Art in Town

Art On Campus

Art in the Workplace

Other Galleries

Art by the River

To the North

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Art In Trenton

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This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 21, 2000. All rights reserved.

Plein Air to Paper


Move over "a loaf of bread, a jug of wine."

Let’s talk about "Sunday in the Garden." We’ll talk about

a gorgeous June morning in profuse, professionally landscaped gardens

and outdoor spaces. About sunny spots and shady spots, and the scent

of ivory-pink roses in the cutting garden. About emerald grass, a

swimming pool, a rustic pond, and two winsome golden retrievers. About

flitting white butterflies and cheeping birds. And let’s look at six

artists who were there that Sunday, intent on capturing some of this

plein air richness on paper.

The occasion, in fact, was an art class, taught by Gail Bracegirdle,

who selected her own picturesque view of the property and then settled

down to produce a watercolor of it. The summer course she teaches

for Artworks, the visual arts school in Trenton, requires Bracegirdle

to select six different garden settings, where, for six Sundays, from

June 25 through July, the class will meet. Of course, the students

don’t just arrive and go to work — that would be unthinkable.

Instead, the learning and painting sessions are interspersed with

"ooh’s" and "ahh’s" at the setting, the weather, and

the sheer possibilities of it all.

A growing artistic presence in the area, Bracegirdle grew up in Philadelphia

and Bucks County. Her father was an engineer for Rohm and Haas, and

her mother did secretarial work and maintained a lively interest in

art. Most significantly, her grandfather was in the textile industry,

and this became Bracegirdle’s first career.

Following this family path, she earned her BFA from Moore College

of Art in textile design in 1965, and worked professionally in that

field for 25 years. She then moved full time into watercolor painting

favoring subjects that range from flowers and still life to a pair

of sneakers, and the nude.

"In textiles, I worked in home furnishings — drapery, upholstery

and wall coverings — all based mainly in floral images," says

Bracegirdle, noting that carrying floral subjects into her work in

watercolor "was a natural connection."

"Although I’m used to working in a studio setting, I much prefer

working on site — it’s more immediate," she adds. "The

biggest surprise people have if they haven’t worked outside before,

is that the light change is constant," she says. "Students

have to get used to this. If a certain composition of shadows has

drawn them to a view, they have to get that down as fast as they can."

This is Bracegirdle’s third year teaching outdoor classes for Artworks.

She also paints with her students in the Mill Hill Park neighborhood,

and at the Trenton Farmers Market. "For me, the most difficult

thing about teaching outdoors is making sure I get to all the students,"

she says, "keeping tabs on what they’re trying to accomplish,

helping them individually with what they’re trying to tackle."

This Sunday morning, five student painters have met their teacher

at an out-of-the-way private home in Lawrence Township. They will

have about three hours together in which to make a painting and share

a group critique. Each artist will approach the "task" in

her own way, and their differences — in gear, clothes, approach,

style, speed — are the makings of a sociological study. Their

one common trait: a comfortable acceptance, both of this observer,

and even before that, their teacher, whose artistic and pedagogical

skills they mention matter of factly. The atmosphere is collegial,

and as already stated, quite beautiful.

"If you’re not sure whether to include something, just put it

in your car," said the course directions. So, for her first experience

with this kind of painting, Sharon makes a few trips to bring in her

spiffy new adjustable metal easel, a comfortable-looking folding chair,

her tote bag with watercolor paint box, brushes, sponge, paper. She

chooses a sunny spot in a long garden area, partly ringed by blooming

flowers, with a pool in the center. Behind her, the land slopes down

into woods, and off to the right is a pond, reflecting tones of green

and brown from the surrounding trees, with its own island. Sharon

puts on a wide-brimmed straw hat and studies the white wall of a building

opposite her, partly hidden by a magnolia tree, mountain laurel, climbing

vines and tall flowers. She makes a light pencil sketch — enough

to remind her where the building is in relation to the roses, peonies

and foxgloves, and to a path leading up to a cutting garden.

