June 5, 2019

“AURA”: Glazed earthenware by James Jansma and paintings and sculpture by Mare McClellan are on exhibit through June 23 at Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell. The two artists are inspired by the natural world.

Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell presents an exhibition featuring work by Mare McClellan and James Jansma — two artists inspired by our natural world.

McClellan’s pieces — a mix of paintings and sculptures — recall images of excavated root systems that she encountered in her youth. Since then, as a gardener and plant observer, as well as artist, she has been fascinated by the coexistence of roots and soil organisms and how they share resources.

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“GOLDFINCHES”: Megan Serfass’s work, which includes the frame within the painting, is featured in “Mercer County Artists 2019,” on view at the MCCC Gallery through July 8. The show includes works by 36 county artists.

The talents of 36 Mercer County artists are on display at the Gallery at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in “Mercer County Artists 2019,” which runs through July 8. The Gallery at Mercer is located on the second floor of the Communications Building on Mercer’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road.

The show features work in a variety of media including oil, acrylic, graphite, mixed media, ceramic, and wood. More than 100 artists submitted work for the jurying process.

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A diverse group of artists from both Hunterdon and Bucks counties will exhibit at Steinbeiser’s Farm, 718 County Road 519, Frenchtown, over two weekends in the art show Hobart 2019. Explore the grounds and antique barn while discovering paintings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, and more. Shown here is “Polished Purple Birdbath” by Steven Snyder. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 8, 9 and June 15, 16. An opening reception is Friday, June 7, 6 to 8 p.m., with refreshments.

May 29, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

Meantime, in Washington, among the great persons and their entourage, a mixture of awful consternation, uncertainty, rage, shame, helplessness, and stupefying disappointment,” with “the worst not only imminent, but already here.”

When he wrote those words, Walt Whitman, born 200 years ago Friday, was not casting a prophetic glance toward Memorial Day 2019, he was responding to the calamitous aftermath of the Battle of Bull Run on July 22, 1861, Union forces having “exploded in a panic and fled from the field.” Writing in Specimen Days in America (1881), Whitman describes defeated troops pouring into the city over the Long Bridge — ”a horrible march of twenty miles, returning to Washington baffled, humiliated, panic-struck.” The sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue are jammed with “lookers-on” as “swarms of dirt-cover’d return’d soldiers (will they never end?) move by; but nothing said, no comments.” Half the lookers-on are confederate sympathizers “of the most venomous kind—they say nothing; but the devil snickers in their faces.” There is “loud and undisguised” talk around Washington “for yielding out and out, and substituting the southern rule, and Lincoln promptly abdicating and departing.” If the Rebel officers and forces “had immediately follow’d, and by a bold Napoleonic movement had enter’d Washington the first day (or even the second), they could have had things their own way, and a powerful faction north to back them.” It was a “bitter, bitter hour — perhaps proud America will never again know such an hour. She must pack and fly — no time to spare. Those white palaces — the dome-crown’d capitol there on the hill, so stately over the trees — shall they be left — or destroy’d first?”

With America facing “a bitter, bitter hour” amid presidential stonewalling and the targeting of the free press, it’s worth recalling  Whitman’s tribute to “the great New York papers” whose headlines “rang out over the land with the loudest, most reverberating ring of clearest bugles, full of encouragement, hope, inspiration, unfaltering defiance,” especially “those magnificent editorials! they never flagg’d for a fortnight…. They came in good time, for they were needed.” more

An electric harp, flamenco dancing, and improvisation were on the programs when the Princeton Symphony Orchestra performed recently for hundreds of school children at Richardson Auditorium as part of the PSO Bravo School Day Concerts. Dancer Griset Damas-Roche and harpist Jacqueline Kerrod were the guest artists. PSO Music Director and Conductor Rossen Milanov encouraged students to let their fingers do some marching, taught students to waltz onstage, and looked for volunteers to time the orchestra’s performance of the “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

“UNSAID”: Paintings by Anna Berghuis are featured in “Final Runnings Before the After,” an exhibition of recent work in a wide range of media by graduating seniors in the Visual Arts Program in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. The exhibition runs through June 5 at the Hurley Gallery on campus, and is free and open to the public.

