Campus Arts

Art In Trenton

Area Museums

Art by the River

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This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the August 6, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Amid the Mountains, Vivid Seascapes

Harvard graduate, Henry David Thoreau, visiting Williams

College, announced: "It would be no small advantage if every college

were located thus at the base of a mountain, as good at least as one

endowed professorship — Some will remember, no doubt, not only

that they went to college, but that they went to the mountain."

There is more to Williamstown, Massachusetts, these days than its

ring of brooding peaks. The Sterling and Francine Clark Institute

of Art currently surrounds visitors with a rich collection of seascapes

by Joseph Mallord William Turner. This apocalyptic visionary lived

in England from the time of our Revolution until the eve of our Civil

War. Revolutionary in his own way, Turner attained levels of abstraction

and luminosity achieved by few in any century. And nowhere more so

than in the oils and watercolors depicting his "magnificent obsession",

the sea. The Clark, these days, is flooded with limpid light, even

when surrounded by fog and downpour.

You may insist, as friends have done, "I know my Turners."

Of course you do, especially if you have visited London’s Tate Gallery

and Yale’s Center for British Art. (Our Metropolitan Museum in New

York does not do him justice.) Yet there has been no major exhibit

of his work in America for over 20 years. It is possible that the

sea as theme is unique to the Clark. I guarantee you have never seen

this constellation of Turners, and won’t again unless you follow them

to Glasgow later this year. They are significant not only for the

challenge of their theme, but for depth and breadth of the lending

institutions.

The artistic emphasis of Williams College, (chartered 1793) —

coupled with the generosity of Singer heir Sterling Clark and his

French bride, Francine — has given this Berkshire village one

of the highest museum-to-student ratios in the country. If this exhibit

intensifies art cravings, you may stroll over to nearby Williams College

Art Museum for its varied collection. It specializes in American art

and too many [Maurice] Prendergasts. And beyond that to Mass MOCA

in North Adams, but that’s another story.

The Clark may be America’s only museum where you can lace on hiking

boots for a dawn trek before its 10 a.m. opening. They say everyone

in town lives within a mile of a significant trail. This museum is

no exception. On my Turner Day, I ascended and partially descended

the mountain in its own back yard. Within boreal forest, a cairn-marked

crossroads led to the famous Stone Bench, facing west. Fog was so

dense that I was walking in clouds through an old-growth hemlock wood.

A cattle gate led into a meadow, knee-deep in clover and buttercups.

To my left, a golden deer — young and slender as those Turner

painted at Petworth — nibbled wildflowers. I lifted my gaze to

lavender peaks, suddenly emerged — all save Mt. Greylock, still

sporting gray locks. I could have been in Switzerland.

Instead, within moments, I had talked my way into the Clark, although

the new Turner exhibit was open only to people of the region until

its June 14 opening. I wondered whether people who live ringed by

mountains long for the sea, as I climbed the broad gray staircase

to "Turner, The Late Seascapes."

For me, the best Turners are the late ones. Most in this exhibit date

from the 1830s and ’40s. Museum literature describes them as "among

the most radiant of the 19th century." Scenes are juxtaposed here

that have not hung together since the artist added last touches on

his studio walls, even at exhibits in patrons’ homes!

Although this man ascribed to no labels, let alone movements, some

term him an Impressionist, albeit a century ahead of his time. Except

that few Impressionists attained this level of luminosity, let alone

the profundity which is Turner’s hallmark.

The artist was mocked in his time for using "too much yellow."

A biting cartoon showed the man wielding a hefty housepainter’s brush,

slathering a billboard-sized landscape, from a huge bucket marked

"YELLOW" in very large letters. This may explain his later

"incarnadine" skies flaming behind the floundering slave ship.

In the words of T. S. Eliot, J. M. W. Turner "had such a vision

of the world as the world hardly understands."

Neither the generous catalog nor the thorough information

packet addresses the man’s spiritual quest. Yet, what Turner conveys

in these tumultuous scenes of sky and water, and, yes, mountains,

soars beyond earth elements. He could be saying, "I am Lazarus,

come back from the dead, come back to tell you all."

In his day, quintessential critic/tastemaker John Ruskin, virtually

deified JMWT as "the greatest landscape painter who ever lived."

Yet, two years later, Turner’s metaphysical explorations had confounded

even Ruskin. Others, less erudite, scoffed at the late work as "soapsuds

and whitewash," "freaks of chromomania."

