The annual solicitation of "amateur" photographers for the juried photo exhibition at Grounds for Sculpture began with applications sent to regional photo clubs, adult communities, and – in order to catch those at the minimum eligibility age of 18 – college art departments. The only requirement was that submissions must depict sculpture, however tangentially. The combination of a large response and the high standards of the jurors delivers an exhibition that happily bears no resemblance to amateur photography. Byran Grigsby, photo editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, selected this year’s show; and it is a winner.

The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is the awareness of the person behind the camera. When an amateur looks through that view finder he or she sees only the subject – not the composition, not the juxtaposition, not any of the visual weirdness in the margins. The amateur’s vision is best summed up by that shop-worn marketing slogan "point and shoot." In other words, for the amateur, the photograph is just a record of the fleeting moment – nothing more, nothing less.

Great photographs are all about the "more." Anyone who has ever seen the photographs of William Wegman (dogs), Ellen Brooks (Barbies,) or Cindy Sherman (self) knows that photographs get all dressed up and become something more. Staging a subject, as these well-established artists do, is just one way to ferret out the delectable weirdness of contemporary photography. Manipulating the image is more common and we see a lot of that in this exhibition.

The three most striking examples are Robert A. Dechico’s "Celebration of Life," a bronze goddess poised on one toe, directed by a flat-footed maestro who appears to have been embossed from paper; Warren Baer’s "The Fire Within," in which a not-so-menacing stallion rears up on its hindquarters glaring at the viewer with its orange eye borrowed from a paper tiger; and Susan Christian’s "Tsunami," where the fear factor is palpable. Christian’s image seems every bit as awesome and terrifying as the video of the real thing seen on the evening news.

When it dawns on viewers that they have been fooled, they will experience something like a loss of footing on a muddy slope. What has been titled "Tsunami" is really a close-up of a basin-like appendage on a piece of sculpture. The basin has collected a recent snowfall which has crystallized into a harmless arc of ice. By cropping and inverting the image Christian has created something truly iconic.

In his juror’s statement Grigsby acknowledges photography’s sometimes "slippery relationship with reality." Slipping, like being fooled, puts you in a place where you never intended to be. This temporary loss of control has an exhilarating effect on the senses, especially if the place is pleasantly bizarre where things are not what they seem.

The two main trends of image-making are the snapshot esthetic (Grigsby cites the influence of Garry Winogrand here), followed by the fashion esthetic. The latter has its origins in the work of late Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, and others. Without resorting to runway subject matter, this esthetic is both stylish and sexy. Exemplifying this trend is a photograph entitled "Similar Silhouettes" by Merit Award-winner Martin Deutsch. His black-and-white image of an encounter between a habited nun and a sentry-like sculpture might have come directly from the archives of Conde Nast.

Although lacking the sophisticated edge of Deutsch’s contribution, other style-driven pieces are worthy of note. They include "Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden #1," by Patricia Bender; "Winter Bites," by Michelle Tregea Dorlon, the Stieglitz-inspired "Purple Haze," by Deborah Land; " Moore’s Eye," by Wayne Devonport, and a luminous masterpiece by Paul S. Grand, an honorable mention entitled "Obelisk" that was taken in Bijapur, India, in 2003.

There are some digital photographs in the show and others that merely look digital like Christina Stadelmeier’s "Liquid Light II (Chihuly)," a photo that captures the essence of the original glass sculpture’s molten color.

There are a number of impossibly vaudevillian photographs that fall into the category of "You hada be there." Among these is a gilded and lip-glossed Lady Liberty vamping for attention – "So American," by Colleen Marks. Another photo, "Sunbathers at Concert," by Ed Davin, portrays sunbathers both real and fabricated. The latter are two leggy clay torsos apparently dancing around prone bodies, a spray of summer foliage where their heads should be.

Rory Mahon’s "Hands," like many other pieces in this exceptional exhibition, opens a dialogue with the viewer. Mahon, a Pennington resident, was artist-in-residence at Princeton’s Riverside School last year. While there he coordinated the sculpture project that is the subject of this photograph. Mahon cast the hands of the 110 students who worked with him on a painted blue-and-white cast cement globe; and their fingers form the shapes of the continents. In the photograph Mahon poses his infant son Finn atop the globe (the heir-apparent of 2005). The baby’s arms are raised triumphantly.

