In an unusual twist on the concept of a portrait gallery, Princeton artist Howard Siskowitz and Bucks County photographer Peter C. Cook have created a unique process of working simultaneously side by side, each using a different medium to capture their own "image" of the subject. The results of this collaboration, "Princeton in Your Face: Portraits From Doubletake," black and white photos and pencil sketches of Princeton personalities – some famous, some not – opens with a reception on Friday, February 4, at the Holsome Gallery on Witherspoon Street.
"I don’t recall seeing this done before. This is an actual collaboration," says Siskowitz, who has known Cook for 30 years. "Some people think I draw from Pete’s finished photograph. But as Pete does a formal studio-portrait sitting, I sit next to him drawing. As the show makes obvious, there are occasions where our mutual reading of the subject is very close, and at other times we diverge. During an hour’s sitting, Pete will do three rolls of film and I’ll do a dozen
or so drawings. Some of my drawings will happen in 12 lines and I’ve gotten the person with great economy of means. And sometimes it’s a little more worked up. It has been a very interesting collaboration that we’ve enjoyed very much."
"This opening will be interesting because some of the subjects will be seeing these pieces for the first time," says Cook. "People are surprised sometimes because they see an aspect of themselves that they didn’t consider. Everybody, especially people who are in the public eye, cultivate a ‘camera face.’ It’s a process of breaking through that to come away with something totally different than their perception of themselves. A lot of times they will say, ‘My God,
you’ve revealed too much.’ And, when they say that, you know you’ve been successful."
When two artists work side by side, their take on a subject doesn’t always match, Cook says. "Howard selects the drawing that talks back to him, and I pick the image in the darkroom that talks back to me, and then we sit down. Sometimes we have more or less the same point of few; other times it’s two different aspects of the character altogether. That’s when it gets interesting."
"We don’t try to match each other," says Siskowitz. "In the show the drawing and photograph are displayed next to each other. Visitors can walk down the line and, if we have really been successful, maybe even see something of themselves staring back at them." In fact, the artists have considered providing hand mirrors at the front door so the subjects can watch themselves responding to their own images.
These are not commissioned sittings, so the artists are not concerned with flattering the subject. Siskowitz says: "They are concentrating on the camera, not the sketch artist, and that’s when I can get an unguarded moment. There are times when Pete is focusing the camera and the person is relaxed and chatting with me, and I’m getting something of them, and they hardly realize that it’s happening. We’re trying to catch something of their character. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it works very well."
"Howard has a very unique facility," Cook says. "He draws like a photographer. His drawings are finished all at once."
Even though the typical sitting for each portrait lasts only for about 45 minutes, Siskowitz says it is strenuous. "At the end of each session, you’re exhausted. That total concentration to try and grab something of the character of a person takes a lot of energy. I’ve done portraits of people on my own, but there’s something about us feeding off each other’s energy on this. As we go along, my work is developing and Pete’s work is developing, and we see changes for the better."
Any surprises by what they’ve produced? "On occasion," admits Siskowitz, "I’ve found that what surprises me about a subject is the aspect that I choose to bring forward. Sometimes a person in their public life is outwardly very bold, and yet somehow I’ve found a vulnerability somewhere."
The artists met initially at McCarter Theater, where Cook was stage manager and Siskowitz was hired to help paint scenery for a show. Their paths crossed again in the 1970s when Cook earned a B.F.A. in photographic arts and sciences from the School of Visual Arts in New York (he completed his degree in 1980), where Siskowitz was living and studying at the Arts Students’ League. He had several shows of his work and kept a studio across the street from Andy Warhol’s.
Cook, who grew up in Titusville, says his first camera was given to him for a birthday present when he was in high school by his grandfather. "Something clicked. It’s always been something that I was better at than anything else. And it’s been ongoing." Cook’s father was a design engineer with Vannote Harvey in Princeton and his mother was a housewife. A fulltime professional photographer, the bulk of Cook’s work, which is all shot on location, involves portraiture for magazine feature articles and books, including "Great Houses and Gardens of New Jersey," published by Rutgers University Press in 2004.
