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Pat Summers: Visual Resolutions
This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 6, 1999. All rights reserved.
It’s New Year’s, and the czarina in you wants to decide
what visual arts-related resolutions other people should make. You
know, the people who litter their front lawns with sheep figures in
graduated sizes — thoughtfully adding red bows for Christmas.
Clearly, they should resolve to junk up only the inside of their houses.
Or, since we’ve suffered a surfeit of them this season, the icicle
lights, often hanging from the most incongruous places, should be
discarded next year — though only after the perpetrators first
drop out of the straight-line school of outlining roof tops, fences,
But the clueless people who practice tastelessness like this are the
least likely to resolve to change it. And, alas, it can’t be outlawed,
and they can’t be impeached.
Let’s see, New Year’s, time for reforms and resolutions, everyone
bright-eyed and eager "to make the world a better place in which
to live." Gee, in that case, any way to persuade art museums to
downsize the full-fledged souvenir stands that block the exits at
the end of major exhibitions these days? As the food sold at movies
makes more profit than the film, these museum concessions must be
wildly lucrative, on top of the services of brainstormers and shoppers
for anything remotely related to the subject ostensibly at hand: the
artist, the art.
But the rip-off piece de resistance for this year, and maybe
for all years, is a deceptively small and inexpensive item. It’s also
edible. A person could see the exhibition and buy it, or just buy
it — the museum wouldn’t mind — and justify the purchase by
eating the contents for lunch.
What is this all-purpose memento of (believe it or not) a major art
exhibition of a major artist in what regards itself as a major museum?
Why, a box of "Delacroix’s Animals Crackers." Get it?
Here’s how it works: Because Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) was intrigued
by animals, spent much time studying them at the zoo, saw them when
he visited North Africa, and (now we’re getting to it) even drew and
painted them. Now those marketing wizards at the Philadelphia Museum
of Art have designed a box covered with Delacroix images and nutrition
information (140 calories per 11-cookie serving). Then they displayed
pyramids of these boxes in the capacious gift area following the Delacroix
exhibition rooms, accompanied by a framed photograph of animal cracker
boxes, artfully arranged. Just $1.50 to say you’ve been there, eaten
And we’re not even mentioning mountains of Moroccan memorabilia ostensibly
from the Delacroix exhibition. Why incense burners, giant earthen
urns and vases, iron accessories, flowing dresses, and even carpets,
for goodness sake? Because Delacroix visited North Africa. Furthermore,
he painted its people and scenery. Isn’t that alone enough to account
for one glossy marketing type, touring the shop with a kindred spirit,
exclaiming over a particular fresh-made artifact that he wished he
had bought it himself. (Don’t forget this was the museum that produced
a baseball souvenir for its Cezanne show.)
So far from the home front, any idea of reforming this facet of the
art museum world is also in vain. It gets bigger and sillier. And
we haven’t even mentioned the catalog sales: big business.
Then how about the people who visit museums? Many of them are eminently
in need of reform, or at least their behavior cries out for it. Reflect
for a moment on the museum visitor who walks right between you and
a picture on the wall, and then stands there — obviously, you’re
completely invisible — to study it, wholly blocking your view.
But it’s New Year’s resolution time. What better occasion to eliminate
prevailing art world irritants, such as the following?
really could meal-plan through a season of openings and do at each
show what at least one artist in the U.S. 1 area is known for —
hold down a corner of the munchies table and never move, except possibly
to vary the grazing area. This gourmand tosses, "It’s unbelievably
rich," to the exhibiting artist, but only if s/he happens by the
eager to display her knowledge, often of ephemera, basking all the
while in the exclamations prompted by her erudition.
or docent-wannabe involuntarily hears the ongoing lecture, usually
laced with arcane art-babble having little or nothing to do with the
piece being described. And such people never know from sotto voce.
restaurants, this schmoozer comes to see and be seen at the opening,
with the art serving as merely a vehicle to carry her around the gallery.
But she reveals herself by looking over the shoulder of the person
she’s talking with, to line up her next target.
Probably no more than the front-lawn shepherds who, come spring, will
inevitably cart out their whirligig ducks with rotating wings.
Will art museums cut back on their revenues because a few of us look
at their bazaars askance? Sure — when mega-bookstores like Barnes
& Noble cut back their fad-book inventory because they care about
forests. Or mall stores close on Sundays and holidays.
Since even a czarina couldn’t change some things — take passe
big blue outdoor bulbs (please!) — or wind chimes that clang for
the neighborhood — and what’s now big and bad and rude in the
art world is likely to get bigger, badder and ruder, what’s a purist
to do? Think globally, act locally? How locally? And let’s be realistic,
how successfully, even there?
Or is it a purely personal thing? No wider in scope than periodic
venting, like this? Or strictly private resolutions to "deal with
it," somehow? Or a resolve to smile sweetly and point out the
error of others’ ways? And just how would they take the well-intentioned
Another New Year — a million more reasons to change the world.
