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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the April 30, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Edward Ranney: Space and Place

Silver becomes a precious metal again — as art

medium and as metaphor — under the eye and hand of photographer

Edward Ranney. In an exhibition of more than 60 gelatin silver prints

at the Princeton University Art Museum, Ranney gives us visual studies

of ancient and modern landscapes that bathe the eye with alluring

qualities of stillness and the enduring spirit of sacred spaces.

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

a show of works spanning the years 1970 to 1999, is the New Mexico

artist’s first retrospective survey. On view to June 7, the collection

was the gift of University alumnus and Wall Street financier John

B. Elliott, Class of ’51. Elliott, who died in 1997, is best known

for his world-class collection of Chinese calligraphy, exhibited at

Princeton in 1999 and subsequently bequeathed to the Art Museum.

Photography was another of Elliott’s spheres of interest, and in 1989

he decided to acquire, for the museum, a career-wide collection of

pictures by Ranney. During the years that followed, the museum staff

worked closely with the artist to select 100 images that comprise

the collection. Represented are his earliest works, his major landscape

series of Central and South America, images of the American Southwest,

of the Peruvian desert coast, and some well-known marvels from his

three published books: "Stonework of the Maya" (1974), "Monuments

of the Incas" (1982; reprinted in 1990), and the more recent,

"Prairie Passage" (1998).

In a lecture he called "Space and Place" in April, Ranney

described the late 1960s as a watershed in photography’s dialogue

with political and sociological concerns. Invoking the images and

ideas of Robert Adams, he showed how, beginning in the early 1970s,

American photographers turned away from the heroic landscape toward

the everyday. Ranney says it was a moment when three truths about

landscape photography came into focus. For him, landscape’s true subjects

are geography, autobiography, and metaphor.

"Robert Adams recognized the overbearing presence of contemporary

development and the depressing and shoddy nature of the transformation

of the landscape, the sprawl that was creeping into every corner of

the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains," explains Princeton curator

Toby Jurovics. "There was a shift away from the idea of the landscape

as a heroic subject toward the everyday. A generation of photographers

emerged with a sensitivity toward the subtleties of the lived landscape."

"But no matter how damaged a landscape," he continues, "there’s

always an overriding sense of grace that can be found in light, in

weather, and in the emotional and sensual elements of the landscape."

Ranney’s unpeopled landscapes are a potent mix of poetry and fact.

He looks for meaning in the less well-traveled landscape. And he gives

us a way to find our place in that landscape.

From the very start of his career, he documented the solemn and sacred

splendor of mountain landscapes that were venerated by the Incas and

recognized by the artist as an ineffable union of heaven and earth.

His goal is nothing if not ambitious. By working in series, he wants

his photographs, taken together, to capture the very cosmology of

a culture. And it is the way Ranney manages to straddle two distinct

worlds — as documentarian and art-maker — that makes his work

so valuable.

Born and raised in Illinois, not far from Chicago, Ranney went to

Yale (Class of 1964), where he studied English literature, Spanish,

and art history. As a young man just out of college, he traveled to

Peru on a Fulbright fellowship to study the Quechua Indians near Cusco.

There he began photographing the ancient Inca ruins, first with a

35 mm camera, and then, in 1971, with a large format (8-by-10-inch

negative) camera.

"As archaeological sites are alternately destroyed, over-visited,

or neglected, our photographs of them must now often stand for the

sites themselves," wrote Ranney early in his career. The 30-year

span from then to now is marked by a breathtaking continuity of interest.

Although he eventually settled on the 5-by-7-inch view camera, even

at the earliest stages of his career Ranney made some strikingly original

observations that served him well over the years. His crystalline

black-and-white silver prints would never be confused with the "snapshot"

esthetic of 35 mm negative film.

"We should be continuously aware of the value and need for purely

visual interpretations of monuments," he notes today, "interpretations

which though not always scientifically informative do inform us in

other ways, particularly in giving us a feeling for the spirit of

the culture."

Yet even as he establishes the value of esthetic observation and understanding,

we recognize that Ranney’s art interpretations are informed by rigorous

research. Over the course of years, he has come to know his subject

well. He has played a crucial role in the discovery and dissemination

of the history of photography in Peru, championing in particular the

legacy of Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi, an indigenous Andean

admired for the photographs he made from the 1920s until his death

in 1973.