This summer he will finish photography for a forthcoming book, "Cottages and Mansions of the Jersey Shore," also from Rutgers University Press. He is single and lives in Bucks County with his two Shetland sheepdogs, Molly and Sally.
Siskowitz also traces his artistic aspirations to his childhood. "From the time I was a kid, whatever was in front of me, I could render it. Drawing is my first love. I can remember the first time I noticed that I could draw something placed before me in kindergarten or the first grade. It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. But it never occurred to me to quit and get a real job. It’s always something I wanted to do first and foremost."
He attended the Philadelphia College of Art but did not earn a degree. He says: "It doesn’t work that you go to art school and get a degree and become an artist. You become an artist because you just don’t give it up. The men and women artists who make it into museums almost always do other things to earn an income. You don’t make it only on your work." Through the years, Siskowitz has continued to work in the theater in many of the same capacities as he did at McCarter – stage hand, set builder, and set painter – at theaters throughout New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia. He says he is grateful for the theater work, which provided a way to make money and enabled him to still have time to do his painting.
He says he has gotten to "an age" where he has "put a couple dollars away" and paints fulltime, primarily in gouache and watercolor on paper – and he paints primarily people "from life," not photographs. "If my work adheres to any school, it’s German expressionist," says the artist, who lives in the house in Princeton where he was raised by his father, an insurance salesman for Met Life, and his mother, a housewife. He is unmarried but "attached" and has no children.
The 30 Princetonians chosen to sit for the portraits form a cumulative town and gown portrait of Princeton. "We started with people we knew, and then we just began to consider people we were interested in," says Siskowitz. "It could be something as simple as a look, or it could be somebody who has written something or done something in the arts, or athletics. We just call and sometimes they say no, and sometimes yes, which is always a surprise because we have some high-end folks."
Higher profile subjects include Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon; Milton Babbitt, one of the most celebrated of 20th century composers; and playwright/ director Stephen Wadsworth. Other portrait subjects include tenor Fred Cushman; Laura Fuchs and Cheryl Whitney, dancers with American Repertory Ballet; chef/ caterer Guido Gargione; Sam Wells, independent filmmaker; Leslie Bush, 1964 Olympic gold medalist in diving; and jazz booking agent Larry Hilton.
The exhibit is a stepping stone in the life of a larger ongoing collaboration that the artists call "Project Doubletake." "By the time we reached a critical mass of 30 or 40, we really needed to see it up and exhibited, so that we can get a sense of people’s reactions and where it is going," says Siskowitz. "You always see your work for the first time when you look over someone’s shoulder at your piece.
"We want to keep it going, but we also want to let it evolve spontaneously," continues Siskowitz. "We’ve tried some notable folks, who have just been too busy. We hope by getting this project out into the local public, that when we call, people will say yes and work us into their schedule. Many art careers have been made because of access, so that’s very important."
The artists stress that that Project Doubletake is in no way exclusionary. Their intention is to create a real reflection of Princeton – which means not just the people from the university, the arts, and politicians. Says Siskowitz: "After you thumb through a series of these pictures, you realize that we’re all faces. You’re looking at a drawing, you’re looking at a photo, and you’re looking at your own face."
"Princeton in Your Face: Portraits from Doubletake," black and white photographs by Peter C. Cook and drawings by Howard Siskowitz. Opening reception Friday, February 4, 6 to 8 p.m., Holsome Tea Gallery, 27 Witherspoon Street. 609-279-1592. Through March 1. To see more of Cook’s photography visit www.peterccookphotography.com
Art in Town
Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8777. Joint exhibition featuring the work of Lynn Sulpy and Judy Tobie. Sulpy’s paintings showcase a collection of landscapes inspired by Allentown, New Jersey. Tobie’s handmade paper vessels occupy the floor of the gallery. On view to February 11. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dynasty Arts, 20 Nassau Street, Unit F, 609-688-9388. The recently opened Chinese antique and art gallery features a silk-screen series, "Last Dynasty," oil and watercolor, and limited edition prints. Artist and owner, Lu Zuogeng, combines Chinese brushwork with Western watercolor. Also, Chinese antique furniture of Ming and Qing dynasties. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, 151 Moore Street, 609-806-4314 ext. 3170. Inaugural exhibition, "Til Every Art Be Thine," developed as part of the statewide Transcultural Initiative that includes exhibitions by 17 other professional New Jersey museums and galleries. The focus of the multi-media presentation is a controversial mural that occupies Princeton’s Palmer Square post office. Through February 18. The gallery is open weekdays, 3 to 5 p.m. and other times by appointment. Although guided by John Kavalos, art history teacher at Princeton High School, students run this gallery on their own. It
started in 2000 and has expanded to 10 times the original size.
University Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4192. Exhibit of works by cartoonist Bob Heim. On view to March 2. Gallery is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-4377. Art exhibit featuring works by Jessie Starbuck reflecting the years 2000 to 2004 from both observation and memory. Through February 1.
Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632. Shared show, "Art Teachers Art," for Bernard Moore, Susan Kiley, Anthony Colavita, and Aundretta Wright. Through February 27. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m.
Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511. Shared exhibits, "Closeup: A Photographer and His Lady" by Frank Magalhaes, and "A Taste of New Orleans" by E. J. Greenblat. Exhibits on view through February 6.
Gold Medal Impressions, 43 Princeton Hightstown Road, West Windsor, 609-606-9001. Newly-expanded gallery of photographer Richard Druckman, a freelance photographer for Associated Press. Professional football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and Olympic events. Photographs for sale are matted and framed and in a variety of sizes and prices. Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616. A seasonal outdoor sculpture exhibition featuring the ISC Outstanding Student Achievement Awards Exhibition. "Twisted Logic" by Patrick Dougherty,"Earthwords and Geoglyphs" by Australian artist Andrew Rogers. Show continues to May 1. "Focus on Sculpture 2005," an annual juried exhibition of photographs by amateur photographers and the figurative sculptures of contemporary Norwegian artist Nicolaus Widerberg. On view in the Domestic Arts Building to May 1. Open
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., November to March; open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., April to October.
Hopewell Frame Shop Gallery, 24 West Broad Street, 609-466-0817. Solo show for portrait artist Karen Bannister. She finds the human face and form most appealing and uses live models whenever possible. On view through February 26. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Louisa Melrose Gallery, 41 Bridge Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-1470. "Art Blooms," an exhibit featuring florals and spring scenes in all media. Artists include Stephanie Amato, W, Carl Burger, Christian Corey, Christina Debarry, and Christine Debrosky. Through February 28. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
La Principessa Ristorante, Route 27, Kingston Mall, 609-921-3043. "La Dolce Vita, " a collection of original photographs from Italia by Ed Tseng. The exhibition remains on permanent display. Restaurant hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 4:30 to 9 p.m.
Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272. Exhibition of work by prominent Chinese artists "Ancient Arts in a Modern World: Contemporary Chinese Art." Artists include Zhi Lin, Hong Zhu An, Zhenmin Ji, and Chao-Han Huang. Exhibit on view through February 12. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Taste of the Town, 5 Railroad Place, Hopewell Borough, 609-466-3666. "Reflections of Italy," an exhibit of photographs by Michele Bartran Mosner. Through April 14.
Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788. 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.
Contemporary Photographs from the Museum Collection." Through February 6.
College of New Jersey Sesquicentennial, Art Gallery, Holman Hall, Ewing, 609-771-2198. Circa 1855: International Art Exhibit featuring French, American, British, and Japanese works from 1835 to 1875. Works include Ames, Cotot, Daumier, Homer, Pissaro, and Whistler. Closed from March 6 to 13 (spring break). Through March 30. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.
Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, 609-620-6026. Annual Student Exhibition group show on exhibit through February 18. Gallery open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.
Mason Gross School of the Arts, Civic Square Galleries, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7511. Exhibit of 20th century American art icons from artists Will Barnet and Bob Blackburn. Through February 4.