The gallery specializes in original paintings, sculpture, drawings,
and prints by distinguished living artists. Special focus is on work
from Eastern and Central Europe, representing Georges Mazilu in the
U.S. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and
609-799-6706. Group show featuring oils and acrylics by Charles McVicker,
watercolors by Lucy Graves McVicker, and oils by Jan Purcell. Also
recent works by Sidney Neuwirth and Bob Justin. To February 12. Hours
are Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.;
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
of 16 original watercolors by the Russian-born illustrator Gennady
Spirin from his picture book, "The Christmas Story," just
published by Henry Holt. Just out, a 1999 calendar featuring an array
of plates from Spirin’s prize-winning books; books are available for
sale also. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
and by appointment.
Nassau, 609-921-6748. "Practical Photographers: The Rose Family
Studio," images from the collection of 10,000 glass plate negatives.
The Rose Studio was founded in Princeton in 1873 by Royal Hill Rose
whose commercial photography studio stood on Nassau Street through
three generations of family owners, until its closing in 1951. Museum
hours are Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Through February.
Group exhibition by Watercolorists Unlimited. Part of sales benefit
the Medical Center. To January 14. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Street, 609-497-4192. Watercolors by Joan Quackenbush and Lorraine
Williams, with part of proceeds to benefit the Medical Center. To
March 11. Show can be viewed daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Marvin Friedman, an exhibition of the pictorial reminiscences of friends,
acquaintances, and family by the Princeton artist. Show continues
to February 15.
collection features a strong representation of Western European paintings,
old master prints, and original photographs. Collections 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 20th-century outdoor
sculpture, with works by such modern masters as Henry Moore, Alexander
Calder, Pablo Picasso, and George Segal located throughout the campus.
Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday from
1 to 5 p.m. Tours every Saturday at 2 p.m.
65 Olden Street, 609-258-6345. "Reflections on Photographing Princeton,"
a pictorial history from 1839 to the mid-20th century drawn from thousands
of images in the Historical Photograph Collection of the university
archives. To June 1999. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,
and Wednesday evenings until 8 p.m.
609-397-0275. "Lisa Manheim: Landscapes from Devon and Provence,"
an exhibition of paintings on paper in wax and pigment made during
1989 and ’90. To January 9. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday,
1 to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed
Crossing, 215-493-3660. Works in oils, watercolors, pastel, and colored
pencil by Robert J. Seufert and Alice Olson Seufert. Hours are Tuesday
to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday to 7 p.m.
"L’Exhibition Francais," a three-man exhibition of images
of France by painter Gordon Haas, photographer Owen Luck, and French
watercolorist Herve-Paul Delhaye. To January 13.
"Collectors of African-American Art," featuring painter and
photographer Edward Wilkerson, with works by Wendell Brooks, Tom Malloy,
Harri Hawkins, Ben Jones, Karl Slocum, Alonzo Adams, and Aundreta
Wright. To February 28.
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition: "Glass: A Group Exhibition,"
indoors, with works by Robert Dane, Stephen Knapp, Ron Mehlman, Mary
Shaffer, and Joy Wulke. In the Domestic Arts building, photographer
Ricardo Barros exhibits a portfolio of 36 black-and-white portraits
of working sculptors. New additions outdoors by Fletcher Benton, James
Colavita, Tim Holland, Luis Jimenez, William King, Joel Perlman, Tom
Phardel, and Robert Ressler. To February 28.
The 22-acre landscaped sculpture park is on the former state fairgrounds
site, with indoor exhibitions in the glass-walled, 10,000 square foot
museum, and the newly-renovated Domestic Arts Building. Gallery hours
are Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
609-292-6464. "Witness and Legacy: Contemporary Art About the
Holocaust," to February 28. "The American Modernists,"
to January 23. "Nikon’s Small World," to January 17. On extended
view: "Dinosaur Turnpike: Treks through New Jersey’s Piedmont";
"Amber: The Legendary Resin"; "The Moon: Fact & Fiction."
Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday,
noon to 5 p.m.
In the lobby gallery, wall quilts by fiber artist Jeannette T. Muir
who gathers inspiration from sources that include mathematics and
architecturaal magazines, calalogues, mosaics, and floor designs.
To February 5.
732-524-6957. An exhibit of 25 recent black-and-white photographs
by Bill Gregory. Subjects range from the western American landscape
to such local views as Kopp’s Cycle Shop, Terhune Orchards, and South’s
Garage. On view, by appointment, through January 31.
Gregory’s photographs have been featured in solo exhibitions at the
Bernstein Gallery of the Woodrow Wilson School and at Cameron Gallery.
He has been published in Garden State Home & Garden, the Times of
Trenton, and Central New Jersey Home News.
Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "Suzanne Szasz: Her Life and Photographs."
Born in Hungary in 1915, Szasz began her career in the U.S. in 1947,
and became a founding member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers.
She died last year. To January 31. $3 donation. Tuesday to Saturday,
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4.
908-725-2110. Exhibit by artist-in-residence, Laura Moriarty of Kingston,
New York, whose work, on exhibit in the library gallery, combines
printmaking and papermaking. Her workshop on silk collograph or aquatint
will be Saturday, January 17 ($70; preregister). The artist gives
a slide talk on her work at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 23. Gallery
hours are Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 1
to 4 p.m.
"Dancing patterns of energy interwoven with schematics from another
time form a continuum, and we realize that we are not just observers
but co-creators," says Moriarty. "Our relationship with nature
is not that of something outside of ourselves, as we move into a larger,
more encompassing identity."
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