had nothing in common when they were in high school. However, they missed the prom for very different reasons; Greg didn’t attend because of poor grades and Mort simply couldn’t find a date.

However, seven years later while attending the Police Academy, the pair has met again. This time, the academically challenged Greg and out of shape Mort help each other pass the written and physical portions of their final exam.

Upon graduating, these opposite personalities launched their law enforcement careers as partners. However, when they were patrolling a downtown park on bicycles they failed to read a perpetrator his Miranda rights. They were called on the carpet and ordered to report to 21 Jump Street, a clandestine detective unit based in an abandoned church with a dusty, Korean Jesus crucifix dangling over the altar.

Their new boss, Captain Dickson, (Ice Cube) assigns Schmidt and Jenko to work undercover at Sagan High School in order to crack a drug ring that is selling deadly narcotics. The disgraced officers leap at the opportunity to make amends for their earlier mistake, unaware of how hard it will be for them to pass themselves off as students.

Not only do they look older, but the culture has substantially changed since they left school. They soon discover that macho misbehaving and bullying are out; while studying, drama club, and caring about the environment are in. Even being gay is considered cool thanks to the television show Glee.

This change in culture sets the stage for the awkward scenarios which abound in 21 Jump Street, a hilarious comedy co-starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. What makes the film so endearing is the camaraderie that the leads cultivate when the handsome ex jock has to rely on the goofy outcast geek to figure out how to fit in at school.

The movie is more than just a screen adaptation of the eighties cop drama of the same name. However, to its credit, the picture does pay homage to the classic TV series when it features cameo appearances by three of the original cast members: Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, and Holly Robinson-Peete.

Excellent (****). Rated R for violence, drug and alcohol abuse, coarse sexuality, crude humor, and pervasive profanity. Running time: 109 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.


March 14, 2012

The cult of individual personalities is always, in my view, unjustified.

—Albert Einstein (3-14-79 — 4-18-55)

A major component of Albert Einstein’s enduring appeal is his self-deprecating sense of humor, of which there are numerous examples in Denis Brian’s The Unexpected Einstein: The Real Man Behind the Icon (Wiley 2005). One such instance, provided by Princeton University photographer Alan Richards, occurred when an 18-month-old boy introduced to the unkempt genius “took one look and burst into a screaming fit.” Einstein’s response was to “smile approvingly” as “he patted the youngster on top of his head and crooned, ‘You’re the first person in years who has told me what you really think of me.’”

Would Einstein be amused by the community celebration called Pi-Day that descended on Princeton the weekend before his actual birthday? My guess is that if he were still around, he’d either hide out in the Institute woods or maybe hunker down in his dinghy in the middle of Lake Carnegie.

Einstein and Washington

On the subject of personality cults, Einstein found it “unfair, and even in bad taste,” to select a few individuals “for boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to them.” The “one great consoling thought,” however, was that “in an age which is commonly denounced as materialistic,” such cults make “heroes of men whose ambitions lie wholly in the intellectual and moral sphere.” Certain of Einstein’s colleagues at the Institute for Advanced Study would have been among the heroes he had in mind. While he might be mildly appalled at the Pi-Day shenanigans, imagine what Einstein would think of the recent campaign against the Institute by Battlefield Society partisans, a battle they are apparently determined to carry into the courts now that the Planning Board has unanimously approved the Institute’s housing plan.

At the symbolic heart of Princeton, the harmony between the spheres of Battle and Institute remains undisturbed. On one end of the drive in front of Borough Hall is the Princeton Battle Monument, dedicated in 1922, the year after Einstein made Princeton his residence. Atop the massive sculpture of embattled forms, George Washington stares toward downtown Princeton. In his line of sight at the other end of the drive, a bronze bust of Albert Einstein mounted on a granite pedestal seems to be gazing in the same direction. Between these two Princeton heroes, J. Seward Johnson’s bronze Everyman sits on a bench reading The New York Times. The continuum flowing through the three works of art reflects what Einstein said when he was visited by physicist Max Born’s wife, Heidi, during a serious illness. “I feel so much part of every living thing,” Einstein told her, “that I am not in the least concerned with where the individual begins and ends.”

Face of Light

The smiling bare-chested captain of his fate shown on the cover of The -Unexpected Einstein is obviously meant to counter the image of the sockless, shabby-sweatered old sage shambling through the streets of Princeton with his head in the stars, the same beloved caricature impersonated by Walter Matthau in the film IQ and by numerous local look-alikes during the Pi-Day revels. In the chapter of Brian’s book titled “What was Einstein Like Face to Face?” the formidable reality is recounted by the editor of The American Scholar, Hiram Haydn: “There was light coming out of his face — that light grew there, as hairs do on the faces of men. It seemed to me that this was not a man in the ordinary sense, that the face belonged to another, different species. And then he smiled at me. This act constituted the most religious experience of my life.”

According to Brian, the cover photograph was taken on Saranac Lake, August 1, 1945, by the husband of the Soviet spy Einstein was having an affair with and may be the only photograph of him smiling “as an adult among the hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken of him.” Brian notes that Einstein “looks like a man in love — with the photographer’s wife, in fact — and without a care in the world.”

Five days later he would be dealing with the biggest “care” of his life and he would not be smiling.

Ball of Fire

The Princeton Public Library will ring down the curtain on Einstein’s birthday party with a showing of Howard Hawks’s Ball of Fire (1941) tonight, Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Community Room. It’s a terrific movie, with Barbara Stanwyck as the fiery life force blazing through an Ivy Tower monastery occupied by a committee of unworldly, puppydog-cute scholars, including a dithery Gary Cooper; it’s also a classic example of Hollywood’s benighted notion of the “intellectual and moral sphere” Einstein was talking about.

What of Einstein himself then? Is there any director or writer in the world who could put us inside his head in the wunderjahre of 1905? John Stachel, the first editor of the Einstein Papers (Princeton University Press), does his best in his essay, “How Did Einstein Discover Relativity?” — but only after admitting at the outset the impossibility of encompassing “those elements of the creative process that Einstein referred to as ‘the irrational, the inconsistent, the droll, even the insane, which nature, inexhaustibly operative, implants into the individual, seemingly for her own amusement’ (my italics) since ‘these things are singled out only in the crucible of one’s own mind.’”

The Idea of Einstein

Probably the best option is to explore the idea of Einstein, as if it were an absolute like art or war or faith or science. In the spirit of the Pi-Day celebration, I’ll offer two of my personal favorite improvisations on the idea of Einstein, both of which make me smile, move me, and fill me with admiration for the performers, Randy Newman, the composer of “Sigmund Freud’s Impersonation of Einstein in America” and Theresa Russell in her inspired depiction of Marilyn Monroe demonstrating the Theory of Relativity for Einstein in Nicholas Roeg’s film Insignificance (1985).

Introduced on his 1976 album Little Criminals, Newman’s song, one of his masterpieces, begins with a formal fanfare over a slow march that has overtones of a trumpet voluntary:

The world of science is my game

And Albert Einstein is my name

I was born in Germany

And I’m happy to be

Here in the land of the brave and the free.

Newman sings the lyric with his characteristic mixture of sarcasm and sentiment, his voice almost plaintive when he intones “Albert Einstein” before returning to his relaxed just-a-guy-at-the-piano style for the last two lines, which he sings twice. The next verse brims with still more of Newman’s easygoing art, a feelingly told four-line story that does more for my sense of Einstein than a dozen biographies:

In the year of nineteen five

Merely trying to survive

Took my knapsack in my hand

Caught a train for Switzerland.

There’s an emotional diminuendo in the singing of the last line that suggests a journey as casual as it is momentous, leading to the chorus with its playful but potent borrowing from “America the Beautiful” (“America America, God shed his grace on Thee”). As Freud steps in for Einstein — a pretty neat turn, two 20th century giants in a two and a half minute song (he does it again with Karl Marx in “The World Isn’t Fair”) — Newman sings what may be the most memorable five lines he ever wrote:

Americans dream of gypsies, I have found

And gypsy knives and gypsy thighs

That pound and pound and pound and pound

And African appendages that almost reach the ground

And little boys playing baseball in the rain

However much it may or may not relate to Einstein and his theory, that verse enacts a masterly piece of cadenced relativity as Newman weaves Einstein and Freud and fantasy into a sexual drumbeat prompting an outrageous image of obsessive racism. And before you have time to laugh, you’re emotionally disarmed by a one-line evocation of a heartland boyhood that may put a lump in your throat if you grew up in America, especially if you played baseball in the rain. The concluding chorus seems flippant by comparison, with “America, America” stepping “out into the light,” the “best dream man has ever dreamed /And may all your Christmases be white.” With that sarcastic close and its race-charged “white,” Einstein, Freud, and Irving Berlin have definitely made way for Newman.

Sexing up Relativity

Theresa Russell’s charming demonstration of Relativity in action can be viewed on YouTube if you don’t have time to go to the library to pick up the Criterion DVD of Insignificance. Played with understated warmth by Michael Emil, Einstein is wearing a sweatshirt with a Princeton University “P” on it while Russell is in full gorgeous bloom in the iconic white dress from the skirt-up-around-her-ears street scene in The Seven Year Itch. When the barefoot “Professor” tells the “Actress” what she wants to hear (that he really believes she really understands his theory), she swoops down on him, face to face and breathlessly whispers, pitch-perfect Marilyn, “Swear to God?” Among her props are two toy trains, a toy car, two flashlights (one each for her and the bemused genius), a balloon, a copy of The Brothers Karamazov that she joyfully flings across the room on the way to proving “the first thing you have to know about relativity,” and a copy of Jane Eyre, which she drops on the floor (“it doesn’t fly, it just drops relative to the train”), because “whether anyone conducts an experiment on a moving train or in the laboratories at Princeton, the results will always be the same.”

Einstein’s Dance

Another gem from the “What Was Einstein Like Face to Face?” chapter in The Unexpected Einstein is offered by onetime Princeton resident, Ashley Montagu. Recalling his first visit to 112 Mercer Street, he pictures Einstein gliding toward him from the far end of a long corridor “in a sort of un-deliberate dance. It was enchanting, as if Einstein were walking on air. It was maybe the way someone else might whistle as they moved. He danced. He seemed somehow to be expressing his love of music as he moved.”


WELL SHUT MY MOUTH: Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) is sitting underneath a tree that has magically appeared in his back yard. It seems that every time Jack speaks, a leaf falls from the tree, and he soon realizes that when the last leaf falls, his life will be over. Can Jack break the spell put upon him by changing his life and redeeming himself?

Whether starring in a comedy (like Trading Places and 48 Hours), a children’s film (such as Nutty Professor and Dr. Doolittle), a standup comedy performance (such as Raw and Delirious), or in an animated adventure as a donkey (Shrek) or a dragon (Mulan), Eddie Murphy’s best movies have invariably featured him talking trash. Even his Oscar nomination (for Dreamgirls) was for playing a jive talking motor mouth where he played a character inspired by James Brown.

In light of the above, you really have to wonder how a project like A Thousand Words ever got off the ground. Instead of taking advantage of Murphy’s strong feature, the movie actually goes to the opposite extreme by buttoning up his lips for most of the film.

The studio probably realized it had a lemon on its hands, since it let the picture sit on the shelf for four years before releasing it. The movie marks the third collaboration between Eddie and director Brian Robbins, after Norbit and Meet Dave.

A Thousand Words portrays a familiar anti-hero archetype; the backstabbing corporate conniver sorely in need of an attitude readjustment. When we’re introduced to Jack McCall (Murphy) he’s a high powered Hollywood agent who is very successful and living in the lap of luxury in a sprawling, mountaintop mansion with a pool and a view.

The insufferable bully takes pleasure in intimidating everyone he encounters; his assistant (Clark Duke), his spouse, Caroline (Kerry Washington), and even perfect strangers. But Jack’s comeuppance begins the day he lies to his latest client, a popular New Age guru (Cliff Curtis) who has just written a self-help book.

Abracadabra! A magical tree that sheds a leaf for every word that Jack utters suddenly materializes in his backyard. And by the time he figures out that he will die when the last leaf falls, so few leaves are left that he has no choice but to take a vow of silence.

Mute Jack is then beset by a host of woes, including the loss of his job and the love of his wife and son Tyler (Emanuel Ragsdale). At this juncture, the picture turns to heavy handed sermonizing in lieu of humor, as our humbled protagonist learns his lesson about what really matters most in this world.

Poor (0 stars). Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, and drug-related humor. Running time: 91 minutes. Distributor: Paramount Pictures.


Artsbridge at Prallsville Mill, Route 29 in Stockton, presents as part of its Distinguished Artist Series the painter and documentarian Bill Jersey in “Privileged Access into the World of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which showcases his life and his experience as a filmmaker on March 15 at 7 p.m.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting “Terrace Project: New Sculpture” by Rory Mahon through March 30. “Drawing Beyond: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawing,” with works by Eve Aschheim, Caroline Burton, Theresa Chong, and other artists, is currently on view. Opening March 24 is “Arnold Roth: A Selection of Work from Area Collections.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, is showing “The Capital City College and University Art Exhibition” March 20-April 24. The exhibit highlights the work of emerging and young regional visual artists as well as the centers of art instruction in the central New Jersey region. A reception is March 31, 4-6 p.m. Visit www.artworkstrenton.com.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Illuminating Data: Visualizing the Information that Moves Our World” through April 18 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. The exhibit will showcase how artists engage with data. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

Coryell Gallery at 8 Coryell Street in Lambertville is celebrating the 31st Annual Juried Art Exhibition, through March 18. Artists include Dean Thomas, Barbara Postel, Jack Muessig, Pat Smythe, and several others.