The Visual Arts Program in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University now presents “Final Runnings Before the After,” an exhibition of recent work in a wide range of media by graduating seniors in the Program. The exhibit highlights work by students completed as part of their senior thesis projects, and is on view through June 5 in the Hurley Gallery in the Lewis Arts complex on Princeton University campus. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

The work featured in the exhibition has been selected by faculty member Nathan Carter from among photography, paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photography, film, video, and multimedia installations created by students majoring in visual arts or earning a certificate in visual arts in addition to a degree in their major. Each presented a solo exhibition or a screening of new work during the past semester as a requirement of the program. more

TEACHER ART: An exhibit by members of the New York City United Federation of Retired Teachers Art Group will be on display at Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury June 2-28. It features works from the Manalapan branch of the program. An artist reception is Sunday, June 2, from 1-3 p.m.

Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street, Cranbury will host an exhibit by members of the New York City United Federation of Retired Teachers Art Group June 2 through June 28. The works include paintings in variety of styles and sizes. 

An artist reception will be held on Sunday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Gallery. The exhibiting artists will be present, and light refreshments will be served. more

“INSIDE MASAI HUT”: This painting by Nanci Gunkelman is featured in “Bringing the World Back Home: A Tribute to the Peace Corps,” on view at the Plainsboro Library Gallery June 1-26. An art reception will be held on June 2, 2-4 p.m., with former members of the Peace Corps on hand to discuss their experiences.

On view June 1-26 at the Plainsboro Library Gallery, “Bringing the World Back Home: A Tribute to the Peace Corps” celebrates nearly 60 years of American public service and an appreciate the myriad of cultures abroad. In the exhibit, artist and a former Peace Corps volunteer Nancie Gunkelman presents a collection of large scale paintings of people and landscapes she encountered during her years overseas. Working in a photo-realistic style, she captures the vivid colors, textures, and light in everyday scenes of life in developing countries.  An art reception will be held on Sunday, June 2, 2-4 p.m., with former members of the Peace Corps on hand to discuss their experiences.  more

May 22, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story,”  said Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) in Sunday’s finale of Game of Thrones. You could say the same thing about a good song. Consider how media coverage of last week’s passing of singer Doris Day (1922-2009) coincided with the online frenzy provoked by the ending of the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. The answer to all the arguments about what should and should not have happened in episode six can be found in Day’s biggest hit, “Qué Será, Sera” (“Whatever Will Be, Will Be),” the song that drives the fate of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller about an assassination plot and a kidnapping. Meanwhile, a hit song from the 1970s, 10cc’s “The Things We Do for Love,” shadows the fate of Game of Thrones, both in the pilot episode and the controversial denouement. 

The title of another Doris Day hit, “Secret Love,” describes what’s revealed to Bran Stark after he climbs the castle tower at King’s Landing and sees Jaime Lannister and his twin sister Cersei having sex. Caught in the act, Jaime pushes the boy off the ledge, treating the move lightly, even giving it a punchline, “The things I do for love.” For viewers who remember the 10cc song, it’s as good as a wink and a nudge across the centuries, like Hamlet quoting “A Hard Day’s Night” on the walls of Elsinore, or Milton’s Satan singing a line from “Satisfaction.” Besides crippling Bran and paving the way for the three-eyed raven who alone knows “what will be, will be” in Westeros, Jaime has pronounced his own fate, the sentence he hears again as he stands before the prophet in the final season. “The things I do for love” sends him back to his sister and his doom. As for everyone fighting over the ending of Game of Thrones, remember Bran warned you, “it is written,” a foregone conclusion, so let’s listen to the song and “Agree to disagree but disagree to part/When after all it’s just a compromise of/The things we do for love.” more

