February 24, 2021

VIRTUAL CLASS FOR COFFEE LOVERS: The Arts Council of Princeton and Small World Coffee have joined together to present “The Art of the Perfect Cup” on Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. The online event is a fundraiser for the Arts Council.

Join the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) and Small World Coffee for a virtual master class on “The Art of the Perfect Cup” on Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

Small World Coffee experts will stream from their Rocky Hill Roaster and Witherspoon Street café to talk beans, blends, and how to extract the most flavor from your preferred brewing method. Get an in-depth look at this popular neighborhood coffee shop during a celebration of all things local.

Registration includes the virtual workshop with the option to add a bag of Small World’s coffee and a limited-edition ceramic mug created by Arts Council Executive Director Adam Welch in the ACP’s Ceramic Studio.

Tickets are $25-60. All proceeds benefit the Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton’s nonprofit community arts organization, helping to close the fiscal gap created by COVID. Register at artscouncilofprinceton.org.

This painting by Joe Kazimierczyk is featured in “Lyrical 2021,” a multi-artist exhibit on view March 4 through April 4 at the Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville. For more information, visit lambertvillearts.com.

February 17, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

But we loved with a love that was more than love.

—Edgar Allan Poe, from “Annabel Lee”

This post-Valentine’s Day adventure was launched by a letter I found in Horace Wyndam’s The Magnificent Montez: From Courtesan to Convert (Hutchinson 1935). Written in the revolutionary year of 1848 — from King Ludwig I of Bavaria to the woman he made the Countess of Landsfeld, alias Lola Montez, who was born Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in County Sligo, Ireland, on February 17, 1821 — the letter begins:

“Oh, my Lolita! A ray of sunshine at the break of day! A stream of light in an obscured sky! Hope ever causes chords long forgotten to resound, and existence becomes once again pleasant as of yore. Such were the feelings which animated me during that night of happiness when, thanks to you alone, everything was sheer joy. Thy spirit lifted up mine out of sadness; never did an intoxication equal the one I then felt!”

After shooting the king’s translator, flash forward to mid-20th-century America and read the opening lines of The Confession of a White Widowed Male:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul, Lo-lee-ta …. She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four foot ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

I’ve been here before. Last fall I cushioned the loss of Prof. Nabokov’s former student, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with a visit to The Annotated Lolita, in which another of his former students, Alfred Appel Jr., devotes almost five pages of commentary to the novel’s opening paragraph. Appel gives special attention to Humbert’s fixation with Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” from whom neither angels nor demons can “dissever” the poet’s soul (“But we loved with a love that was more than love”). While the line “Lola in slacks” prompts a reference to Marlene Dietrich’s Lola in von Sternberg’s film The Blue Angel, there’s no mention of the living, breathing Lola Montez who inspired Ludwig’s cri de coeur. The deposed monarch was writing from a villa on the Riviera while his lovely Lola was in England being denounced by the London papers as “Bavaria’s famous strumpet,” “the notorious courtesan” blamed for “the sanguinary and destructive conduct of the Munich mob.” more

“THE MANIC MONOLOGUES”: McCarter Theatre Center, in association with Princeton University Health Services, The 24 Hour Plays, and Innovations in Socially Distant Performance, is launching “The Manic Monologues.” Created by Zack Burton (left) and Elisa Hofmeister (center), the monologues form the core of a virtual experience conceived and directed by Elena Araoz (right). (Photos courtesy of the artists)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre will launch The Manic Monologues on February 18. The free interactive website is described by a press release as “a digital theatrical experience to disrupt stigma and spotlight a conversation about mental health.” McCarter is presenting the project in association with Princeton University Health Services; The 24 Hour Plays; and Innovations in Socially Distant Performance, a project of Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.

The monologues, and the panel discussions that complement them, concern “our moment,” says McCarter’s Resident Producer Debbie Bisno. Topics include the extent to which mental health is affected by social media, racial injustice, and COVID.

