Protest Art


Participate Please


Corrections or additions?

This article by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the June 23, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Non-Linear Work from Off the Rim

Since the 35-acre sculpture park, Grounds for Sculpture (GFS), opened

in Hamilton in 1992, it has made its mark on the national sculpture

scene. Its permanent collection is excellent and growing with

thoughtful and important acquisitions. Its institutional mission casts

a wide net.

One of the GFS goals – perhaps not known by the public at large – is

support for sculptors who are organized in groups. For such groups GFS

with its considerable resources has played the welcome role of enabler

since 1992. According to Brooke Barrie, director/curator, GFS has

invited one or more groups to exhibit annually. Its inaugural

exhibition was timed to complement a national sculpture conference

meeting in Philadelphia. As the venue became more widely known,

proposals began to come in.

By 2001, when Grounds for Sculpture hosted a show by members of the

National Association of Women Artists, a tradition had been

established. The 2001 exhibition gave exposure to Devorah Sperber, who

showed a single piece entitled "Reflections," which so impressed me at

the time, that I wrote this single astonishing work was worth the trip

to GFS. Sperber, who had star quality then and has it now, re-creates

old master paintings using spools of colored thread as pixels. She

recently had a one-person show at the Chelsea McKenzie Gallery that

the New Yorker Magazine of May 31 placed on its "short list" of best


The current group exhibition, "Off the Rim" includes work by members

of the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group. If the show’s title sounds

suspiciously like "over-the-top," it is perhaps intended. This

sculpture has more than a little moxie and plenty of sizzle.

Due to its West Coast origins, the transportation for this exhibition

was far more complicated – and costly – than it has been for previous

shows, which involved a local drive in a rented truck from places like

Washington and New York. Several of the exhibitors pitched in to help

with the countless details – including fund-raising – that are

involved in mounting an exhibition.

This show has no single star like Sperber, but a dynamite cast of 34.

The show has a distinctive "made in California" feel. (The group’s

founders all lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay area.). In the

longstanding cultural rivalry between East and West Coast, the West

Coast wins this one. It is the best sculpture show by a group, that I

have seen during the past gallery season.

Because contemporary sculpture is ever more inclusive, it is not

surprising to find several outstanding pieces that feel like painting.

These wall-based works are by Laurie Polster, Pamela Merory Dernham,

Vickie Jo Sowell, and Jia Jun Lu. The most painterly of the lot,

however, is by Jane Woolverton.

Woolverton’s "Le Printemps" is a fragile tapestry of plastic loops

layered about five inches deep and embellished with color. These

loops, we realize, are recycled from the harnesses that once held six

cans together. That "gee-whiz" recognition is followed by a second

jolt of comprehension when all parts fuse into one shimmering field

right out of Claude Monet.

The show contains other delicious surprises. As we cruise through,

some creep up seductively, while others seem to say "Honk if you love

me!" These sculptors are aware of what has gone before in contemporary

sculpture. Part of the joy of these works is that they are so


Ama Torrance, for example, fabricates a seven-foot icon of a rabbit

that is somewhere between the cinematic Harvey and the work of

sculptor Jeff Koons. Her creation, called "Silly Bunny," has his big

feet planted firmly on the floor while his hands (paws) are tied

behind his back. Torrance writes, "Silly Bunny is a very mischievous

boy. I’m not really sure what he did or who caught him at it. It may

have just been kinky sex, or maybe grand larceny or murder. You never

know with him. He’s always up to something." What would you expect

from a seven-foot rabbit?

What William Wareham is "up to" with his massive painted steel

"Juliaca" is a nostalgic look back to the 1960s and the sculpture of

David Smith and Anthony Caro. This is a rugged, ambitious work of

welded steel, filling eight to ten cubic feet of space.

Ann Weber’s works are tall – just under 16 feet – and they rise like

drunken minarets. They are fabricated almost entirely from cardboard

and staples; and they are lighter than most of the smaller works in

the show. In the heavy, but smaller, department are cast iron,

palm-sized monoliths by Lynn Todaro, called "N.O.S.L. Poems."

Size, materials, and attitudes are about as diverse as can be

imagined. In a catalog statement on his own work, Stan Huncilman also

sums up the exhibition as a whole: "Linear thinking stops here."

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Protest Art

The show includes several artists whose politics is right out there –

if not in your face, at least in the rear view mirror. Protest art has

begun to re-emerge in this new century and is a force to be reckoned

with, as it was in the 1930s and 1970s. These sculptors are measured

and focused in expressing their concerns.

Masako Onodera, for instance, is obsessed with the results of

genetically modified food, such as corn. In a piece entitled "Too

Yellow to Eat," the artist warns that human interference with nature

is both curious and fearful

The sculptors in this group, like Nuala Creed, are also, by degrees,

shedding their reluctance to express their convictions. She writes:

"In October of 2002, I was invited to make an ornament for the White

House Christmas tree. . . All artists were asked to make a native bird

from their state. . . While I was honored to be invited to submit my

work to the White House, I wished I could have sent the president a

message of how I felt about some of his policies . . . These nine

hummingbirds represent the one I wish I could have sent."

Her work might be called "Humvee Bird Gun Ships," as each bird carries

a warhead. Her title is "Presidential Squadron." Unlike the anonymous

artist who caused a security flap at the Metropolitan and Guggenheim

Museums recently with his hit-and-run image of President Bush in front

of a field of American currency, Creed is now more than willing to

acknowledge her authorship.

Like Creed, Dixie Brown of Kentfield, California, has created a fleet

of warheads. They might be facsimiles of smart missiles if they were

not so intentionally dumb and lumpy-looking, like bloated sausages.

They are encased in hand-knitted garments. Brown writes, "Objects made

of fleece and yarn carry strong associations with caring for, and

protecting human life. Paradoxically, ‘protection’ is used as a

rationale to destroy lives by explosion . . ." Her "missiles" are

suspended by barely visible fish line, as they lumber absurdly toward

their programmed targets.

Curator Barrie told me that Brown, who attended the gala opening, met

a gentleman there who told her he really appreciated her work. He was

– she learned – a retired Air Force colonel.

– F. R. Rivera

Off the Rim: Selections from the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group, Museum

and Domestic Arts Building, Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds

Road, Hamilton. 609-586-0616. Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed

Monday. Through September 26.

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Bridge Players Theater Company seeks female actors for Nunsense to be

produced in October. Auditions are Sunday, July 11, and Tuesday, July

13, at 7 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church Hall, 638 Parry Avenue,

Palmyra. Singing and dancing Call 609-267-1253 or visit

Randy James Dance Works seeks one female dancer for a full-time

company position beginning in September. Productions are in Italy,

Russia, Denmark, New York, and New Jersey. For information,

212-625-8369 or visit

Mighty Oak Players seeks submissions from directors for its upcoming

season. Send resume with a list of shows you would like to direct to

Mighty Oak Players, Play Selection Committee, Box 6300, Monroe

Township 08831.

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Participate Please

H.O.P.E. Helping Other People Evolve offers a 10-week education and

support program for recently widowed men and women of all ages

beginning in July. Day and/or evening meetings are available. Call

888-920-2201 for information.

Master Gardener of Mercer County is accepting applications for a

training program beginning the end of September. Trainees receive over

60 hours of instruction in a wide variety of horticultural subjects.

Classes meet Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Trenton. $150. Call

609-989-6830 for information.

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Hopewell Valley Central High School seeks members of the Class of 1974

for a reunion on July 10 at Triumph in New Hope. Call Lynn Muentener

at 609-466-0914 or E-mail

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