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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the September 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Art Tackles the Towering Sadness
Smoke was still thick in the air when the art began
to appear on the streets of New York last September. No galleries
nor permits were required. People simply stepped out into public spaces
and started memorializing their shared loss with candles, flowers,
photographs, paintings, pleas, and poems.
As the first anniversary of September 11 arrives, this blatantly unselfconscious
moment has passed. And citizens, many still reeling with shock, are
still looking to the arts to help them make sense of it all.
At Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International
Affairs, curator Kate Somers knew that her first exhibition of the
academic year, and the first in the school’s newly renovated Bernstein
Gallery, would fall during the week of September 11. For the opening
show, "After September 11," she too turned to area artists
to learn of their responses to the day of terror.
"The work on view will be a deeply moving reflection of how 12
regional artists have expressed, in art, their emotional, spiritual,
and political reactions to that event," says Somers. The opening
reception for "After September 11" is Friday, September 13,
from 7 to 9 p.m.; the show remains on view to December 1.
Somers becomes the first curator at the Bernstein Gallery in its new
role as a showcase for art reflecting the mission of the school itself.
Associate Dean Karen Jezierny spearheaded the effort to make the 1,800-square-foot
Bernstein Gallery a place where art and public policy coexist. "At
the Woodrow Wilson School, we encourage our students to take an interdisciplinary
approach to solving public policy problems," she says. "Incorporating
the visual arts into the students’ academic experience serves to further
broaden their outlook."
Somers is only too aware of the tremendous visual ingredient of the
September 11 disaster. Some have said that the multi-part attack was
purposefully designed to ensure that the terrible destruction was
as widely seen as possible. "There was no going back," she
says. "The world was not going to be the same. Even if you lived
among the cornfields of Iowa, the world was not going to be the same."
She decided to seek out artists who she believed may have created
new work in response to their changed world.
"For me, this show came from a sense of responsibility," she
says. "As a curator, I feel a sense of responsibility, when I
am able, to put together art shows that in some way can reflect the
human condition and make people reflective and thoughtful in their
Many of the artists whose work she selected were already known to
her, others were introduced by colleagues. The exhibiting artists
are Robert Beck, Eleanor Burnette, Thom Cooney Crawford, Alan Goldstein,
Loring Hughes, Margaret Kennard Johnson, Dwyer Jones, Amy Kosh, Ken
McIndoe, Barbara Osterman, Margaret Rosen, Ludvic Saleh, Sheba Sharrow,
and Madelaine Shellaby.
Born and raised in Bucks County, the daughter of two
attorneys, Kate Somers attended George Washington University and went
on to earn her master’s degree in art history at Rutgers. After working
in Washington and New York, she returned to the area with her husband
and two children about 10 years ago. She has curated the Gallery at
Bristol-Myers Squibb for the past three years and also curates the
photographic exhibition program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"I think that art is another way of seeing things, that art can
say things in some ways better than the written word," says Somers.
Asked why then each artist’s work in "After September 11"
is accompanied by a written statement, she smiles thoughtfully before
replying. "I wrestled with that. I wrestled with this notion of
whether to have the artists flesh it out, or to let the work stand
for itself. And ultimately I went with the artist’s statement because
it really does help the viewer get into the work."
As a curator, Somers’ quest was to understand how an artist approaches
such an enormous subject. "How do you get your hands around it?,"
she asks rhetorically. The answer, she quickly learned, is that there
are as many approaches are there are individual artists. She sees
her show as a microcosm of the many perspectives and points of view
found in our society.
"I think I’ve been able to get a real variety of approaches, from
the very direct work of Bob Beck who was there, painting outdoors,
to Sheba Sharrow who, at the time of the attack, was already working
on a series of paintings using the circus as a metaphor for the state
of the world." For some artists, the ghost forms of the Twin Towers are
a presence in the new works; for others, the event becomes transformed
into metaphoric abstraction.