The Manic Monologues was created by Zack Burton and Elisa Hofmeister. It is a collection of true stories submitted by a range of people living with mental health challenges. The anthology of vignettes was inspired by Burton’s personal experience; in 2017 he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. (At the time he was completing his Ph.D. in geology at Stanford). Burton says that the play was conceived “about a year after my diagnosis.”

Burton and Hofmeister, who were dating at the time, aimed to improve the conversation about mental health. “We were struggling with this lack of hopeful, uplifting stories,” Burton explains. “Every one of us knows someone touched in some way by a mental health condition … this is a core component of the human experience. It’s a spectrum, and it’s also equal opportunity, so everyone’s affected. So we wanted to capture that diversity.” more

Launched last October, McCarter Theatre Center’s Fireside Chats have been popular with patrons taking part in online programming during the pandemic. Hosted by Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen, shown here with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith in an episode to be aired next week, the discussions are filmed “fireside” on McCarter’s front lawn and air on the theater’s free YouTube channel. Past episodes, which are available to view, have included Princeton RISE fellow Valeria Torres-Olivares, actor Lew Gantwerk, Jammin’ Crepes co-owner Kathy Klockenbrink, former Mayor Liz Lempert, the Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames, and fashion designer Assata Andrews. Visit mccarter.org for more information. In addition to Smith, look for Princeton Record Exchange’s Jon Lambert, Tay Walker of the YWCA Princeton, and Trenton Central High School theater educator Felicia Brown in future episodes. Visit mccarter.org/firesidechats for information.

NOTABLE DEBUT: Pianist Michelle Cann is soloist, for the first time, with the Philadelphia Orchestra on February 18 and 25 as part of the current Digital Stage concert series. With conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin on the podium, Cann plays a 1934 work by Black composer Florence Price. (Photo by Jeff Fusco)

Pianist Michelle Cann makes her Philadelphia Orchestra debut with the Orchestra’s first performance of Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement in digital performances on February 18 and 25. Also on the program, conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin, are works by Rossini and Schubert.

The Digital Stage is the orchestra’s online content platform. Performances have been reimagined and filmed, without audiences, at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. Concerts are available on demand for ticket-holders for one week following the premieres. The concerts with Cann were originally scheduled, pre-pandemic, for March 4-11, 2021. more

“SHAPELESS ENDEAVOUR”: Ryan Gander’s cararra marble carving of a dolos, a form usually used as a barrier to interrupt natural tide cycles with the intention of preventing coastal erosion, is one of the works featured in the virtual exhibition “Natural and Conventional Signs.”

In the virtual exhibition “Natural and Conventional Signs,” U.K. artist Ryan Gander presents a selection of new works directly guided by his research at Princeton University undertaken during his time as a Hodder Fellow (2019-2020) and made during a period of reflection while the world paused amid a global pandemic.

Gander invites an audience into his new gallery space within his studio, Solid Haus, in rural Suffolk, two hours east of London. He has assembled a show in which the works have duality in meaning and utility; subverting the signs, tropes, and markers seen in the everyday world to shine new light on how we position ourselves in relation to the values of time, money, opportunity, attention, and privilege.  more

February 10, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

Looking out the back window Monday afternoon I saw three deer in the snow behind the big black boulder, our piece of the Princeton Ridge. Led by a stag with a classic set of antlers, they were there and gone in the space of a minute. Something in that snow scene, the sudden wonder of it, resonated with my thoughts about Wardell Gray, whose 100th birthday is this Saturday, February 13.