D&R Greenway Marie L. Matthews Galleries, 1 Preservation Place, shows “Babbling Brooks and Silent Springs” through May 4. Also featured is “Voices for the Marsh,” a juried photography show about the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh. On April 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., a juried poetry reading, “Water, Water Everywhere” with flutist Judith McNally will be presented.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, opens “Digital Noir: Black-and-White Photographs by Richard Trenner” opens, along with “Ingenuous Tapestries” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac on March 16, when the opening reception is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. A Meet the Photographers event is March 18, from 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Viewpoints,” with art by students of Hightstown artist Susan Winger, through March 25. From March 31-April 29, “Spring into Spring,” art by Mary Ellen Brennan, will be on exhibit. The opening reception is March 31 from 12-3 p.m. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron and revealing the range of versatility the medium permits. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an illuminating exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the cutting-edge works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. In the mezzanine gallery is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. See www.groundsforsculp
ture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. Tickets are now on sale for “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, coming to the museum April 21-August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, has a photo exhibit by Philip Liu. Mr. Liu’s work is focused on his cultivation of lotus and water lilies. The show is in the library’s East Lobby Gallery. The library is also holding its Third Annual Trashed Art Contest, in which artists can submit one piece of original artwork in any medium with a minimum of 75 percent recycled content. There are two categories, for adults and kids who live in Mercer County. The entries will be on display through April; a reception is April 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 30 is the entry deadline.

Lawrenceville School’s Hutchins Rotunda Gallery on the campus, Main Street in Lawrenceville, presents “Basin Logic” by Lauren Rosenthal, March 26-April 21. A reception is March 30, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University, 185 Nassau Street, presents “Medium Rare,” paintings by Joanne Chong and Dao Mi, through March 16. A reception is March 15, 7-9 p.m.

Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, opens “Life Sentence,” drawings by Israeli artist Shai Zurim, March 30. The show runs through April 19, when there is a reception from 6:30-8 p.m.

Mercer County Community College Gallery, West Windsor, is showing “Mercer County Artists 2012” through April 5. Visit www.mccc.edu/gallery for hours.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, 151 Moore Street, shows “Selected Works from Sara Schneckloth” March 16-28. The artist will lead a collaborative workshop with 25 students who will complete a large drawing to be displayed at a reception March 28 at 7 p.m.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,” an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery is presenting original sketchbooks and tea kettle prototypes by architect Michael Graves for a show on his design process, April 2-25.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run March 17-June 10. Mark Evans, curator from the Victoria and Albert Museum, will lecture, “Conservative Revolutionary: John Constable and Art History” on March 17 at 5 p.m. in McCosh 10; an opening reception follows at the museum. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery presents “The Outside From Within: Envisioning Forest and Sea,” drawings and paintings by Professor of Fine Arts Harry I. Naar. The show runs through April 15. On March 22 at 7 p.m., Judith K. Brodsky, professor emerita and founding director of the Brodsky Center for Innovative Print and Paper at Rutgers, will have a conversation with Mr. Naar in the gallery followed by audience questions. The gallery is in the Bart Luedeke Center on the campus, 2083 Lawrenceville Road.

Straube Center is presenting a “Fine Art Show: Grace, Strength and Freedom,” through May 25. Local artists will be featured. The center is on Route 31 at West Franklin Avenue in Pennington, in buildings 100 and I-108.

Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Cadwalader Park, is hosting the 2012 Spring Forward weekends March 24 and 31. Included will be a morning of workshops for artists on March 24, and an afternoon devoted to writing and visual arts collaboration on March 31. Workshops will be followed by discussion of the Trenton Artist Workshop Association’s upcoming summer show, “Trenton Makes.” Register for workshops at tawaexhibits@aol.com by March 22.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, is showing “Deep Within the Soul,” photographs by Colleen Maniere, April 3-June 10. The opening reception is April 3, 7-9 p.m. A percentage of all sales of the work benefit pancreatic cancer research.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, shows “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” through April 27. The exhibit is the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwind
sorartscenter.org/Call-to-Vi
sual-Artists.html for details.

March 7, 2012

Tour “homecoming” concerts of college performing ensembles are fun to watch. Usually held within a few weeks of the ensemble’s return, these performances have an underpinning of fresh memories, inside jokes among the musicians, and an overall sense of pride. The Princeton University Glee Club recently returned from a tour of Paris and its environs, and it was very clear from Friday night’s concert in Richardson Auditorium that the 80-voice chorus was very proud to give the audience a taste of the music presented in Europe. Glee Club conductor Gabriel Crouch programmed the concert to show the depth of choral activities at Princeton, both in the level of music performed and the talent within the ensemble. The tour repertoire featured a cross-section of European sacred and secular music which the Glee Club used to demonstrate precise choral skills and a rich sound.

Double chorus works have traditionally been a product of continental Europe, but Mr. Crouch found an intriguing example from contemporary Britain. John Tavener’s choral works usually include edgy chord streams and harmonies, which the Glee Club sang effectively in Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God. Mr. Crouch followed this piece with a more traditional double chorus work from the late Renaissance, and the Glee Club sang Ruggiero Giovanelli’s Jubilate Deo with the same color and bite as the Tavener, paying particular attention to word accents and the multiple transitions among meters. This period of double chorus anthem was full of vocal lines running up and down scales, and the Glee Club brought out the rolling passages cleanly. Both the Tavener and Giovanelli pieces would have worked well in any of the Glee Club tour’s French cathedral venues, rich with centuries of choral music embedded in the rafters.

Mr. Crouch focused much of the rest of the concert on music of less familiar regions of Europe. Moving to the back of the Richardson stage, the Glee Club was able to produce a sound which reverberated well in the stone shell, demonstrating a nice melodic women’s sound and, in the Cyrillus Kreek psalm setting, appropriate Russian chording. Music from former Eastern European nations resurfaced later in the concert, with folksong settings from Bulgaria and Romania in pieces full of speedy texts and rhythms sung with some of the vocal edge one hears from choirs of this region. Mr. Crouch gave a former student a chance to shine as conductor, as Emily Sung directed a very nice setting of an Italian folk song, and Mr. Crouch joined the chorus. The Glee Club was joined onstage for one selection by the University Chamber Choir, which performed Sir William Harris’s Faire is the Heaven with clarity and good attention to the harmonies and lyrical internal lines. There were many languages represented in this concert, and both choral ensembles had the variety of texts well in hand.

The Princeton University Music Department has committed to “composition, performance, and scholarship,” and the Glee Club furthered this mission this past year by sponsoring a composition contest within the ensemble. Sophomore Ryan McCarty won this year’s competition with a setting of texts from the 11th-century Cambridge Songs. Mr. McCarty retained the medieval nature of Carissima by beginning the piece with chant-like music at intervals of octaves and fifths, sung by the men, as it would have been in the 11th century. Sound built with each vocal entrance, leading to a clear dialog between men and women on the text “noli tardare” (“make haste”). Mr. McCarty composed this piece with a fresh style and refreshing sound, and with an easy flow to the music, ending the piece on a joyous high note. Creating this choral competition not only gave the Glee Club an opportunity for its members to stretch themselves creatively, but in the case of Mr. McCarty’s work, also resulted in a piece which could go far in the choral arena.

The Princeton University Glee Club seems to be touring overseas every two or three years. With its clean singing and precise choral techniques, the ensemble has proven to be yet another solid representative of the University’s music program.


All of life’s pleasure consists of getting a little closer to perfection, and expressing life’s mysterious thrill a little better.

—Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

For the last four years of his life Maurice Ravel, who was born 137 years ago today, suffered from a form of aphasia so severe that he could only dream of expressing “life’s mysterious thrill.” After witnessing a performance of his great “symphonie choréographique,” Daphnis et Chloe, he’s said to have lamented, through tears, “I still have so much music in my head, I have said nothing. I have so much more to say.”

It’s painful to imagine what Ravel went through, exiled from his genius, his will in limbo, apparently the delayed result of a blow to the head suffered in a taxi accident in 1932. That he would be dealt this ultimately mortal injury in a car makes for a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction coincidence, given his fascination with mechanical devices, a quality inherited from his father, whose inventions included an internal-combustion engine and an automatic loop-the-loop circus machine known as “the Whirlwind of Death” that was popular at the Barnum & Bailey Circus — until it resulted in a fatal accident.

A Debonair Wizard

Ravel was intensely, severely handsome, 5’4, slightly built, and sensitive about his small stature. In his prime, he cultivated an enlightened dandyism inspired by Baudelaire’s ideal, which was to combine simplicity and elegance while carrying out “a dignified quest for beauty.” LéonPaul Fargue described him at the time as “a sort of debonair wizard … telling me endless stories — he could tell an anecdote as well as he could compose a waltz or an adagio.” He was a heavy smoker, a serious gardener, a bird-watcher (he excelled at bird calls), with a fondness for spicy, exotic dishes, cocktails, fine wines, Spain, Morocco, books (he had a large library), and Siamese cats. He never married, though he is said to have proposed to and been refused by violinist Hélène Jourdan-Mourhange (apparently he returned the disfavor when the situation was reversed). He did, however, enjoy playing with the children of his friends and would tell them fairy tales. One such child said that when she heard the news of his death it was like losing her own father for a second time.

Ravel’s ideas on the nature and meaning of art were primarily based on his reading of Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. During his highly successful concert tour of the U.S. in 1928 he made a pilgrimage to Poe’s home in the Bronx, visited 25 cities from New York to California, enthused about skyscrapers and jazz (“I am seeing magnificent cities and enchanting regions,” he wrote to Jourdan-Morhange). He began a lecture at Rice Institute in Houston with reference to the “singular importance” for him of “the aesthetic of Edgar Allan Poe, your great countryman.” In the same lecture, he talked about the blues “one of your greatest musical assets,” and mentioned the blues element in the second movement of his sonata for violin and piano.

In fact, American music took more from Ravel than the other way around. Listen to the orchestral pieces, notably Daphnis and Chloe, and you know that Hollywood composers like Miklos Rosa and Bernard Herrmann have been there, not to mention bandleader Stan Kenton, whose signature theme, “Artistry in Rhythm,” borrows from the ballet’s opening sequence, “Invocation to the Nymphs.” You can hear echoes of Ravel in the mood-drenched music of film noir and 1940s classics like Hitchcock’s Spellbound, and numerous rock and heavy metal barn-burners have fed on the hypnotic rhythms of his Bolero, which spawned the 1934 film of the same name wherein Carole Lombard and George Raft (and their long-shot doubles) perform to Ravel’s music what may be the most erotic dance sequence in all of pre-code Hollywood.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Jazz pianist Bill Evans openly declared his debt to Ravel, and turned Miles Davis on to A.B. Michelangeli’s recording of the piano concerto in G, which eventually “became something of an obsession with Davis,” to the point where he “proselytized about it for years,” according to John Szwed’s So What: A Life of Miles Davis.

“When he plays something,” Davis said of Michelangeli’s interpretation,” it sounds like he’ll never play it again.” The words “never play it again” have a poignant resonance, for this work was first performed in 1932, the year Ravel suffered the blow that extinguished his career. The endgame quality is best heard in the original recording by Ravel’s friend, Marguerite Long, the French pianist to whom the work was dedicated. In the world of beauty created by the Adagio assai, the pianist seems to be tracing a pilgrim’s progress through dark woods shadowed by a vague furtive menace, the right hand’s walk through the shadows at times nearly thwarted, halting, almost wavering, before thoughtfully, steadfastly moving on, then simply ascending, beautifully buoyed by strings and woodwinds, to a blissful extinction, with the orchestra, reportedly conducted by Ravel himself, swooning into silence at the gates of the heavenly city.

Linking Melodies

It’s said that Ravel composed the Bolero by picking out the melody on the piano with one finger and commenting approvingly on its “insistent quality,” which he decided to try repeating a number of times “without any development, gradually increasing the orchestra as best I can.”

The seemingly random simplicity of that moment at the keyboard, the composer, in effect, taking baby steps on the way to a work of epic grandeur, suggests an analogy for the series of conundrums and coincidences that led to the writing of this anything but epic column. The wonder of music is that it can catch and disarm you in the most unlikely places, for instance when you’re being ministered to by a dentist who suddenly expresses his fondness for an album that contains a Billy Strayhorn composition you feel especially close to but whose title you can’t remember. So while the dentist is busy threading your gums with stitches, you’re racking your brain for the name of one of the moodiest and most classically nuanced numbers Strayhorn ever wrote. At this point, somewhere in the internet of your mind, a link is forming, with Strayhorn the primary subject, the bait that helps you reel in Ravel, whose mere name brings you closer to the music itself; you can almost hear Ben Webster’s tenor brewing and serving it up with a melodic sibling from Ravel that means more to you than it should because it briefly illuminates a distant scene involving a grand piano, and presto, that ghostly fragment of Ravel conjures up “Chelsea Bridge,” the title you’ve been trawling the web for. Returning home, you go straight to the most credible authority, Gary Giddins’s Visions of Jazz, and find that when composing “Chelsea Bridge,” Strayhorn “turned for instruction” to “Maurice Ravel.” Case closed? Not a chance. What about that “ghostly fragment of Ravel?”

A week later, looking ahead to the March 7 issue of Town Topics, I find that Maurice Ravel was born on March 7, 1875. No less important for the solving of the second mystery is the fact that he died on December 28, 1937, three days after my parents were married. Now the “distant scene” I saw in the dentist’s office comes into focus on the shiny black grand piano that was the great game-changer of my parents’ marriage, for whenever the tension reached the danger level, my cool, remote father would sit down at the keyboard and flood the living room with the warmth and power of his playing, pulling out the stops, unloading every weapon in his arsenal as he melted my sulking, formidably emotional mother. And what was one of my father’s primary weapons? A piece by Ravel, of course. That phantom fragment. But what was it?