America’s increasingly visual culture seemed ripe for a catastrophe
dominated by images.
"We were bombarded," recalls Somers. "Even if you wanted
to get away from the images, you couldn’t, they were everywhere. As
Bob Beck said, this was an exorcism of sorts. He couldn’t get any
of these images out of his head, according to what he told me, he
had to paint this in order to put some sort of closure to this barrage
of images that wouldn’t leave him."
Beck, who describes his mission to document the places, events and
occupations of our time by painting them from life, contributes three
paintings to the show that include "Towers of Light," a view
of the collaborative "Tribute in Light" as seen from Liberty
State Park, and "Lower World," a view of Ground Zero from
a wharf in Hoboken. His third piece, "Vestige," illustrated
on the cover of this issue, is the one Somers finds most haunting.
As Beck writes in his exhibition statement: "In the weeks following
September 11, the media was serving up a relentless barrage of images
and one adhered to me like gum on my shoe, an uninvited and persistent
obstruction to clear thoughts and creativity. I painted `Vestige’
as an exorcism, in one strike over many hours," he writes. Adding,
almost as an afterthought: "Only when finished, did I see I had
included blue sky."
Amy Kosh, an artist who teaches at Stuart school, evokes a sense of
shared loss through black and white photographs of an everyday outdoor
scene. Amid a bleak winter landscape, white laundry billows bravely
on a washing line.
"The events which took place in the U.S. on September 11, 2001,
caused a profound change in how we all went about our daily living.
But what has struck me the most is how quickly most people shifted
back to their former habits," writes Kosh. "My work, which
has come out of these shifting sensibilities, acts as reminder that
there are pieces of our lives still out of place… The imagery from
that day will replay behind our eyelids for years to come, but like
countless generations and societies before us, we have the choice
to use those images to become more compassionate, or to become less."
Madelaine Shellaby, also a teaching artist, employs both image and
words in her work, "Sending Them Stones." Her photograph of
one of the many Ground Zero volunteers is accompanied by the subject’s
story. Microcosm and macrocosm meet in the woman’s recounting of a
simple gesture made by a stranger to assuage the grief of a tired
"I was compelled to visit Ground Zero, as were most of my artist
friends, the result was a winter of depression and struggle to perceive
the tragedy in a larger scope," writes Barbara Osterman, for whom
new abstractions came out of the experience. "From paintings of
bodies, buildings and planes, the work has evolved into a more abstract
place. The rectangular strokes are new for my work and represent the
millions of papers covering the site."
Somers says Sheba Sharrow is an artist whose work, "from the beginning,
has been all about the human condition. When you talk about someone
who has a sense of social responsibility, she’s it."
Sharrow had been working on a circus image of an acrobat
on a trapeze, but the subject became too closely associated with falling
bodies. She then came across some words from Pablo Neruda’s Nobel
Prize acceptance speech and incorporated them into her painting. "Neruda’s
words refer to the artist’s condition in the contemporary world. To
me they speak of hope."
One of the show’s most subtle interpretations of its subject is a
painting by Ken McIndoe, painted from life in the weeks after September
11, titled "People in a Restaurant." It shows a group of men
and women hunched over their plates in a diner. As some commentators
have pointed out, for those New Yorkers who were suffering and struggling
to survive before September 11, the landscape of their struggle did
not significantly change.
"The world is at a standstill and has been for a long time,"
writes McIndoe in his statement. "The powerful build on the backs
of the poor who give their all until they die. The poor certainly
will have no monument for their sacrifice. The powerful will live
with their shame."
For Ludvic Saleh, the events of September 11 shaped a new body of
work, fueling an intense and consuming passion that underlies his
approach to the American flag. "In these new works, I have distilled
the star of the American flag as a graphic element," he writes.
"It becomes a statement of my personal anger directed towards
the events of September 11 and my love for this country. In the end,
I hope, a tribute."
