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This article by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the March 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Art Review: Mercer County Artists

The Mercer County Artists show is a mixed bag. It is

certainly ecumenical, summoning artists of every persuasion to face

off with a juror. Eligibility? Over 18 and living or working in Mercer

County will do. Could there be a more democratic formula for fairness?

Hardly. Could it result in an exhibition of uneven quality? Almost

always! Nevertheless, the 2003 show is possibly the best show in recent


This result does not mean that either side — jurors or artists

— is not professional or well intentioned. This writer has been

on both sides of the face-off, and as recently as last September,

was one of three jurors at the annual Phillips Mill show. We felt

overwhelmed — if not beleaguered — by the sheer volume of

work submitted. After several hours of first impressions, requiring

a yea or a nay vote, a numbing paralysis sets in that can lead to

errors of judgment, trade-offs, and the inevitable compromises.

In the classic search for consensus, jurors, when in doubt, consign

dozens of works to that purgatory otherwise known as the "maybe

pile." Revisiting the "maybes" at Phillips Mill, I remember

thinking what a really good second show these works would make.

When an artist has spent months crafting his or her work, it seems

a fundamentally flawed system that can write the effort off in minutes.

The best art decisions are made by one person, one artist, one judge,

one curator. The larger the team, the more muddied becomes the decision-making.

History teaches us that the unaccepted is often every bit as worthy

as the accepted, hence the raison d’etre for the Salon des Refuses,

Salon des Independents, and that anecdotal pile of maybes in search

of a second chance. Who among us has not submitted a refused work

to a different juror — perhaps even to a subsequent Mercer County

Artists Show — to learn that not only was the work accepted, but

that it was awarded a prize.

Jurors do provide a quality control factor that can give shape and

substance to a survey of the people making the good art in a given

place and time. Here in Mercer County, for dozens of artists with

solid local reputations, it is a "must" to be included in

this annual spring roundup. It is equally important as a rite of

passage for those who have just moved to Mercer or for emerging artists

and students testing their wings.

It has been said of this show that it can jump start an exhibition

career or patch a sagging one; and the exhibition has served our community

well. In other words, it does good even if it doesn’t always look

good. Its failure to look good is the cafeteria-style nature of the

show, which merely reflects the pluralism of the community’s artists.

It takes more than a couple of good jurors to facelift this show.

It would take several shows. segregated by media, or a larger, part-invitational,

part-juried show to fix the overall look. Open art exhibitions present

the juror with the impossible task of making something cohesive out

of clutter. Once one endorses the notion that clutter is acceptable,

i.e., all messages and media are equally valid, the resulting deluge

is not unlike an avalanche of computer SPAM. All a self-respecting

juror can do is delete and purge.

Looking at the numbers, one must conclude that the jurors of this

year’s show strove heroically to create a clean, cohesive exposition.

Both jurors, Debbie Pringle and Ruth Morpeth, are seasoned gallery

directors with defined, specific tastes, and the courage to make the

call. Knowing that her jurors were unequivocal, if not plain tough,

curator Tricia Fagan noted that she expected the cuts to be even deeper

and result in a leaner show, if not a more focused one.

To Fagan’s surprise, the final count was a whopping 87 works accepted

(94 rejected), suggesting that the jurors were more generous, if not

soft, with the "maybe pile." Their choices prove that even

at half the total submissions, a common aesthetic that would have

give the show character refused to surface. The viewer will see figures,

portraits, landscapes, still lifes, abstract and non-objective paintings

— on board, canvas, paper, wood, and aluminum; executed in marker,

pencil, pastel, ink, collage, gouache, watercolor, egg tempera, acrylic,

oil and encaustic. The rest of the show is rounded out with fabric,

yarn, beads, glitter, clay, stoneware, porcelain, and raku.

Of the artists in the exhibition, about two-thirds have

shown in the Mercer County Artists Annual at least once before. The

newcomers are few and provide the only surprises in an overall conservative


Juror awards went appropriately to painters; sculpture was weak. Receiving

awards were Charles A. Alden, Donald Eaton, Jeff Gola, Katarzyna Iwaniec,

Lucy Graves McVicker, Peggy J. Rose, and Lynn Suply. Ruth Jourjine

garnered a purchase award for porcelain; and Steve Smith received

one for a pastel rendering of an old pick-up truck.

It is impossible to know which or how many worthy pieces were not

accepted. We concur with the awards bestowed on Alden for his oil-on-canvas

landscape entitled "West of Salamanca," which is as sunny

and cheery as Eaton’s award-winning self- portrait is dark and brooding,

with wonderful plum burgundy shadows. Both artists paint with conviction

and feeling.

Some of the other painting awards will appeal to popular tastes, but

the works were less imaginative than one might hope. It is a shame

that no special recognition was given to Joy Barth, Jeanne Pasley,

Dahlia Guzik, Patricia Tisa Butt, and Robert O’Boyle. O’Boyle has

been showing at the Mercer County Artists Show since the late 1970s.

