The inaugural exhibit of the Paul Robeson Center, the new home of the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) is aptly titled “Return: Home,” which opens to the public with a reception on Thursday, June 5, from 4 to 7 p.m. The exhibition is on view through September 6 in the Peg and Frank Taplin Gallery, located on the first floor of the new center (see cover story, page 43).
Curated by ACP executive director Jeff Nathanson on the occasion of the Arts Council’s return to its “home” in downtown Princeton after two and a half years in temporary locations, “Return: Home” features the work of 11 New Jersey-affiliated artists who explore the meaning of “home” from personal, political, and cultural perspectives. Included in the exhibition are: Manuel Acevedo, Siona Benjamin, Terry Boddie, Judith Brodsky, Zhiyuan Cong, Dahlia Elsayed, Kate Graves, Eva Mantell (with students from HomeFront), Soyoo Parkhjunjoo Caltabiano, Faith Ringgold, and Andrew Wilkinson. The artists delve into the realm of identity, Diaspora, and familial and cultural memory, as well as personal experience, through photography, painting, video, mixed media, textiles, sculpture, and collaborative installation.
“Return: Home” broadly explores the question of what makes a home, echoing those who live in the United States and in particular, New Jersey. Cultural identity, the experience of displacement, the question of belonging, the quest for roots and a place to call home have come into particular focus in conceiving this project. What have emerged are stories of personal, familial and cultural experiences.
Two panel discussions and a dance performance will explore themes raised by the exhibition. “There’s No Place like Home: Memory and Migration,” a panel with Judith Brodsky, Terry Boddie, Soyoo Parkhjunjoo Caltabiano and Dahlia Elsayed, artists with a common interest in cross-cultural migration and its affects, takes place on Saturday, June 7, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Brodsky and Boddie discuss Diaspora in their photography-based work. While Brodsky addresses her history within the context of the Jewish Diaspora, Boddie explores the intertwined histories of the Caribbean and African Diasporas. Using fabric handed down from her mother, Soyoo Parkhjunjoo Caltabiano designs quilts that recreate domestic interiors from her childhood home in Korea. Dahlia Elsayed creates what she calls “cartographies of memory” in paintings, juxtaposing text and image to evoke specific events and places from her life.
“Urban Dwellings: Between Blight and Activism,” a panel with Manuel Acevedo, Kate Graves, Eva Mantell and Andrew Wilkinson, takes place on Thursday, June 26, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.. These artists explore the meaning of home in urban environments through artistic projects that often involve collaboration with residents in specific communities. Newark-born artist, Manuel Acevedo, presents a series of photographs executed as part of a collaborative residency in Cleveland, Ohio. His photographs creatively merge the domestic spaces of Cleveland-area residents’ homes with the public, post-industrial urban landscapes directly outside of their windows.
Sculptor Kate Graves’ architecturally-inspired works on abandoned buildings in Trenton tell different stories of the past and present. Eva Mantell, an ACP faculty member, collaborates with HomeFront in Trenton to offer a weekly arts education program for youths. Participants re-envision the world in a series of imaginary birdhouse sculptures. Andrew Wilkinson’s project, commissioned for the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, seeks to raise consciousness about homelessness through a series of photographs of individuals in domestic interior environments transported to the street.
“Rang de Nila (Color Me Blue),” a dance performance with artist Siona Benjamin, whose paintings and multimedia works will be on display in the exhibition, takes place on Saturday, June 21, at 4 p.m. Originally from Bombay, India, Benjamin now lives and works in Montclair. Her work reflects her experiences of being brought up Jewish in predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. Often combining the imagery of her past with the role she plays in America today, Benjamin creates work inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and Sephardic icons. In “Rang de Nila,” Benjamin collaborates with dancers Ishrat Hoque, Pranita Jain and Dina Denis, who assume the roles in Benjamin’s work.
Panel discussions and the dance performance will take place in the Robert L. Solley Theater at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts.
Inaugural Exhibit, Paul Robeson Center, Thursday, June 5, Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. Gallery reception for “Return: Home,” 4 to 7 p.m. On view through September 6. 609-924-8777.