By Nancy Plum

The orchestral concerto was a musical development of the Baroque era which composers often took to the next level by composing for two or more solo instruments and orchestra. New Jersey Symphony Orchestra brought Johann Sebastian Bach’s double concerto for two violins into the 21st century this past weekend by pairing it with a contemporary work for orchestra, violin, and electric guitar — definitely not a Baroque instrument. Bracketing Friday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium with 19th-century opera overtures, NJSO conductor Xian Zhang led the ensemble and soloists through the music of Baroque legend Bach and 21st-century musical inventor and Princeton University professor Steven Mackey. more

GRAMMY WINNER: Cecile McLorin Salvant is the first of five acts to appear at McCarter’s Jazz in June.

McCarter Theatre’s second annual Jazz in June Festival runs June 7-22 at the Berlind Theatre. First up is vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, accompanied by pianist Fred Hersch, on Friday, June 7 at 8 p.m.

Salvant returns to McCarter after picking up her third Grammy this year for her latest album The Window. Hailed as the heiress to the “Big Three” — Holiday, Vaughan, and Fitzgerald — she is a vocal virtuoso who examines songs rather than simply inhabiting them.

Next, on June 8 at 8 p.m., is bassist Christian McBride and Tip City, with pianist Emmet Cohen and guitarist Dan Wilson. The six-time Grammy award winner is a composer, educator, arranger, and bandleader. He runs his own imprint on the Mack Avenue Music label and hosts The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian, a weekly NPR show on SiriusXM satellite radio.

This performance will be followed by a post-show conversation with the artist. more

“RELATIONSHIP”: This painting by Ting Ting Hsu is featured in “Waves and Ripples,” on exhibit June 1-29 at the Arts Council of Princeton. The show is a collaboration between local artists Hsu and Livia Mosanu. An Artist Talk is June 1 at 2:30 p.m., followed by an Opening Reception from 3 to 5 p.m.

On view June 1-29 at the Arts Council of Princeton, “Waves and Ripples” is a collaboration between two local painters, Ting Ting Hsu and Livia Mosanu, who share many similar life experiences. These experiences are reflected in the artists’ work, their interaction with the environment, and their community.

An Artist Talk is June 1 at 2:30 p.m., followed by an Opening Reception from 3 to 5 p.m. more

“SIDE BY SIDE”: This work by Kim Piotrowski is featured in “Art of Time,” on exhibit in front of Hamilton Jewelers, 92 Nassau Street, on Saturday, June 1. Part of Hamilton Jewelers’ 20th annual Watch Fair weekend, the exhibit will showcase the works of over 25 area artists and benefit the Arts Council of Princeton.

Hamilton Jewelers, Princeton Palm Beach, celebrates the arts in Princeton with “The Art of Time” exhibition on Saturday, June 1 as part of its 20th annual Watch Fair weekend event. The day will showcase over 25 Princeton area artists with works displayed in front of Hamilton’s Princeton location at 92 Nassau Street. It will benefit the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP).

“The exhibit’s guidelines were broad, which I found to be compelling,” says Jacqui Alexander, one of the featured artists. “What the concept of ‘time’ means to me, or looks like to me might be entirely different than another artist’s, so it allows for broad interpretations and a range of responses in a variety of mediums.” more

“IDLI, SAMBAR AND CHUTNEY”: This painting by Sarasvathy TK is part of the West Windsor Arts Council’s “Cultural Heritage Exhibition,” on display at the West Windsor Arts Center through July 12. The show, featuring the work of 30 artists, seeks to examine the expression of cultural heritage through art. An Opening Reception is Sunday, June 9 from 4 to 6 p.m.