Ruth places her chair in an au naturel gateway between two

high hedges. She faces the "pool garden," and beyond it, over

tiered flowers and shrubbery, the main house. Settled in her secluded

niche, she talks about her preference for plein air painting.

Despite the vagaries of weather and bugs in the paints, she says this

setting gives her a three-dimensional view, rather than the flatness

found in a photograph. And a garden can be hard to paint, she notes

and the others agreed; there’s so much to see that it’s hard to focus.

Her white plastic palette has compartments for watercolor paints around

the edge, and Ruth has marked the outside with codes to remind her

which colors are transparent, which opaque, and which are staining,

or more permanent. A purple sponge rests in the middle of her paint

tin, and she demonstrates its use: to wipe her brush on when it’s

too wet; to blot excess liquid from her picture or make dappled effects

in it; to clean the tray. While some people start light, because they

can always add and darken, Gail starts with shadows and dramatic things,

says Ruth. "But Gail’s a professional, and we’re students."

The artists were not the only ones enjoying the garden and its amenities.

Two model golden retrievers had their own rituals to perform this

special Sunday morning. First, they loped around the whole property,

seeming to salute the day and the company while performing a check

of their domain. Wherever they occurred in the gardens, white fence

gates were left open, and the dogs, a companionable male and female,

went where they wished.

On a shaded, open porch facing the pool, then tall trees in the woods

beyond, Molly has set up her painting station. She places her materials

near her on the couch, with a water vessel nearby on a table. Using

a pad of watercolor sheets, "then I can just strip off the page

when I’m finished," she begins with a pale wash of bluish color

over the whole page. Gradually, near the center, she starts painting

the tallest tree in sight. Occasionally, one of the dogs stops by,

a visit Molly attributed to the scent of her sandwich, tucked in a


Dressed in white up to her slouch hat, Pam stands to paint — the

only one who does. Taking a stance at one end of the pool, she chooses

a vista of harmoniously hued trees and shrubs, with bright flowers

in the foreground. She uses acrylic paints straight from the tube,

making bold strokes with a wide brush to cover the canvas in a short

time. She says she wants to get the general idea, and work in details

after that.

A frequent traveler, Pam’s trying to figure out how to paint and travel

— what medium and accessories would be easiest to take with her.

Acrylic paint dries very quickly, she notes, and it’s easy to paint

over. This conversation reminded her of something she learned from

a teacher in France: the Impressionists started painting en plein

air because paints had just been packaged in tubes for the first

time, making travel easier for both paints and painters.

Convalescing from an illness, Nancy arrives a little later than the

others, thinking she might just take some photographs to paint from

later at home. But she finds a spot, and a chair, on the back porch,

looking down a path through spikes of multi-colored foxgloves. Next,

she’s painting. In the process, she mentions a couple of Bracegirdle’s

teacher skills: she’s very good with new and uncertain painters, and

she can quickly identify problems in a picture that the artist might

not be able to figure out.

With occasional time out for walks around to chat with her students

and look over their shoulders, Bracegirdle practices what she has

no need to preach: she paints. Seated on the rim of the swimming pool,

she faces one end of the house and starts with its angled roof line.

She is using a limited palette, or fewer colors, for what she believes

is a more harmonious result. For instance, rather than use ready-made

greens, she prefers to mix yellow and blue. The green she makes is

more compatible with the hues around it because it was derived from

them. Aware that the sun will move across the side of the house and

the hedge still closer to her, Bracegirdle paints shadows and light

areas first, to remind herself of the sun’s earliest effects. Since

other elements of the picture will stay the same, they can wait till

she reaches them.

Bracegirdle shows her work in venues from Frenchtown, south, along

both sides of the Delaware including Bucks County where she lives,

to the Trenton area. Since 1993, she has also taught, currently serving

on both the faculty and board at Artworks, and teaching at Triangle

Art in Lawrenceville. Bracegirdle is a member of the Artists’ Gallery,

a cooperative in Lambertville, and a signature member of the Philadelphia

Watercolor Society. Through Artworks, she has led outdoor painting

workshops as far afield as South Carolina and New Mexico.