The Thrill Is Not Gone

The first jazz record I played incessantly enough to provoke disparaging remarks from my parents was Chet Baker’s initial solo EP on Pacific Jazz. I was 14 and so enamoured of the music that I asked my father to give me piano lessons, a prospect that horrified him. He did, however, teach me how to pick out “Isn’t It Romantic,” my favorite song on the album.

Knowing what I know now, I wonder what his reaction would have been had I asked him to teach me my next favorite number, “The Lamp is Low”? Surely he’d have recognized one of his primary weapons in the melody, which was borrowed from Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, otherwise known as “Pavane pour une infante défunte” and dedicated to the Princesse de Polignac, a.k.a. Winnaretta Singer, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune.

That’s it. Mystery solved. After listening to numerous renditions of Ravel’s Pavane, I have no doubt that it’s the melody I was looking for, the one my father played. But there’s still another link to open, the one leading to “life’s mysterious thrill” in its purest form, which is when beauty appears unexpectedly in an unlikely place and in the guise of a dubious medium.

Working the internal internet again, I pull up my first summer in Europe. The student tour that had begun two months before in June is almost over and I’m sharing a moment with a fellow I’ve only really begun to know — a shambling, wisecracking Phil Silvers type, a sort of playful Teddy Bear who has let on that he’s a musician. We’re in an empty recreation room on a rainy day at a student hostel in the Lake District town of Patterdale and he’s at the piano playing an elaborate, astonishingly accomplished composition of his own based on a viscerally familiar melody. Speaking musically, the tour has been two months of drunken dissonance, which gives this moment with the rain pattering at the misty windows in Patterdale a special provenance, for it turns out that this amiable Teddy Bear isn’t just a gifted musician in a realm well beyond my father’s, he’s a genius who will go on to a recording and recital career in Europe accompanying famous lieder singers, and the theme he’s built his version of a “mysterious thrill” around is the phantom melody from Ravel’s Pavane that has been haunting me ever since that day with the dentist.

———

Of the quantities of Ravel material online, I’ve consulted and sometimes quoted from Roger Nichols’s biography, Ravel (Yale University Press 2010), Arbie Orenstein’s A Ravel Reader (Dover 2003), and Deborah Mawer’s Cambridge Companion to Ravel (Cambridge University Press 2000). The version of “Chelsea Bridge” referred to is from the album, Ben Webster Meets Gerry Mulligan. Although the music I’ve referred to is available online, notably Marguerite Long’s historic performance of that chillingly beautiful Adagio, the Princeton Public Library provided the CDs I’ve been listening to, the stand-out being Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra’s Daphnis and Chloe, which filled my humble CRV with with its orchestral power and choral glory from here to Lambertville and back.


The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting “Terrace Project: New Sculpture” by Rory Mahon through March 30. “Drawing Beyond: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawing,” with works by Eve Aschheim, Caroline Burton, Theresa Chong, and other artists, is currently on view. Opening March 24 is “Arnold Roth: A Selection of Work from Area Collections.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, is showing “The Capital City College and University Art Exhibition” March 20-April 24. The exhibit highlights the work of emerging and young regional visual artists as well as the centers of art instruction in the central New Jersey region. A reception is March 31, 4-6 p.m. Visit www.artworkstrenton.com.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Illuminating Data: Visualizing the Information that Moves Our World” from March 14-April 18 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. The exhibit will showcase how artists engage with data. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

Coryell Gallery at 8 Coryell Street in Lambertville is celebrating the 31st Annual Juried Art Exhibition, through March 18. Artists include Dean Thomas, Barbara Postel, Jack Muessig, Pat Smythe, and several others.

D&R Greenway Marie L. Matthews Galleries, 1 Preservation Place, shows “Babbling Brooks and Silent Springs” through May 4. The opening reception is March 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Also featured is “Voices for the Marsh,” a juried photography show about the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh. On April 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., a juried poetry reading, “Water, Water Everywhere” with flutist Judith McNally will be presented.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, is showing “Variations on Greek Urns, Ghosts, and Myths” by Larry Parsons through March 11. On March 16, “Digital Noir: Black-and-White Photographs by Richard Trenner” opens, along with “Ingenuous Tapestries” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac. The opening Reception is March 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. A Meet the Photographers event is March 18, from 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Viewpoints,” with art by students of Hightstown artist Susan Winger, through March 25. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron and revealing the range of versatility the medium permits. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an illuminating exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the cutting-edge works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. On the mezzanine is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. See www.groundsforsculp
ture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. Tickets are now on sale for “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, coming to the museum April 21-August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, has a photo exhibit by Philip Liu. Mr. Liu’s work is focused on his cultivation of lotus and water lilies. The show is in the library’s East Lobby Gallery. The library is also holding its Third Annual Trashed Art Contest, in which artists can submit one piece of original artwork in any medium with a minimum of 75 percent recycled content. There are two categories, for adults and kids who live in Mercer County. The entries will be on display through April; a reception is April 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 30 is the entry deadline.

Lawrenceville School’s Hutchins Rotunda Gallery on the campus, Main Street in Lawrenceville, presents “Basin Logic” by Lauren Rosenthal, March 26-April 21. A reception is March 30, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University, 185 Nassau Street, presents “Medium Rare,” paintings by Joanne Chong and Dao Mi, March 12-16. A reception is March 15, 7-9 p.m.

Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, opens “Life Sentence,” drawings by Israeli artist Shai Zurim, March 30. The show runs through April 19, when there is a reception from 6:30-8 p.m.

Mercer County Community College Gallery, West Windsor, is showing “Mercer County Artists 2012” through April 5. Visit www.mccc.edu/gallery for hours.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, 151 Moore Street, shows “Selected Works from Sara Schneckloth” March 16-28. The artist will lead a collaborative workshop with 25 students who will complete a large drawing to be displayed at a reception March 28 at 7 p.m.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,” an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery is presenting works by installation and ceramic artist Debbie Reichard through March 8. Architect Michael Graves is lending his original sketchbooks and tea kettle prototypes for a show on his design process, April 2-25.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run March 17-June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery presents “The Outside From Within: Envisioning Forest and Sea,” drawings and paintings by Professor of Fine Arts Harry I. Naar. The show runs March 8-April 15 and a reception is March 8 from 5-7 p.m. On March 22 at 7 p.m., Judith K. Brodsky, professor emerita and founding director of the Brodsky Center for Innovative Print and Paper at Rutgers, will have a conversation with Mr. Naar in the gallery followed by audience questions. The gallery is in the Bart Luedeke Center on the campus, 2083 Lawrenceville Road.

River Queen Artisan’s Gallery at 8 Church Street, Lambertville, is showing “Beating the Doldrums,” an exhibit of art and fine crafts by 32 local artists, until March 15.

Straube Center is presenting a “Fine Art Show: Grace, Strength and Freedom,” through May 25. Local artists will be featured. The center is on Route 31 at West Franklin Avenue in Pennington, in buidings 100 and I-108.

Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Cadwalader Park, is hosting the 2012 Spring Forward weekends March 24 and 31. Included will be a morning of workshops for artists on March 24, and an afternoon devoted to writing and visual arts collaboration on March 31. Workshops will be followed by discussion of the Trenton Artist Workshop Association’s upcoming summer show, “Trenton Makes.” Register for workshops at tawaexhibits@aol.com by March 22.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, is showing “Deep Within the Soul,” photographs by Colleen Maniere, April 3-June 10. The opening reception is April 3, 7-9 p.m. A percentage of all sales of the work benefit pancreatic cancer research.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, shows “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” through April 27. The exhibit is the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Visual-Artists.html for details.

WHEN IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE: The Lorax (Danny DeVito), who is a defender of the Earth’s plant life, is horrified and saddened to discover that another Truffula tree has been cut down. He pleads with Ted, who cut the tree down, to talk to the Once-ler (Ed Helms, not shown), who then explains to Ted the importance of preserving the ecology of the Earth’s plant life by keeping pollution and deforestation in check.

Twelve-year-old Ted (Zac Efron) has a big crush on the girl next-door (Taylor Swift), so he makes up excuses to ring her doorbell just so he can see her. He finally realizes he actually has a chance with Audrey when she mentions that she’d marry the first boy who could bring her a real live tree.

She’s never seen one, because their hometown of Thneedville is an artificial environment where everything is plastic except for the citizens. What the children don’t know is that their idyllic community is also walled-off from the contaminated outside world that has been turned into a vast wasteland as a result of environmental pollution.

Intent on impressing Audrey, Ted asks his grandmother Norma (Betty White) where he might find a Truffula, the species of trees that once thrived in Thneedville. She suggests he seek out the Once-ler (Ed Helms), a reclusive elder who lives outside the city.

So, Ted hops on his scooter and drives out of town for the first time. He is shocked to see the widespread blight that he’s been shielded from his whole life. Also, it’s apparent that the desolation is due to the smog and sludge being spewed by an operation owned by Thneedville’s avaricious Mayor O’Hare (Rob Riggle).

Ted finally finds the wise old Once-ler who, in a series of sobering conversationss, teaches Ted a valuable lesson about the importance of protecting the environment from greedy corporations. And the Once-ler even admits to the role he played in the destruction of the forest when, over the objections of a tiny, planet-protecting creature called the Lorax (Danny DeVito), he harvested all the trees to make a quick buck.

Loosely based on the Dr. Seuss children’s classic of the same name, The Lorax is a parable about the importance of preserving the Earth’s natural resources.

While the movie’s dire apocalyptic message might scare some impressionable children, most of them will likely take it all in stride, especially with the film’s fairy tale ending.

Very Good (***). Rated PG for mild epithets. Running time: 86 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.

February 29, 2012

At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy …. I proudly accept this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations.

—Asghar Farhadi on accepting the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

 

Giving Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation the Oscar for Best Foreign Film is a contradiction in terms. What makes the Iranian director’s picture the best I saw this year — what lifts it above The Artist and the rest of the mainstream competition — is that it is un-foreign, human, universal. It’s about us, not them.

The regime in Tehran has been steeling itself for months against the shameful prospect of yet another Western honor, this the ultimate accolade, for a film that state-run television has dismissed for depicting “the image of our society” as “the dirty picture westerners are wishing for.” Farhadi’s perceptive, unbiased, seemingly apolitical observation of the human condition — Faulkner’s “human heart in conflict with itself” — confounds attempts to tie it to a politically subversive point of view. It was also hugely popular in Iran. So the best the regime can do is disapprove of Farhadi’s “passivity.”

Farhadi did have at least one close call. In 2010, Jafar Panahi, the director of The White Balloon and The Circle, was sentenced to a six-year prison term and banned from writing or directing films for 20 years for allegedly attempting to undermine the government. When Farhadi spoke up on behalf of Panahi, the regime temporarily removed permission for production of A Separation.

More Iranian Magic

For what it’s worth from someone who has no compelling interest in Iranian cinema, the second best film I saw in 2011 was Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, his first picture made in the West with Western actors, notably Juliette Binoche. When Binoche was voted Best Actress at Cannes in 2010, she raised hackles in Tehran by tearfully dedicating the award to Jafar Panahi and writing his name in capital letters on a sign that she left on the podium, where it remained in view throughout the ceremony.

By all rights, Certified Copy and its star should have received Academy nominations in 2010 (if not 2011, the year of its American release). There’s no doubt Meryl Streep deserved the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, which I have not been able to bring myself to watch. I’m sure Streep could do wonders with Pat Nixon and Nancy Reagan and maybe even Callista Gingrich, but consider what Juliette Binoche does in a part written for her by an Iranian director. Kiarostami gives her no name, just “Elle,” presumably because he sees her as a kind of feminine ideal. Not that she’s meant to be perfect, far from it. She’s vividly French (lots of expressive gesturing and body language), a single mother with a young son who enjoys teasing her, and she lives in Italy where she runs a cavernous shop specializing in art and antiquities. During an outing to a Tuscan hilltown with James, an English writer (opera baritone William Shimell in his first film role), she does the driving; that is, she’s behind the wheel in every sense of the phrase as James becomes the dour straight man she weaves her charming, infuriating, but invariably natural and believable performance around. She also leads the way when they act out what appears to be a casual, spontaneous charade of marriage seeded with hints that they might really have a married past. Act or no act, Binoche is the real thing. She’s intelligent, sophisticated, open, guarded, flirtatious, argumentative, funny, arrogant, sweet, romantic, and cynical, and can express all those qualities — spinning like a Catherine Wheel of unbridled femininity — in the space of a single scene. For instance, the cafe sequence, where James is making an ass of himself with an indifferent waiter and either fails or obstinately refuses to appreciate her when she comes back after disappearing to “fix her face” — a moment in which the audience becomes the mirror she’s looking into as she applies lipstick, puts on earrings, and checks herself out approvingly. In that brief sequence where she’s “making herself beautiful for him” (as she frankly admits), she lends poetry to that feminine ritual.

This richly nuanced “portrait of a lady” was created by a director from a society where everything about Binoche’s character and behavior would be deemed a violation (not to mention the makebelieve marriage’s violation of reality) — where women must cover their heads, eschew makeup, and know their place.