Ranney’s 1971 photograph of the Intihuatana altar stone

at Machu Picchu isolates and captures the essence of an elegant archaic

form carved out of living rock. Bathed in the white light of its high-altitude

setting, the image is filled with evanescent mists and pure white

cloud. The image establishes a meeting place between earthbound rock

and heavenly vapors. Without an accompanying text the purpose of this

stepped altar may elude us. Yet the weathered surface, worn smooth

as a baby’s bottom, provides its own kind of testimony, a testimony

that conjures thoughts of the peoples who once used this site.

"These pictures are sort of about rubble, sort of about nothing,"

said Ranney as he introduced his images of "Star Axis," a

20-year chronicle of the excavation and construction of Charles Ross’s

massive and as yet unfinished earth art work in eastern New Mexico.

"Star Axis" is a naked-eye observatory designed to focus on

the North Star and the relationship of human form to cosmic time and

space. In 1979 Ranney began what he calls "archaeology in reverse,"

a study of a landscape-altering monument on its way up, rather than

on its way down. And yet, in the context of this retrospective exhibition,

and the site’s extensive excavation, Ranney’s "rubble" and

tantalizing suggestion of emerging forms creates vivid parallels to

the kinship between structure and ruin.

As he explained to his Princeton audience, Ranney does

not go to a site "to make two or three good pictures," in

fact he may start photographing believing there aren’t "two or

three good pictures" to be had. But by forcing himself into the

role of documentarian, he also finds that in the process of covering

a site, he uncovers the rare pictures that it holds. "It’s not

just about archaeology," he says. But equally, it’s not just about

crystalline landscapes.

Taking America’s first generation of 19th-century expedition photographers

as a role model, Ranney recaptures their sense of awe in the presence

of a landscape that had been seen by few, and that stretched unrecorded

before them.

Ranney’s slide show included an image of New Mexico’s San Juan Pueblo,

captured on a glass plate negative by expedition photographer Timothy

O’Sullivan in 1874. The image makes a startlingly comfortable companion

to Ranney’s contemporary work.

You can appreciate the bond between Ranney’s art and curator Peter

Bunnell, a student and a scholar of another photographer of the spirit,

Minor White. Ranney’s focus on abstract meaning and spirituality is

in the tradition of Minor White. In Bunnell’s essay for the small

catalog that accompanies the show, he writes that Ranney’s luminous

photographs "invite viewers to project themselves into the image

and sense the `spirit’ beneath the surface."

In 1973 Ranney bought a home in Chaquaco, New Mexico, and began creating

a visual diary of his evolving landscape there. One of his images

reveals traces in the landscape of Las Madres Pueblo, a pre-Columbian

settlement of 1,000 residents near his home. He also chronicles the

visual legacy of the more recent historic land grant villages of New


Some of Ranney’s most powerful work is his most recent — his continuing

series of emotionally charged landscapes of the Andean coastal desert

of Peru, remarkable for the carefully rendered tension between the

subtle shadows of ruins emerging from the desert floor and the vast

expanses of these open valleys that begin against the Andes Mountains

and terminate at the Pacific Ocean.

He is currently collaborating on a book of images and words with art

writer Lucy Lippard (also a transplanted New Mexican). Destined for

the book is the 1999 diptych, "Pueblo Blanco, Looking Southeast,"

and "Pueblo Blanco, Looking Southwest," included in this show.

His goal for the book: A series of images in aggregate, that together

capture the immortal spirit of "Space and Place."

Ed Ranney, Princeton University Art Museum, McCormick

106, 609-258-3788. "The Photographs of Ed Ranney: The John B.

Elliott Collection." Show is on view to June 7.

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Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8777.

Sculptures by Kristin Gudjonsdottir. A native of Iceland, Gudjonsdottir

graduated in 1995 in sculpture and glass from the California College

of Arts and Crafts. She has shown in galleries and museums in California,

Idaho, Washington, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and in Iceland.

In 2001 she won the best in show purchase award at Rocky Mountain

Arts Center. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To May 9.

Lost and Found Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, 609-497-9499.

"First You Must Take Direction," functional artworks by Boris

Bally created from traffic signs, including serving trays, bowls,

chairs, key chains, and pins. Gallery open Wednesday to Saturday,

10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To May 10.

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

"Past Made Present: The Paintings of Ilona Zaremba," solo

exhibit by the Polish native now living in Canada. Her richly textured

mixed-media compositions are included in many corporate and private

collections, including that of actor Steve Martin. Four of her paintings

appear on screen in Martin’s new movie, "Bringing Down the House."

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To May 26.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4211.