The exhibit catalog is eminently worth purchasing, for quality and

quantity — as well as juxtapositions — of scholarly text and

glimmering paintings. However, I take exception to its repeated description

of Turner’s seas as his `stage.’ The metaphor is too static for the

throbbing scenes arrayed across the Clark’s dove-gray walls.

Partly because some canvases have been loaned by museums I have not

visited (Manchester City Galleries in England and the Kimball Art

Museum in Fort Worth, Texas), encountering these scenes brought on

serious weakness of the knees. From the very first work, "Now

for the Painter (Rope)" (1827), the viewer is awash in radiant

peril. People subject to mal-de-mer may have to exercise caution.

Turner’s long titles merit study. He was recognized as a poet in his

day. Therefore, the pun of "painter" refers to the man with

the brush, as well as to that frail rope tethering a wave-tossed boat

of terrified passengers to the ship leaving Calais for England.

Turner’s seascapes can involve sharp and studied reality, as well

as dizzying abstraction. They move beyond the real, transmitting the

cataclysmic: shipwreck, whaling, man’s inhumanity to slaves, and everyone’s

vulnerability before "the briny deep." James Hamilton, guest

curator (whom museum guests are privileged to "meet" in a

short intense video) asserts that "Turner articulated and launched

upon seas of his own making."

That same video bring us British restorer, David Bull, in Manhattan,

involved with the Clark’s own painting, "Rockets and Blue Lights

(Close at Hand) to Warn Steamboats of Shoal Water" (1840). A purchase

of Sterling Clark’s, this work had been defaced by a tornado-like

gray cloud off-center. Inappropriate additions of paint and varnish

had subtracted from Turner’s vision. The much-traveled painting had

even been damaged in a train/truck collision within the artist’s lifetime.

Wounds and travesties have been painstakingly researched and removed

by Bull. In the film, we become voyeurs of resurrection. "He was

a feisty man, was Turner," Bull reveals with a chuckle, referring

to those in-exhibit alterations with the man’s own brush. The work

positively shimmers in its pivotal setting at the Clark. What I wouldn’t

give to hear "Sterling and Francine’s" reactions to the changes.

Throughout his career, fully one-third of JMWT’s work featured the

sea. However, in his final decades, the ocean became prime subject.

It could be that the aging artist, contemplating Charon’s ferrying

of souls, pictured that body of water as the sea rather than a mere

river.

Turner was an artist of senses beyond sight. In his tiny but monumental

watercolor, "Goldau," one almost hears thunder echoes of a

mountain avalanche. In "Swiss Pass," the viewer seems cleansed

by the mist of Turner’s towering falls. The impulse to reach out and

touch, if not tug ashore, is triggered by scenes of shipwreck; especially

those stark black groping arms, slaves thrown overboard to lighten

the load.

The subjects of Turner’s vivid fish studies in watercolor (mackerel,

gurnard, to say nothing of whales and whimsical sea creatures) seem

to flip audibly, with all the energy of morning’s catch in Provencal

markets. Then Turner turns around to streak a pale ship before a paler

sky with all the subtlety of a John Marin.

The major treat of the Clark lies in the depth and richness of its

permanent collection. So guests can move from salt-drenched Turner

rooms to throbbing Winslow Homer watercolors. Prout’s Neck, Maine’s

ruddy sunsets, greenish summer squalls — and especially those

half-drowned women dragged ashore by rescuers — tie right in with

the morning’s maritime preoccupations. Cutting around the corner,

one can study what Corot, Boudin, and Jongkind did with wind and waves

in France. Their scenes evoke seas studded with Etretat’s pierced

headlands, frigates, fishing boats, and the wharves of Normandy. It

is sobering to realize that these artists worked their plein-air magic

lengthy decades after Turner relinquished his brushes for the last

time, in 1851.

Paintings and exhibit materials stress that Turner revered and richly

learned from Dutch landscapes in general and van Ruisdael in particular.

At the Clark, one stands in a windowed gallery looking out on a Monet

lily pond to study the Dutch artist’s "Landscape with Bridge,

Cattle and Figures." Water is missing, but precision and luminosity

are electrifyingly present. Turner’s "The Vale of Ashburnham"

— an 1816 watercolor from the British Museum in London — could

be a twin to the Van Ruisdael, lacking only bridge.

In "my book" (the same sense I have when visiting the Barnes

Foundation in nearby Marion, Pennsylvania) the Clark holds too many

Renoirs. That is, except for "Onions" — which that artist

probably painted because his maids and cooks were chosen only for

the way light danced from Provencal olive leaves onto their skin.

