Artwork generally talks through the eye and is heard in reflection, but sometimes a word or two helps focus a viewer’s attention.
And several artists’ statements about artwork in area public spaces and in galleries may just be the ticket to take a break from the daily hubbub and get a fresh look at the art around us.
First stop is Dohm Alley on Nassau Street, next to Starbucks. Created by an informal group that includes architect Kevin Wilkes of the Princeton Design Guild, landscape designer and installation artist Peter Soderman; architect and artist Richard Chenoweth; and designer Pete Abrams; and others, Dohm has been and continues to be a work in progress.
Its first physical manifestation was a model at a Princeton popup gallery in 2016. There was also the statement on the early days of the project, then known as “TILT”:
TILT is a public art project in urban design, but it is more than that. It is our attempt to put a dent in the universe, here at first home, and then to affect others.
So let’s ask a question. “How many tourists visit Princeton every year?” The answer is, “Over a million.” What is their cultural take away?
We have a lot of smart people here but what have we done, as a community, to show to show that and to share that, not only with ourselves . . . but more importantly with a wayfaring, public.
We can change that by illuminating a dead space and dark, blind alley, off Nassau Street, formerly known as Dohm Alley, by turning It into an education arrest stop, a conduit of learning and cerebral car wash of the mind.
TILT is an acronym for Things I Learned Today. Our plan is design five temporary garden rooms within a 90-foot-long by an 11-foot-wide hallway and build theater sets to showcase art, technology, science, humanities, and history within a five-month window.
Steve Jobs was famous for closing his Apple demonstrations about putting that dent in the universe with his almost-last sentence — “And one more thing.” But the last thing he said before he died was that he wished he had spent more time around people, exploring art. This is the one more thing.
Meanwhile another group of artists — working individually and collectively in studios at Grounds For Sculpture — has quietly transformed Weeden Park in Lawrenceville into a sculpture park.
They call themselves AMEBA, an acronym for Artists of the Motor Hall Exhibit Building Association. The Motor Hall is one of the GFS buildings on what used to be the New Jersey Fairgrounds in Hamilton.
The artists include Susan Dunsmoor, Jennifer Rubin Garey, Michael Gyampo, Gyuri Hollosy, G. Frederick Morante, Michelle Post, Eric Schultz, Scot Thompson, Clifford Ward, Autin Dean Wright, and others.
They share their ideas in this excerpted statement:
The central focus of the artists of the AMEBA collective studios is the synergy between the creation of personal work, open research, and in educating visitors, participants, and artists at the Ground For Sculpture facility in the enlightenment of the visual arts.
Deeply related to that focus is the commitment to sustain the study of the arts as both a necessary mode of understanding and a vibrant expression of human experience within the local community as well as at the national and international communities.
The mission is carried out through a commitment to a variety of educational programs . . . for the public to experience firsthand how artists develop their ideas and communicate their visions.
The AMEBA group envisions itself as leaders in the practice of the arts with an emphasis on professional excellence, diversity, and innovation.
Another active Grounds For Sculpture and Johnson Atelier artist is Kate Graves. Known in part for her paintings and sculptures of abandoned Trenton buildings, the Morrisville resident has also been pursuing an artistic vision deeply connected to region: the sturgeon that were once abundant in the Delaware River.
So it is fitting that one can encounter one of Graves’ metal sturgeon sculptures next to — and gazing into — the Delaware River at Ferry Park in New Hope.
If the statue could speak, it would use Graves’ statement about how it came to be:
Continual inspiration comes from exploring local natural and built environments. By documenting buildings and trees, my sculpture and paintings are like three-dimensional portraits that exist as snapshots made during the arc of the subject’s temporal existence.
Making art that alludes to entropy and the effects of neglect over time has deepened my ability to nonverbally indicate the evidence of unseen forces.
The ancient and wondrous Acipenseridae calls to me from the river when I paddle my kayak on the tidal waters, watching the endless variety of textures and reflections, wondering what lies beneath. The Delaware River is home to a genetically distinct population of Atlantic sturgeon, one now seriously compromised by 19th century caviar harvesting and pollution from heavy industry along the river.
Once at an aquarium near Portland, Oregon, I met a 14-foot long sturgeon. This 150-million-year-old living fossil regarded me with the weight of its own history, armored with rows of bony shields. Hovering in the water at eye level behind the plate glass, it surveyed me with an ancient gaze.
I knew then that I would make sculpture to document these creatures. Whether the Sturgeon Sculpture Series will be a testament to a close call with extinction, or a memorial for something not yet gone, remains to be seen.
Coming back to Princeton, take a visit to the Princeton Public Library, where two artists have artworks waiting on the second floor, from January 12 through June 8. Those works too have stories beneath their surfaces.
Terri Riendeau — creator of “The Concussion Diaries” and senior associate dean of admission at Princeton University — writes:
I suffered a serious concussion in April, 2017. Alice fell down a rabbit hole; I just fell on the floor. The doctors forbade ‘reading, screens of any sort, and complex thinking.’ For the first four months I couldn’t even listen to music. I wondered if I might go bonkers — and then I wondered if that was complex thinking. Without the capacity for the usual distractions, I found myself in a quiet world of color and composition. In some ways my sensory experience was stripped down, but in other ways it was heightened. On the daily walks required for my recovery, I noticed every detail of spring in New Jersey — leaves unfurling, vines encircling, the patterns in moss — with a piercing intensity.
At various points my artistic energy went into making photography, writing poetry and weaving, but I had always considered painting off limits. The concussion eliminated my silly, self-imposed restraints, and painting turned the disaster into discovery.
And Hunterdon County-based artist and instructor Robert DiMatteo says of his “Periodic Table of Elements”:
My work has always been inspired, to one degree or another, by my interest and attention to the Sciences. This new body of work, “The Periodic Table of Elements,” gets to the essence of life and ecosystems by focusing on the natural “elements” themselves which make everything in the natural and synthetic worlds possible.
Each element presents a new set of characteristics that need to be studied and assessed. This pushes me to experiment with textures and material effects that speak directly to the physical properties of each element, as well as, direct the color and compositional aspects of the work. I consider experimentation and imagination to be the two key components in all creative endeavors and these are intrinsic to the creative process in general.
So listen up, slow down, and take in the sights and stories along the way.