Warring Couples

A Separation begins with a couple applying (without success) for a divorce because the wife, Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to live abroad while her husband Nader (American-born Peyman Maadi) insists on staying in Tehran with their 11-year-old daughter Termeh (beautifully played by the director’s daugter Sarina), so he can care for his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Unable to leave the country without her husband, Simin goes to stay with her family, which means that Nader has to find day care for his father. The woman he hires, Razieh (Serah Bayat), has to bring along her little daughter Somayeh (Kimia Hossieni), who in one scene tinkers with the sick man’s oxygen tank and finds that she can bring him to life by turning a knob; his eyes open, he sees her, she smiles and says “Hi.”

What sets the plot fully in motion is Nader’s outrage when he comes home to find his father in serious distress, on the floor, tied to the bed, possibly near death, with Razieh nowhere to be seen. Between that and his suspicion that she has taken some money, he fires her, and when she vehemently and tearfully protests, he shoves her out the door, she loses her balance, falling back a step or two, nothing serious — except that it seemingly provokes a miscarriage that leads to a murder charge for Nader, who didn’t know that she was pregnant. When Razieh’s hot-headed husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini, no relation to Kimia) storms into the picture, the wrangling intensifies, with both men or both couples going at it, separately or together, including a contentious reenactment of the moment on the stairway as the children, Termeh and Somayeh, look on.

Honoring A Separation with the Golden Bear as this year’s best picture, the Berlin Film Festival gave the Silver Bears for actress and actor to the ensembles for each, rightly including Sarina’s Termeh and Kimia’s Somayeh. These children sadly and sweetly bearing witness to the frantic behavior of the adults give the film a full and very necessary measure of grace and poignance. The look that passes between them toward the end of Asghar Farhadi’s picture is as likely to endure as any such moment in the best works of other “foreign” filmmakers like Federico Fellini or Satyajit Ray or Jean Renoir.

Sounding The Artist

No surprise that The Artist won the Best Picture Oscar, as well as best director for Michel Hazanavicius, Actor Jean Dujardin, and original score Loudovic Bource. Hustling Harvey Weinstein (and Uggie the dog) no doubt helped bring home the first three, but take away Bource’s extraordinary musical accompaniment and even Uggie couldn’t save the day: the audience would be gone before he had time to win it over. To be truly great, The Artist would have to live up to its title. Instead of the swashbuckling singing and dancing film star played by Dujardin, the title character would have to be a Chaplinesque director whose great swan song would be a masterpiece (think City Lights) or maybe a failed masterpiece. Even with the music, and Uggie, and its many other charms, The Artist is not in the same league with the silent films honored at the first Academy Awards in 1928, Frank Borzage’s 7th Heaven and F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise.

Nor is it in the same league with A Separation, which is currently playing at both the Garden and Montgomery, or with Certified Copy, a BluRay DVD of which is available at the Princeton Public Library. If you want to see other work by Farhadi and Kiarostami, as well as Panahi, and their colleagues, the library boasts a good selection of Iranian films on DVD.


UNSUNG HERO: During his residency at the Arts Council of Princeton, studio artist and educator Thaddeus Erdahl created this bust of Archibald Campbell Seruby, a.k.a. Spader, the Peanut Man.

“I just showed up at Communiversity and said I wanted to help out with something,” said Thaddeus Erdahl recounting his introduction to the Princeton Arts Council (PAC) over a year ago. “So they put me to work making cotton candy, a truly enlightening moment in my life.”

Although Mr. Erdahl, who describes himself as an “independent studio artist and educator,” was “covered from head to toe with sugary webs of pink and blue” by the end of the day, he had also gotten to know Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Nathanson and staffers Mark Germond and Maria Evans, among others. A job as a ceramics instructor at PAC soon followed and, encouraged by ceramics manager Kathleen Preziosi, Mr. Erdahl put together a residency application; he then was approved.

The Iowa-born artist’s stint at the Arts Council has been based largely on his interest in using ceramic sculpture and portraiture “for documenting what I see in human nature.” Another important element in his approach to art, he says, is humor; “one of the most attractive qualities of human behavior.

“Some things in life are so serious, you have to laugh at them,” Mr. Erdahl added. “Working with concepts that are personal and sometimes with narcissistic perceptions of the gloomy side of life, humor is my buffer.”

Mr. Erdahl incorporated Princeton into his work at the Arts Council by creating a sculpture of Archibald Campbell Seruby, a.k.a. “Spader, the Peanut Man,” whom he described as “unsung, but noteworthy.” A June 15, 1929 article in the Daily Princetonian reported that “Spader, the old Negro peanut man” who has “taken on the aspect of a landmark,” would be on hand at the game against Yale that afternoon, “for his peddling license has been renewed.”

“My intention was to express, teach, and preserve the memory of Archibald Seruby,” said. Mr. Erdahl. “Every community, perhaps most especially Princeton, has been influenced by the lives of colorful characters who have yet to be formally recognized. I portrayed not only the outward appearance, but also a more intimate or hidden aspect of his persona. Instead of the traditional, stoic, portrait bust, this sculpture is a humanized, personalized representation of Mr. Seruby, the peanut man.”

In addition to producing art, Mr. Erdahl’s residency included the chance to work with members of the community, and, he reported, “like all good plans,” some “unexpected opportunities” came along.

Several weeks into his residency Ms. Evans, who is the Arts Council of Princeton’s Community Programs Manager, asked Mr. Erdahl to participate in their annual Day of the Dead Exhibition. “I was honored to be asked, so I changed gears for a few weeks to work on several sculptures for the exhibition,” Mr. Erdahl reported. One result was a group ceramic project titled Mariposa. “Together with a mixed age group of teens, tweens, and children we created a wall sculpture consisting of over 100 press-moulded ceramic skulls that, when assembled in a specific grid configuration, created an image of a monarch butterfly,” reported Mr. Erdahl. “I was really proud of the dedication and support that I received from such a young demographic. The children were so excited to know that they were responsible for part of the sculpture.”

Indeed, the whole Arts Council of Princeton experience has been a positive one for Mr. Erdahl. “They are a wonderful group who gave me a sense of place in a new community,” he observed.

At the moment, Mr. Erdahl is at the University of Northern Iowa, filling in for his undergraduate professor, Jo Ann Schnable, who is on sabbatical this semester. After that, he said, he’ll “be heading back to Princeton, picking up where things left off.”

To learn more about the Princeton Arts Council visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.


On a night when Hollywood was honoring its own with the Oscars telecast, The Princeton Singers paid homage to its own past, as well as Princeton history, with a concert of late 19th and early 20th-century British and American choral music. As part of its continuing collaboration with the Princeton University Art Museum, The Princeton Singers invited its audience to sit in the chancel of the Princeton University Chapel for a concert of some of the greatest hits of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, complementing the Art Museum’s exhibit of Princeton and the Gothic Revival, 1870-1930.

Princeton Singers conductor Steven Sametz placed the 18-member vocal ensemble under the foot of the chancel, facing the high altar. With conductor and singers so close together, it was easy to keep control over the sound, and an intimate concert environment was created for the audience. Throughout the evening, the homophonic music of late 19th century England was well-blended and diction came through well.

Sunday night’s concert was subtitled “Vivat Regina!” and the singers cut right to the chase, opening with C. Hubert H. Parry’s I Was Glad, sung at every royal coronation since 1902 and heard most recently in royal context as the bride’s processional at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This piece was designed to shake the rafters, with its top-volume organ registration and harmonic shifts, and the space of the University Chapel was a perfect venue for this lush music. The four-manual Aeolian Skinner Chapel organ also provided ample choices in registration and dynamics for this program. Parry created his setting for the traditional British choir of men and boys, whose laser sound would cut through Gothic walls and organ registration, but the Princeton Singers sopranos had an equally pure sound in the cozy setting.

All the works chosen for Sunday evening’s program showed a full clean sound with explicit diction. Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s Wash Me Thoroughly in particular was sung with a flowing choral tone. Penitent in its simplicity, the Wesley anthem demonstrated especially well-blended men’s sections while the sopranos topped off the sound like icing.

Dr. Sametz contrasted these chordal anthems with the more jarring style of Charles Ives to show how the British Anglican revival was assimilated into American music. Both “General Booth Enters into Heaven” and the closing Psalm 90 of Charles Ives were percussive in vocal style. For the General Booth anthem, Dr. Sametz moved the chorus outside of the chancel, leaving bass soloist William Walker close to the audience. It would have been easy to hear Mr. Walker from anywhere in the hall, and both choir and soloist conveyed the musical drama well, accompanied in the tricky piano part by Akiko Hosaki. Ives’s setting of Psalm 90 was smooth and sustained, punctuated by bells played by members of the Nassau Presbyterian Church’s Ringers. The Singers well maintained the long choral stream of this piece, while soloists tenor Peter De Mets and soprano Martha Ainsworth carried well in the space. Ms. Ainsworth was appropriately restrained in a complex vocal line which left little room for overly-Romantic singing. Dr. Sametz intermingled the choral pieces on the program with organ works played by Timothy Harrell. In both the Edward Elgar and Horatio Parker works, Mr. Harrell was able to take full advantage of the wide range of dynamics and registration available from the instrument.

Princeton Singers concerts are often mini-courses in music history, and Sunday night’s performance was no exception. The actual museum exhibit may have been nearby, but the gothic structure of the University Chapel provided plenty of atmosphere to transport the audience to an earlier era and give them some new musical insight to take home.


Have our cell phones transformed the nature and quality of our most important human relationships? Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone (2007) provides its audiences with an engaging, thought-provoking, consistently amusing, and frequently surprising experience exploring this, and other timely issues, at Theatre Intime on the Princeton University campus for one more weekend.

Intelligently and dynamically staged here with a poised six-member undergraduate ensemble under the sure-handed direction of Princeton University junior Daniel Rattner, Dead Man’s Cell Phone is a dark romantic comedy — yes, definitely about cell phones and the problems with contemporary communication, but also about the larger peculiarities of this modern world and about no less than our struggle for fulfillment through connection with other human beings, in this world and the next.

Ms. Ruhl, emerging as a major new playwright of the twenty-first century (Eurydice in 2003, The Clean House in 2004, and In the Next Room in 2009, a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 and twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), dexterously shuttles back and forth in her plays between the surreal and the mundane. Dead Man’s Cell Phone, with its twelve scenes in two acts, provides a steady stream of surprises — in characters’ words and actions, in plot, and in ideas.

As clever in her quirky insights into the eccentricities of human nature as she is poetic and inventive in her uses of language, Ms. Ruhl makes the most of the clever premise indicated in her title. The lights rise on a café. A man and a woman sit at tables on opposite sides of the stage, and after a silent minute — anguished on her part, frozen on his — the first of many cell phones rings is heard. The rings cease briefly, only to start up again, until the annoyed woman, Jean (Sarah Paton), asks the man, Gordon (Michael Pinsky), to answer his phone. He doesn’t move. He can’t, of course, because he’s dead, which she eventually realizes, after she has answered the phone. She is immediately swept into his complicated personal and professional lives.

Throughout the play, Jean feels compelled to hold onto the dead man’s phone, and she continues to answer calls. She attends Gordon’s funeral, meets his imperious mother (Savannah Hankinson), his mysterious Other Woman (Bits Sola), his eccentric widow Hermia (Annika Bennett), and his shy, sweet brother Dwight (Eric Traub).

From her initial exasperation at the annoyance of Gordon’s unanswered phone to an acute compassion and curious desire to connect with the dead man and his world, Jean finds herself taking responsibility for passing along, and creating, the meaning of Gordon’s life, his mysterious career and his most important relationships. This ambitious and daring undertaking sends Jean deep into the worlds of romance, international intrigue and family dysfunction in a series of wild scenes—from café to church to mom’s dinner party to bar to stationery store to Johannesburg airport to some semblance of the after-life (or it might be another planet).

As she continues on her quest to connect and make meaning out of the mystery and loneliness of her life, of Gordon’s life and the lives of his loved ones, she finds herself making up increasingly creative tales. “I call Jean’s stories confabulations, I never call them lies…,” Ms. Ruhl writes in her notes for the director.

Ms. Paton, as the frenetic, beleaguered, ultimately triumphant protagonist, undergoes a wide range of emotions and experiences during the course of the two-hour evening. She creates a sympathetic character, though less than credible at times in age (late 30s — an almost 20-year stretch for this actress) and in a dependence on the distraught look, the sighs and furrowed brow at the expense of a wider variety of reactions. It would have been helpful, and in keeping with the fanciful nature of the play to see Jean at times relaxing the distressed demeanor and enjoying more fully the power and creative challenges of her romantic, moral adventure.

As Gordon, Mr. Pinsky plays a convincing dead man in the opening scene, makes an astonishing entrance at the end of act one, returns in act two to tell us about his last day, and, with effective self-assurance and lack of affectation, delivers, to Jean and the audience, essential words for contemplation.

Ms. Hankinson as the formidable, doting mother creates a compelling presence and almost steals the show in creating an unforgettable character — albeit, as written, more of a two-dimensional caricature. Her funeral speech for her son, interrupted by a ringing cell phone, of course, is a tour de force, followed up expertly with classic matriarchal encounters, peppered with searing one-liners directed at Jean, her younger son and her daughter-in-law.

Ms. Bennett’s Hermia, Gordon’s widow, is another larger-than-life yet thoroughly believable character — fascinating and compelling in her eccentricity, manifested, for just one example, in her final decision, and final appearance in full regalia, to join the Ice Follies.

Mr. Traub as Dwight, a striking contrast to the more flamboyant characters surrounding him and a suitable match for the protagonist, and Ms. Sola as the enigmatic Other Woman provide first-rate support and interest to the play’s romantic and adventure plots.

