In the Galleries

Art in Town

Campus Arts

Other Museums

Art In Trenton

Art in the Workplace

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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 31,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Donna Lish’s Lustrous Threads

If it gets dusty, just take it out and hose it


says Donna L. Lish, referring to a glittering fabric wall sculpture

that hangs in her Clinton studio. Her manner toward the work is not

cavalier, but realistic. Lish has a long association with unusual

materials: lustrous metallic threads, multi-colored monofilament,

and glass beads of all sizes and hues.

Lish’s art conveys a joyous use of her materials. Her works include

free-standing sculptural works with enigmatic titles; large


pieces that might hang or floor-float, or both; and wall hangings

stitched together from softly draping pieces of machine-knitted


or patterned from individually-strung beautiful beads. Her goal for

all her works is the same: to "synthesize image and psyche."

She says her work in progress always reflects her own psychological


"Changing Metaphor," Lish’s first solo exhibition at the


Museum of Art, or anywhere, opens Sunday, February 4, with a 2 to

4 p.m. reception. Featuring about a dozen new works, it will run


March 18 in the ground-floor gallery of the museum. Kristen Accola,

director of exhibitions, refers to the "quirky, idiosyncratic

nature of the work," along with Lish’s unusual materials. During

her seven years at the museum, Accola has been aware of the


and diversity" of Lish’s output. "Her material is so


she could keep doing the same things. And yet she keeps exploring

new territory."

One Lish installation, called "Depletion," shows three curved

shafts crowded with blue-toned beads, above undulating hand-knitted

suggestions of oceanic surfaces, with a machine-knitted air stream

suspended between them. It may simply represent the loss of water

through evaporation — those rising, intensely-colored


— among various other kinds of depletion and loss. "People

used to watercolors of the ocean might not know that this is water

too! It’s a spiritual view of water," Lish says.

Lish’s day job and her own work mesh into a seamless continuum. Having

taught all grade levels in the district, she now teaches K-3 art in

the Bridgewater-Raritan schools, where her husband, Richard, teaches

high school science. A fit, long-haired blond, she speaks in a high,

almost childlike voice loaded with expression — the archetypical

elementary school teacher, of course.

Born in Morristown in 1948, the oldest of five children, Lish is the

family artist. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom, and her father was

in construction. Lish remembers watching him work with his hands and

fix things; she’s sure she inherited those abilities from him, along

with her problem-solving skill. She and her husband are the parents

of two daughters, Helena and Jessie, both in college, and their son,

Andre, is a senior at North Hunterdon High.

And professionally, it’s Doctor Lish, by the way. She earned her


and master’s degrees (in art education and studio art) at Montclair

State University; and her doctorate, in creative arts education, from

Rutgers University. Fearing that her own art was getting stale, she

enrolled in a doctoral program, and never regretted it. Besides the

inherent mental stimulation, she also developed the discipline to

write papers with coherence and clarity. This all carried over to

her art. She didn’t say so, but her habit of spending weekend time

and a few hours each night on her own art may have been fostered


the years when she did her own school work on top of her teaching.

To visit Lish’s studio is to escape the monochromes of January for

a room full of gorgeous colors suffused with the artist’s own animated

talk about what she’s up to. Her workspace is a small room off the

entrance to her home, just a few blocks from the Hunterdon Museum,

in Clinton, where she and her husband have lived for the past 23


To begin with, you quickly forget any narrow ideas you may have had

about monofilament, the synthetic fiber most of us associate with

fishing. In Lish’s hands, and on her knitting machine, it has become

a versatile, if not all-purpose, art medium. Spools of bright-hued

monofilament, in an array of weights, sit in one corner, while a


bright spring-green creation made of monofilament rests in another.

This will become the floor-floating part of an installation piece,

"Losing Ground," destined for the upcoming show.

Why monofilament? Because Lish’s husband, Richard,


fresh-water fishing, and they took a fly-tying course together.