At that moment I was thinking someone should write a song for Wardell, something like “Percy’s Song” by Bob Dylan, the Fairport Convention cover, with Sandy Denny singing her heart out (“Turn turn turn again, turn turn to the rain and the wind”), infusing the words with so much passion and warmth that the monstrous injustice of the story makes you feel uplifted and brought down at the same time. But Wardell’s tale is deeper and darker than that. Dylan could write another song in the same key, or maybe something righteously outraged like “Hurricane.” For a kinder, gentler version with an edge, you could look to Stew, who wrote a lovely tribute to Thelonious Monk for his group the Negro Problem. Or better yet, something along the melodic lines of “Nature Boy” as rendered by Nat King Cole in 1948, the year Wardell came into his own as the star tenor sax soloist with Benny Goodman and then Count Basie, with his epic solos on “The King” and “Little Pony.”

Thanks in great part to the national exposure that came from playing with Goodman, Wardell jumped from nowhere to fourth place in the tenor sax division of the 1948 Metronome poll. To understand why Lester Young “gave a blanket endorsement” of Gray when asked who the best tenor man of the new generation was, all you have to do is listen to the Goodman small group performing “Mary’s Idea,” a nice, genteel, crisply swinging little number — until a tenor sax life-force blazes through the tidy chamber-music table setting and takes everything to another level. What you’re hearing is the epitome of the late Whitney Balliet’s phrase for jazz, “the sound of surprise” — joyous energy, moving fast and fluid, full of life and love in the playing.

Whether he was playing or speaking, Wardell Gray was one of the most articulate jazz musicians of his time, Black or white. Along with his interest in serious literature, classical music, ballet, gourmet cooking, leftwing politics, and existential philosophy, he belonged to the NAACP at a time when the group was considered radical enough to assure him a place in the files of the FBI. He was also devoted to his wife and stepdaughter, writing in one of his last letters that he looked forward to the three of them “working hard, studying, going to school, perfecting ourselves for one another.” Half a year later on the opening night of the first mixed-race night club in Las Vegas, his body was found in a drainage ditch on the outskirts of town. Though drugs were involved and foul play was ruled out after an abbreviated investigation, the circumstances were mysterious enough to inspire Bill Moody’s 1995 detective novel, Death of a Tenor Man.  more

By Nancy Plum

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra celebrated the Year of the Ox last week by launching six days of performances and demonstrations leading up to a virtual concert on Saturday night. Led by NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang, Saturday’s concert premiere featured members of the Orchestra as well as guest artists performing both classical works and traditional Chinese songs.

Saturday night’s event was preceded by five days of short performances and demonstrations of Lunar New Year-related activities. Highlights of this series including NJSO violinist Ming Yang and her daughter Jade Lucia Nieczkowski performing an elegant arrangement of “Fisherman’s Song at Eventide” and New Jersey middle school student Harmony Zhu playing a fiery interpretation of Frédéric Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F Minor. Audiences tuning into this series cold also learn how to cook Tteokguk — a traditional Korean New Year’s soup made with sliced rice cakes taught by NJSO principal bassist Ha-Young Jung — as well as a variety of wontons, demonstrated by violinist Xin Zhao.  

More than a year in the making, Saturday night’s concert was the third annual NJSO Lunar New Year celebration. Music Director Zhang and the Symphony have used this event over the past few years to collaborate with other artists and community organizations, attracting new audiences in the process. Expanding into a week-long celebration was a new innovation this year, and several of the artists who participated in demonstrations during the week were part of Saturday night’s performance. more

BACK ON STAGE: New York City Ballet begins a digital spring season February 22 with performances of ballets including “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” pictured here with dancers Taylor Stanley and Sara Mearns. The season takes place on the stage of the company’s home at Lincoln Center, but there is no live audience.

Beginning February 22, the New York City Ballet is back on stage at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Performances, rehearsals, and conversations specially filmed at the theater make up the digital spring season, which runs through May. The company hopes to return to live performances in front of audiences in September.

Ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and contemporary choreographers Justin Peck and Kyle Abraham are part of the season. It begins with three week-long explorations of Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son,” “Theme and Variations,” and “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” February 22-March 8. Each week will include a stream of a previously filmed performance, plus videos, podcasts, interviews with dancers who previously performed the roles, and rehearsal footage. more

VIOL ON VALENTINE’S DAY: Lisa Terry plays the bass viol “lyra-way” in a virtual program Valentine’s Day afternoon, continuing The Dryden Ensemble’s current series of concerts.

The Dryden Ensemble continues its virtual concerts when Lisa Terry presents a lecture-recital, “Leycester Lyra Viol Lessons” on Sunday, February 14 at 4 p.m.

Terry plays the bass viol “lyra-way,” with melodies and chordal accompaniment just like a lute with a bow, in these 17th century lessons collected by English gentleman Peter Leycester. The program includes typical baroque dance movements like allemandes, courantes, and sarabandes, a few settings of folk songs, and some engaging character pieces named after folks such as “Guilllim” and “Mr. and Mrs. Daniels.”   more

ANIMATED SHORT: A still from “Ephemeral Orange” by Lisa Barcy, one of the works to be shown at the 40th Annual Thomas Edison Film Festival virtual premiere on February 20 at 7:30 p.m.

The Thomas Edison Film Festival, formerly known as the Black Maria Film Festival, kicks off its 2021 season February 20 at 7:30 p.m. with a free online screening and filmmaker conversation. The festival will premiere with a virtual screening of five award-winning films by Lisa Barcy, Otto Bell, Charley and Eriel Santagado, Lynne Sachs, and Sophie Shui.

The films represent experimental, animation, documentary, and narrative genres. The screening will be preceded by a discussion with filmmakers led by director Jane Steuerwald, and the presentation of the Edison Innovation Award to Sachs. more

FOUR WEEKS OF BACH: Princeton Symphony Orchestra musicians Andy Cho, Elaine He, and Sherry Hartman-Apgar are among those taking part in the upcoming series of concerts celebrating Bach’s “The Musical Offering.” (PSO staff screenshot)

Musicians of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Das Musikalische Opfer (The Musical Offering), BWV 1079 over four musical episodes, released weekly on the orchestra’s website beginning Wednesday, February 17 through Wednesday, March 10. The PSO’s assistant conductor, Nell Flanders, is curating the project, which is being individually recorded in musicians’ homes then combined digitally.

Each segment features one-six musicians and is hosted by Flanders who introduces the music in tandem with conversations centering on Bach and his work. Each episode is free to the online community. The project is a community extension of the orchestra’s PSO BRAVO! Education Programs and includes plans to actively involve student musicians of the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey and Trenton Music Makers in supplemental programming. more

“LITTLE GIRL IN A LARGE RED HAT”: This Impressionist painting by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is now part of the Princeton University Art Museum’s collections, which include a pastel masterpiece and ten drawings and prints by the artist.

The Princeton University Art Museum has acquired Mary Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Large Red Hat (ca. 1881), an insightful portrayal of young girlhood and a masterpiece of Impressionist painting. Dating from the early peak of Cassatt’s career, as she fully assimilated the Impressionist style that informed her strongest work, the canvas is distinguished by its painterly characterization, depicting the artist’s signature subject of a young girl with both compellingly revealed technique and psychological complexity. 

“A work such as this one, which comes from the final years when the artist was exhibiting with the Impressionists in Paris, not only tells us so much about process and technique but also allows us to engage with important questions about how a woman artist made her way in the patriarchal art world of the time,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “This extraordinary painting will be able to move fluidly among galleries devoted to European or American art as part of the new Museum we are in the process of shaping.”

Born near Pittsburgh in 1844, Cassatt lived and worked primarily in France. She was one of the few women artists invited to join the Impressionist exhibitions and focused on portrayals of women and children in domestic settings. more

“GROUSE, 1885” This oil on canvas painting by Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh (1856–1915) is part of “In Nature’s Realm: The Art of Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh,” on view at Morven Museum & Garden beginning February 19. A free virtual opening reception is on Thursday, February 18 at 5:30 p.m.  