The sun moves, the time passes, and a casual critique on the back

porch winds up Sunday in the garden. Bracegirdle comments on each

work, lined up side by side, asking questions, making suggestions.

Group members chime in with observations, and share tips about materials,

such as "watercolor board," or 300-pound paper, and "masking

fluid," that lets a painter cover the roses to paint the greens

around them more freely, then peel off the masking like rubber cement.

Molly credits one special effect that is part of her picture to "an

assistant." One of the dogs has licked the painting. Well, that’s

no problem, another artist observes; it’s water-based. The dog must

have liked the taste, Molly reports, because he came back to her palette

for more.

— Pat Summers

Sunday in the Garden, Artworks, 19 Everett Alley,

Trenton, 609-394-9436. First meeting of a six-week sketching and painting

workshop, "en plein air," with Gail Bracegirdle, held in six

different private gardens. Preregister, $140. Sunday, June 25,

9:30 a.m.

Bracegirdle and her students’ work can be seen in the "Classworks"

exhibit at Artworks, June 26 to July 28. Also, watercolors will be

on view, from June 30 to August 19, at the Hopewell Frame Shop, 24

West Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-466-0817.

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Art in Town

Marsha Child Contemporary, 220 Alexander Street, 609-497-7330.

New oil paintings by Andrei Zadorine. Gallery hours are Tuesday to

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To July 3.

Firebird Gallery, 15 Witherspoon, 609-688-0775. Featuring

paintings by Gennady Spirin and Charles Santore. Tuesday to Sunday,

11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158

Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Old Traditions, New Beginnings,"

a major exhibition celebrating 250 years of Princeton Jewish history,

jointly presented and exhibited at the Jewish Center of Princeton

Medical Center at Princeton, Merwick Unit, Bayard Lane,

609-497-4192. Watercolors by Gloria Wiernik. A member of the Garden

State Watercolor Society, Wiernik studied at the Art Students League

in New York, and with artists Jacob Landau and Morton Kaish. Part

of proceeds benefit the Medical Center. Open daily from 8 a.m. to

7 p.m. To September 7.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20

Library Place, 609-497-7994. "Who is My Neighbor?," an exhibit

by sculptor and theologian Charles McCollough, wood, bronze, and ceramic.

Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday

2 to 9:30 p.m.

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Art On Campus

Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788. "Yayoi

Kusama: Early Drawings from the Collection of Richard Castellane,"

to July 30. "The Dawn of Maya Kings: An Exhibition of an Early

Mayan Stela," to July 30; and "Flora and Fauna in Chinese

Painting," to July 30. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.

to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection are every

Saturday at 2 p.m. To June 11.

Firestone Library, Princeton University, 609-258-3184.

"A Century for the Millennium: 100 Treasures from the Collections

of the Princeton University Library," on view in the main exhibition

gallery to November 5.

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Art in the Workplace

Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Route 206 and Province

Line Road, 609-252-6275. "Fragile Dependencies," a group exhibit

that takes a close look at delicate relationships in nature. Featured

artists are Joan Roth and Madelaine Shellaby of Princeton, Susan MacQueen

of West Windsor, Simon Gaon, Lori Van Houten, Karon Moss, Michael

Zansky, and the late Rachel bas-Cohain. Gallery hours are Monday to

Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends and holidays, 1 to 5 p.m. To September


ITXC Corporation, 600 College Road East, Princeton, 609-921-1142.

"Space, Time, and Travel," an international show curated by

the Williams Gallery featuring painting by Tanya Kohn of Mexico, woodblock

prints by Yoshikatsu Tamekane of Japan, and etchings by Joerg Schmeisser

of Australia. Web site: Gallery is open Monday

to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To September 1.

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building 2, Lawrenceville,

609-895-7307. "Shapes, Scenes, and Such," a display of artwork

by staff and family members of Stark & Stark. Also, a show of watercolors

by Trenton painter Marguerite Doernbach. Show is curated by Gary Snyder

Fine Art. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To September 9.