Trenton artist Eleanor Burnette, who works with abstract imagery,
contributes two mixed-media works to the show, "Intersection"
and "Eaten Alive." Her statement, the show’s briefest, seems
to touch the essence of Somers’ question about how an artist can tackle
a subject as vast as September 11: "I create representations of
the small and large histories of humanity," writes Burnette.
Margaret K. Johnson is represented by two works, one
derived from a photograph and one print, both inspired by an arrow
she happened upon in the parking lot of the Princeton Public Library.
"This arrow was deeply cracked — all the way from its tip
through its stem," she writes. "Yet despite the toll it had
taken, the arrow was still there, still pointing the way forward…
I saw it as a metaphor for us all as we strive to go onward."
Margaret Rosen is also focused on rebuilding. On the first day after
the attack, she found herself sketching an abstraction showing massive
destruction and decay. Yet on the following day she abandoned it.
"On September 13, 2001, I started the painting seen here today,"
she writes. "I wanted to capture the brilliance and majesty of
what was lost."
Somers has three more shows planned for the Bernstein Gallery’s 2002-’03
season: "In Their Backyard: Community Health Leaders," showcasing
black and white photographs by Larry Fink featuring community health
leaders across the country who have dedicated their lives to improve
healthcare for our most vulnerable populations. This will be followed
by "Africa’s Lunatics," work by the young Frenchman, Vincent
Fougere, who spent eight years photographing people with serious mental
illness in Africa. The final show of the season will be a juried competition
of photography by Woodrow Wilson School students as they express visually
their academic studies both here and abroad.
— Nicole Plett
University, Woodrow Wilson School, 609-258-1651. Opening reception
for the group exhibition. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.
to 5 p.m., for the show that continues to December 1. Free. Friday,
September 13, 7 to 9 p.m.
609-924-6700. Group show features painter Ken McIndoe, ceramist Connie
Bracci-McIndoe, and mixed-media artist Susan MacQueen. Opening reception
is Thursday, September 19, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., for the show that runs
to October 4. Gallery is open weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Street, 609-924-8777. Group show of works by faculty artists. Open
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends by appointment. To September
and Hope," an exhibit of contemporary painting and Chinese calligraphy
by Seow-Chu See. Artist’s reception is Tuesday, September 10, 5 to
7 p.m. Gallery open by appointment during school hours. To October
Summer group exhibition of paintings, drawings, sculpture, and prints.
Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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, the life of death of its workers, and recent
environmental and preservation issues. Open Tuesday to Sunday, noon
to 4 p.m.
"Danny Sze at Ground Zero," an exhibit of photographs by Danny
Sze taken on September 11 and over the course of several months at
Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. $10 donation benefits the SGI
USA Soka University September 11 Scholarship Fund. Open Monday to
Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. To October
Mixed-media works by Beth Haber inspired by myth and bestiaries. Gallery
is open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Sunday, 9
a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Saturdays. To October 30.
Shared photography show features M. Jay Goodkind’s black-and-white
prints "From the Garden," and Rhoda Kassof-Isaac’s hand-colored
double exposures, "About Color." Open Saturday, 11 a.m. to
5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. To September 15.
Road, 609-921-3272. In the Upstairs Gallery, "Painterly Approaches:
Recent Works by Patrice Sprovieri and Betty Reeves Klank" featuring
watercolor landscape, genre, and still life paintings. Gallery hours:
Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. To
Shared show of paintings by Kirby Fredendall and sculpture by Donna
McCullough. Pennsylvania artist Fredendall refers to her abstract
paintings as memory portraits. The subjects rendered are biological,
images gleaned from ultrasounds and X-rays, seed pods and budding
plants. McCullough, a member of the Washington Sculpture Group, shows
works from her recent series "Drill Team." Constructed of
vintage gas and oil cans, her garment-like sculptures parody our society’s
intimate involvement with oil and petroleum products. Open Wednesday
to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To September
732-247-0922. Debut exhibition for the new gallery featuring area
artists. Ray and Cathy Harding’s photography show, "American,
The Beautiful," is the first exhibit in the gallery. Gallery hours
are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Branch Station, 908-725-2110. "Food Chain," an international
juried group show that looks at the relationship between food and
survival. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4
p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To September 14.