The pacing occasionally drags here, as Jean wends her way towards love and fulfillment. “There is a great deal of silence and empty space in this play,” Ms. Ruhl describes, “but the pauses should not be epic.” The glimpses of yearning, loneliness, isolation — what Ms. Ruhl describes as frozen Edward Hopper (the painter) moments — are important, but this production could pick up the pace at times, both between and within scenes.

Mark Watter’s simple, flexible set,—single café tables stage right and stage left, simple platforms upstage and basic furniture brought on as necessary, serves the play well. Sean Drohan’s richly colorful lighting, with the backdrop transforming from fuchsia in the first scene to an array of different hues, ending in bright pink for the finale, contributes significantly to the creation of this surreal world.

“You know what’s funny?” Jean confides to Dwight near the end of the first act. “I never had a cell phone. I didn’t want to always be there, you know. Like if your phone is on you’re supposed to be there. Sometimes I like to disappear. But it’s like — when everyone has their cell phone on, no one is there. It’s like we’re all disappearing the more we’re there.” It’s not just a coincidence that the most meaningful relationship in the play takes place between two characters who meet in person, without any electronic communication, and who find love in a stationery store, triumphing over the intrusions of cell phones into their lives.


The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting “Terrace Project: New Sculpture by Rory Mahon through March 30.  Opening March 1 is “Drawing Beyond: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawing,” with works by Eve Aschheim, Caroline Burton, Theresa Chong, and other artists. Opening March 24 is “Arnold Roth: A Selection of Work from Area Collections.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, is showing “The Capital City College and University Art Exhibition” March 20-April 24. The exhibit highlights the work of emerging and young regional visual artists as well as the centers of art instruction in the central New Jersey region. An opening reception is March 31, 4-6 p.m. Visit www.artworkstrenton.com for hours and information.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Illuminating Data: Visualizing the Information that Moves Our World” from March 14-April 18 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. The exhibit will showcase how artists engage with data. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu/ or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

Coryell Gallery at 8 Coryell Street in Lambertville is celebrating the 31st Annual Juried Art Exhibition, through March 18. Artists include Dean Thomas, Barbara Postel, Jack Muessig, Pat Smythe, and several others.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view from March 2-July 8.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, is showing “Variations on Greek Urns, Ghosts, and Myths” by Larry Parsons through March 11. On March 16, “Digital Noir: Black-and-White Photographs by Richard Trenner” opens, along with “Ingenuous Tapestries” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac. The opening Reception is Friday, March 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. A Meet the Photographers event is Sunday, March 18, from 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gallery at Chapin, 4104 Princeton Pike, presents paintings by Jeff Epstein in “Intersections of the Man-Made and Natural Worlds,” through March 2.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Viewpoints,” with art by students of Hightstown artist Susan Winger, March 4-25. An opening reception is March 4 from 1-3 p.m. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron and revealing the range of versatility the medium permits. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an illuminating exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the cutting-edge works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. On the mezzanine is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. For detailed information, visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring  home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road,  “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m.  For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, presents “Nathan Skiles: The Clockmaker’s Apprentice,”  through March 25. Mr. Skiles created and installed 100 objects made entirely from foam rubber for the show.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand,” a series of large-scale photographs combining individual pictures of tree branches is on view through February 26. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler from March 1-July 1. Tickets are now on sale for “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, coming to the museum April 21-August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, opens a photo exhibit by Philip Liu on March 2, with a reception from 2-4 p.m. Mr. Liu’s work is focused on his cultivation of lotus and water lilies. The show is in the library’s East Lobby Gallery.

Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, 185 Nassau Street, opens a “Inhabited,” a show by senior Genevieve Irwin on March 1, in conjunction with the spring Princeton ArtWalk. A reception is being held from 7-9 p.m. The Lucas Gallery is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation.  There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women scholars, students, staff, and other women associated with the University.

Princeton ArtWalk, in its second year, is a self-guided tour Thursday, March 1 from 5-8 p.m. at several locations including the Arts Council of Princeton, Bernstein Gallery of the Woodrow Wilson School, Cranbury Station Gallery, Firestone Library, the  Historical Society of Princeton’s Bainbridge House, Princeton Public Library, and other stops. Visit www.facebook.com/princetonartwalk for more information.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,”  an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

Princeton Day School‘s Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery is presenting works by installation and ceramic artist Debbie Reichard through March 8. Architect Michael Graves is lending his original sketchbooks and tea kettle prototypes for a show on his design process, April 2-25.

The Princeton University Art Museum  presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run March 17-June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, call (609) 258-3788.

River Queen Artisan’s Gallery at 8 Church Street, Lambertville, is showing “Beating the Doldrums,” an exhibit of art and fine crafts by 32 local artists, until March 15.

Straube Center is presenting a “Fine Art Show: Grace, Strength and Freedom,” from March 2-May 25. The opening reception is March 2 from 7-9 p.m. Local artists will be featured. The center is on Route 31 at West Franklin Avenue in Pennington, in buidings 100 and I-108.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, shows “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” from March 3-April 27. The exhibit is the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Visual-Artists.html for details.

WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS THIS?: George (Paul Rudd, left) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) discover that the “quaint bed and breakfast” inn that they checked into the previous night is really a commune of nudists who believe in free love. Ready to try anything, the happily married couple decides to give the alternative life style a try, which results in them ending up in some hilarious situations.

Happily married Linda (Jennifer Aniston) and George (Paul Rudd) bought a home after being convinced by their realtor (Linda Lavin) that a “micro loft” in the West Village of Manhattan would be a great investment. However, when George subsequently loses his high paying, high stress job, the couple is forced to sell their postage stamp-sized studio apartment at a considerable loss.

Unable to afford to live in Manhattan any longer, they decide to take up George’s brother’s (Ken Marino) generous offer of a job and a place to live in Atlanta until they can get back on their feet. So, they pack up their car and start the long drive to Georgia.

En route they book a room for a night at what they think is a quaint country bed and breakfast located off the beaten path. But they quickly realize that something strange is afoot when they are greeted in the driveway by a naked man (Joe Lo Truglio) who isn’t the slightest bit modest. They learn that they have just checked into a free love commune that considers monogamy tantamount to sexual slavery.

Linda is initially put off by the free love idea while George is intrigued by the alternate lifestyle. However, she grudgingly agrees not only to move in but even to have an open relationship in order to make her husband happy.

Then, lo and behold, Linda does take to the arrangement, and she soon seduces Seth (Justin Theroux), after he serenades her with his guitar. George, on the other hand, has a harder time bringing himself to cheat on his wife with the attractive young blonde (Malin Akerman) who is propositioning him.

Can this marriage survive the infidelity and ever present temptations? That is the question posed by Wanderlust, a comedy directed by David Wain.

The picture was produced by Judd Apatow, whose string of coarse films includes Bridesmaids, Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Fortunately, the conviction which Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd bring to their parts as the couple in crisis succeeds in holding together an implausible storyline. The talented leads are ably assisted by a gifted supporting cast of veterans like Alan Alda and Ray Liotta, as well as scene-stealing comediennes Kathryn Hahn and Kerri Kenney.

Very Good (***). Rated R for profanity, sexuality, drug use, and nudity. Running time: 98 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.


February 22, 2012

ARE WE DOING THE RIGHT THING?: Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry, left), the successful CEO of Deeds Corporation, is having second thoughts about going through with his impending marriage to Natalie (Gabrielle Union), who is a successful realtor. Wesley finds Natlie to be a shallow person, and she thinks that he is boring and predictable. To add to the tension, Wesley finds himself attracted to a homeless war widow who has a young daughter.

Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) seems to have it all. He is the CEO of the Deeds Corporation — a thriving computer software company — and is about to marry a successful, if shallow, San Francisco realtor Natalie (Gabrielle Union). Wesley was chosen to be the CEO by his mother (Phylicia Rashad), who picked him over his hot-headed brother Walter, (Brian White), to replace their late father, the former CEO of the Company.

However, it seems that Wesley has spent most of his life trying to satisfy his domineering mother, and it looks like he might be getting married more to please her than himself. Even Natalie finds Wesley to be boring and predictable, despite his being a great catch.

Then, as the couple is putting the final touches on their elaborate wedding plans, an unlikely other woman, Lindsey Wakefield (Thandie Newton) — who is a single mother living in a car with her 6-year-old daughter, Ariel (Jordenn Thompson) — enters the picture.

Lindsey’s world crashed around her after her husband was killed in Iraq. She was forced to drop out of nursing school and was able to find a job as the night janitor in Wesley’s office building.

The gruff woman initially rubs Wesley the wrong way. She is definitely not the class of women that he is accustomed to meeting.

However, the tension between the two starts to dissolve the night she offers to give him a back massage while he’s burning the midnight oil at work. And upon hearing all the details of her pitiful plight, Wesley altruistically offers Lindsey and Ariel an apartment to live in indefinitely.

Will Wesley develop deeper feelings for Natalie? If so, will he be able to summon up the courage to break off his engagement and defy his mother?

That difficult dilemma is the center of the plot of Good Deeds, the latest morality play written, directed, and starring Tyler Perry. Avoiding his usual staples of comic relief, courtesy of Madea and clownish support characters, Perry presents this soap opera in a straightforward fashion.

As a result, the plot is not only perfectly plausible, but remains refreshingly grounded in reality from start to finish. The veteran lead actors, Tyler Perry, Thandie Newton, and Gabrielle Union generate a convincing chemistry that will keep you interested right up to the surprising resolution of the love triangle.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, profanity, and mature themes. Running time: 129 minutes. Distributor: Lionsgate Films.


Artsbridge at the historic Prallsville Mill, Stockton, holds its 2012 Members’ Show through February 26. Included are oils, watercolors, pastel paintings, mixed media, sculpture, and photography.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting the photography show “Location of Place,” through February 25. The show explores various approaches and methods taken by photographers in remembering and documenting spaces, places, and geographic locations. An exhibit called “Terrace Project: New Sculpture by Rory Mahon is on view through March 30. An exhibit of works by artist-in-residence T.J. Erdahl is up through February 29. Opening March 1 is “Drawing Beyond: An Exhibition of Contemporary Drawing,” with works by Eve Aschheim, Caroline Burton, Theresa Chong, and other artists. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Raymond Pettibon: Early Drawings,” an exhibit of more than 40 works by the graphic artist through February 29 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. From March 14-April 18, “Illuminating Data: Visualizing the Information that Moves Our World” will showcase how artists engage with data. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

Coryell Gallery at 8 Coryell Street in Lambertville is celebrating the 31st Annual Juried Art Exhibition, through March 18. Artists include Dean Thomas, Barbara Postel, Jack Muessig, Pat Smythe, and several others.

Erdman Center Art Gallery of Princeton Theological Seminary is presenting a show of abstract painting, “Memory Scape,” by Shirley Kem, through February 29. The gallery is at 20 Library Place.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, is showing “Variations on Greek Urns, Ghosts, and Myths” by Larry Parsons through March 11. On March 16, “Digital Noir: Black-and-White Photographs by Richard Trenner” opens, along with “Ingenuous Tapestries” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac. The opening Reception is Friday, March 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. A Meet the Photographers event is Sunday, March 18, from 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gallery at Chapin, 4104 Princeton Pike, presents paintings by Jeff Epstein in “Intersections of the Man-Made and Natural Worlds,” through March 2.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Art from the Heart VI” through February 26. The show features works by the A-Team Artists of Trenton. “Viewpoints,” with art by students of Hightstown artist Susan Winger, will run March 4-25. An opening reception is March 4 from 1-3 p.m. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron and revealing the range of versatility the medium permits. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an illuminating exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the cutting-edge works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. On the mezzanine is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. For detailed information, visit www.groundsforsculp
ture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, presents “Nathan Skiles: The Clockmaker’s Apprentice,” through March 25. Mr. Skiles created and installed 100 objects made entirely from rubber foam for the show.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand,” a series of large-scale photographs combining individual pictures of tree branches is on view through February 26. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler from March 1-July 1.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, 185 Nassau Street, is showing paintings by Jaewon Choi, a senior in the Visual Arts Certificate Program, February 23-28. Meet the artist at a reception February 23 from 7-9 p.m. The show is titled “Frogs & Forms.” On March 1, senior Genevieve Irwin will open her show “Inhabited” in conjunction with the spring Princeton ArtWalk. A reception is being held from 7-9 p.m. The Lucas Gallery is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. In conjunction with the show, puzzle writer Amy Goldstein, who sparked Ms. Johnson’s interest in puzzles, will speak February 26 at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 ($8 for members). More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women scholars, students, staff, and other women associated with the University.

Plainsboro Public Library Gallery is showing works by photographer Lucy Lu, focused on the region of Xinjiang, China, the most northwestern region of the country, through February 29. The library is at 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro.

Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street, is showing “Seeing the Light,” paintings and photographs by Meg Brinster Michael through February 24. Landscapes, still lifes, and digital photographs are included in the show.

Princeton ArtWalk, in its second year, is a self-guided tour Thursday, March 1 from 5-8 p.m. at several locations including the Arts Council of Princeton, Bernstein Gallery of the Woodrow Wilson School, Cranbury Station Gallery, Firestone Library, the Historical Society of Princeton’s Bainbridge House, Princeton Public Library, and other stops. Visit www.facebook.com/princetonartwalk for more information.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,” an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery is presenting works by installation and ceramic artist Debbie Reichard through March 8. Architect Michael Graves is lending his original sketchbooks and tea kettle prototypes for a show on his design process, April 2-25.