Join Morven Museum & Garden Curator and Deputy Director Elizabeth Allan on Thursday, February 18 at 5:30 p.m. as she takes viewers on a highlights tour inside Morven’s latest exhibition during a free virtual opening reception.

“In Nature’s Realm: The Art of Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh,” on view at Morven February 19 through January 9, 2022, is the first exhibition examining the work of Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh (1856–1915). Born in New Brunswick, the great-great-grandson of Reverend Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790), the first president of Queens College (Rutgers University), Hardenbergh was a self-taught artist and ornithologist.  

This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission through funding from the Mercer County Board of Chosen Commissioners and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment of the Arts. 

The virtual program will include a live Q&A. Registration is required at morven.org.

“BLUE BIRD CONDO”:  This sculpture by George Olexa is one of 63 colorful “ArtSpires” decorated by local artists and community members and installed at 19 locations throughout Hopewell Valley in fall 2020. The will remain on display until this spring.

The Hopewell Valley Arts Council’s community art project and exhibition, “ArtSpires,” has received tremendous support from artists and community members. Sixty-three colorful sculptures, decorated by local artists and community members, were installed in clusters at 19 locations throughout Hopewell Valley in fall 2020. The “ArtSpires” were sold during the a month-long online auction in December to benefit the HV Arts Council and artists. While all the “ArtSpires” found future homes, they will remain on display until spring 2021.

“ArtSpires” commemorates the loss of native ash trees from the harmful effects of the emerald ash borer beetle as the culmination of the organization’s multi-year initiative “Out of the Ashes: Art Emerging from Fallen Trees.” Wood for these projects were milled from ash trees felled by Hopewell Township and transformed into art. more

February 3, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight.

—James Joyce, from The Dead

The snow began falling late afternoon Sunday, January 31, Franz Schubert’s birthday. The snow is still on the ground today, James Joyce’s birthday, and I’m still in a Schubert state of mind. At the tipping point of the year, Vienna and Dublin seem to move closer, side by side on the same map, snow falling on the Danube and the Bog of Allen and softly falling on “the churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.”

By now, it’s clear that Monday’s snow will still be with us on Wednesday, February 3, which happens to be Felix Mendelssohn’s birthday. Since Schubert and Joyce are “family” compared to Mendelssohn, I began to give myself a crash course on his life and work last week. Then came the snow.

A Schubertian Mood

Decades ago when I shared M.B. Goffstein’s A Little Schubert with my 3-year-old son, I knew less about Schubert than I do about Mendelssohn. Goffstein sets the scene in “a cold and snowy town called Vienna,” creating a Schubertian mood with her drawing of the composer, “a short fat young man with a small round nose, round eyeglasses and curly hair” who “lived in a bare little room without a fire. …Every morning he sat at a little table and wrote music as fast as it came into his head.” Whether you’re 3 or 43, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the shoes, spectacles, and tiny frockcoat of the elfin composer who heard music when his friends heard nothing, music that no one had ever heard before, “so much music he could not possibly remember it all,” music he was “so very busy writing down, he did not mind his bare room or his shabby clothes. But when the cold made his fingers ache, and he almost could not write his music, Franz Schubert got up, “clapped his hands and stamped his feet,” making “his shabby coattails fly as he danced to keep warm.”

Attached to the back of the book was an envelope containing a plastic disc of the five “Noble Waltzes” that “Franz Schubert wrote down in his little room in Vienna around one hundred fifty years ago” (that was in 1972, so by now it’s around two hundred). The waltzes led to the purchase of a three-LP set of Schubert’s piano waltzes, followed by string quartets and quintets, piano sonatas and symphonies, fantasies and impromptus, and thousands of songs. Early on, we had family birthday celebrations complete with a cake, with “Happy Birthday Franz Schubert” in chocolate icing letters, along with a yellow bird on a branch and some bars of edible music. more

By Nancy Plum

Since the weather has turned cold, it has become difficult for music ensembles to comfortably record concerts, yet audiences are hungry for performances. Princeton Symphony Orchestra found a way to brighten up the winter by partnering with South Africa’s Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble, which offers high-quality string teaching to underprivileged youth in the township of Soweto outside of Johannesburg. Princeton Symphony launched the first of its virtual five-concert on-demand series featuring the Buskaid String Ensemble this past weekend, presenting a wide range of classical and South African music. 

