Art in Town

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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 30, 2002

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

Thomas George’s Vivid Hues

Surrounded by splashes of fabulous color, Thomas George

stands in the middle of a white-walled room, an aptly neutral setting

for his latest series of paintings. They are beautiful in a new way:

uncharacteristically vivid hues in uncommon combinations — all,

his homage to the American Southwest.

"What I did for many, many years was to go outside and draw with

ink and brush on big pieces of paper, like this," says the

Princeton

artist. "Here" — he points to a black and white image

of a mountain — "the color in these mountains was so muted

— less, actually, than the linear structure, which was

overpowering.

And here" — gesturing toward another black-and-white image

— "this big mass was a shadow, but I didn’t feel the color

in it because the color around it didn’t get to me."

"Many people said, `Why is there no color in these things?’ I

tried and tried, but I had to see it in nature to do it. Then in my

70s, I went to Santa Fe. And there was the landscape with this

tremendous

color. But it also had the structural elements, the lines, right

there.

That was the answer to this problem I’ve had for all this time. There

was color, there was the form and the lines, and I just put it

together."

"Far Side of the Mountain," paintings from Thomas George’s

Santa Fe series, together with earlier black-and-white drawings, is

on view at the gallery, Mercer County Community College, through

February

14. The opening reception is Wednesday, January 30, from 5 to 7:30

p.m., with a gallery talk and slide lecture to follow on February

6 and 13 respectively.

The show comprises 30 works — mostly oils and watercolors of

various

sizes and several drawings. No matter the winter weather, inside the

gallery it’s sizzling with intensely saturated color that practically

gives off heat. From a central position in each wing of the I-beam

shaped gallery, a big painting heralds its smaller, but no less

eye-catching

companions.

George says his titles are usually place names, though one glowing

exception here is "The Sun," a work that faces the gallery

entrance. The scarlet foreground of "La Madera" is equaled

only by "Purple Hills," whose waving shapes and shadows echo

its orange-sky patterns. With a teal ground and burning sky,

"Jemez"

simply astounds, as does the striped sky in "Santa Fe Range."

The small "Chamita" models classic Santa Fe colors, in layers

cool to hot.

"Autumn" is the show’s single example of an image that George

enlarged from an earlier watercolor sketch, which hangs next to it.

However traditional this practice may be, he finds the process

difficult.

"Some work doesn’t enlarge, and there’s a scale for how big a

thing can get; if it gets too big, it gets empty," he says, citing

the Calder mobile at the National Gallery as a work he regards as

outsize. "Too big, you lose it; too small, you lose it too."

During an interview at his home-studio earlier this month, the

renowned

83-year-old artist was surrounded by still more of the stunning works

that have been inspired by his visits to the Southwest. They represent

for him "a tremendous leap forward in color," he says. A

tallish,

tweedy, and often twinkly country squire-kind of man, George favors

bow ties, khakis, and earth tones.

Hailed most recently for his abstracted visions, in

oils or soft pastels, of the grounds at the Institute for Advanced

Study, and for his vibrant watercolor florals, George says, "I’m

pleased that I’ve been able to find something which excites me this

much at my age. It’s like falling in love again."

"I saw this," he says, showing a few small landscape

photographs

he took near Los Alamos: big sky, mountains, vegetation, maybe some

roads here and there. "It hit me between the eyes." His hunch

that he would find "tremendous visual excitement" in the

Southwest

had proved right.

He started by working outdoors, with watercolor sketches that he calls

"basically an experimental process" to pick up "in a

staccato

way" the landscape elements he saw. These contain hues not

typically

associated with his work: indecorous purples, flamboyant oranges,

and hot pinks, even deep teal tones, along with the occasional yellow

sky. "I’ve got some crazy colors," he says with

understatement,

clearly pleased.

"I did a lot of these sketches, then when I got back here, I went

in the studio and just went to town," George says. All the seeing,

photographing, and plein-air sketching resulted in a stream of

paintings,

his impressions of the Southwest he has experienced. "I had all

this information in here" — pointing to his heart —

"and

this" — gesturing to the work — "is what happened.

When the spirit and intuition are let loose and you trust your

subconscious

to do it, this happens. I can do this with great authority because

I’ve been doing this drawing for so long."

For anyone ever puzzled by how an abstract work of art can be said

to have come from nature, George makes understanding it easy:

"You’ll

see this blue sky out there, tremendous, powerful. Then you’ll see

this mountain form, full of activity. Then you’ll see a rest, and

then more activity." Talking, he points out layer after layer

of color and shape, top to bottom, in a painting. And he says the

great breadth of the Southwestern landscape calls for horizontal

canvases

to better capture the long shapes.