Princeton High School Numina Gallery celebrates Black History Month with “Princeton’s Black History: A Pictorial Retrospective, photographs from the 1860s to 1960s focused on people, education, and buildings. The photos come from the collections of Shirley Satterfield, the Princeton Regional Schools Archive, and The Historical Society of Princeton. The show runs through February 24. The school is at 151 Moore Street.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, from February 25-June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run March 17-June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery presents paintings by Lynette Lombard through February 26. “Painting Place” is a group of recent landscape paintings and drawings from Ms. Lombard’s work in Illinois and Andalusia, Spain. The gallery is located in the Bart Luedeke Center on the Lawrenceville campus.

River Queen Artisan’s Gallery at 8 Church Street, Lambertville, is showing “Beating the Doldrums,” an exhibit of art and fine crafts, until March 15.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, is exhibiting “Recyclone!” featuring the work of Eva Mantell, Ina Brosseau Marx, and Eric Schultz, through February 26. From March 3-April 27, “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” will show the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Vi
sual-Artists.html for details.

“WALLPAPER”: (20” x 24,” egg tempera on panel.) This is one of the most striking of a series of works in Mavis Smith’s “Hidden Realities.” The hypnotic intensity reflects the artist’s account of how she works: “Your mind is open and you go into a trance and the ideas come in.” The exhibit will be at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown through May 20.

When you wander into an art show called “Hidden Realities” by an artist you don’t know, free of preconceived notions and critical agendas, you may think that you’re merely passing time until you discover that you and time have parted company. If anything, it’s time that’s passing you, not the other way around, since the first painting you see holds you for maybe three or four minutes, and even then, it’s not easy to walk away. The woman in Mavis Smith’s subtly surreal painting, Solace, is looking at you as if you and she have a history. She’s got your number; she’s looking right through you.

It’s the other way around in Night Gown. By all rights a beauty in a silky, darkly lustrous dream of fabric should be seductive, not dazed and vulnerable. Far from putting you in your place, she seems to be saying, “Understand me, tell me who I am, tell me where I am.”

By the time you come to Small Sacrifices, whether you know it yet or not, you’re in Mavis Smith’s movie. While you may feel no particular compulsion to figure out what the “sacrifices” are, you can’t help wondering what it is this wise, wounded, endearing girl has given up. Like the subject in Night Gown, she seems lost, new to the world. Before you start feeling protective, you remind yourself that she’s a work of art like the others, “egg tempera on panel,” and the artist’s love for her is protection enough. She’s safe in there forever, as timeless as the elaborately detailed storybook tapestry passing as wallpaper behind her.

Sensuous Surfaces

In Mavis Smith’s edgy mystery movie disguised as an art exhibit, which will be at the James A. Michener Art Museum through May 20, a great deal of seriously expressive power is communicated through gaze and gesture, flesh tones, fabrics, garments (or their absence), and the sensuous lustre of the surface created by the artist’s meticulous employment of the medium she discusses in the catalogue under “The Fine Art of Tempera Painting”:

“It may seem strange to make pictures by mixing pigments into egg yolks, but people have been doing it for a long, long time …. The process can be tedious — or mesmerizing — depending on how you look at it. Once the pose is sketched in, I start building up layers of paint. Alternating between dry feathery brush strokes and sheer washes of color — back and forth, back and forth. This stage can take days or even weeks, but that’s when the direction and mood of the painting gradually reveal themselves.”

Smith describes being “in a very relaxed, almost hypnotic state” as mood and direction come together. In another statement, she says that the “build up” can require “hundreds of layers,” before it achieves “a luminous, ethereal quality.”

The terms Smith uses in describing herself at work are reflected in the hypnotic mood she creates, although “ethereal” doesn’t really fit the solid, smoothly formed physical presence of the seated woman in Solace, yes, it’s her again, I came back for another look, trying to figure out which movie actress she reminds me of; perhaps an older, wiser, earthier Scarlett Johansson.

It’s no accident that thoughts of movies keep surfacing, what with the Academy Awards looming next Sunday. More to the point, Smith has said that she’s “probably as much influenced by film directors” as by other painters. She likes the way certain older films (think Hitchcock and Kubrick) are shot “with especially tightly cropped frames and from unusual angles, with looming ceilings and odd shadows.” She is equally intrigued by “the idea of the beautiful, pristine surface with the subtle suggestion of a darker side hovering just below” or “around the corner, or in the next frame.” The gallery walls feature quotes from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Sam Mendes’s American Beauty, which she considers “a perfect example of smooth on the surface suburban life with a dark undercurrent.”

I began feeling the presence of David Lynch long before I came to the posted quote from Wild at Heart (“This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top,” says Laura Dern’s Lula). Having already picked up flashes of Lynch in the tranced-looking females with outsized jaws and equine faces in flatter, broader, closer-to-caricature works like Specks of Dust, Exile, Somnambulist, and The Key, I knew I was in Twin Peaks country when I saw the blonde girl in rust-colored top and worn-shiny jeans stretched out on a bed in Night Pool. I could almost hear the yearning, angst-saturated music of Angelo Badalamenti, a subtle “the-owls-are-not-what-they-seem” tingle running up the back of my neck at the thought of the surreal off-the-wall ABC series that captivated the nation in the first years of the nineties. Somehow Smith has endowed her females with something like the haunted and haunting aura that could make ominous presences of slowly revolving ceiling fans while network audiences obsessed on “Who killed Laura Palmer?” It all began when a plastic sheet was pulled back to reveal Laura’s face, scary beautiful in death, like a drowned sister to Botticelli’s Venus.

Best Picture Nominee

In an email exchange about films and Oscar night, Mavis Smith made special mention of The Descendants. When she pointed out what appealed to her in the Best Picture nominee — “serene on the surface but subtly disturbing around the edges” — she was obviously describing elements of her own work.

“We come into contact with dozens of people on a daily basis, catch their eyes for a brief moment and move on,” Smith observes in the Artist Statement, “never knowing the intricate accumulation of experience that forms their reality. My work is about that moment — hinting at a narrative, yet remaining intentionally elusive.”

A Mavis Smith moment in The Descendants occurs when George Clooney, in the course of tracking down the real estate agent his comatose wife was having an affair with, finds himself standing on a beach, at the water’s edge, conversing with the man’s wife (played by Judy Greer, who could have stepped right out of one of Mavis Smith’s paintings). Since we know that Clooney has been shaken half out of his wits by a trainwreck of converging crises, we’re intensely aware of the forces building up to a moment that for the friendly, unknowing woman is nothing more than a few casual words about her kids and Clooney’s. For Clooney, the meeting is a stunningly significant event, and he makes the audience feel every one of its, to use Smith’s words, “subtly disturbing” possibilities. We know he must be tempted to blow his cover and make her suffer the knowledge that’s tormenting him (misery loves company and vengeance is sweet). What makes Clooney’s performance Oscar-worthy is the way he’s able to communicate his character’s struggle to contain, contend with, and somehow express a storm of conflicting possibilities (something comparable to Smith’s “intricate accumulation”). Here’s a reasonably rational, centered human being doing his best to cope with (for a start) death, love, infidelity, outrage, guilt, property, and fatherhood.

Mavis Smith’s art, like the art of movie acting, is about expressing the virtually inexpressible, those “hidden realities” cited in the exhibit’s title. One of the show’s most haunting images is staring out at you from Wallpaper, which contains, slyly ignored by the title, the most riveting close-up in the exhibit, a Laura Palmeresque face that holds the mixture of “mystery” and “elegance” Smith has identified as one of her goals. “I was interested in the close cropping of the face,” she writes, “and the proximity of the intense, repetitive wallpaper pattern.” To which she adds, “At one time, women were encouraged to ‘blend into the wallpaper’ but in light of today’s social hierarchy, the wallpaper might take over the room.”

Obviously “wallpaper” is a loaded phrase for a female artist dedicated to presenting female mystery, beauty, strength, and presence. Smith recalls meeting a “very tiny older couple” at the exhibit’s opening reception. “At one point the woman pulled me aside and whispered ‘your paintings give a woman confidence’” — which made the director of “Hidden Realities,” the movie, “feel as good as anything I have ever heard about my work.”

If you can’t get to the museum, be sure to take a tour of Mavis Smith’s work at http://mavissmithart.com/Exhibition%20HR%20page.htm.

February 15, 2012

Artsbridge at the historic Prallsville Mill, Stockton, holds its 2012 Members’ Show through February 26. Included are oils, watercolors, pastel paintings, mixed media, sculpture, and photography.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting the photography show “Location of Place,” through February 25. The show explores various approaches and methods taken by photographers in remembering and documenting spaces, places, and geographic locations. A presentation by Karen Yama, “Endtime Trilogy,” is February 15 at 7:30 p.m. An exhibit called “Terrace Project: New Sculpture by Rory Mahon is on view through March 30. An exhibit of works by artist-in-residence T.J. Erdahl is up through February 29.

For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Raymond Pettibon: Early Drawings,” an exhibit of more than 40 works by the graphic artist through February 29 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

Community Art Gallery, Bank of Princeton in Lambertville, is showing “Captures and Releases,” photography by John Treichler, through February 15. The location is 10 Bridge Street.

Coryell Gallery at 8 Coryell Street in Lambertville is celebrating the 31st Annual Juried Art Exhibition, through March 18. Artists include Dean Thomas, Barbara Postel, Jack Muessig, Pat Smythe, and several others.

Erdman Center Art Gallery of Princeton Theological Seminary is presenting a show of abstract painting, “Memory Scape,” by Shirley Kem, through February 29. The gallery is at 20 Library Place.

Gallery at Chapin, 4104 Princeton Pike, presents paintings by Jeff Epstein in “Intersections of the Man-Made and Natural Worlds,” through March 2.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Art from the Heart VI” through February 26. The show features works by the A Team Artists of Trenton. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron and revealing the range of versatility the medium permits. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an illuminating exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the cutting-edge works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. On the mezzanine is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. For detailed information, visit www.groundsforsculp
ture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Suggested admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, presents “Nathan Skiles: The Clockmaker’s Apprentice,” through March 25. Mr. Skiles created and installed 100 objects made entirely from foam rubber for the show.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand,” a series of large-scale photographs combining individual pictures of tree branches is on view through February 26. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler from March 1-July 1.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. In conjunction with the show, puzzle writer Amy Goldstein, who sparked Ms. Johnson’s interest in puzzles, will speak February 26 at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 ($8 for members). More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women scholars, students, staff, and other women associated with the University.

Plainsboro Public Library Gallery is showing works by photographer Lucy Lu, focused on the region of Xinjiang, China, the most northwestern region of the country, through February 29. The library is at 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro.

Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street, is showing “Seeing the Light,” paintings and photographs by Meg Brinster Michael through February 24. Landscapes, still lifes, and digital photographs are included in the show.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,” an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery is presenting works by installation and ceramic artist Debbie Reichard through March 8. Architect Michael Graves is lending his original sketchbooks and tea kettle prototypes for a show on his design process, April 2-25.

Princeton High School Numina Gallery celebrates Black History Month with “Princeton’s Black History: A Pictorial Retrospective, photographs from the 1860s to 1960s focused on people, education, and buildings. The photos come from the collections of Shirley Satterfield, the Princeton Regional Schools Archive, and The Historical Society of Princeton. The show runs through February 24. The school is at 151 Moore Street.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, from February 25-June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run March 17-June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery presents paintings by Lynette Lombard through February 26. “Painting Place” is a group of recent landscape paintings and drawings from Ms. Lombard’s work in Illinois and Andalusia, Spain. The gallery is located in the Bart Luedeke Center on the Lawrenceville campus.

River Queen Artisan’s Gallery at 8 Church Street, Lambertville, is showing “Beating the Doldrums,” an exhibit of art and fine crafts, until April 9.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, is exhibiting “Recyclone!” featuring the work of Eva Mantell, Ina Brosseau Marx, and Eric Schultz, through February 26. From March 3-April 27, “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” will show the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Visual-Artists.html for details.

HOW DID THOSE GUYS KNOW WHERE WE WERE?: Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington, left) and Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) barely manage to escape alive from the CIA safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. Now they must figure out who compromised the location and bring the guilty parties to justice.

Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is a veteran CIA agent who has been on the run for close to 10 years after he was suspected of selling military secrets to America’s enemies. However, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a newcomer to the agency who’s been itching for some action. Unfortunately, he’s stationed in South Africa where he’s been assigned to maintain a backwater safe house that’s never been needed for a clandestine operation.

Until now. The two meet soon after Frost decides to come in from the cold in Cape Town because an army of assassins is closing in on him. The renegade spy surrenders himself at the U.S. Consulate, which in turn is directed by the CIA brass to deposit Frost in the safe houuse with Weston for debriefing.

However, all hell breaks loose right after the team of interrogators arrives, and the safe house unexpectedly comes under attack by a gang of mercenaries. Frost and West barely escape with their lives out the back door while the rest of the CIA agents perish during the siege. With no idea why the supposedly secure location had been compromised or whether there’s anybody whose word they can trust, the rookie and the rogue realize that their survival depends on their mutual cooperation.

That is the intriguing point of departure of Safe House, a riveting espionage thriller with non-stop action. The film is best described as a combination of The Bourne Identity (2002) and Taken (2008), with the former’s “spy on the run desperate to clear his name” theme and the latter’s wanton slaughter and sense of urgency.

The movie is the English language debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa, who has obtained a great performance from Denzel Washington. In addition, he has also allowed Ryan Reynolds to show that he is a capable actor.

The co-stars not only acquit themselves well in the fight sequences, but the chemistry that develops between them enables the audience to forgive the periodic holes in the picture’s plot. They are helped by powerful support performances from Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Brendan Gleeson, and Ruben Blades.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and graphic violence. In English, Afrikaans, and Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 115 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.


Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry (University of California Press $34.95) has an abundance of memorable moments, some shocking, some joyful, some sad, some funny. The ninety-one-year-old jazz legend had help pulling it all together from his wife of 22 years, Gwen Terry, who not only saw him through this project but stood by him during a perfect storm of medical challenges that intruded on but never fully thwarted his busy life as a performer, teacher, and goodwill ambassador.

Out of Nowhere

I shared a moment with Clark Terry nine years ago. It began with a telephone call. I was writing a piece about a November 1950 recording session by the Count Basie small group on which Clark played trumpet. After finding “C Terry” in the Englewood N.J. phone book, I had to work up the nerve to dial the number, being, after all, a stranger calling out of nowhere about a three-minute performance he’d been part of more than 50 years before. Half-expecting to encounter an answering machine or a protective spouse, I was startled when the man himself answered the phone. At first he sounded tired and groggy, having just returned, he told me, from L.A, where he’d played a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. He perked up when he heard that the focus of my article was the song “Little White Lies” and the solo played by the brilliant tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray, who was born this week, February 13, 1921, and died an ugly, drug-related death in May 1955. Gray’s widow, Dorothy, had called me from California after reading “Song of the Thin Man,” a piece I’d written for the Village Voice. My enthusiasm for her husband’s playing with Basie had prompted her to suggest that I talk with Clark. “They were very close in those days,” she said. “He was best man at our wedding.”

“A Beautiful Time”

Holding the phone to the speaker, I played Clark both takes of “Little White Lies” while for the first time in half a century, he listened to his performance as the sweet-talking liar while Wardell played, with naked feeling, the heartsick victim. When he asked to hear the music over again, it was as if Wardell had come back to life again long enough to formally introduce us.

I mailed Clark my CD of the “Little White Lies” session along with a note and some questions, and with true jazz-life timing, he called me at 2:30 in the morning and talked well past three about “the beautiful time” he and Wardell Gray had with the Basie small group, the road trips, sharing a room in Philadelphia, the food (“Beans smeans!”), baseball and haircuts and the secret language they shared, esoteric phrases like “Put the cuffs on him, Sam!” borrowed from some show they’d seen. After Clark left Basie to join Duke Ellington, they kept in touch, corresponding “religiously” until drugs came between them. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard he was using. He was such a conscientious person. And when I read about his death in the paper, I jumped up and screamed. I couldn’t believe it, you know. I really loved him.”

“It Broke My Heart”

For reasons most likely having to do with space and name recognition, Wardell Gray receives only a passing mention in Clark Terry’s memoir. But he’s there, between the lines, when reference is made to the “camaraderie” of the Basie group, and if you’ve heard Clark lament what happened on that May night in Las Vegas, you know that his old friend’s death haunts the chapter where for the first time in the book he directly confronts the plague of drugs. “It was an overdose,” he told me during that late-night call. They “thought he was dead so they put him in a car, drove into the desert and dumped him out but he wasn’t dead yet. It was the rocks in the desert that broke his neck. Dorothy showed me the death certificate.” The pained disbelief was still in his voice five decades later. “I couldn’t understand it. He had everything going for him.”

In the chapter focused on the issue of drugs, Clark recalls the time, “around 1953,” when he was on his way to a restaurant in the Times Square area and saw “this bulk lying in the gutter on Broadway. I walked closer and looked and discovered that it was a person. I rolled him over with my foot and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Miles Davis!”

Thinking back to that stunning moment, Clark surely flashed on the fate of Wardell Gray. With Miles, who would survive to have a spectacular career, Clark could at least do something about it, so he helped him up, took him into a restaurant, bought him some breakfast, walked him back to his own hotel, and put him to bed before going out for a couple of hours. When he came back, the door to the room was open, Miles was gone, and so were Clark’s clothes, trumpet, and radio.

Clark’s coda to that scene: “So many of the cats were on dope. It broke my heart, but there was nothing I could do.”

In fact, Clark Terry went on to do a great deal, setting an example by abstaining, even when users tried to force it on him, and by helping enrich the future of jazz through teaching and working with generations of young musicians.

Words and Music

One of the core lessons Clark Terry teaches his students is the importance of translating the lyric of a song (like “Little White Lies”) into “the language of jazz” (his italics), “how to bend a note, slur it, ghost it,” how to say “I love you” to “a lovely lady.” As a writer, he turns the lesson around, finding ways to translate the Terry sound into English. What enlivens his writing is the element Gary Giddins has singled out in his playing, his “personality,” that distinctive “comic esprit” — “every note robust, beaming, and shadowed with impish resolve and irony.”

Clark’s personality shines forth throughout the book, but most vividly during his early years on the road. After describing Ida Cox, whose voice “could have knocked a fly off the back wall,” Clark sketches another performer in her troupe, “a peg-legged guy” whose skin color was “coffee with a dash of cream” and whose “slicked back conk was so oily that a flea would have broken his neck trying to land.” Clark nicknamed him “A Track and a Dot,” because “when he’d walked in the snow he’d made a footstep and a hole.”

Clark had names for just about everyone. Tall, thin Wardell was “Bones” and his stylish wife, Dorothy, was “Vogue.” His nicknaming skills get mightily exercised in one of the numerous early road life anecdotes, where he and his bandmates endure a 750-mile ride in the back of a truck full of monkeys he names “Twitchy,” “Chatty,” “Snags,” “No-Tail,” “Old Man Mose,” “Lips,” “Bubble Eyes,” “Ribs,” and “the Warden” (who “fought a lot”). The monkeys “became tolerable after a few hours and it seemed like they didn’t want to be bothered with us any more than we wanted to be bothered with them. So the trip wasn’t too bad, other than the smell and the noise. But we did have to turn our back and sneak bites from the food.”

Food also provides material for several Terryesque zingers. To describe rapport with a buddy, he writes, “We hit it off like biscuits and molasses.” Playing a gig in the rain, many pages and years later: “We were all as wet as biscuits in the river.” Clark’s “repertoire was getting fatter than a liver-fed cat.” Some product placement from early days with a band: “We were dressed sharper than Gillette razors.” Having never finished high school, he was daunted by teaching a clinic at a real college: “I felt like a young mouse on a cat farm.”

One of Clark’s most curious similes — “I felt like a small dot on a huge manuscript” — comes when he abandons Basie for Ellington, his guilt compounded by a not so little white lie he had to tell in order to make the move. When he runs into Basie years later: “Seeing the smile on his face and knowing that I’d lied to him made me feel as small as a cork in the ocean.”

Among the book’s strongest chapters are those covering his years with Ellington. Describing the way Duke handled his musicians (“all these very different attitudes and egotudes”), Clark writes, “He knew exactly how to use each man’s sound to create the most amazing voicings. The sounds of trains, whistles, birds, footsteps, climaxes, cries. Rhythms that vibrated the floor. Harmonies with ebbs and flows that almost lifted me right out of my chair.” Clark imagines the eyes of the audience “glued to us like we were the fountain of life. The music was so powerful and electric, if I’d had a big plug I could have stuck it in the air and lit up the whole world.”

Lighting Up YouTube

You can see Clark Terry lighting up YouTube’s vision of jazz heaven, whether he’s making love to the trumpet or the flugelhorn, or creating his own foxy language with “Mumbles,” the ultimate in word jazz, on the Tonight Show, or in what may be his earliest filmed appearance, the Snader transcript of the Basie small group’s “Bass Conversation.” In the parallel universe of YouTube, Clark is forever 30 and Wardell is 29, they’re always on the bandstand, moving shoulder to shoulder, swaying, jiving to the beat laid down by the Basie rhythm section, the Count mugging outrageously at the piano, steady Freddie Greene strumming, Jimmy Lewis “playing the hell out of the bass” (as Clark would put it), smiling Gus Johnson dealing with the drums. After clarinetist Buddy DeFranco takes the first solo, it’s Wardell’s turn, quoting “Swinging On a Star” before cutting loose, one on one with Jimmy Lewis. But it’s Clark who delivers the show stopper, making his trumpet talk, sassing the Count and then riding out in style as the ensemble kicks in and all is as it should be in the best of all possible worlds.


GOTHIC IMAGE: Francis Lathrop’s “Jonathan” (1889), a model for a window in the old Marquand Chapel, which burned in 1920, will be on view in the Princeton Art Museum’s new show, “Princeton and the Gothic Revival.” The model is a gift of the Museum for the Arts of Decoration, Cooper Union, for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York. (Photo by Bruce M. White.)

The Princeton University Art Museum will present “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870–1930” from February 25 through June 24, 2012.

The exhibition of 40 works explores America’s changing attitudes toward the art and architecture of the Middle Ages around the turn of the 20th century. Organized by Johanna G. Seasonwein, the Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Academic Programs, “Princeton and the Gothic Revival” investigates the adoption of the Gothic Revival as a style appropriate for American universities, as seen through the lens of Princeton University’s campus and collections.

“Princeton and the Gothic Revival” covers the years between the dedication of the first High Victorian Gothic building on the Princeton campus, Chancellor Green Library, and the completion of the extraordinary University Chapel. The exhibition draws from the Art Museum’s collections and resources of Princeton’s Firestone Library and University Archives, along with those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other institutions, to highlight Princeton University’s role as a major patron of Gothic Revival art and architecture and the role of this style — of England’s “ancient universities” — in shaping the identity of modern-day Princeton.

“Princeton’s campus and collections provide a unique opportunity to explore the transformation of the Gothic Revival into a symbol of the American academy. Princeton moved forward into the 20th century by essentially looking back at the architectural style of Oxford and Cambridge,” said Ms. Seasonwein, a historian of the art of the Middle Ages. “Ultimately, “Princeton and the Gothic Revival” examines how the language of medieval forms was used to articulate a new model of American higher education, both in campus design and in the classroom.”

“Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870–1930” is organized into four sections. The first, the Gothic Revival prior to 1870, introduces the Gothic Revival movement in America and its English roots. Wealthy Americans visiting medieval sites or modern “Gothick” estates such as Fonthill Abbey often were inspired to design their own Gothic Revival homes that were a mix of the authentic and the fantastic. This section features a design for a stained-glass window for Fonthill Abbey by painter Benjamin West and a design for the first American Gothic Revival estate by noted architect Alexander Jackson Davis (on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The Gothic Revival in the Gilded Age presents the first High Victorian Gothic buildings constructed on the Princeton campus with a mix of medieval and other styles that reflected the donors’ interest in the Aesthetic movement, and its eclectic approach to design. This section highlights the former Marquand Chapel, designed by renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt. The chapel was later lost to fire. Featured works include Hunt’s original architectural plans and artist Francis Lathrop’s models for one of the stained-glass windows.

The Middle Ages and the Modern University investigates the connection between architectural style and academic identity and use. This section presents works relating to the first Biological Laboratory and Art Museum buildings, both of which were constructed in the Romanesque Revival style. Also on view are some of the earliest works of medieval art purchased by the Museum (one of the great repositories for medieval art in the United States), including one of the first English medieval alabaster reliefs to enter an American collection.

The final section, The Collegiate Gothic Campus explores, the development of Princeton’s campus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The new buildings, which simulated those of Oxford and Cambridge, conferred an instant pedigree on the University and communicated the school’s desired stature to the student body (at that time all male and almost exclusively white and Christian). This section includes images related to many of the Gothic Revival buildings on campus, most notably a set of never-before exhibited watercolors of the original designs for the University Chapel.

“‘Princeton and the Gothic Revival’ continues the Museum’s interest in understanding the ways in which Princeton University’s buildings and its design choices have shaped its identity as one of the world’s great research universities and vice versa, while offering a lens through which we can reconsider one of the 19th century’s most significant design movements,” said Princeton University Art Museum Director James Steward.

In conjunction with Princeton and the Gothic Revival, a mobile web application will take the exhibition out of the Museum and onto the campus for visitors. The tour will provide a multimedia exploration of nine campus buildings that are featured in the exhibition and related catalogue. Drawing from the special collections of the Firestone Library and Archives and the Museum Collections, the experience will emphasize existing and historic sites presented in the exhibition, highlighting the recently digitized Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series from the University Archives, as well as historic photographs and audio that features experts from across the campus.

A reception for “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870–1930” begins at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 26 at the Art Museum. A concert by the Princeton Singers follows in the University Chapel at 7 p.m.. The group will take a look back at music of the Victorian age, from sacred to sentimental, and at the British traditions that took root in America. Tim Harrell, guest organist, will play the Chapel’s 1928 Aeolian-Skinner organ. Both events are free and open to the public.

Admission to the Princeton University Art Museum is free. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Free highlight tours of the collections are given every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. For information, call (609) 258-3788 or visit the Museum’s website at http://artmuseum.princeton.edu.

February 8, 2012

Artsbridge at the historic Prallsville Mill, Stockton, holds its 2012 Members’ Show February 11-26. The opening reception is Saturday, February 11 from 3-6 p.m. Included are oils, watercolors, pastel paintings, mixed media, sculpture, and photography.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting the photography show “Location of Place,” through February 25. The show explores various approaches and methods taken by photographers in remembering and documenting spaces, places, and geographic locations.

For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Route 31 in Ewing Township, is presenting “Raymond Pettibon: Early Drawings,” an exhibit of more than 40 works by the graphic artist through February 29 in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building. Visit www.tcnjartgallry.pages.tcnj.edu or call (609) 771-2633 for information.

Community Art Gallery, Bank of Princeton in Lambertville, is showing “Captures and Releases,” photography by John Treichler, through February 15. The location is 10 Bridge Street.

Coryell Gallery at 8 Coryell Street in Lambertville is celebrating the 31st Annual Juried Art Exhibition, through March 18. Artists include Dean Thomas, Barbara Postel, Jack Muessig, Pat Smythe, and several others.