Perhaps none engenders a dialogue better than juror Grigsby’s Best in Show prize winner, a large color image entitled "Rapid City, SD" by Todd Mason. What Mason discovered in Rapid City was three Mt. Rushmore-like busts of Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush. The sculptor and/or its commissioners wished to create monuments (high art), but the result was super-size, souvenir-shop doorstops (low art). The busts that are the subject of this photograph are pure kitsch. Kitsch takes the spoils of real culture and processes them unmercifully. In its attempt to create heroic art, it creates only preciousness.

While what is created may appeal to the base appetites of mass taste, to the sophisticated eye like that of photographer Mason, what is seen is something so bad it’s good. Mason captures this presidential trinity under the watchful eye of a tower. The tower, like the lantern-jawed presidents, appears like some infallible beacon of truth. The entire ensemble glistens in the sun, pristine white and sanitized against the blue sky. The photograph creates a near-perfect fusion of "high art" and "low art."

If these ironies are not sufficient Grigsby adds the following in a brief juror’s statement: "I was reminded of the photographs I had seen of the statues of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. This had to be an homage to three men and yet through Todd Mason’s discerning lens, the total sculpture had been transformed into an image that was both stunning and frightful."

Focus on Sculpture, a juried photography exhibition, Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton. Runs through May 1. Hours, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 609-586-0616.

Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8777. "Distillations," a shared exhibit by Pam Farrell and Madhvi Subrahmanian. The show features Indian-inspired pottery and clay sculpture by Subrahmanian along with Farrel’s exhibit of encaustic works created by an ancient painting method. On view through January 21. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. "A Different View," a multi-media exhibit by South Brunswick artists Stephanie Galvano Barbetti. Through February 4. Gallery is open by appointment during school hours.

Dynasty Arts, 20 Nassau Street, Unit F, 609-688-9388. The recently opened Chinese antique and art gallery features a silk-screen series, "Last Dynasty," oil and watercolor, and limited edition prints. Artist and owner, Lu Zuogeng, combines Chinese brushwork with Western watercolor. Also, Chinese antique furniture of Ming and Qing dynasties. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Princeton Recollects" exhibition was organized to celebrate the accomplishments of the Princeton History Project. In the 1970s and 80s, the project was dedicated to collecting and preserving memories, and publishing "The Princeton Recollector," a monthly magazine. The exhibition includes original letters, documents, and artifacts. Free. Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Witherspoon Gallery at Holsome, 27 Witherspoon Street, 609-279-1592. Exhibit of works by Joseph Petrovics, sculptor, and Madelaine Shellaby, photographer. The show, curated by Ann Ridings, is on view through January 24. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, 151 Moore Street, 609-806-4314 ext. 3170. Inaugural exhibition, "Til Every Art Be Thine," developed as part of the statewide Transcultural Initiative that includes exhibitions by 17 other professional New Jersey museums and galleries. The focus of the multi-media presentation is a controversial mural that occupies Princeton’s Palmer Square post office. Through February 18. The gallery is open weekdays, 3 to 5 p.m. and other times by appointment. Although guided by John Kavalos, art history teacher at Princeton High School, students run this gallery on their own. It started in 2000 and has expanded to 10 times the original size.

The mural in question, by New York artist Karl Free, was a 1939 New Deal work-relief project. The verse that accompanies the painting was the inspiration for the exhibit title: "America! with Peace and Freedom blest/ Pant for true Fame and scorn inglorious rest. Science invites, urged by the Voice divine, Exert thyself ’til every Art be thine."

The show features interviews with people from a cross-section of Princeton’s population are projected on large screens. Visitors can videotape their own comments in an interactive "voting booth," and this footage will be added to the exhibit.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-4377. Art exhibit featuring works by Jessie Starbuck reflecting the years 2000 to 2004 from both observation and memory. Through February 1.