Buskaid: A Musical Miracle–Brilliant Baroque to Cool Kwela! was curated by Buskaid’s founder and music director Rosemary Nalden. This past weekend’s concert, launched Friday through Sunday, was comprised of Buskaid archival concert material filmed from 2014 to 2019 in the Linder Auditorium of the Wits Education Center in Johannesburg. In these performances, up to 35 string and percussion players, together with vocalists and led by conductor Nalden, presented works of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as pieces from South Africa’s rich musical tradition. 

The Buskaid String Ensemble programmed this concert chronologically, beginning with several works by early 18th-century French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The Ensemble’s performance of Rameau’s “Overture” to the composer’s opera Naïs and two dance movements from the opera Dardanus immediately showed the versatility and skill of the musicians through effective dynamic contrasts, musical lines always moving forward and crisp playing from the lower strings. These three works contained a great deal of repetition in notes and phrasing, which the ensemble played with variety and attention to detail. In a nod to the String Ensemble’s South African roots, the “Overture” to Naïs was accompanied by a djembe — an African goblet drum played with bare hands which certainly would not have been part of Rameau’s original concept, but which added rhythmic snap to the performance. more

NEW OPPORTUNITIES: Roz Fulton dancing with Acting Naturally’s Youth Company. From left are Jimmy Aiello, Ava Cole, Sage Ondik, Serenity Boffa, Allie Van Pelt, Roz Fulton, Emma Peterson, Nicole Curtis, Alexandra Haviken, and Kai Ra.

Casting director Roz Fulton of Direction and Exposure Casting recently visited Acting Naturally’s Teen Youth Company of Bucks County, Pa., for an afternoon of performance and auditions.

A professional admiration between Fulton and Wendy Force, Acting Naturally’s founding director, began during a visit to Acting Naturally’s production of Annie in 2018. Since then, Fulton has cast many of Acting Naturally’s student actors in several local films. Acting Naturally’s actors worked professionally on Sno Babies and The Retaliators, both Philly Born Films productions. While working in the films, actors were able to experience a professional film set and build their performance resumes.

The Youth Company Teens were asked to choose a song, monologue, or a scene from their Broadway Bound cabaret show, performed this past December, for Fulton. During their meeting, Fulton offered feedback along with an audition and casting master class. “There is a lot of talent in this room,” she said. more

ONLINE ART-MAKING: The Arts Council of Princeton has partnered with the Princeton University Art Museum for “Drawing from the Collections” — free, virtual art-making lessons offered weekly through March 4.

The Arts Council of Princeton is partnering with the Princeton University Art Museum to provide free, online art-making experiences. “Drawing from the Collections” features weekly classes taught by Arts Council artist-instructor Barbara DiLorenzo over Zoom, so participants can join live from home. Each week’s lesson features works from the Museum’s collections and is introduced by an Art Museum student tour guide. All classes, which include closed captions in both English and Spanish, are held on Thursday nights beginning February 4 through March 4, and begin at 8 p.m. 

Learn more and register at artscouncilofprinceton.org. Each live-streamed class is available online weekly and participants can take part using materials they already have at home. 