Exhibit of Chinese calligraphy on wood by Ming-Yee Chiu, inspired
by the tradition of carving Chinese couplets on paired bamboo boards.
To September 30.
of the Tomb: Spirit Beasts in Tang Dynasty China," to September
29. "Photographs from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection," to
October 27. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday
1 to 5 p.m. www.princetonartmuseum.org.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Celebration," paintings by Lee
Rumsey inspired by music, dance, and photography. Open Monday to Saturday,
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 8 p.m. To October 11.
West Windsor, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. "Balance," a shared
show of recent works by John Franklin and Sarah Stengle. Artists’
reception is Thursday, September 12 at 5:30 p.m. 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 October 3.
Lawrenceville, 609-896-5325. Garden State Watercolor Society 33d annual
juried members’ exhibition. Reception and awards ceremony Saturday,
September 21, 2 to 5 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday,
11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.; and Saturdays, August
31, and September 14, from noon to 4 p.m. To September 27.
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Exhibitions include: "The National Association
of Women Artists Collection at Rutgers," to December 8. "Identity
and Resistance: Abstract Painting from the Dodge Collection,"
to November 17. "Ben Shahn: The Rilke Portfolio," to December
31. "Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion in 19th Century France,"
to November 7. Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. $3 adults. under 18 free; and
free on the first Sunday of every month.
Studio and gallery of William B. Hogan, watercolors, acrylics, and
bas-reliefs; and wife and fellow-artist Susan W. Hogan, oils, mixed-media,
and ceramics. Open Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
609-397-0275. Paintings and monoprints by Laura Blasenheim, an artist
who began her career 20 years ago as a partner in the area furnishings
shop "Designing Women." In 1979, an auto accident left her
disabled and she turned to drawing and painting as part of her therapy.
Now she offers a vision of the world that is both vibrant and moving.
Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.;
and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To September 27.
"Un-Still Lives," a shared show of recent works by Lisa Mahan
and Annelies van Dommelen. The title, a play on the traditional still-life
genre, refers to the disquiet of these times of our lives. Gallery
hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To October
609-773-0881. "Germany Collage I," a digital photographic
collage by Laura McClanahan. Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday,
noon to 6 p.m. To September 29.
Group show by abstractionists C.M. Gross, Don Jordan, Florence Moonan,
and Mitchell Yarmark. Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to
5 p.m. To September 23.
Suite 208, Morrisville, 215-295-8444. "Artists 4," a shared
show of prints, drawings, and sculptures by the group of four Bucks
County artists Diane Wilkin, Bill Shamlian, David Kime, and William
Double. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday,
1 to 5 p.m. To October 19.
908-996-1470. "Abstractions and Reflections," a group show
by area artists including Ed Baumlin, W. Carl Burger, Sonya Kuhfahl,
Nadine and Nancy Synnestvedt, and Barbara White. Gallery is open Wednesday
& Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.;
and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To September 18.
Hope, 215-862-2112. "The Early Paintings" by Gordon Haas,
an exhibit of 40 paintings with subject matter ranging from harness
racing and wildlife to landscape and city scenes.
"Gods and Guerrillas," a three-person show of new paintings
by Ron English, Lisa Petrucci, and Dalek. Open Thursday through Monday,
noon to 7 p.m. To September 30.
Sculpture by Larry Steele. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 10
a.m. to 4 p.m. To October 3.
609-586-0616. Summer Exhibition. In the Museum and Domestic Arts Buildings:
Tri-State Sculptors’ Guild, recent work by 35 artists of North Carolina,
South Carolina, and Virginia. New additions outdoors by Walter Dusenbery,
John Henry, Hartmut Stielow, Rhea Zinman, and others. Regular park
admission $4 to $10. To September 29.