"But you can’t analyze these too much," he cautions. "It’s

a visual experience. In back of everything is the study of nature,

and when people see it in a more abstracted way, they’re going to

realize it’s not just a made-up decoration. It’s got something in

it about the world that’s very real."

George’s Princeton studio is a big, high-ceilinged room with a long

window wall. There, more paintings that meld New Mexico with his

subconscious

are in progress. He points to a series of orange brush strokes

scattered

across the lower half of one. "What I want is a dance. They have

to be a certain size and a certain intensity." When he returns

to this picture, he will cut into the orange shapes with the blue

paint they will finally appear to dance on.

Absent from his New Mexico work are pastels, a medium often associated

with George’s images, and yet one he says would not work for this

theme. In his hands, pastels produce misty, romantic, less defined

effects — not apropos here. "Don’t fight the medium,"

he says, talking of how artists have to pick the best medium to

convey,

technically, what they want to say.

With some of the images in this series, George started with acrylics

— the better to block in and paint fast. That way, even the hot

colors, like oranges and yellows, dry overnight. Later, he can

overpaint

with the same shades with oils and allow the weeks it may take for

drying. In either case, "This is basically drawing with a big

brush. That’s why it’s such fun," George says.

"You’re taking chances and having an adventure, not making a

picture

postcard or an illustration or something. It’s a crazy thing, what

they call modern art. It’s the opposite of taking an order from

someone

and making it to please someone else. It’s a great privilege to be

able to do this. I’ve always felt that way."

Born in New York in 1918, George was one of two sons of cartoonist

"Rube" Goldberg (U.S. 1, May 12, 1999) and a mother he

describes

glowingly as his father’s strong support. He graduated from Dartmouth

in 1940, and also studied at New York’s Art Students League, in Paris,

and Florence. His first solo show in New York was in 1951, and since

then, he has exhibited worldwide.

With Laverne, his wife of more than 50 years, and two sons, George

lived and worked for extended periods near Oslo, Norway, and in 1969,

the family moved from Rockland County, New York, to Princeton. He

is still based in the "so-called barn" — one of the

buildings

erected in the 1890s on the Moses Taylor Pyne estate that included

Drumthwacket, now the governor’s mansion. It’s distinctly not a barn

these days, but rather a solid and spacious brick dwelling with a

distinctive round, castle-like tower that originally held water.

Summer has often been George’s period for drawing, with the rest of

the year devoted to painting. His mountain drawings were done largely

in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Norway, and China, and his travels

to paint or draw have also taken him to Europe, Japan, Nova Scotia,

Maine, and Wyoming. Occasional stints as artist-in-residence or

visiting

artist provided him with additional venues.

In 1987, the New Jersey State Museum hosted "Thomas George: A

Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Works on Paper," a major

show of the artist’s oeuvre, starting in the 1950s. It included

drawings,

pastels, and paintings, and reflected both the evolution of George’s

style and a diversity of settings — from England’s Hidcote Manor

Garden to Monet’s water garden to Japanese temple gardens; from Norway

settings to Gueilin, China, to Princeton’s Marquand Park and the

grounds

of the Institute for Advanced Study.

A 1999 studio sale of his work to benefit the Arts Council of

Princeton

was a runaway success, and not the first of its kind. George says

it was his third such event, with earlier ones in Norway and New York

state. "I think you have to pay back the place where you come

from," he says, "and this is how I can do it."

For Tom George, one of the attractions of the MCCC venue is that it’s

a teaching gallery. Beyond talking about art, he is eager to share

with students the importance of getting excited, of having a passion

— about something. "If you have that, you have a

chance,"

he says. Witness the artist himself: hoping only for continued energy

to pursue his current excitement, making images of the American

Southwest.

"I don’t feel part of any movement," he says, rejecting the

"second generation Abstract Expressionist" label that is

sometimes

applied to him.

"Usually they say, `Oh, that artist is influenced by Abstract

Expressionism or Photo Realism, or something.’ I can’t deal with that.

I ‘m interested in individual people and work. I look at art history

as a vertical thing, not horizontal, and not by movements — I

don’t believe in movements."

"I believe art history is made up of artists who may have

some affiliation, but first of all, they’re individuals. I feel I

have my roots in certain artists of the past."

With that, George launches into a string of names beginning with

Arthur

Dove (1880-1946), the "best American painter," whose 1912

solo show in Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery was a landmark in

American abstract art. He is eager to ask students in Mercer’s art

program if they know about Dove and his work.