"Art First!" International juried exhibition and sale of art

and fine crafts by professional artists with physical and mental disabilities.

Over 300 pieces are mounted throughout the public corridors of the

Medical Center; on view to May 18.

Jurors include Anne Reeves, executive director Arts Council of Princeton;

Rebecca Sender, associate director Princeton University Art Museum;

and Margaret Kennard Johnson, former art instructor at the Museum

of Modern Art.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, Moore Street, 609-806-4314.

"Memoir of an Assimilated Family," works by Judith Brodsky,

Princeton printmaker, Rutgers art professor emerita, and founder of

the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper. Brodsky’s installation

of 50 photo etchings were created from snapshots of various members

of her extended family, dating back to the 19th century. Each image

carries the artist’s personal anecdote about the people represented

and her thoughts on the process of assimilation. Gallery hours are

Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; and by appointment. To May 9.

Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100.

Paintings, prints, and drawings by Jennifer Cadoff. The co-curator

of the Jewish Center Gallery is showing her work there for the first

time with a show whose connecting thread is nature, particularly flowers

and landscapes. Part of sales benefits the center. Open Monday to

Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed

Saturdays. To May 16.

Princeton Photo, 126 Nassau Street, 609-683-1211. David

J. Simchock’s exhibition of travel photography, "Vagabond Vistas."

The images were captured during the artist’s three-year journey through

five continents. To May 15.

SweeTree Gallery, 286 Alexander Street, 609-934-8665.

"Chickens to Go," hand-made chickens by artist Maria del Fabro,

who awoke one morning and started making chickens. Her chickens come

out of handwork traditions passed down to her from her Italian ancestors;

they are made of wool, cotton and other natural fabrics. Open Fridays

and Saturdays, 1 to 6 p.m. To May 24.

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Art in the Workplace

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

609-252-6275. "Outsider Art: The Inner Worlds of Self-Taught Artists,"

an exhibit of 75 works by 30 international artists referred to as

self-taught, visionary, and intuitive. Aloise Corbaz, Bill Traylor,

and Adolf Wolfli, historical figures whose works helped define the

category, are represented. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;

weekends and holidays, 1 to 5 p.m. To June 15.

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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 arts into 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 "Shuffling the Deck: The Collection Reconsidered," a

show featuring artists Sanford Biggers, Anne Chu, Ellen Harvey, and

Zhang Hongtu, curated by Eugenie Tsai, to June 29. "The Arts of

Asia: Works in the Permanent Collection" to June 30. "The

New Vulgarians: New York Pop," to July 13. "In Pursuit of

the Past: Provenance Research at the Princeton University Art Museum,"

an exhibition organized to provide viewers with a behind-the-scenes

look at the research methods used to trace the history of works of

art. To August 10.

Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson

School, 609-258-1651. "Ricanstructions," a selection of works

by Puerto Rican artist Juan Sanchez. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.

to 5 p.m.. To June 7.

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

609-771-2198. Annual juried exhibition of art by students selected

by Juan Sanchez, artist and Hunter College professor of art. Gallery

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

and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. To April 30.

Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center,

609-586-4800, ext. 3589. Visual Arts Student Show, the annual show

highlighting work by MCCC visual arts students studying with faculty

that includes Mel Leipzig, Joan Needham, Frank Rivera, Yevgeniy Fiks,

Tina La Placa, Eric Kunsman, and Michael Welliver. 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 May 15.

Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville,

609-620-6026. "Seeing: Selections from Collection Dancing Bear"

featuring 70 intriguing works focusing of eyes from the photography

collection of W.M. Hunt ’64. Hunt is a New York-based collection,

curator, and champion of photography. He is director of photography

at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in Chelsea. Open Monday to Friday, 9

a.m. to noon; and 1 to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to

noon. To June 7.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20

Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Mythic Women: Helen and Clytemnestra,"

an exhibition of paintings and sculpture inspired by contemporary

women and mythic stories by Ann Stewart Anderson. Open Monday to Saturday,

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. To May 3.

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. 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.

Ellarslie Open XXI, the annual juried show. Distinguished juror Robert

Sakson selected 85 works by 72 artists from the 310 entries submitted.

Awards for "Best in Show" in painting, sculpture, printmaking,

mixed-media, and photography. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to

3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To June 15.

A vital member of the Trenton art scene for over 40 years, juror Robert

Sakson is a member of almost every outstanding watercolor society

and painting group in the U.S. His work is in the permanent collections

of the Princeton University Art Museum, Ellarslie, Avon Corp, AT&T,

and others.