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
609-586-2366. "The Figure in Bronze," a group show of 40 figurative
sculptures by artists Itzik Benshalom, Bright Bimpong, Noa Bornstein,
Leonda Finke, Gyuri Hollosy, Barbara Lekberg, and others. Store hours
are Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. To September 15.
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. Show runs to April, 2003.
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.
On view to May 30, 2003.
TAWA Invitational II selected by Donna Gustafson of the Hunterdon
Museum of Art. Selected artists are Rob Greco, Frances Heinrich, Loring
Hughes, Joy Kreves, and Terry Rosiak. Museum hours are Tuesday through
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To September 15.
908-735-8415. "Post-Systemic Art," an exploration of current
trends in geometric abstraction. Also, "Meghan Wood: Recent Sculpture,"
constructions in fabric, buttons, and thread. Open Tuesday to Sunday,
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To September 15.
215-340-9800. "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," the seminal
collaboration by writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans.
Show features 76 Evans photographs, prose from Agee, along with letters
and notebooks documenting their process. Admission $10 adult; $7 students.
Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. To October 13.
Also "Michael A. Smith: Landscapes," an exhibition of 13 works
from the recent acquisition of 40 prints by the self-taught Bucks
County photographer, to October 6. Five large-scale granite and marble
sculptures by Harry Gordon are on display in the Outdoor Sculpture
Gardens, to October 27.
"Homer’s Odyssey," a group exhibit by the Princeton Artists
Alliance, on view in the Community Gallery. The exhibition of mixed-media
works was developed by 25 artist members of PAA to reflect on Homer’s
epic poem. Museum open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To
Route 1, North Brunswick, 732-249-2077. "Barnscapes: The Changing
Face of Agriculture in New Jersey," photographs of New Jersey
barns and farmlands, with 42 images by New Jersey landscape photographer
Louise Rosskam. On view to January 17. $4 adults, $2 children.
609-292-6464. "River of Leisure: Recreation Along the Delaware,"
to November 3. "Cruising Down the Delaware: Natural History You
Can See," an introduction to New Jersey’s natural features by
the historic waterway, to November 10. Museum hours are Tuesday through
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
State Museum’s Ethnographic Collection," to September 15. "A
Decade of Collecting, Part 1," to January 5. 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."
Trenton, 609-394-9535. Watercolors by Sandra Nusblatt are on display
in the cafe gallery. Sales benefits New Jersey State Museum. To September
West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. "A Decade of Collecting:
Works from the Museum’s Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Natural
History Collections." Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.,
to January 5, 2003.
short film to be shot weekends in Mercer County. No pay, but food
and VHS copy of the project. Send head shots and resumes to PO Box
9941, Trenton, NJ 08611.
cultural organizations based in New Jersey to be designated as qualified,
a status required to take advantage of funding opportunities by the
Trust. Applications to certify donations for fiscal year 2003 are
due October 1, 2002, and March 17, 2003. Call 609-984-6767 for application.
list of New Jersey’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Places. Call 609-392-6409
for nomination form or website: www.preservationnj.org. Deadline
is Saturday, November 30.
from non-profit organizations serving the Lawrence community. Information
and grant guidelines available from chair Pam Mount at 609-924-2310.
Deadline is Tuesday, October 1.
has formed a Center for the Performing Arts with classes at 50 Cherry
Hill Road in Princeton. Classes and workshops in dance, theater arts,
and drumming, with guest artist performances take place Wednesday,
Thursday, and Saturday, beginning Wednesday, October 2. Education
director is Cory Ann Alperstein. For information and registration
p.m. at players’ homes in central New Jersey. Intermediate and above
playing levels. Call Larry at 609-499-6161.
Perspectives," to its fall program. The tours focus on the agricultural
heritage of New Jersey; they include crop production, artifacts, farm
machines, a video, and a tour of the gallery. Reservations are required.
Call Dana at 732-249-2077.
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