A book is a book is a book.
Yes? No? Maybe?
You can look for the right answer at “Defining/Redefining the Book,” on view at the Lawrenceville School through Saturday, April 21, where “books” made by artists take center stage. If you haven’t been paying attention to the edges of the art world in recent decades, the exhibit could come as a revelation.
As a creative art medium, the book has become serious conceptual grist for the artistic mill. A book is no longer (just) words between covers, though words are often there. Covers too. Occasionally even pages. And, sometimes, you can turn the pages. But that is not what this exhibition is about. Instead it is a sampling of what can happen to the concept of “book” in the hands and minds of contemporary artists.
Even when there are bound volumes, with pages and type to read, what’s inside is something completely different — an unexpected array of surfaces, objects, materials, and techniques. There are pop-up abstractions, girdles, gloves, exotically hued body parts, plastic toys, scroll-like three-dimensional wall hangings, polychrome wooden constructions, even a hanging made of work gloves — all with their own story to tell.
The featured artists, Debra Weier of Princeton Junction and Miriam Schaer of Brooklyn, both make books and both began as painters. Both explored printmaking. But there the convergence ends. In much of Weier’s work the book has evolved into a more structurally intricate version of its original form. Sometimes there are no words. Rather these books are containers for designs and ideas — turning pages means releasing sculptural forms — complex narrations of color and structure. Other times, the basic construction of the book is used as as a platform on which to build new ways of saying and showing at the same time — works in which surface construction becomes an integral part of the story.
Miriam Schaer, a multimedia book artist, uses a different vocabulary — groups of objects and items of clothing — to tell her stories. There are brassieres and girdles, gloves and dolls, even furniture. The closest she gets to the more traditional form is a bound book with words reconfigured as a pair of hands. Yet, much like the old fashioned “book,” these works have powerful, often moving stories to tell.
‘My work deals with issues I have questions about,” Schaer says in her artist’s statement. “I use the language of clothing. Frozen and stiff, the garment becomes immobile, as if the wearer evaporated, leaving a only a shell. They become places — new homes for stories I collect. Upon opening, the ghost of the missing person still remains in the echo of the garment’s frozen shape. What remains are fragments, small found objects and books nestled within. They are the distilled essence of the story, the one left behind by the ‘person’ once living there.”
Schaer says that the stories contained in these works are often personal. “I began to use baby clothing because their scale is workable for books, but their significance immediately became apparent. They became receptacles for my memories of childhood: idealized vs. painful. These pieces explore issues of childhood and motherhood.”
In the installation, “Solitary Confinement, A Family Portrait,” clothing and furniture tell a story about family dynamics. Set before a mural of idealized domestic vignettes from a mid-century woman’s magazine, a fully set dining table and chairs is surrounded by a “family” of empty garments — mom, dad, and the kids. Each contains a small, heart-shaped book so that the viewer can “remove their hearts and read their inner thoughts.”
In another work, “No Ornament So Precious as their Hands,” hundreds of gold-painted work gloves are joined to form a 20-foot swag intended as an altarpiece in “Chapel of Uncommon Prayers,” another installation. According to the artist their history is part of the story. “Created from gloves I found while walking the streets of New York, as well as gloves sent to me by friends and acquaintances, each was sewn together, as if a page in an enormous book of lost souls…Painting them gold elevates even the humblest and most tattered glove.”
While sculptural effects are also an major element in Debra Weier’s books, the classic book form also functions importantly. A series of limited edition books of poetry, including a work in progress with Princeton University professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, combine words with often unexpected surface techniques to extend the book’s dimensionality. Muldoon will give a reading in the gallery on Tuesday, April 7.
The potential for innovative combinations of content and form is, in part, what drew Weier to the medium. “Although my earliest books contained no words,” she says in her artist’s statement, “I soon introduced poetry into my books. My inspiration was fired by…working off of another person’s ideas. In these books I incorporate many media, depending on the content of the poems. I want the books to be living, breathing entities.”
Many of Weier’s works, however, have no words. While these are indeed books with covers and pages, turning the pages becomes part the artistic process. Each spread opens to become three dynamic dimensions using shadow and substance to create sculptural art and involve the viewer. Although these books are displayed in enclosed cases, they are designed to be viewed by turning pages to produce surface movement and changing structure.
Weier, whose work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, among other prominent museums and universities across the country, says that the dynamic element is an important aspect of her work. “What intrigued me was the moving picture plane. The time element, present by the simple act of turning a page, was akin to film, only slower and controlled by the viewer. I had experimented with filmmaking in college but I missed the tactile sensation of working with my hands. Making these strange books with no words satisfied my desires.”