Running through July 12, the West Windsor Arts Council presents 30 artists in “Cultural Heritage Exhibition.” This show seeks to examine the expression of cultural heritage through art. Whether it is the food, textiles, festivals, or family traditions, the art demonstrates how these experiences can be shared through visual art. An Opening Reception with the artists will be held Sunday, June 9, from 4 to 6 p.m. Artists will be on hand at the opening to discuss their work.

The jurors for the show are Maria Naumik and Bethay Wildrich, both active in Middlesex County’s arts community. more

“FLYING THROUGH THE UNIVERSE”: This work by John Witherspoon Middle School student Shelly Zhang is featured in the Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s “BRAVO! Listen Up!” exhibition, on display at the Arts Council of Princeton through June 2. Twenty-five students from seven middle schools make up this season’s “Listen Up!” artists and writers.

Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s “BRAVO! Listen Up!” exhibition featuring middle school student artwork and writing created in response to composer Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) is on display at the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) through Sunday, June 2.

The students attended a creativity workshop led by ACP instructor Susan Hoenig and the March 23 performance of Mazzoli’s work by the orchestra under the direction of Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov. At the workshop, Hoenig highlighted well-known visual artists who created works in response to music, and guided the students in their artistic reflections. Milanov provided background on Mazzoli and her music, and led the students through a hands-on rhythm exercise. Over the course of several weeks, the students gave form to their own creative ideas in writing and visual art. more

“DONUT ANIMAL ASKOS”: This work by Shari Mendelson was created from repurposed plastic. “Shari Mendelson: Amphorae and Apparitions” is on view at the Hunterdon Art Museum through September 1. (Photo by Alan Wiener)

New York-based artist Shari Mendelson creates works that resemble something you’d expect to see in the antiquities gallery of a fine art museum, but take a closer look.

Mendelson creates her ancient-appearing vessels and figurines using salvaged plastic: juice, soda, and water bottles. She cuts them into pieces and then, using hot glue and acrylic resin, creates new sculptures.

“Shari Mendelson: Amphorae and Apparitions” is on exhibition at the Hunterdon Art Museum (HAM) through September 1. more

REMINISCING WITH RINGO: Ringo Starr is one of the rock icons interviewed by Jakob Dylan in the rockumentary “Echo in the Canyon.” The film focuses on many stars of the 1960s who settled in the Lauren Canyon suburb of Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

By Kam Williams

In the wake of Beatlemania exploding across America in 1964, many aspiring musicians were inspired to start their own rock band. Some settled in Laurel Canyon, a low-rent suburb of L.A that resonated with the “hippie” philosophy.

Among those flocking to the region were future icons like Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Michelle Phillips, and Cass Elliot. Some of these musicians forged great groups, like The Byrds; The Mamas and the Papas; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, while others became rock gods in their own right. more

May 15, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

The massive crossbow that felled a dragon in the final season of Game of Thrones was meant as “an homage to Leonardo da Vinci,” the show’s weapon designer told IndieWire. The “outer shape” of the scorpion has the “exact same look” as Leonardo’s drawings.

After watching the vengeful Mother of Dragons lay waste to King’s Landing on Mother’s Day, I knew it would be a challenge to launch a column about the man who died 500 years ago this month, May 2, 1519, without at least mentioning that apocalyptic spectacle, however absurdly out of proportion it is next to the pop song based on Leonardo’s most famous creation. Surely the fire and fury of HBO’s sensational series is a better fit with the 21st century than the legend that Nat King Cole’s manager strenuously advised him not to record “this off-beat thing about an old painting.”

When “Mona Lisa” was released in May of 1950, it went to the top of the charts, was number one for eight straight weeks, and dominated the hit parade for the rest of the year. The plaintive hymn to “the lady with the mystic smile” was heard over radios and on jukeboxes in bars and diners around the country.

While the banal fate of Leonardo’s masterpiece may conjure up the old “turning over in his grave” trope, evidence that he accepted art’s susceptibility to the lesser realities can be found in Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci (Simon & Schuster 2017). The final words in Leonardo’s hand appear on “what may be the last page of his notebooks,” where after drawing four right triangles and fitting rectangles into each and making note of what he’s trying to accomplish, he abruptly “breaks off” to explain why he’s putting down his pen: “Perché la minestra si fredda.” 