Lish loves intricate hand-work, and as an artist, sees endless


where the rest of us see just . . . fishing line. Art will out, even

when the most unlikely materials are involved. Consider, for instance,

minimalist Robert Morris’s current show at the Sonnabend Gallery in

New York of sculptures made from thick gray felt, long one of his

signature materials.

"It resists the technique," Lish says about machine-knitting

monofilament. In choosing to cast against type and use the fiber as

if it were yarn, she can achieve a look, and a form, she seeks.


also plays a very basic role in her beaded sculptures, with its


weights and sometimes-stretchiness serving as the connecting


for every single bead she makes part of her evolving patterns.

Some artists wax rhapsodic about their materials. The painter may

lust for the smell and feel of oil paint; the sculptor of giant,


columns speaks poetically about the endurance of iron; a printmaker

craves mesh, or pieces of sponge, or crumpled soda cans — all

for their texture and interest. As one artist might clip and collect

home-design examples that could turn up in her painted scenes, and

another prides herself on her paintbrush collection, Donna Lish is

always on the lookout for beads to help her realize her vision.

Her studio bears witness to successful shopping for materials. She

stores the beads — usually glass, although some are semi-precious

stones, like turquoise — in vessels of all kinds on the shelves

that surround her knitting machine. And on the subject of


metaphor," the beads are a visual siren song, luring the eye,

enticing it to move among the range of indescribable colors. Hearing

that a reference librarian planned to throw out the school’s old


card catalog cabinet, Lish immediately laid claim to it, with its

long and narrow drawers that will be perfect to house transparent

packets of beads, arranged in color gradations. The cabinet is


for Lish’s studio, where Sam, a pale, long-haired cat — part Maine

coon cat, larger part master of all he surveys — shadows her every

step, sometimes ensconcing himself on a work in progress.

Here and there on the shelves are fabric remnants and intriguing


small, square, painted houses on stilt-legs; hollow vessels, or traps,

that combine Lish’s knitting and beading with fish hooks — these

are stored with hooks facing in for cat-protection purposes. Elegant

little accordion-pleated "radiator fins" rest on a shelf.

Lish has cleaned up the copper and topped each one with trim to


the patterns of these old auto parts her father had saved.

Like many addictions, Lish’s desire for beads started innocently


Trained in fiber arts and textiles to begin with, she had long used

machine-knitted fabric in her art, realizing only gradually that she

wanted more structure, more foundation strength for her work. Then,

as a perfect change of pace from dissertation-writing, along came

a beading workshop. With beads, she quickly learned, she could create

spines, skeletons, armatures for her sculptures — "Conscience

Keeper" is one example of that synergy. In all such works, Lish

builds free-standing forms with bead-strung monofilament; her bead

arrangements are neither wrapped around anything else, nor are they


For topographical interest in her beaded wall hangings, Lish may use

stretchable monofilament. By tightening it, she can build nubs or

bumps; or, for a raised center, she may work a circular pattern over

a domed shape, like a strainer. Her variously-sized needles and beads,

and the range of monofilament weights all allow her to work back into

the design of a wall hanging if she wishes.

"Fixation," a particularly vivid beaded piece, lay on a coffee

table nearby as we spoke. Lish had worked the center of this one over

a strainer to add dimension. She showed how she had "resolved"

the design, extending toward the perimeter with a matching-color bead

line a diamond shape she had especially liked to form the edge. But,

she laughed, her son had recently had friends over, and one of them

must have played with it. The giveaway: she had found it


quickly apparent because the monofilament knots showed.

No harm done: she simply massaged the middle to remind it of its shape

and re-positioned the piece right-side-up. Eventually, it will be

pinned to her studio wall, perhaps with a sheet of paper stuck behind

it. Because she shows her work world-wide, Lish needs a visual


of what’s due when, and where. Mounting the specs with the work does

the trick. A 1999 fellowship from the State Council on the Arts


photographing of her work. Concurrent with her solo exhibition, Lish’s

work will also be shown in the 2001 annual members exhibition at HMA.