Area Galleries

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632. Shared show, "Art Teachers Art," for Bernard Moore, Susan Kiley, Anthony Colavita, and Aundretta Wright. Through February 27. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511. Shared exhibits, "Closeup: A Photographer and His Lady" by Frank Magalhaes, and "A Taste of New Orleans" by E. J. Greenblat. Exhibits on view through February 6.

Gold Medal Impressions, 43 Princeton Hightstown Road, West Windsor, 609-606-9001. Newly-expanded gallery of photographer Richard Druckman, a freelance photographer for Associated Press. Six rooms and over 250 photographs of professional football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and Olympic events. Photographs for sale are matted and framed and in a variety of sizes and prices. Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, Schoolhouse Lane, Cranbury, 609-395-0900. "Art for Guys," an exhibition created by Rico Telofski of color composited images creating a spoof on modern society and advertising. A Plainsboro resident, Telofski is a nationally exhibited pop artist employing photography as his medium. Show is on view through January 28. Gallery is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays noon to 3 p.m.

Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616. A seasonal outdoor sculpture exhibition featuring the ISC Outstanding Student Achievement Awards Exhibition. "Twisted Logic" by Patrick Dougherty," Earthwords and Geoglyphs" by Australian artist Andrew Rogers. Show continues to May 1. "Focus on Sculpture 2005," an annual juried exhibition of photographs by amateur photographers and the figurative sculptures of contemporary Norwegian artist Nicolaus Widerberg. On view in the Domestic Arts Building to May 1. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., November to March; open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., April to October.

Hopewell Frame Shop Gallery, 24 West Broad Street, 609-466-0817. Solo show for portrait artist Karen Bannister. She finds the human face and form most appealing and uses live models whenever possible. On view through February 26. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Louisa Melrose Gallery, 41 Bridge Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-1470. "Art Blooms," an exhibit featuring florals and spring scenes in all media. Artists include Stephanie Amato, W, Carl Burger, Christian Corey, Christina Debarry, and Christine Debrosky. Through February 28. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

La Principessa Ristorante, Route 27, Kingston Mall, 609-921-3043. "La Dolce Vita, " a collection of original photographs from Italia by Ed Tseng. The exhibition remains on permanent display. Restaurant hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272. Exhibition of work by prominent Chinese artists "Ancient Arts in a Modern World: Contemporary Chinese Art." Artists include Zhi Lin, Hong Zhu An, Zhenmin Ji, and Chao-Han Huang. Exhibit on view through February 12. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Closed Saturdays and Mondays.

Peggy Lewis Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street, 609-397-0275. "Mostly Landscapes," an exhibit of oil paintings by Roger Smith. A psychiatrist for 30 years, his area of expertise is hypnosis. On view through February 3. 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.

Printmaking Council of New Jersey, 440 River Road, North Branch Station, 908-725-2110. Annual juried members show featuring prints by 31 members. Artworks include woodcuts, etchings, digital prints, and handmade paper. Through January 22. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Taste of the Town, 5 Railroad Place, Hopewell Borough, 609-466-3666. "Reflections of Italy," an exhibit of photographs by Michele Bartran Mosner. Through April 14.

West Windsor Library, North Post Road, 609-799-0462. Exhibit of painting by Indian artist Jayant Parikh. Born in India in 1940, he has exhibited in both India and abroad. He has received numerous national and international awards in painting and graphics. Through January 31.

Campus Arts

Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788. Medieval, Renaissance, and baroque galleries are open. The museum’s galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are given on Saturdays at 2 p.m.

"Bringing into Being: Materials and Techniques in American Prints 1950 to 2000," an exhibition of 30 prints exploring American artists to technical advances in printmaking. Through January 23. "Contemporary Photographs from the Museum Collection." Through February 6.

Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, Lawrenceville, 609-620-6026. Annual Student Exhibition group show on exhibit through February 18. Gallery open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.

Mason Gross School of the Arts, Civic Square Galleries, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7511. Exhibit of 20th century American art icons from artists Will Barnet and Bob Blackburn. Through February 4.

CAPPS, Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550. Kym Kulp’s exhibit presents new work that draws on history’s earliest explorations in photographic image making. On view to January 28. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20 Library Place, 609-497-7990. William Hogan and Howard Berelson’s exhibit of Bible Drawings. On view through February 11. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 9 p.m.