No skin has ever surpassed those onions, Sterling Clark’s favorite

Renoir.

But go, instead, for the Toulouse-Lautrecs (even though they cache

some of their best) and Gauguin’s solid "Pont Avon" peasant

in her butter-yellow dress. The Clark’s two rare Ghirlandaios —

father and son — flanking a majestic Piero della Francesca, are

certainly "worthy of the journey" on their own.

The Clark is brilliant — as with last year’s Gustav Klimt Landscape

exhibition — at weaving in regional events coordinated to their

blockbuster show. Most are free and open to the public: from regular

gallery talks, through "Britannia Rules the Waves" film series,

to a British Seaside Family Day (with jugglers, hornpipes, and clog

dancing). A pricey weekend course, September 6 and 7, presents "The

Lonely Sea and the Sky" (British poet, John Masefield’s domain)

to members for $400; non-members for $500 (education@clarkart.edu).

If all this is not gratification enough, you can stop by the Clark’s

information desk; request that unique commodity — the Museum Trail

Guide. Just beyond its gate beckon Hopkins Forest Trail, Pine Cobble,

and Greylock Glen.

The Nature Conservancy writes of the ocean as "the living system

that embraces 97 percent of Earth’s water, drives climate and weather,

shapes planetary chemistry, regulates temperature, and generates more

than 70 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. The ocean houses

most of life on Earth, every spoonful filled with living creatures.

The ocean is the cornerstone of Earth’s life-support system."

For Joseph Mallord William Turner, his ocean obsession bore him beyond

creativity to the threshold of creation itself. For this artist in

all years — but especially "the late" — the sea became

excuse for numinousness.

Turner, The Late Seascapes, Sterling and Francine Clark

Art Institute, 225 South Street, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 413-458-2303.

Website: www.clarkart.edu. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission

$10 adults; students and children under 18 free.

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Campus Arts

Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788. Open Tuesday

through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Highlights

tours every Saturday at 2 p.m. "In Pursuit of the Past: Provenance

Research at the Princeton University Art Museum," a behind-the-scenes

look at the research methods used to trace the history of works of

art focusing on issues related to ownership and collecting; to August

10.

Firestone Library, Princeton University, 609-258-1148.

"Brave New World: 20th-Century Books from the Cotsen Children’s

Library," an exhibition that fills the library’s main gallery

and the Milberg Gallery upstairs.

Rider University Art Gallery, Student Center, Lawrenceville,

609-895-5589. Student art exhibition, work by 60 students from a variety

of majors. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to

7 p.m.; Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. To September 12.

Area Galleries

Edison Library, 340 Plainfield Avenue, Edison, 732-745-4489.

"Chinese Opera," a traveling exhibition designed for adults

and children, gives an overview of the art. Exhibits on the use of

face makeup, props, pantomime, costumes, and musical instruments.

Authentic costumes of two important Chinese opera characters are featured.

General Guan Yu is a popular historical character who lived during

the Han Dynasty. Also featured is Sun Yu Jiao, the young maiden,

from the well-known opera, "The Jade Bracelet." Jing Wei,

a reknowned calligrapher in China, painted the characters for the

exhibit’s title panel as well as the names of the two characters featured

in the exhibit. co-sponsored by the Newark Museum and the Middlesex

County Cultural and Heritage Commission. On view through August 8.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511.

Shared show of photography: "Night Light" by Mary Julia Kephart,

and "Infinities" by Coleen Marks. Gallery hours are Saturday

and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment. To August 24.

Grounds for Sculpture, Toad Hall Shop & Gallery, 60 Ward

Avenue, Mercerville, 609-689-1089. Barbara Schaff, series of paintings

of orchids. To September 14.

Hopewell Frame Shop, 24 West Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-466-0817.

"Watercolor Anarchy II," a group show of watercolors by Gail

Bracegirdle and seven of her students. Open Tuesday through Friday,

10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To August 30.

Students participating in the exhibit include Carol Bleistein, Lawrenceville;

Ron Flegel, Monmouth Junction; Ruth Kaufman, Princeton; Robin L. Murray,

Trenton; Lionel Scriven, Lambertville; Kinga Soni, Plainsboro; and

Chari Wurtzel, Horsham, Pennsylvania.

Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman,

609-921-3272. Princeton Artists Alliance show features drawings, paintings,

prints, mixed media, handmade paper, fibers, photography, and sculpture.

Exhibit and sale through August 24.

Dorothy Wells Bissell (Dottie) was a charter member of the Princeton

Artists Alliance founded in 1989 by professional artists. She will

be leaving for California to be near her family in the near future.