Although Lish enters her work in competitions for fine art, sculpture,

basketry, craft, surface design, and even art of the stitch, and it

has been accepted in all those categories, she calls herself


She prefers to "focus on her work, then get it out


when she thinks it appropriate for a competition, she says. "All

the cellular chaos going on in each piece" defies category, but

she finds that explaining her thought process during creation often

results in acceptance.

"I use various textile mediums and any other ingredients that

will achieve sculptural forms," Donna Lish says, describing her

work. Well, yes. That’s accurate enough as it stands, but where are

the words to suggest this artist’s brilliantly-colored bead works,

her challenging installations, her airy, self-illuminating knitted

pieces? Maybe one work is worth a thousand words.

— Pat Summers

Donna Lish: Changing Metaphor, Hunterdon Museum of

Art , Lower Center Street, Clinton, 908-735-8415. Opening reception

for the solo show of abstract sculpture built of beads, plastic


and found objects. Also opening, the "2001 Annual Members’


featuring work by area artists in all media juried by Carol Rosen.

Free. Sunday, February 4, 2 to 4 p.m.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both

shows continue to March 18.

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In the Galleries

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Art in Town

Borders Books, Nassau Park, 609-514-0040. "Art at

Your Feet," an exhibit of painted floor cloths by Tahirih Smith.

Smith is a mural artist from the Dominican Republic who has revived

the ancient art of painted canvas rugs. With bright acrylics and


she paints her designs on unstretched canvas and coats the finished

piece with polyurethane to withstand foot traffic. Trained as an


she also works as a research chemist.

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. Oil

paintings and prints by Carrie Patterson. She holds an MFA in painting

from the University of Pennsylvania where she received the Angelo

Savelli painting award. To February 2.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158

Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Old Traditions, New Beginnings,"

a major exhibition celebrating 250 years of Princeton Jewish history,

jointly presented and exhibited at the Jewish Center of Princeton.

This is the first-ever exhibit on the history of Princeton’s Jewish

community, scheduled to coincide with the Jewish Center’s 50th


Topics addressed include early arrivals, family life, social


work and business pursuits, religious traditions, and anti-Semitism.

On view through March.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street,


Dining room exhibition features works by Watercolorists Unlimited,

an artists’ group whose members include Phil Aklonis, Peggie


Betty Whelan Donovan, Vera Harrop, Betty Klank, Elizabeth Roedell,

Patric Spovieri, and Lorraine Williams. Part of the proceeds benefit

the Medical Center. On view daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To March 14.

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Campus Arts

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

Impressions: Art of the Print in the Western World," to March

19. "Contemporary Photographs," to February 25. "The


Tradition in Drawings," to January 28. On extended view in the

Bowen Gallery, Richard Serra’s "Weight and Measure" etchings.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday

1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection are every Saturday at 2 p.m.


The permanent collection features a strong representation of Western

European paintings, old master prints, and original photographs.


of Chinese, Pre-Columbian Mayan, and African art are considered among

the museum’s most impressive. Not housed in the museum but part of

the collection is the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection of


outdoor sculpture, with works by such modern masters as Henry Moore,

Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, and George Segal located throughout

the campus.

Princeton University, Firestone Library,


The Graduate School continues its centennial observance with the


"A Community of Scholars: Graduate Education at Princeton,"

an exhibition of more than 100 photographs, documents, and artifacts

that chronicle the evolution of graduate studies at Princeton. Library

is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday to 8 p.m.;

Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 8.

Princeton University, Milberg Gallery, Firestone

Library, 609-258-5049. "Art Deco Paris: 1900-1925," a portrait

of the spirited, affluent Parisian society of the early 20th century

through "pochoir" (or stencil) prints. The show features 100

color prints, including a folio by Matisse, reflecting the era of

jazz, tango, high fashion, and modern art. Library is open Monday

through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday to 8 p.m.; Saturday and

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 8.