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Art by the River

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

"Paintings, Constructions and Deconstructions" by Annelies

Van Dommelen and Stacie Speer Scott. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday,

and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To May 4.

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

"Stepping Into the Future," a group show featuring recent

graduates of the Pratt Institute Patty Bowman, Nicole Margaretten,

Ted McGraff, and Camille Wainer. Guest curator is C.M. Gross. Open

Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To May 5.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804.

Spring exhibition featuring watercolors, oils, and mixed-media by

W. Carl Burger, and oil paintings by Colette Sexton. Gallery hours

are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To June 1.

Gratz Gallery, 30 West Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-4300.

An exhibition celebrating the work of Philadelphia Ten artist Maude

Drein Bryant. In addition to 50 works by Bryant, the show includes

works by Fern Coppedge, M.E. Price, Isabel Cartwright, Helen McCarthy,

and others. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday,

noon to 6 p.m. To May 4.

Area Galleries

Creative Artist Guild, Hills Gallery, 601 Route 206, Hillsborough,

908-281-1855. "Spring for Art," group show features Jane Adriance,

Susan Antin, Connie Gray, Betty Klank, Mary Kramarenko, Diana Patton,

Darlene Prestbo, Seow-Chu See, Patrice Sprovieri, Colin Throm, Gloria

Wiernik, and Lorraine Williams. To May 17.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511.

Shared show features "Transformations" by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac

and "Windows and Reflections" by Frank Magalhaes. Gallery

hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

To May 25.

Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman,

609-921-3272. The 34th annual Garden State Watercolor Society members

juried exhibition and sale. Jurors are Judy Antonelli and Herbert

Appleson. Artists’ reception is Sunday, May 4, for the show that continues

to June 1. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sunday 1

to 4 p.m.

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Area Museums

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

609-292-6464. "Taking It Personally: Selected Paintings 1962 to

2003" by Paul Matthews continues in the museum’s Cityside Gallery.

These large-scale figurative oils address issues of time and transience,

aging and mortality. Political messages, human vulnerability in the

form of nudity, and the natural process of childbearing are all depicted.

To July 27.

Also "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."

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

215-340-9800. "Six Continents of Quilts: The Museum of Arts and

Design Collection" features 30 vibrant and colorful quilts by

contemporary fabric artists from New York to Japan to South Africa.

Show remains on view to July 6. Summer hours at the museum are Tuesday

to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Museum admission $6 adults;

$3 students and children.

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Theater/Dance Workshop in Lawrenceville is auditioning

for staged readings. Seeking three women who can play 70s, two men

30s, and one man and woman 40s. Also directors. For audition appointment

call 609-882-6099.

Plays in the Park summer auditions are Thursday, May 1,

at 5 p.m. for children. Adult auditions are Friday, May 2, at 7 p.m.;

Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4, at noon. Plays include "Mack

and Mabel," "Ragtime," and "Wizard of Oz." Call

732-548-2884 or check

VSA Arts of New Jersey seeks actors for "Out of Body"

a collection of one-act plays. Auditions are Thursday, May 1, at 7

p.m., at North Brunswick High School. Call Valerie Grier at 732-745-3885.

Villagers Theater has auditions for Gen LeRoy’s comedy

"Not Waving on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m.

Call 732-873-2710 or visit

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South Brunswick Arts Commission, and the South Brunswick

Historic Commission, seek area artists working in clay, fiber, metal,

wood, glass for an exhibit of contemporary decorative and functional

art, and historic art and artifacts. The show, "Crafts: Yesterday

& Today," celebrates the 225th anniversary of Washington’s March

to Monmouth. Historic artifacts that can be loaned or photographed

for exhibition and Colonial crafts demonstrators also wanted. Show

takes place at Historic Wetherill Site, 269 Georges Road, South Brunswick,

June 7 to 29. Applications, due by May 8, at the South Brunswick Arts

Commission, 732-329-4000; ext. 635. E-mail:

Fresh Air Fund seeks volunteer host families for New York

City children’s summer vacations. Hosts may be young families, single

professionals, empty nesters, and grandparents. Call Betsy Bloemeke,

609-448-1027, or visit

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Donate Please

Educational Services Commission seeks business attire

for women returning to the work force. This service is for women who

are widowed, separated, divorced, or have a disabled or seriously

ill spouse. Clothing must be dry-cleaned and bagged. Call 908-788-1453.

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