December 25, 2019

Trenton Artists Workshop Presents “Mummers” Exhibit

“PLUMMED MUMMER”: This photograph by Dan Aubrey is part of “Mummers X 2” on view at the Trenton Free Library January 11 through February 28. A reception with Aubrey and Bryan Grigsby, whose photos are also featured in the exhibit, is January 18, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

The Trenton Artists Workshop Association (TAWA) will present the photography exhibition “Mummers X 2” at the Trenton Free Public Library January 11 through February 28.

A reception with the photographers is Saturday, January 18, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

“Mummers X 2” features 29 photographs of one of the oldest folk art events in the United States, the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

Held on New Year’s Day, the Mummers Parade is rooted in ancient European customs and traditions that included exaggerated mime presentations.

The two in the exhibit title are two Central New Jersey journalists united by their interest in observing and photographing the Mummers: Bryan Grigsby and Dan Aubrey.

Grigsby, of Bordentown, is a retired newspaper photographer who spent 40 years at news publications in Florida, Missouri, and Philadelphia, where he spent the last 30 years of his career as a photo editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A graduate of the University of Florida, he got his start in photography while covering the war in South Vietnam as an Army photographer.

Grigsby discovered the Mummers Parade in the early to mid-1980s and says, “It was love at first sight. I thought this event was the most bizarre thing I had ever seen, and I was determined to bring an outsider’s point of view to capturing the participants. I almost never photographed the actual parade, choosing instead to focus on the staging areas deep in South Philly, where I felt like I was seeing the primal gut of the beast.”

Aubrey, of Hamilton, is the arts editor of U.S. 1 Newspaper and editor of the monthly Trenton Downtowner.

A former arts and theater columnist for the Trenton Times, Aubrey has also worked with nonprofit professional theaters and coordinated art exhibitions in New Jersey and New York City.

A Philadelphia native, Aubrey learned about the Mummers when he was a child, but became more interested as an adult.

“I realized that at its heart the Philadelphia Mummers were following an ancient human impulse to resist the darkness of winter and bring in new life with bright colors, joyful sounds, and plenty of alcohol,” says Aubrey. “The more I saw, the more the event spoke to me. And although it can be rude and ridiculous, the Mummers Parade also has a beauty and a spirit of fellowship.”

Taken during different eras, the photographs show changes in both the parade and in American society.

Grigsby’s 1980s black and white images capture a time when the Mummers were only men of European ancestry — many of whom dressed and paraded as “wenches.”

Aubrey’s digital color photographs show the parade changing to include women, men and women of Latino and African backgrounds, and a gay brigade.

The images were curated by Byron Aubrey, a Trenton area resident active in the arts community and a frequent visitor to the Mummer’s Parade. His father is one of the exhibitors.

TAWA is a Greater Trenton nonprofit organization and has a history of more than 30 years exhibiting in such venues as the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton City Museum, Artworks Trenton, Prince Street Gallery in New York City, and more.

The Trenton Free Public Library is located at 120 Academy Street in Trenton and is in the developing Creek2Canal Trenton Arts District. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information on the Trenton Artists Workshop Association, contact or the organization’s Facebook page.