College of New Jersey, Art Gallery, Holman Hall,


National Printmaking Exhibition, a biennial juried exhibition. Of

200 submissions received, 40 works were selected by juror Diana


Gandolfi. Area artists represented in the show are Greta Anderson,

Brett Borland, Claire Heimarck, Lucy Graves McVicker, George Olexa,

Michael Teters, and Cyndi Wish. Techniques represented include


lithograph, stencil, woodcut, etching, serigraph, and mezzotint.


hours are Monday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.;

and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. To February 14.

Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center,

West Windsor, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. "Inclusions," an


of prints and handmade paper by Margaret K. Johnson and oil paintings

and collages by Pat Martin. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Thursday,

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m; Thursday


from 6 to 8 p.m.; and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Gallery talk

is Wednesday, February 7, at 7 p.m., for the show that runs to



"This exhibition pairs two of the region’s most respected


says curator Tricia Fagan. "In some ways their creative processes

are almost mirror opposites. Maggi Johnson plans out her work using

a minimum of line, color, and material to express a precise concept.

But if `less is more’ for Maggi, Pat Martin’s motto is certainly `more

is more.’ She develops her work instinctively, incorporating layer

upon layer of color, texture, and material to develop her


Both artists, she adds, share "a luminous elegance, an


and a freshness of approach."

Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts,


609-620-6026. "The Making of a Monument," an exhibition of

drawings, maquettes, and models for Shahn’s Martin Luther King Jr.

Memorial in Jersey City. The work, which consists of a monumental

bronze bust of the civil rights leader along with bronze plaques


the struggles and commemorating those whose lives were lost, was


in 1999. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;

except Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.To February 17.

Commissioned by New Jersey Transit through a public competition, the

monument stands at the new Martin Luther King Drive Station of the

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.

Peddie School, Mariboe Gallery, Hightstown, 609-490-7550.

Recent works by Guy Ciarcia, a formalist painter who moved toward

texture and relief sculpture, incorporating collections of found toys

onto two-dimensional and three-dimensional supports. Barbie dolls,

sports action figures, stuffed animals, and Christmas decorations

emerge from the surface of his multi-media reliefs, unified by color,

texture, line, and subject. The gallery is open Monday to Friday,

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To February 16.

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Other Museums

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

609-292-6464. Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45

p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and state holidays. In the

Friends Cafe Gallery, an exhibit and sale of Chinese brush painting

and calligraphy by Seow-Chu See, to March 4. All proceeds benefit

the museum’s acquisitions and publications fund.

On extended view: "The Modernists;" "Fine and Decorative

Arts Collections;" "New Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and

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

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

Collection of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire;

New Jersey and the Great Ice Age;" "Dinosaur Turnpike: Treks

through New Jersey’s Piedmont;" "Amber: the Legendary


and "Washington Crossing the Delaware."

American Hungarian Museum, 300 Somerset Street, New


732-846-5777. "Herend: Hungarian Porcelain at its Finest,"

an exhibition of hand-painted porcelain pieces created since the


founding in 1839. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to

4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To February 25. $5 donation.

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


215-340-9800. "The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania


Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest bequeathed 59 paintings that tell the

story of the renowned art colony, centered in New Hope, in the early

20th Century. To February 11. Museum hours Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m.

to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday

evenings to 9 p.m. Admission $5 adults; $1.50 students.

Also, "In Line with Al Hirschfeld," a retrospective


Hirschfeld’s life, career, and the history of the performing arts.

Exhibit, with accompanying lecture, tour, and film series, to February

11. "Carved, Incised, Burnished and Gilded: The Bucks County


Tradition," featuring 50 objects that tell the story of the


well-regarded group of frame artists led by Frederick Harer and Ben

Badura, to March 18.