Isaacson reimagines the event, “our last scene of him working”: Leonardo’s cook is in the kitchen, other members of the household are already at the table while “he is still stabbing away at geometry problems that have not yet yielded the world very much but have given him a profound appreciation of the patterns of nature. Now, however, the soup is getting cold.” more

“SKYLIGHT:” Performances are underway for “Skylight.” Directed by Emily Mann, the play runs through June 2 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. Kyra, a schoolteacher (Mahira Kakkar, left) attempts to rekindle her relationship with restaurant entrepreneur Tom (Greg Wood), but differences in lifestyle and ideology have caused them to grow apart. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre is concluding its season with Skylight. In this literate play by David Hare, schoolteacher Kyra Hollis unexpectedly is visited by her former lover, restaurant entrepreneur Tom Sergeant, and by Tom’s teenage son Edward. Tom and Kyra attempt to reignite their relationship, but find that differences in their ideologies and lifestyle choices may make them incompatible. This engaging production is directed by Emily Mann, McCarter’s artistic director.

Skylight premiered in the West End in 1995, and opened on Broadway the following year. A 2014 West End revival transferred to Broadway, winning the 2015 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

At the end of a winter day, Kyra, who is in her early 30s, arrives home at her flat in London, and empties a shopping bag containing ingredients for a spaghetti dinner. She is surprised to see the 18-year-old Edward, an intense young man who is taking a year off between high school and college, standing in her doorway. Although the encounter is awkward, it is clear that Kyra and Edward know each other well. She invites him in and turns on a rather ineffective electric heater. more

ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS: Ruth Ochs is the conductor of the Westminster Community Orchestra when it pairs with the Westminster Community Chorus, led by Sinhaeng Lee, at a concert May 17.

Westminster Community Orchestra, conducted by Ruth Ochs, and Westminster Community Chorus, conducted by Sinhaeng Lee, will present a concert titled “Remember Her Name” on Friday, May 17 at 8 p.m. in the Princeton Meadow Church and Event Center in West Windsor. more

“MOON RADIANCE”: This painting by Oscar Florianus Bluemner is featured in “The Color of the Moon,” on exhibit at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa., June 1 through September 8. It showcases more than 60 works that illuminate the relationship between art and lunar science.

On view June 1 through September 8 at the James A Michener Art Museum, “The Color of the Moon” showcases more than 60 paintings and works on paper that illuminate the long and enduring relationship between art and lunar science. The exhibition, featuring loans from museums and private collections throughout the U.S., coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission when American astronauts traveled across the skies to step onto the pitted surface of the moon in July 1969. more

BEST BUDDIES: Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine star as colleagues and friends in the satirical comedy film “Isn’t it Romantic.” (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers)

By Kam Williams

Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is a dynamic young professional trying to make her mark on Manhattan. But between a fledgling professional career and a dating life that isn’t faring any better, the Australian architect is close to bottoming out.

It’s a miracle her optimistic spirit hasn’t been crushed, since she was raised by an emotionally-abusive mom (Jennifer Saunders) who said she’d never amount to anything. more

May 8, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

“No two persons ever read the same book.”
—Edmund Wilson (1895-1972)

This observation by the eminent American man of letters and Princeton graduate (Class of 1916) Edmund Wilson, born May 8, 1895, in Red Bank, N.J., also applies to my recent return at an advanced age to a Hardy Boys adventure I first read as a ten-year-old. While the fourth grader who devoured a ghostwritten mystery may or may not be the same person who comes to it after a lifetime of “serious reading,” I like to think the adult reader’s DNA was already there, hidden in the consciousness of the ten-year-old with nothing under his belt but five years of Classic Comics, Freddy the Pig, Captain Marvel, Donald Duck, and Little Lulu.