February 4 — Capturing a Winter Scene: This live art-making class is inspired by Charles Ephraim Burchfield’s Winter Rain from the East. Broadly painted in ghostly tones of gray and brown, Burchfield’s watercolors of obsolete farms and forgotten towns on the outskirts of Buffalo, New York — where the artist lived and worked — capture a poignant sense of loneliness. This class will focus on techniques of drawing a winter scene, including line, shadow, perspective, and tone.  more

Erik James Montgomery

In celebration of Black History Month, Artsbridge’s Distinguished Artists Series presents fine art photographer and educator Erik James Montgomery, who focuses his lens on the pressing cultural and social justice issues of our time. His online presentation, Thursday, February 18 at 7 p.m., will take viewers on his 30-year journey in photography and include images in his current series “Red, White, Blue, and You: Reconstruction.”

These thought-provoking, visually unique, and arresting photographs tackle race, racism, and reconciliation from 1619 to present. “Photography is a powerful form of communication because it transcends all the barriers of language. Through my art, I am able to speak to anyone in the world, about their world, in order to change the world,” said Montgomery.

Growing up in the city of East Orange, New Jersey, where many of his “peers fell into the traps of crime, drugs, self-hate, and ultimately, death,” Montgomery was determined not to become a statistic but a success, delving into various genres of art including illustration, dance, graffiti, and eventually photography. At first self-taught, he went on to study at the Academy of Art University and Columbia University. more

PUBLIC ART: Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “UNTITLED 2017 (FEAR EATS THE SOUL) (WHITE FLAG)” is on view from the roof of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts through February 28. The installation is part of the Arts Council of Princeton’s commemoration of Black History Month.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will commemorate Black History Month 2021 with a free virtual art workshop, an exhibition celebrating the artistic and cultural influence of Black Americans, and a public art installation.

On view in the Arts Council’s Taplin Gallery from February 6 through March 6 is “Legends of the Arts: A Black History Month Exhibit.” Presented by Museums in Motion, visitors are invited to take a stroll through decades of culture and excellence related to some of the most notable individuals in American history. Legendary figures such as poet and author Langston Hughes, actor and singer Paul Robeson, actress Lena Horne, and Motown singing sensations The Supremes will be featured, to name just a few. All ages are invited to view this display as ACP recognizes the impact and influence of Black culture throughout history.

A virtual “In Conversation” discussion with Kayren Carter Mjumbe, director of Museums in Motion, is scheduled for Tuesday, February 9 at 7 p.m. Register for the talk and view gallery hours and visitor information at artscouncilofprinceton.org more

“SELF-PORTRAIT AS HOUSEWIFE”: This piece by Lily Colman of Philadelphia won first prize in The Center for Contemporary Art’s virtual 2021 International Juried Exhibition. The show can be viewed on The Center’s website at ccabedminster.org through February 27.

The Center for Contemporary Art’s virtual 2021 International Juried Exhibition is available on The Center’s website through February 27. 

Juror Victor Davson selected 50 pieces from 742 entries from 259 artists from across the United States and as far away as Canada, Turkey, and Uruguay. The quality of the entries was very high, and made for a challenging task for the juror. New Jersey artists selected for the exhibition are Courtney Coolbaugh (Middlesex), Jaime Farley (Maple Shade), Rita Koch (Flemington), Stuart Lehrman (Cherry Hill), Thomas Martin (Edison), Ryan McGee (Westampton), Jason Rice (Island Heights), Theda Sandiford (Jersey City), Caitlin Servilio (Clinton), and Brad Terhune (Nutley).

Three artists were awarded cash prizes: First Prize went to Lily Colman (Philadelphia, Pa.); the Second Prize winner was Diana Gubbay (Bethel, Conn.); and Third Prize went to Theda Sandiford (Jersey City).

In addition, Lily Colman (Philadelphia, Pa.), Debra Samdperil (New York, N.Y.), and Theda Sandiford (Jersey City) were awarded solo exhibitions at The Center for Contemporary Art  in Bedminster by The Center’s Exhibitions Committee. more

January 27, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

You cannot imagine how enchanting the music sounds from a box close to the orchestra!