He is a gifted educator who runs the advanced placement art program

at Hopewell Valley High School, and has a reputation for exacting

the best from the best of his students, who affectionately call him

"Doc." It is widely known that he is a master teacher. The

fact that he is also an accomplished painter is perhaps less well


Two of O’Boyle’s works are included in the Mercer County show, along

with work by his wife Carrie Owen O’Boyle. Recently O’Boyle begin

incorporating metallic pigment with works in gouache. His piece entitled

"Plates from the Alchemists" is a little masterwork of intimacy

and invention. On two separate sheets of paper, he composes what looks

like and arrangement of after-dinner cakes dressed in foil of luscious

pink and yellow. O’Boyle whets out appetite for more.

Our commendation also goes to the newcomers to this year’s show, who

are mostly students. They are Donald Eaton, Jennifer Cadoff, Daniel

Hodgkinson, Eric Kennedy, and Omar Mashal. Mashal, who was accepted

for study at the Art Institute of Chicago last year, has delayed matriculation

for lack of funds. His irrepressible, quirky depiction of "Laura

Moon" give us a big balloon-faced creature with round black, panda-bear

eyes. Because she has no nose, there is a kind of humorous angst in

those Laura Moon eyes that will beguile you.

— F.R. Rivera

Mercer County Artists 2003, Gallery at Mercer County

College, Communications Center, West Windsor, 609-586-4800, extension

3589. Open Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday evenings

6 to 8 p.m.; Thursday evenings 7 to 9 p.m. To April 3.

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Art in Town

Anne Reid Art Gallery, Princeton Day School, 650 Great

Road, 609-924-6700. Sculptures and assemblages by La Thorial Badenhausen.

To April 2.

Marsha Child Contemporary, 220 Alexander Street, 609-497-7330,

and Montgomery Center for the Arts, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272. Two-venue Leonard Nelson Retrospective

Exhibition of paintings and prints by the late Philadelphia modernist,

curated by Sam Hunter, professor emeritus, Princeton University. To

April 17.

"Nelson’s contributions to the art world had been largely

overlooked until recent years," says Sam Hunter, whose comprehensive,

illustrated monograph on the artist was published by Rozzoli International

in 2001. "The rediscovery of his work is prompting increased

awareness of what a quiet, yet formidable force Nelson has been in

the evolution of 20th-century American art."

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158

Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "From Tow Path to Bike Path: Princeton

and the Delaware and Raritan Canal," an exhibition on the history

and creation of the canal. Open Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.;

through March.

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Campus Arts

Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788. "The

Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy," celebrating the contributions

of Swiss engineers to structural design in the 20th century. Robert

Maillart, Othmar Ammann, Heinz Isler, and Christian Menn are among

the designers featured. The show is also a tribute to David Billington

who pioneered the integration of liberal artsinto engineering education

during his 45 years teaching at Princeton. To June 15. 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.

Also "The Photographs of Ed Ranney: The John B. Elliott Collection,"

an overview of the artist’s career from 1970 and 1999. First recognized

for his photographic studies of Mayan stonework in the 1970s, Ranney

began an ongoing collaboration with the artist Charles Ross in 1979,

documenting the evolution of Ross’s earthwork sculpture "Star

Axis" being carved into a cliff face in eastern New Mexico. Ranney

will give a lecture on "Space and Place" Wednesday, April

9, at 4:30 p.m. in McCormick 106; show runs to June 7.

Also on view "Seeing the Unseen: Abstract Photography, 1900 to

1940," to March 23. "The Arts of Asia: Works in the Permanent

Collection" to June 30.

Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library, Princeton University,

609-258-3184. "Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders, and Book

Designers," a Milberg Gallery exhibition curated by Rebecca Warren

Davidson. To April 13.

Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson

School, 609-258-1651. "Africa’s Lunatics," a photography show

by French photographer Vincent Fougere that depicts how Africa cares

for and treats its mentally ill. After a childhood spent in the Ivory

Coast, Fougere spent eight years traveling across Africa to photograph

its bruised souls. Opening reception is Friday, February 7. Gallery

hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 21.

College of New Jersey, Art Gallery, Holman Hall, Ewing,

609-771-2198. "A Community of Artists: Sculpture from Members

of the Johnson Atelier" featuring work by 15 staff and apprentices

of the Technical Institute of Sculpture in Mercerville, curated by

CNJ faculty artist Charles Kumnick and gallery director Judy Masterson.

Open Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.;

and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. To April 2.

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New

Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "George Segal: Sculpture, Paintings,

and Drawings from the Artist’s Studio," a major traveling exhibition,

to May 26. Also: "June Wayne: Selected Graphics, 1950 to 2000,"

a show celebrating Wayne’s recent appointment as a research professor

at Rutgers and the establishment of the June Wayne Study Center and

Archive; to June 29. "Russian Cover Design, 1920s to 1930s: The

Graphic Face of the Post-Revolutionary and Stalinist Periods";

to March 30. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday

and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours Sundays at 2 and 3 p.m.

Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; and free on the first Sunday of

every month.

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Art In Trenton

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

Sculpture by Gabriele Roos and an group show by the photographer members

of Gallery 14 in Hopewell. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3

p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To April 13.

Extension Gallery, 60 Sculptors Way, Mercerville, 609-890-7777.

"Things with Horns and Doll Babies Too," an exhibition of

bronze and mixed-media sculpture by Kitty Hundley. A 2000 graduate

of College of New Jersey, the artist is now a member of the Johnson

Atelier technical staff. Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To April 3.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. In the Museum, new work by glass artist Dale Chihuly,

extended to July 6. In the Domestic Arts Building "Focus on Sculpture

2003," an annual juried exhibition of photographs by amateur photographers,

to April 6. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round;

Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission is $4 Tuesday through Thursday;

$7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday. Individual memberships start

at $55.

Rhinehart-Fischer Gallery, 46 West Lafayette, Trenton,

609-695-0061. Ritch Gaiti, "Returning to the Spirits, A Painted

Journey of the West." A self-taught painter, Gaiti spent 26 ears

in the corporate world and retired from his first career as the first

vice president and senior director of advanced technology at Merrill

Lynch. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To April 26.

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Art by the River

Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4588.

Solo show by Hopewell artist Sal Asaro with scenes of Sicily, Bucks

County, New Orleans, and Maine. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday,

and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To April 6. Free.

Artsbridge, Canal Studios, 243 North Union Street, Lambertville,

609-773-0881. Group show features new paintings by James Lucas. Open

Thursday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. To March 30.

E.M. Adams Gallery, 44 Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-862-5667.

Painter and sculptor Edward M. Adams’ new gallery space. A widely

exhibited artist, Adams is also a licensed psychologist with a private

practice in Somerville. Winter gallery hours Friday, Saturday, and

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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

"Creatures," a theme art show to benefit the Hunterdon County

SPCA animal shelter. Featured artists include Robert Beck, Anne Cooper

Dobbins, Lisa Mahan, Kim Robertson, Barry Snyder, and Stacie Speer-Scott.

Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 31.

Area Galleries

Abud Family Foundation for the Arts, 3100 Princeton Pike,

Building 4, third floor, Lawrenceville, 609-896-0732. Solo show

of paintings and sculptures by Mexican artist Rony Chubich. The Abud

Family Foundation for the Arts was established in 2002 to promote

Ibero-American art in various forms. Show runs to April 11.

Created by area neurosurgoen Ariel Abud and his family, the foundation

promotes the contemporary arts of Spain, Latin America, and Central

America. It awards stipends to artists, with an invitation to travel

to the U.S. and exhibit their work in the small Lawrenceville gallery.

Gallery is open by appointment, Wednesday to Saturday, 1:30 to 6 p.m.

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

Abstract paintings by Florence Moonan. In 1990, the artist was awarded

Best of Show at the Ellarlise Open IX. "Moonan’s abstract acrylics

are deeply moving," says gallery owner Abby Frantz. "They

draw you into the personal and emotional feeling she’s projecting.

Her works reflect an incredible sensitivity, and viewing her work

is a richly rewarding experience." On view to April 26.

Lawrence Headquarters Branch Library, Darrah Lane and

Route 1, Lawrence Township, 609-989-6920. David J. Simchock’s photography

exhibition, "Vagabond Vistas." The images were captured during

the artist’s three-year journey through five continents. To March


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Area Museums

American Hungarian Foundation Museum, 300 Somerset Street,

New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "From the Old World to the New World,"

recent additions to the collection featuring works by nine Hungarian

Americans who emigrated to the U.S. between 1920 and 1957. Artists

are Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bertha and Elena De Hellenbranth, Sandor Sugor,

Emil Kelemen, Willy Pogany, Tibor Gergely, Zoltan Poharnok, and Vincent

Korda. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and

Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. $5 donation. Through April.

Cornelius Low House Museum, 1225 River Road, Piscataway,

732-745-4177. "Uncommon Clay: New Jersey’s Architectural Terra

Cotta Industry," an exhibition of artifacts and written and oral

histories of New Jersey’s once booming architectural ceramics industry.

Open Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

To May 30.

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

609-292-6464. "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. On extended

view: "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."

Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "Randall Exon: A Quiet Light," a solo show by

the Philadelphia-area painter and Swarthmore College professor; to

April 27. "A Home of Our Own," a show that commemorates Levittown’s

50th anniversary featuring the contemporary photographs of Jean Klatchko

and vintage objects from the State Museum; to April 13. Winter hours:

Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;

and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission $6 adults; $3 students and childre

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