Art Exhibit/Poetry Reading, Saturday, April 7, 7 p.m. Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville. Princeton University professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon gives a reading in conjunction with the exhibit “Defining/Redefining the Book,” featuring the works of Miriam Schaer and Debra Weier. One of the works on view is a collaboration between Weier and Muldoon. Exhibit on view through April 21. 609-620-6026.
Army National Guard Armory, 151 Eggerts Crossing Road, Lawrenceville, 609-530-6802. “Field Artillery Annex” features pictures, vehicles, weapons, equipment, and uniforms used by New Jersey artillery soldiers from the Revolution to the ongoing conflict in Iraq. The curator is Retired Colonel Donald Kale. Open Tuesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call to schedule groups.
A.R.T. Space Gallery, 53 Hulfish Street, Princeton, 609-924-0143. www.artrealization.org. “Golden Tears,” featuring new paintings, large scale sculpture, and revolutionary new music composed using the A.R.T. technologies. Working with A.R.T. for more than five years, Isabell Villacis is the first artist to work with the new music program. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 1 to 7 p.m.
Gold Medal Impressions, 43 Princeton Hightstown Road, West Windsor, 609-606-9001. www.goldmedalimpressions.com. Magic moments in sports photography exhibit by photographer Richard Druckman . 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616. www.groundsforsculpture.org. “The Writer’s Block Exhibition” featuring four sculptures from the 2004 Princeton installation. “Fall and Winter Exhibition” featuring exhibitions “Manuel Neri: The Figure in Relief” in the museum through April 29; and “2006 Outstanding Achievements in Contemporary Sculpture Awards” in the Domestic Arts Building. Through Sunday, April 29. “Focus on Sculpture 2007,” an annual exhibition of amateur photography juried by Sandra C. Davis, University of the Arts in Philadelphia. On view through Sunday, April 29. John Litchfield of West Windsor is this year’s best in show. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Grounds For Sculpture, Toad Hall Shop and Gallery, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616. www.groundsforsculpture.org. “New Jersey Perspective,” an exhibition of aerial photographs of New Jersey by Owen Kanzler and bronze sculptures by Kate Graves. On view through Saturday, April 7.
Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. www.princetonhistory.org. “U.S. Presidents: Famous Faces in Princeton Places,” documenting presidents who lived in or visited Princeton. “Princeton’s Civil War,” an exhibition featuring images and newspaper accounts documenting the town and university’s response to the outbreak of the war. Through July 15. “School Days in Princeton,” a new exhibit of photographs and postcards depicting school buildings and students in Princeton from the late 19th through mid-20th century. On view through June 30. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Free admission.
Hopewell Frame Shop Gallery, 24 West Broad Street, 609-466-0817. Open house for “En Plein Air,” paintings by Joe Kaz. On view through Saturday, April 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Johnson Education Center, D&R Greenway, Preservation Place, Rosedale Road, 609-924-4646. www.drgreenway.org. “Garden State Watercolor Society Exhibit.” On view through Sunday, April 15. Galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.
Morpeth Gallery, 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-333-9393. www.ruthmorpeth.com. “Surface and Beyond: Artists Working with the Textural Possibilities of Wax,” a group show featuring painting by artists throughout the United States who concentrate on encaustic technique. On view through Friday, April 20. Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Plainsboro Public Library, 641 Plainsboro Road, 609-275-2897. www.lmxqac.org/plainsboro. “Mapping Manhattan,” an exhibit featuring recent works of Plainsboro resident and India native Murali Harathi. Art chat on Sunday, April 15, 3 to 5 p.m. On view through Saturday, May 5.
Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100. www.thejewishcenter.org. “Radiant Evocations,” an exhibit of paintings by Sam Feinstein, who taught art classes in Princeton, New York, Philadelphia, and Cape Cod. He died in 2003. On view through Saturday, April 14. Open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8822. www.princetonlibrary.org. “Organic: Nature Takes Form” in conjunction with drawings and resin sculptures by Tina Salveson and drawings by Marsha Levin-Rojer. Free. Exhibit on view through Friday, April 20.
Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. www.chapinschool.org. “Four New Jersey Equine Artists,” featuring the works of Xiochitl Barnes, Beth Parcell Evans, Ellen A. Gavin, and Jerilyn Weber. On view to Friday, May 4. Exhibit may be viewing during school hours.
CAPPS, Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550. www.peddie.org/capps. Exhibit by sculpture and painter Matthew Day Jackson. On view through Friday, April 20. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, 609-620-6026. www.lawrenceville.org. “Defining/Redefining the Book,” an exhibit of the works of Miriam Schaer and Debra Weier. Through Saturday, April 21. Gallery open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon. See review page 28.