A special room for her paintings has been set aside.

Plainsboro Public Library, 641 Plainsboro Road, 609-275-2897.

TAG, the Art Group, and a summer show, "Fruits of the Earth,"

Monday & Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesday to Thursday to 8:30

p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To August 31.

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Art In Trenton

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632.

TAWA Open 2003, a group show selected by E. Carmen Ramos, assistant

fine arts curator at the Newark Museum. Eric Kunsman’s work "Light

Source," an iris giclee print of an original photograph, wins

Best in Show. Juror’s Choice Awards go to works by Connie Gray, Bill

Hogan, Don Jordan, Michelle Soslau, and Maggie Zullinger. Open Tuesday

to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton,

609-292-6464. "The Needle’s Eye," quilts, samplers, and needlework

made in New Jersey from the 18th to the early 20th century; to September

14.

Also "The Ones That Didn’t Get Away! Fossil Fish from the New

Jersey State Museum," featuring the skull of a massive ancient

predatory fish, Dunkleosteus, known as the "Bulldog Fish"

of the Chalk Seas. Show is organized by David Parris, curator of Natural

History. On extended view. "Cultures in Competition: Indians and

Europeans in Colonial New Jersey," a show that traces the impact

of European settlement on the native Indians’ way of life after 1600.

Also "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the Collection;"

"New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record;"

"Delaware Indians of New Jersey;" "The Sisler Collection

of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire;" "Neptune’s

Architects;" "The Modernists;" "New Jersey Ceramics,

Silver, Glass and Iron;" "Historical Archaeology of Colonial

New Jersey;" "Washington Crossing the Delaware."

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Area Museums

American Hungarian Foundation Museum, 300 Somerset Street,

New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "Stephen Spinder: Through My Lens,

Budapest and Transylvania," a collection of photographs of the

Gothic spires and neo-classical facades of Budapest. Sprinder’s images

of Translvania reveal powerful vestiges of an ancient culture and

the preservation of Hungarian traditions, particularly its music and

dance, that have changed little over time. Open Tuesday to Saturday,

11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. $5 donation. To November

9.

Creative Glass Center of America, Wheaton Village, 1501

Glasstown Road, Millville, 856-825-6800. "The Fellows," an

exhibition celebrating CGCA’s 20th anniversary. The rotating anniversary

exhibit showcases contemporary glass works by past and current CGCA

fellowship recipients. On view to December 31. The show begins with

a spotlight on work by 2001 and 2002 fellows who come from as close

as West Orange as far as Hiroshima, Japan, and Adelaide, Australia,

to study at the center. Summer hours Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to

5 p.m. Wheaton Village admission $8 adult; $5 student.

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "Japanese Prints from the Michener Collection,"

a selection of more than 40 ukiyo-e prints by some of the leading

artists of the highly influential school. The show featuring prints

from the Michener Collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and

organized by the Honolulu Academy, is on view to August 31. Summer

hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m.

to 9 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Museum

admission $6 adults; $3 students and children.

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Art by the River

Atelier Gallery, 108 Harrison Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-9992.

"Natural Visions," a shared show of landscapes and seascapes

by Michael Filipiak and Cheryl Raywood. Open Thursday to Sunday, noon

to 5 p.m. To August 11.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804.

Annual summer group show of watercolors, acrylics, oils, pastels,

and prints. Featured artists include Joanne Augustine, Albert Bross,

Marge Chavooshian, Tom Chesar, Mike Filipiak, Charles and Lucy McVicker,

Robert Sackson, with pottery by Katherine Hackl and Ann Tsubota. Open

Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To September 28.

Louisa Melrose Gallery, 41 Bridge Street, Frenchtown,

908-996-1470. "Summer Scapes," a summer show of landscapes,

seascapes, and urban scapes by artists from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Photographs by Nancy Ori and Laura Zito are included in the roster

of invited artists. Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday

and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To September

14.

Papier Sun Art Gallery, 39 North Main Street, Lambertville,

609-397-9022. Artist and favorite son John McDowell Williams returns

to Lambertville to take over the front gallery at Papier Sun Fine

Art. Show features watercolors and oils by Williams. Regular gallery

hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

New Hope Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Union Square, West

Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-3396. Sculpture exhibition features

the outdoor installation of seven large-scale works at sites around

town. Host sites include Union Square, New Hope Solebury Library,

the Wedgwood Inn, New Hope Historical Society, Golden Door Gallery,

and New Hope Mule Barge. On view to Spring 200


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