D&R Greenway at 1 Preservation Place in Princeton presents “Textures and Trails,” an exhibit of landscape quilts, metals, textiles, and objects from nature through February 10. The show celebrates the many paths that wind through the New Jersey landscape.

Erdman Center Art Gallery of Princeton Theological Seminary is presenting a show of abstract painting, “Memory Scape,” by Shirley Kem, through February 29. The gallery is at 20 Library Place.

Gallery at Chapin, 4104 Princeton Pike, presents paintings by Jeff Epstein are in “Intersections of the Man-Made and Natural Worlds,” through March 2. An artist’s reception is February 8 from 5-7 p.m.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Art from the Heart VI” through February 26. The show will feature works by the A Team Artists of Trenton. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, has on the main floor of the Museum Building, “White Hot: Expressions in Iron,” an exhibition of contemporary work from nine artists working primarily in cast or fabricated iron and revealing the range of versatility the medium permits. The mezzanine hosts “Creating Steelroots,” an illuminating exhibition of maquettes and drawings by Steve Tobin, also the featured artist in The Meadow. In the Domestic Arts Building: on the main floor are the cutting-edge works of the winners in the International Sculpture Center’s 2012 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards. On the mezzanine is “Instrumental Transitions” composed of 14 small-scale machinist works by Michael A. Dunbar. These exhibitions will remain up until April. For detailed information, visit www.groundsforsculp
ture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Suggested admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is also on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 x100 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, presents “Nathan Skiles: The Clockmaker’s Apprentice,” through March 25. Mr. Skiles created and installed 100 objects made entirely from foam rubber for the show.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., is hosting “Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities” through May 20. “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements” is a permanent exhibit featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Learning to See: Photographs by Nancy Hellebrand,” a series of large-scale photographs combining individual pictures of tree branches is on view through February 26.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is hosting “at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers” through April 1, and a series of original children’s book illustrations that will be on view until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8.

Mercer County Community College’s Gallery exhibits “Surface Tension: Works by Ayami Aoyama and Florence Moonan,” a show of sculpture and painting, through February 9. The college is at 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. More information is available by visiting www.morven.org or calling (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women scholars, students, staff, and other women associated with the University.

Plainsboro Public Library Gallery is showing works by photographer Lucy Lu, focused on the region of Xinjiang, China, the most northwestern region of the country, through February 29. The library is at 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro.

Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street, is showing “Seeing the Light,” paintings and photographs by Meg Brinster Michael through February 24. Landscapes, still lifes, and digital photographs are included in the show.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents Art Times Two’s “Eyejinks,” an exhibition of recent works by Princeton area artists John Franklin, Rory Mahon, and Andrew Wilkinson. The exhibit will be up through March 31.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery is presenting works by installation and ceramic artist Debbie Reichard from February 13-March 8. Architect Michael Graves is lending his original sketchbooks and tea kettle prototypes for a show on his design process, April 2-25.

Princeton High School Numina Gallery celebrates Black History Month with “Princeton’s Black History: A Pictorial Retrospective, photographs from the 1860s to 1960s focused on people, education, and buildings. The photos come from the collections of Shirley Satterfield, the Princeton Regional Schools Archive, and The Historical Society of Princeton. The show through February 24. The school is at 151 Moore Street.

The Princeton University Art Museum explores the spiritual lives and religious customs of late medieval Christians in “Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum,” through February 12. “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, is on view from February 25-June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run March 17-June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery presents paintings by Lynette Lombard through February 26. “Painting Place” is a group of recent landscape paintings and drawings from Ms. Lombard’s work in Illinois and Andalusia, Spain. The gallery is located in the Bart Luedeke Center on the Lawrenceville campus.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, is exhibiting “Recyclone!” featuring the work of Eva Mantell, Ina Brosseau Marx, and Eric Schultz, through February 26. From March 3-April 27, “Inside Out: Visionary Artists Tell Their Stories” will show the work of self-taught artists. The arts center partners with HomeFront’s ArtSpace to produce this show. Artists ages 13-33 are invited to submit works that explore, connect, or break down the barrier between sight and sound for an exhibit set to open in May. The deadline is April 1. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Visual-Artists.html for details.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT?: In the process of exploring a mysterious cave that suddenly appeared in Steve’s (Michael B. Jordan, center) backyard, Steve, Matt (Alex Russell, left), and Andrew (Dane DeHaan), encounter a mysterious object glowing in the cave. At this point the three boys pass out and when they awake, they realize that they have been magically imbued with super powers.

Andrew (Dane DeHaan) bought a camera so he could videotape every waking moment of his day. The proverbial 98-pound weakling is routinely teased by bullies, but fortunately his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell) frequently intervenes on his behalf. The situation at home is just as bad because he is the butt of his disabled father’s (Michael Kelly) verbal abuse while he is watching his terminally-ill mother (Bo Peterson) slowly die.

Everything changes the evening Matt invites his cousin to attend a party with him. Once there, Andrew is asked by a classmate Steve (Michael B. Jordan), to bring his camera outside to film a strange hole he’s found in the woods. The three proceed to descend deep into a cave where they encounter a mysteriously glowing object and instantly pass out.

Fast forward a few weeks where we find that all three teens have been magically transformed — they have developed psychic powers, superhuman strength, and the ability to fly. Initially, they use their newfound powers by doing some sophomoric pranks such as telepathically moving a parked car to a different spot on a lot, or scaring a child in a toy store by levitating a teddy bear.

Matt and Steve are satisfied with such benign experiments, however, social outcast Andrew sees this as his opportunity to turn the tables on the cruel world that has treated him so badly. After running an annoying tailgater’s car into a ditch with the wave of his hand, he ignores his buddies’ pressure to employ his powers only for good things. Instead, he indulges his darker impulses, while Matt and Steve become increasingly worried about him.

That is the premise of Chronicle, a riveting, science fiction thriller marking the directorial debut of Josh Trank. Given that this is a “found-footage” film, it makes sense that much of the dizzying production would have been shot from the perspective of a shaky, hand-held camera. However, the movie measures up well against movies such as Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project.

Surprisingly sophisticated for a teen-oriented adventure, Chronicle’s script has intellectual asides about the philosophies of Plato, Jung, and Schopenhauer. My only complaint about the film is the pessimistic picture it paints of humanity, implying that we might be naturally more inclined towards malice than compassion.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, sexuality, teen drinking, and intense violence. Running time: 83 minutes. Distributor: 20th Century Fox.

Dickens_dreamHis genius plays like a warm light on the characteristic aspects of homely England. No man ever loved England more; and the proof of it remains in picture after picture of her plain, old-fashioned life — in wayside inns and cottages, in little dwellings hidden amid the City’s vastness and tumult, in queer musty shops, in booths and caravans. Finding comfort or jollity, he enjoys it beyond measure, he rubs his hands, he sparkles, he makes us laugh with him from the very heart.

—George Gissing on Charles Dickens

The first night of my first trip to England, Ethel and Bertie, the suburban London couple I was staying with, took me to the pub described in the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge (1841). They had treated my father to the same outing ten years earlier during the summer he’d spent in their guest room. When I left after a week of cheerful and caring English hospitality, they gave me a copy of Barnaby Rudge inscribed “In memory of a happy evening spent at the Dickens Maypole, King’s Head, Chigwell.” Ethel and Bertie’s parting gift to my father was a family treasure — a letter with the Gad’s Hill letterhead in Dickens’s hand, written not long before he died.

In a 1939 essay that aided the 20th century revival of Dickens’s literary reputation, Edmund Wilson blamed the lack of “serious attention” from British biographers, scholars, or critics on the fact that Dickens “has become for the English middle class so much one of the articles of their creed — a familiar joke, a favourite dish, a Christmas ritual — that it is difficult for British pundits to see in him the great artist and social critic that he was.”

Although Dickens meant more to Ethel and Bertie than “a familiar joke,” our trip to the Dickens Maypole fits with the “favorite dish” and “Christmas ritual” stereotype Wilson has in mind. But when I think of the way they opened their home to me and my father, it’s clear that Ethel and Bertie were themselves Dickensian, in the best sense of that hugely inclusive term. They were just the sort of warm, caring, pure-of-heart people who would have given refuge and nourishment to David Copperfield or Oliver Twist or Little Nell and her grandfather.

A Dickensian Hero

Wilson sees the “typical Dickens expert” circa 1939 as an “old duffer” primarily interested “in proving that Mr. Pickwick stopped at a certain inn or slept in a certain bed.” After chiding the Oxbridge literati and the Bloomsbury set for their haughty neglect of “the greatest English writer of his time,” Wilson singles out George Gissing (1857-1903), “whose prefaces and whose book … are not only the best thing on Dickens in English, but stand out as one of the few really first-rate pieces of literary criticism produced by an Englishman of the end of the century.”

A Dickensian hero in his own right, Gissing was born above his father’s chemist’s shop and had a brilliant career as a scholarship student at Owen College, Manchester, until he fell in love with Nell, a prostitute he’d rescued and attempted to reform, spending what little money he had to keep her off the streets. Caught stealing from fellow students, he was arrested, imprisoned, and expelled. After doing a month’s hard labor in prison, he spent a year in the U.S., taught school, wrote poems idealizing Nell, and published his first fiction in a Chicago paper. On his return to England, he married Nell and wrote Workers in the Dawn (1880) while struggling to care for his ailing alcoholic wife, who would be back on the streets five years after the marriage, and out of his life until he had to identify her body five years and six novels later.

By the time Gissing published Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1898), he’d written 18 novels, including major works such as The Nether World (1889) and New Grub Street (1891) and, along with Thomas Hardy and George Meredith, was among the most highly regarded British novelists of the late 19th century. Coming to his study of Dickens as an enlightened admirer who had “lived the life” while proving himself an expert practitioner of the same craft, Gissing balances a novelist’s insights with the uninhibited attitude of a reader who attacks the defects no less forthrightly than he celebrates the highlights.

Getting Personal 

Gissing’s fraught personal history with Nell may explain why his remarks on Dickens’s fallen or embattled women can at times take on a distinctly personal intensity. In the chapter titled “Women and Children,” Gissing appears to be drawn by the dynamic of his own experience to the issue of “English censorship” and the fact that showing the “actual course of things in a story of lawless (nay, or of lawful) love is utterly forbidden” while “a novelist may indulge in ghastly bloodshed to any extent of which his stomach is capable.” The example he offers is of Dickens himself performing scenes from his own work “on a public platform,” where he “recites with terrible power the murder of a prostitute by a burglar [in Oliver Twist] yet no voice is raised in protest. Gore is perfectly decent; but the secrets of an impassioned heart are too shameful to come before us even in a whisper.”

You can almost feel the negative charge flowing from Dickens to Gissing when he says, “On this account I do not think it worth while to speak of Nancy [the murdered prostitute], or of other lost creatures appearing in Dickens.” For the ex-husband who sacrificed his education and more than ten years of his life to one of those “lost creatures,” the response is an outraged citing of a passage from Little Dorrit where “a woman of the town” accosts Amy Dorrit “and her idiot friend Maggy” as they are “wandering about the streets at night.” Suddenly Gissing is right there, in your face as surely as if he were sitting across from you in a pub telling you “read, I beg, that passage” and “wonder that the same man who penned this shocking rubbish could have written in the same volume pages of a truthfulness beyond all eulogy.”

Contemporary readers accustomed to novels like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will find nothing shocking in the 14th chapter of Book I of Little Dorrit. And while it may cause an occasional awkward silence in my imaginary pub table dialogue with Gissing, his spontaneous, sometimes indecorous attitude is among the qualities that make him such an appealing and effective champion of Dickens. In fact, he’s doing it again on the same page, badmouthing Dora, David Copperfield’s lavishly idealized, ever-attentive wife: “Take Dora seriously,” he tells you, “and at once you are compelled to ask by what right an author demands your sympathy for such a brainless, nerveless, profitless simpleton.” Before you have time to say a word or two in Dora’s or Dickens’s defense, Gissing leans closer, his eyes shining as he completes another shocking rubbish-to-unparalleled truthfulness couplet, “Enter into the spirit of the chapter, and you are held by one of the sweetest dreams of humour and tenderness ever translated into language.”

Gissing’s approach is a critical version of tough love. When Dickens gets out of line, he holds him to account but through it all you know that he would agree with Edmund Wilson that Dickens was “incomparably the greatest English writer of his time” and the creator of “the largest and most varied world.”

For my long-ago hosts Ethel and Bertie, Dickens was as much a part of their homeland as high tea and a night at the King’s Head, but their notion of his greatness was closer to Gissing’s: “He lived to take his place in a society of wealth, culture, and refinement, but his heart was always with the people, with the humble-minded and those of low estate,” where “he had found the material for his genius to work upon,” as “the perfect mouthpiece of English homeliness.”

Born February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens died of a stroke on June 9, 1870. Shown here, Dickens’s Dream is a watercolor by Robert William Buss (1804-1875), who began it after Dickens’s death but did not live to finish it. An edition of George Gissing’s Charles Dickens: A Critical Study was published last year by Kessinger Legacy Reprints. The Princeton Public Library’s Charles Dickens (1812-1870) bicentenary celebration concludes tonight, Wednesday, February 8, with a 7 p.m. showing of George Cukor’s 1935 film David Copperfield in the Community Room.

Note: I’ve just been informed that Grayswood Press has published a 3-volume edition of the complete works of George Gissing on Charles Dickens  (http://grayswoodpress.clanteam.com/gissing.pdf). There are also several online e-versions of Gissing’s writings on Dickens.