—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) to his wife

If we are not together now, it isn’t you who are to blame, but the demon that filled me with bacilli and you with love for art.

—Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) to his future wife

Besides listening to Mozart and reading Chekhov this week — both born in January, the composer on the 27th, the writer on the 29th — I’ve been reading their letters, which are enlivened by the same buoyant spirit, along with a shared understanding of the human comedy in relation to life and love and nature, the joys, temptations, and excesses of existence.

As I read, I kept imagining how two such sympathetic spirits might have viewed one another in the context of their work, the music Mozart might have discovered in Chekhov and the literature Chekhov might have drawn from Mozart. So I decided to compare some letters from their middle twenties as well as letters to their wives later in life. Chekhov was 27 when he wrote the letter below, dated April 25, 1887.

A Cossack Wedding

Writing to his sister Maria after revisiting his birthplace, Taganrog, on the Black Sea, Chekhov sorts through “many discordant impressions” as he recalls the events of the previous day, “a real Cossack wedding, with music, women caterwauling, and a loathsome drinking bout. … I acted as best man, and was dressed in a borrowed frock coat, with fearfully wide trousers, and not a single stud on my shirt. In Moscow such a best man would have been kicked out, but here I looked smarter than anyone. … I saw a lot of wealthy marriageable girls, but I was so drunk the whole time that I took bottles for girls and girls for bottles. Probably owing to my drunken condition the local maidens found me witty and satirical!” Meanwhile, “apparently in obedience to a local custom, the newlyweds kissed every minute, kissing so vehemently that every time their lips made an explosive noise, I had a taste of oversweet raisins in my mouth, and got a spasm in my left calf. … I can’t tell you how much fresh caviar I ate and how much local red wine I drank. It’s a wonder I didn’t burst.”

If Mozart were scoring it, the wedding feast would be a scherzo followed by the moody andante of an overnight wait between trains at a place called Zvyerevo: “I had to sleep in a second-class railway-carriage on the siding. I left the car to relieve myself and it was miraculous out there: the moon, the boundless steppe — a desert with ancient grave-mounds — the silence of the tomb, and the cars and rails standing out boldly against the dim sky — a dead world. It was a picture one would not forget for ages and ages.”  more

“UNBECOMING”: The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater is presenting “Unbecoming.” Directed by Eliana Cohen-Orth, the video will be available online, to view for free, through January 31. Above: Lady Charlotte Guest (Paige Elizabeth Allen, center) is torn between Victorian societal expectations personified by the Wife of England (Eliana Cohen-Orth, left) and ambitions to complete a translation of the “Mabinogion,” which includes the tale of Blodeuwedd (Nora Aguiar, right). (Photo by Cathy Watkins, for the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The Lewis Center for the Arts is presenting the first full production of Unbecoming, a new play by Princeton University alumna Emma Catherine Watkins. The play is inspired by the true story of Lady Charlotte Guest (1812-1895), the Victorian aristocrat who became the first person to translate the Mabinogion — a Medieval collection of Welsh stories that originated from oral traditions — into English.

Unbecoming, which employs a play-within-a-play format, has two protagonists: Guest, and Blodeuwedd, a central character in the last of the “Four Branches” of the Mabinogion. The legend of the “fairest, and most graceful” woman — whom the magician and warrior Lleu Llaw Gyffes conjures out of flowers to be his wife, but transforms into an owl as punishment for infidelity — is juxtaposed against a somewhat fictionalized depiction of Guest, whose husband tries to mold her to Victorian conceptions of an ideal wife.

Guest is given a strong portrayal by Paige Elizabeth Allen, who also is the production’s dramaturg. After Allen discovered Unbecoming through a development workshop hosted by Princeton University in January 2020, she and director (and cast member) Eliana Cohen-Orth proposed the project to the Program in Theater, as their senior theses. The production was developed in collaboration with Watkins. more