Breakout!, Summit Bancorp Gallery, Route 1 at Carnegie

Center, 609-799-6706. "Breakout!" a group show, curated by

DeLann Gallery, with drawings by Cynthia Goodman Brantley, figurative

sculpture by Bob Mataranglo, oils by Adel Al-Hillawi, and quilts by

Barbara Pivnick. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To June 23.

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Other Galleries

Hopewell Township Library, 245 Pennington-Titusville Road,

609-737-2610. Ewing Art Group Members’ Show: works in oil, acrylics,

watercolor, and mixed media. To June 29.

Montgomery Cultural Center, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

Road, 609-921-3272. "Color and Light," an exhibition of watercolors

by Beth Kantor. Artist’s reception is Sunday, July 16, for the show

runs to July 28. "Insights," a shared exhibition by Jane Garvey

Adriance, Dorothy Wells Bissell, and Seow-Chu See; to June 30. Gallery

hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Morpeth Gallery, 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-333-9393.

Gallery owner Ruth Morpeth celebrates the opening of her new gallery

location with a group show, "Selected Works by Contemporary Artists."

Featured artists include Robert Beck, Micheal Madigan, Paul Mordelsky,

Betty Curtiss, Tomi Urayama, and Ann Ridings. Also Philadelphia area

artists David Shevlino and Christine Lafunente. Gallery hours are

Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Art by the River

ABC Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street,

609-397-0275. "Nature’s Mysteries," an exhibition of oils

by Edith Skiba. A resident of Lamberville since 1997, Skiba teaches

at College of New Jersey and at Rutgers. Gallery hours are Monday

to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m.

to 5 p.m. To July 1.

Goldsmiths Gallery, 26 North Union Street, Lambertville,

609-397-4590. Photographs by New Jersey multi-media artist Victor

Macarol whose work has been shown at the New Jersey State Museum,

Galerie Fink in Paris, and Galerie Mesmer in Basel, Switzerland. Open

Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To September 21.

Kevin Kopil Furniture Gallery, 28-B Bridge Street, Lambertville,

609-397-7887. "Art for Living Spaces" by Vermont landscape

artist Jake Geer is featured at the gallery where handcrafted furniture

design is exhibited together with fine art. Geer, whose studio is

in Bridgeport, Vermont, takes as his subjects pastoral vistas, farms

and barns, sunrises, and salt marshes. Gallery is open Monday to Saturday,

10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To June 30.

Howard Mann Art Center, 45 North Main Street, Lambertville,

609-397-2300. Graciela Rodo Boulanger, known for her large-scale works

depicting children and animals, shows her "Millennium Suite,"

a 12-print limited edition lithograph series. Gallery hours are Wednesday

through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To July 5.

Born in Bolivia, Boulanger was selected as UNICEF’s official artist

for the Year of the Child. Her work is in the collections of the Bibliotheque

Nationale, Paris, the Modern Art Center, Zurich, and other major museums.

Riverrun Gallery, 287 South Main Street, Lambertville,

609-397-3349. "Family Matters," a solo exhibition by Greek

artist Dimitrios Georges Antonitsis featuring color photographs of

drag queens at home, and "Some Prefer Nettles," a video and

sound installation. Part of sales proceeds go to FACT, an AIDS assistance

organization. Gallery is open daily, except Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. to

5 p.m. To July 14.

In "Family Matters," Antonitsis’ psychologically charged color

photographs explore the dynamics between drag queens and their immediate

parental households. The artist approaches his subject on psychological

terms, creating a series of family portraits that he regards also

as "case studies." The reinvented identity of these men in

full drag regalia is affectingly juxtaposed (in the tradition of Diane

Arbus) with the mostly ordinary ambiance of the home they grew up

in as boys.

"I have always been struck by the fact that photographs that generally

show the life of the transvestite rarely show them in family situations,"

says the artist. "The images are disturbingly poetic, with the

emotions of the family clearly captured by the camera."

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To the North

American Hungarian Foundation, 300 Somerset Street, New

Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "Mihaly Munkacsy in America," featuring

works of the celebrated Hungarian painter who, at the time of his

death in 1900, had become the most famous Hungarian in the world.