The Pennington School, 112 West Delaware Avenue, Pennington, 609-737-6128. Exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the school’s O’Hanlon Hall. Artifacts, news clippings, and photographs assembled by archivist Mary Alice Quigley. The building, built in 1900, was the largest building in Pennington Borough when it burned to the ground in a fire on January 16, 1980. Through April 15. Exhibit hours are Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in accordance with the school calendar.
Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20 Library Place, 609-497-7990. William Hogan and Howard Berelson’s exhibit of Bible Drawings. On view through February 11. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 9 p.m.
Rider University Art Gallery, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, 609-896-5192. Diane Burko, "Landscapes: Paint/ Pixel." Exhibit runs through Friday, February 25. Show features panoramic views of Grand Canyon, Himalayan peaks, coastlines of California, Maine and France. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Art in the Workplace
Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hopewell Campus, 609-252-5120. Outdoor sculpture show features works by seven prominent East Coast artists. Exhibition is on view during business hours and will remain in its location for two years.
Art by the River
Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville. "Little Gems," an exhibit of small-scale works in many different media. Artists include Joy Barth,Bob Baum, Gail Bracegirdle, and Joy Kreves. Through February 6. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Gratz Gallery, 30 West Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-4300. Fourth annual exhibition of new oils featuring local landscapes by Jan Lipes of Solebury. Lipes is an emergency room doctor who, after the loss of his physical abilities due to MS, became a painter. Show runs to February 6. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
New Hope Arts, Union Square, West Bridge Street and Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-862-3396. Second annual New Hope Sculpture Exhibition featuring an indoor exhibition of more than 88 works by 43 nationally and internationally recognized artists and an outdoor show of seven large-scale works installed throughout the town. Through April. See story page 42.
Art In Trenton
New Jersey State Museum, Galleries at 225 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. "Nikon’s Small World," a touring exhibit recognizing excellence in photography through the microscope. Trenton is the only state venue for the exhibit that runs through February 4. Featured images include differentiating neuronal cells from the Scripps Research Institute and an image of a spiderwort flower anther. The gallery is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Old Barracks Museum, Barrack Street, Trenton, 609-396-1776. "Furniture, Curios and Pictures: 100 Years of Collecting by the Old Barracks," a display in the exhibit gallery is included in the tour admission fee. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the last tour is at 3:50 p.m.
James A. Michener Art Museum, Union Square Complex, Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-340-9800. New Hope satellite facility opens with the relocation of the popular, interactive multi-media show, "Creative Bucks County: A Celebration of Art and Artists," featuring 19th and 20th century painters, writers, composers, and playwrights. Also on exhibit, "Pennsylvania Impressionists of the New Hope School." Also, "The Contemporary Eye" featuring the contemporary art scene focusing on 12 regional artists who work in media including painting, woodworking, and photography. Through May 8, 2005. Museum admission $6 adults; $2 youth. 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 Mondays.
James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, 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. It is a permanent exhibition. Open 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. Museum admission $6.50 adults; $4 students. www.michenerartmuseum.org.
Also, "Impossible to Forget: The Nazi Camps Fifty Years After." The 88 photographs were produced over a 12-year period by the English photographer Michael Kenna. On view through April 10. $4 in addition to regular admission.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 709-721 Catharine Street, Philadelphia, 215-922-3456. An exhibit of 88 paintings focuses on Rajput courts of India from the 17th to 19th centuries. Illustrates themes of pious devotion, poetic love, the play of Hindu gods, and the pleasures and intrigues of court life. Exhibit runs through mid-April.
Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "Designs for Theater, Opera, and Dance." Through February 13. "Beyond the Border: Picturing Mexico in Children’s Book Illustrations." Through February 6. "Allusive Form: Painting as Idea." Through April 30, 2005. "The Color of Night: How Artists Work with Darkness." Through July 31, 2005.
Ongoing exhibits are "Art in Paris from Daumier to Rodin" and "Japonisme: Selections from the Collection." Also, "American Photorealism," through March 27, and "Beyond the Limits of Socialist Realism: Part II: Theater Posters from the Soviet Union.
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. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free. 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. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free. Free admission on the first Sunday of each month.