Princeton Day School, The Great Road, Princeton, 609-924-6700. www.pds.org. Outdoor art gallery featuring “Skye Group” by Gunnar Theel; “Three Faces,” “Shield,” and “Rising” by Kevin Forest; “Passage” by Harry Gordon; three marble sculptures by Andrew Logan; and “Venus Vessel” by Rory Mahon. On view through Saturday, June 30. Open daily.
Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Gallery, 609-497-7990. www.ptsem.edu. “In the Image and Likeness: Icons by Students and Masters of the Prosopon School of Iconology,” featuring works created according to ancient practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church, led by master Vladislav Andrejev, 1980 emigre from the former Soviet Union. On view to Friday, April 6. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 2:30 to 9 p.m.
Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788, www.PrincetonArtMuseum.org. Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque galleries are open. The museum’s galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are given on Saturdays at 2 p.m. “Pop Art at Princeton: Permanent and Promised,” a new exhibition. Through Sunday, August 12. “Sorcerers of the Fifth Heaven: Nahua Art and Ritual of Ancient Southern Mexico,” on view through Saturday, April 28.
Rutgers University, Ruth Adams Building, 131 George Street, New Brunswick, 732-932-9493. www.masongross.rutgers.edu. “The Iliad and the Odyssey,” a sculpture series created by Evelyn Wilson. Open weekdays, 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m.
Art by the River
Bell’s Tavern, 183 North Union Street, Lambertville, 609-397-2226. “Scenes I Needed to Paint,” an exhibit of 25 colorful, impressionistic, and mostly local scenes painted by Mike Mann. On view through Thursday, April 26. Monday to Thursdays, 6 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 5 to 9 p.m.
Boi’s of New Hope, 9 West Mechanic Street, New Hope, 215-862-8292. www.boisofnewhope.com. “Not New Work, 1850 to 1950,” featuring vintage pieces of art by Emile Gruppe, Franklin DeHaven, George Howell GAy, and Sue Full. Through Sunday, April 22. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, noon till late evening.
Peggy Lewis Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street, 609-397-0275. “Women & Cookbooks, in the Kitchen, the 1940s,” features works of vintage cookbooks and booklets, a photo montage, and music. Through Tuesday, April 10. Gallery open Monday to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sabine Rose Gallery, 68 South Main Street, Doylestown, PA, 215-489-5700. www.sabinerosegallery.com. “The Demos: A Year of First Fridays,” an exhibit of a year’s worth of work featuring belly dancers, ballerinas, and even an Elvis impersonator. Artists present a live painting demonstration every Friday evening. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, noon to 5, Thursday by appointment; Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Art In Trenton
Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. www.artworksnj.org. “Mel Leipzig: Portrait of a College,” an exhibit of recent paintings featuring members of the faculty, staff, and students of Mercer College. On view through Saturday, April 7.
Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632. www.ellarslie.org. “Voices for the Marsh,” a Friends for the Marsh photography exhibit. On view through Saturday, April 21. Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
Gallery 125, 125 South Warren Street, Trenton, 609-989-9119. www.gallery125.com. “Winter’07 Exhibit,” a display featuring paintings, sculpture, and photographs. Through Friday, April 6. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday noon to 6 p.m. ; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
James A. Michener Art Museum, Union Square Complex, Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-340-9800. “The Artists Among Us,” a permanent interactive exhibit dedicated to the history and legacy of the artists who have made New Hope an internationally recognized arts colony. “Wild by Design: 200 Years of Innovations and Artistry in American Quilts.” Through Sunday, June 3. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Closed Monday.
Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, 215-340-9800. www.michenerartmuseum.org. “Phoenix,” a sculpture installation by Philadelphia sculptor Joe Mooney featuring six new pieces in welded steel. “Daniel Garber: Romantic Realist.” Through Sunday, April 8. “Aging in America: The Years Ahead” assembled from photographs by Ed Kashi and writings by Julie Winokur. Through Sunday, June 24. “James Wolfe: Outdoor Garden Sculpture Exhibition.” Through Sunday, June 24. “A Place in Time: The Shakers at Sabbathday Lake: Maine” featuring photos by Philadelphia area photographer Stephen G. Williams. Through Sunday, July 8. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 pm.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
New Jersey State Museum, Galleries at 225 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-5420. www.newjerseystatemuseum.org. “Empty Sky: The New Jersey September 11, 2001 Memorial” features architect Frederic Schwartz’ winning design for the nationally recognized New Jersey September 11, 2001 Design Competition. “Swing!, the exhibition brings music to life with artifacts from the New York Public Library’s collection of photographs, memorabilia, posters, and music. Through Saturday, May 5. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Ongoing exhibit, “Japonisme: Selections from the Collection.” Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m.