His 1890 commission, "The Conquest of Hungary," can be seen

today in the Hungarian parliament building. His American patrons included

Cornelius and William Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, William Astor, Joseph

Pulitzer, and department store magnate John Wanamaker. Museum hours

are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

$5 donation. To June 18.

Quietude Garden Gallery, 24 Fern Road, East Brunswick,

732-257-4340. The contemporary sculpture gallery’s "New Artists,

New Ideas, New Season" show, featuring work by more than 100 artists

in natural outdoor installations. Featured artists include Sarah D’Alessandro,

Charles Welles, and Liz Whitney Quisgard. Gallery hours are Friday

to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

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Other Museums

Hunterdon Museum of Art, Lower Center Street, Clinton,

908-735-8415. "Narratives in Thread," Robert Forman’s exhibition

of figurative and narrative paintings composed entirely of thread

with subjects ranging from self-portraits to documentation of the

artist’s hometown of Hoboken. Also, in the Merck Gallery, an exhibition

of Huichol yarn paintings from northern Mexico, selected by Forman.

Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To June 18.

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "The Art Gene," the annual Bucks County Invitational,

curated by Bruce Katsiff, focuses on four pairs of related artists:

George and Daniel Anthonisen; Robert and Jason Dodge; Emmet and Elijah

Gowin; and Barbara and Mark Osterman. The show includes videos of

the artists discussing their work. To July 2. Also, the new Children’s

Gallery, featuring artwork by children ages 3 to 12, through June

30. "Sublime Servers: A Celebration of Theatrical Possibilities

at the Table," a cornucopia of expressive ceramic sculpture and

vessels by 30 artists, organized by the Baltimore Clayworks and curated

by Gail M. Brown. To September 3.

Museum hours Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday,

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $5 adults; $1.50 students; children free. Website:

Top Of Page
Art In Trenton

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632.

"Hidden Truths: Bloody Sunday 1972," an exhibition by 18 photographers

documenting Bloody Sunday 1972 when British forces fired upon a civil

rights protest in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 marchers and

wounding many others. Curator is Trisha Ziff. Tuesday through Saturday,

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 4 p.m. To July 23.

Extension Gallery, 60 Ward Avenue, Mercerville, 609-890-7777.

"Dream Fulfilled, To God be the Glory," an exhibition of sculpture

by Joseph W. Acquah of Ghana, west Africa. Monday to Thursday, 10

a.m. to 4 p.m. To June 29.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Spring Exhibition. In the Museum: "Red Grooms: Sculptures,"

40 brightly-painted, humorous sculptures by the New York City artist.

In the Domestic Arts Building, "Bill Barrett: Sculpture and Painting,"

bronze sculptures, paintings, and drawings. Also, "Andrzej Pitynski:

Partisans-Freedom Fighters," drawings and models of the monumental

bronze sculpture of Polish partisans and freedom fighters currently

installed near the Hamilton Train Station. Public hours are Thursday

through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To July 2.

New work outdoors includes sculptures by Barry Hehemann, Petro Hul,

Sharon Loper, Helena Lukasova, Scott McMillin, and Paul Muick. The

22-acre landscaped sculpture park and water gardens are on the former

state fairgrounds site, with indoor exhibitions in the 10,000 square

foot museum, and renovated Domestic Arts Building.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton,

609-292-6310. "Forgotten Gateway: The Abandoned Buildings of Ellis

Island," Larry Racioppo’s exhibition of the little-known world

of Ellis Island’s abandoned buildings, poignant reminders of their

historical significance and current disrepair, to June 30. Museum

hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon

to 5 p.m.

Also: "Building a Collection: Fine Art at the New Jersey State

Museum," to August 20; "The Art of Jack Delano," July

29 to September 4. On extended view: "Of Rock and Fire;" "Washington

Crossing the Delaware;" "New Jersey and the Great Ice Age;"

"Dinosuar Turnpike;" "A Convocation of Eagles;" and

"Amber: the Legendary Resin."

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