Art in the Workplace

Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hopewell Campus, 609-252-5120. Outdoor sculpture show features works by seven prominent East Coast artists: Hope Carter of Hopewell, Kate Dodd, Richard Heinrich, John Isherwood, Joel Perlman, John Van Alstine, and Jay Wholley. Exhibition is on view during business hours and will remain in its location for two years.

The artists were selected by a panel composed of Alejandro Anreus, veteran curator and scholar, Jeffrey Nathanson of the International Sculpture Center, and visual artist Sheba Sharrow, working under the guidance of Kate Somers, curator of the company’s corporate gallery in Lawenceville.

Art by the River

Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville. "Little Gems," an exhibit of small-scale works in many different media. Artists include Joy Barth,Bob Baum, Gail Bracegirdle, and Joy Kreves. Through February 6. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804. Annual holiday show features artists Joanne S. Scott with paintings and prints, and Lucy Graves McVicker with watercolors and mixed media. Extended to January 30. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Gratz Gallery, 30 West Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-4300. Fourth annual exhibition of new oils featuring local landscapes by Jan Lipes of Solebury. Lipes is an emergency room doctor who, after the loss of his physical abilities due to MS, became a painter. Show runs to February 6. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

New Hope Arts, Union Square, West Bridge Street and Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-862-3396. Second annual New Hope Sculpture Exhibition featuring an indoor exhibition of more than 88 works by 43 nationally and internationally recognized artists and an outdoor show of seven large-scale works installed throughout the town. Through April.

Riverbank Arts, 19 Bridge Street, Stockton, 609-397-9330. Recent work by David Baker. On view through January 31. Open Monday to Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Art In Trenton

New Jersey State Museum, Galleries at 225 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. "Nikon’s Small World," a touring exhibit recognizing excellence in photography through the microscope. Trenton is the only state venue for the exhibit that runs through February 4. Featured images include differentiating neuronal cells from the Scripps Research Institute and an image of a spiderwort flower anther. The gallery is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Old Barracks Museum, Barrack Street, Trenton, 609-396-1776. "Furniture, Curios and Pictures: 100 Years of Collecting by the Old Barracks," a display in the exhibit gallery is included in the tour admission fee. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the last tour is at 3:50 p.m.

Area Museums

American Hungarian Foundation Museum, 300 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "Enchanting Modern: Ilonka Karasz 1896-1981." Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Through February 6.

James A. Michener Art Museum, Union Square Complex, Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-340-9800. New Hope satellite facility opens with the relocation of the popular, interactive multi-media show, "Creative Bucks County: A Celebration of Art and Artists," featuring 19th and 20th century painters, writers, composers, and playwrights. Also on exhibit, "Pennsylvania Impressionists of the New Hope School." Museum admission $6 adults; $2 youth. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, 215-340-9800. "The Artists Among Us," a permanent interactive exhibit dedicated to the history and legacy of the artists who have made New Hope an internationally recognized arts colony. It is a permanent exhibition. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Museum admission $6.50 adults; $4 students. www.michenerartmuseum.org.

Also, an exhibition, "Selma Bortner: Body of Work," containing Bortner’s prints from the late 1960s to 2004 On view to January 30.

Also, "Impossible to Forget: The Nazi Camps Fifty Years After." The 88 photographs were produced over a 12-year period by the English photographer Michael Kenna. On view through April 10. $4 in addition to regular admission.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, 709-721 Catharine Street, Philadelphia, 215-922-3456. An exhibit of 88 paintings focuses on Rajput courts of India from the 17th to 19th centuries. Illustrates themes of pious devotion, poetic love, the play of Hindu gods, and the pleasures and intrigues of court life. Exhibit runs through mid-April.

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "Designs for Theater, Opera, and Dance." Through February 13. Pastels in Paris: From the Fin-de Siecle to La Belle Epoque." Through January 30. "Beyond the Border: Picturing Mexico in Children’s Book Illustrations." Through February 6.

Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free. Free admission on the first Sunday of each month.

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