He also mentions West Coast artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993),

and Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) as influences, as well

as Bonnard, Cezanne, Monet, Bierstadt, Ryder, Velasquez, Goya and

— "the greatest of all" — Matisse. On the contemporary

scene, George admires New Mexico artist Agnes Martin: "I just

like her attitude, her way of thinking and working and writing."

Surrounded by his brilliant Santa Fe paintings, well aware of and

often lauded for his life-long art, George is asked if deep, deep

down, he lets himself have a little private gloat. His response is

refreshing. "I know it’s good, so I’m not going to say it isn’t.

I can do what I do very well. If I didn’t, after all these years,

I’d quit."

— Pat Summers

Thomas George, Gallery at Mercer County College,

Communications Center, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. Artist’s reception

for "Far Side of the Mountain" by Thomas George. Artist’s

talk is Wednesday, February 6, at 7 p.m. Gallery is open Tuesday to

Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday evenings 6 to 8 p.m.; Thursday

evenings 7 to 9 p.m. Show runs to February 14. Free. Wednesday,

January 30, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Top Of Page
Art in Town

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206.

"Freshwater

Faces," an exhibit of paintings by Eberhard Froelich, a Princeton

native who created the series over the past year while living and

working in Leipzig. The paintings are inspired by the aquarium at

the Leipzig Zoo. Gallery is open by appointment during school hours.

To February 1.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street,

609-497-4192.

In the dining room, works by Deborah Paglione, graphic designer,

interior

designer, and freelance artist who is president of the Garden State

Watercolor Society. Watercolors, photographs, and hand-painted prints.

Show may be viewed daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To March 13.

Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100.

Paintings by Marc Malberg whose interest in Jewish history is

reflected

in many of his works. The Princeton resident is an associate clinical

professor in orthopedic surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Artist’s reception is February 3 for the show that runs to March 20.

Gallery is open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.

to 3 p.m. Closed Saturdays.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-4377.

"Here and There," watercolors by Terri McNichol and Alan

Goodheart.

McNichol teaches watercolor at Mercer County College. Goodheart, a

landscape architect, paints in his Princeton studio. To February 5.

Triumph Brewing Company, 138 Nassau Street, 609-924-7855.

"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the

collection

of Jorge Armenteros who has been studying and collecting Cuban art

since 1996. Works from the fine art world as well as rustic art made

of found materials. "At its best, Cuban folk art is vivid,

symbolic,

sensual, and inspiring. In it, you will find a purity of appreciation

for light, color, and life’s simple pleasures," says Armenteros.

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Campus Arts

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

German Photography" features 15 works by such artists as Dieter

Appelt, Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, and Thomas Struth; to March

24. Also "Anxious Omniscience: Surveillance in Contemporary

Cultural

Practice," to April 1. Klinger to Kollwitz: German Art in the

Age of Expressionism, an exhibit of prints and drawings that comprises

an overview of late 19th and early 20th century German art. Drawing

on a Bargmann family bequest, works address the variety of innovative

and avant-garde styles that transformed the German artistic landscape

between 1871 and 1933. Other artists include Kandinsky, Bunter,

Kirchner,

Heckel, and Schmidt-Rottluff. To June 9.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Free tours of the collection every Saturday at 2 p.m.

Firestone Library, Milberg Gallery, Princeton University,

609-258-3184. "Not for Myself Alone: A Celebration of

Jewish-American

Writers," the debut show for the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection

of Jewish-American Writers that ranges from the early 19th century

to the present day and includes Yiddish-language writers as well as

writers in English. A two-volume catalog accompanies the exhibition.

Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 21.

The exhibit includes manuscripts, such as a draft of a poem by Stanley

Kunitz, letters by Hannah Arendt, Nathanael West, Clifford Odets,

Lionel Trilling and Susan Sontag, and photographic portraits of the

writers.

Princeton University, Firestone Library,

609-258-5049.

In the lobby: "Ukiyo-E: Japanese Woodblock Color Prints,"

showcasing masterworks of the art of Japanese prints by such masters

as Utamaro and Hokusai. The show includes instruction on how Japanese

papermaking, drawing, woodcarving, and printing served this art. To

January 31.

Lawrenceville School, Gruss Center of Visual Arts,

Lawrenceville,

609-620-6026. "Photographs From a Private Collection," an

exhibition featuring works by a panoply of photography’s luminaries

including Alfred Steiglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret

Bourke-White,

August Sander, Ansel Adams, and Harry Callahan. Gallery hours are

Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; except Wednesday; Saturday,

9 a.m. to noon. To February 28.