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,

New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. The newly expanded and renovated museum

features "Michael Mazur: A Print Retrospective" covering a

40-year span of the artist’s career, to February 16. Museum hours

are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,

noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults age 18 and up; free for

children and students; admission is free on the first Sunday of each


Also on exibit: "Monotypes in Contemporary American


from the rich resources of the Rutgers Archives for Printmaking


to February 18. "Opening Up: A Half-Century of Artistic Dialogue

between Japan and the West" (ongoing). And "A World of Stage:

Designs for Theater, Opera, and Dance from the Riabov Collection,"

to March 31.

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Art In Trenton

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436.


Invasion," an invitational exhibit featuring California artists

Shantelle Julian and Douglas Knight, curated by George Olexa. Gallery

hours are Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. To February 11.

"These works mix realism and surrealism creating not a dream image

but a physiological disturbance. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes


and always questioning," says curator Olexa. "Unlike Dali

who, at least in his later work, distorted all elements of a


work into a total surreal environment and landscape, Julian and Knight

focus almost exclusively on one element, the human eye. If it were

not for the fact that they are well done, the unblinking relentless

star of these eyes would be threatening. Instead, they seem to be

asking the viewer to solve their plight."

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall-Winter Exhibition. In the Domestic Arts Building:

"James Dinerstein: New Sculpture," recent works in cast


"Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture."

Show continues to April 8. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to

9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission is $4


through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday. Annual


start at $45.

Area Galleries

Atelier Gallery, 108 Harrison Street, Frenchtown,


Recent paintings by Mitchell Yarmark. A filmmaker by training, Yarmark

started painting in the 1970s; this is his first solo show. Gallery

is open Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To February 12.

Yarmark describes his non-objective canvases as a "stadium"

in which he experiments with media, mixing oil, encaustic, powdered

and metal pigment, gold and other metal leafs. "I like to dig

into the layers to expose what is beneath the surface," he says,

adding that he has turned up "muted figures and portraits, incised

and faded into most of the hieroglyphics of the painting."

Hopewell Frame Shop, 24 West Broad Street, Hopewell,


"Ink Dance," an exhibition of watercolors and calligraphy

on rice paper by Seow-Chu See. Also on view, "Six Figures,"

sculptures in stoneware by Julie Fox. Both shows to February 10. Open

Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A student of the Lin-Nan styles of traditional and contemporary


painting, See has won many awards. She says the artist’s sense of

purpose comes from within. "To me, painting is a way of conveying

and expressing my feelings," she says. "Feelings, happy or

sad, are precious to my being, hence they are beautiful. Through my

art I hope to express these emotions and my enthusiasm for love of

nature and life itself."

Printmaking Council of New Jersey, 440 River Road, North

Branch, 908-725-2110. "The Senses," a group exhibition of

works inspired by the compound wonders of touch, taste, smell,


and vision. Media include photography, monotype, woodblock, and


etching. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4

p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To February 17.

Top Of Page
Art in the Workplace

Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Route 206, Lawrenceville,

609-252-6275. "Contemporary Still Life: Vanitas to Veritas,"

featuring works by 13 artists from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New

York who explore the traditional still-life genre in new ways. Area

artists include Joanne Augustine, Betty Curtiss, Jamie Greenfield,

Wendy Wilkinson-Gordon, and Lisa Manheim. Gallery hours are Monday

to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and weekends and holidays, 1 to 5 p.m.

To March 4.

Educational Testing Service, Chauncey Conference Center,

Carter and Rosedale roads, 609-921-9000. In the Brodsky Gallery, a

collection of prints by Wendell T. Brooks that blend athleticism and

African influences. Since 1971, Brooks has works as an associate


of art at the College of New Jersey. Exhibit is open Monday through

Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., to February 14.

Brooks creates his art through an original technique that combines

intaglio and stencil. He has had exhibitions throughout the U.S. and

abroad. His work is permanently displayed at the Smithsonian and the

Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

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