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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
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
"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
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
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
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
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."
106, 609-258-3788. "The Photographs of Ed Ranney: The John B.
Elliott Collection." Show is on view to June 7.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
for staged readings. Seeking three women who can play 70s, two men
30s, and one man and woman 40s. Also directors. For audition appointment
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 twww.playsinthepark.com
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.
"Not Waving on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m.
Call 732-873-2710 or visit www.villagerstheatre.com
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: email@example.com
City children’s summer vacations. Hosts may be young families, single
professionals, empty nesters, and grandparents. Call Betsy Bloemeke,
609-448-1027, or visit www.FreshAair.org.
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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