A Title to Reckon With

My excuse for going back to A Figure in Hiding (1937) is Friday’s Friends of the Library Book Sale, which features rare first editions of two later volumes in the Hardy Boys series, The Short Wave Mystery (1945) and The Secret of Skull Mountain (1949). Compared to those standard boy’s mystery titles, the one I found instantly mesmerizing the day I saw it on the shelves of a gloomy Fourth Avenue bookshop sounds more like Henry James (think “The Figure in the Carpet”) than Franklin W. Dixon. A Figure in Hiding lends itself to any medium. It could refer to the title figure in the 1949 film The Third Man, which will be shown at New York’s Film Forum next week, or it could caption the moment Harry Lime, the man of mystery played by Orson Welles, is seen hiding in a dark Viennese doorway; it’s no less expressive of the presence of the unseen and unseeable in the work of painters from DaVinci to Picasso and of the veiled meanings tricked out by poets dating back to and beyond the ambiguous figure conspiracy theorists suspect of lurking behind Shakespeare. Or how about the undiscovered second assassin in Dallas, or Watergate’s figure in hiding, Deep Throat? And don’t forget special counsel Robert Mueller, the figure the enemies of justice hope to keep in hiding as they attempt to bury evidence of Russian interference and presidential obstruction.  more

By Nancy Plum

A 40-year history is commendable for any performing organization, and Princeton Pro Musica, which presented its first concert in the spring of 1980 and has only had two music directors in four decades, celebrated this milestone this past weekend with a festive concert at the Princeton University Chapel. Pro Musica’s decades-long musical roots provided bookends to Saturday afternoon’s performance of the music of George Frideric Handel as founder Frances Fowler Slade led the 100-voice chorus in the opening and closing works on the program. Current Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau conducted the chorus and an accompanying chamber orchestra in several of Handel’s lesser-known but equally as appealing pieces, recreating a concert atmosphere which could have taken place in Handel’s time in a space which well suited the performers and repertoire.

Slade retired from Pro Musica in 2012, but many of the current singers performed under her direction for a number of years. Slade took the podium to lead the chorus and orchestra in two “Coronation” anthems of Handel, a composer whose music Pro Musica performed every year since its founding. Slade maintained a lively tempo in both pieces, keeping a crisp conducting style and encouraging the blocks of sound for which the chorus has been known. The University Chapel can be a cavernous space for a large chorus, and the choral sound that seemed to work best for Pro Musica included the ensemble’s trademark expansive homophonic passages. In both “Zadok the Priest” and “The King Shall Rejoice,” Slade guided the chorus well through the Baroque lilt in the music, demonstrating that even in retirement, she is still looking for precise endings and phrasing. more

“MORIR SONYANDO”: Performances are underway for “Morir Sonyando.” Directed by C. Ryanne Domingues, the play runs through May 19 at Passage Theatre. Felix (Daniel Colón, left) and Genesis (Maria Peyramaure, center) try to come to terms with the abuse inflicted, and endured, by their mother, Paloma (Johanna Tolentino, right). (Photo by Jeff Stewart)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Passage Theatre is presenting the New Jersey premiere of Morir Sonyando. This poignant family drama, which is set in North Philadelphia, had its world premiere in 2014 at Philadelphia’s Power Street Theatre Company, where author Erlina Ortiz is resident playwright and artistic director.

The title refers to a crucial moment in the story. It can be translated as “die dreaming,” and is the name of a drink that is popular in the Dominican Republic. According to the program, the misspelling of “soñando” is derived from the way Ortiz spelled the word when she was younger.

Morir Sonyando concerns the stormy relationship of a Dominican woman, Genesis — and her younger brother, Felix — with their mother, Paloma, who is a victim of domestic violence. Paloma has murdered her husband in a desperate attempt to protect her children, but inflicts on them the treatment she has endured. more