Princeton Day School, Anne Reid Art Gallery, 609-924-6700.

"Collections and Collectibles," an exhibition curated and

installed by students of the gallery club featuring works from members

of the PDS community. Through February 14.

Raritan Valley College Art Gallery, North Branch,

908-218-8876.

"Digital Odyssey, a show of 20 large-scale digital images on paper

and fabric. Bruner was awarded an arts residency grant last year at

Druckwerkstatt, the printmaking division of the Berlin arts

organization.

Gallery hours are Monday 3 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, noon to 3 p.m.;

Wednesday,

1 to 8 p.m., and Thursday, noon to 3 p.m. To February 15.

Top Of Page
Art in the Workplace

Johnson & Johnson, Education and Conference Center, 410

Geore Street, New Brunswick, 732-524-6957. "The Fabric of Jazz:

A Tribute to the Genius of American Music" by Lauren Camp, fabric

artist. Her original art quilts include tributes to Louis Armstrong,

Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. By appointment. To April 20.

"Music is to me a meditation," says Camp, "a place of

peace and space and good cheer. It is a fascinating challenge to

create

a visual statement of what I hear, and what pleases me, using the

unlikely elements of fabric and thread combined with other bits and

pieces as the mood — and the music — dictates."

Area Galleries

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511.

"Afghanistan Before," photographs taken in the late 1960s

by David H. Miller. Also "Floral Interpretations," a show

of black-and-white photographs of flowers by Jay Anderson, to February

3. Open Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. To

February

3.

Hopewell Frame Shop, 24 West Broad Street, Hopewell,

609-466-0817.

Solo exhibition of wildlife and nature photographs by Andrew Chen,

a veteran nature photographer whose work has been published in

"North

American Birds." Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;

Saturday,

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To February 23.

Montgomery Center for the Arts, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

Road, 609-921-3272. "A Collection of Festive and Celebratory Art:

A Retrospective Show of Works by David Raymond." Raymond, who

died last year, was a Princeton resident with a doctorate from NYU

and an early member of the Princeton Artists Alliance. His work is

in many corporate and private collections; to February 10. In the

Upstairs Gallery: "Seeing Eyes on the Environment,"

photographs

of the community by students of the Rock Brook School in Skillman,

to January 31. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.;

Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

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Art In Trenton

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436.

"Artist

and Model: Working from Life," a theme show featuring 18 artists

working in oil, watercolor, drawing, photography, and sculpture. Helen

Bailey, Jason Burrell, Heather Delzell, Diane Levell, Mel Leipzig,

and Kathryn Triolo are among the artists. Gallery hours are Monday

through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To February 22.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park,

609-989-3632.

"Artsbridge to Trenton," an invitational exhibition by members

of Artsbridge, a New Hope and Lambertville artists’ organization.

Exhibiting artists include Paul Matthews, Gail Bracegirdle, Vincent

Ceglia, Joy Kreves, George Radeschi, and Tomi Urayama. Open Tuesday

through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To February

24.

Extension Gallery, 60 Ward Avenue, Mercerville,

609-890-7777.

"Wear It," a show of wearable art by Atelier faculty and

apprentices.

Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To January 31.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. Open Tuesday through Sunday,

10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission

is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10

Sunday.

Annual memberships start at $45. To February 24.

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

609-292-6464. "George Washington and the Battle of Trenton: The

Evolution of an American Image," an exhibition that documents

the historic context of the American Revolution, the "Ten Crucial

Days" of the Trenton campaign that was the turning point, and

the subsequent commemoration of George Washington’s heroic image by

American artists. To February 24.

Also "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen," to April

14. "Art by African-Americans in the Collection," to August

18. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.;

Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.

On extended view: "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The

Archaeological

Record"; "Delaware Indians of New Jersey"; "The Sisler

Collection of North American Mammals"; "Of Rock and Fire";

"Neptune’s Architects"; "The Modernists"; "New

Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and Iron."

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Art by the River

Atelier Gallery, 108 Harrison Street, Frenchtown,

908-996-9992.

"Small Works," a six-artist show featuring Anne Cooper

Dobbins,

Stacie Speer Scott, Mike Filipiak, Susan Stuart, Eleanor Burkette,

and Lisa Mahan. Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

To February 24.

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Area Museums

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New

Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "The Baltics: Nonconformist and Modernist

Art During the Soviet Era," the first major survey of modernist

art produced in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during the post-World

War II Soviet period. The show features 150 works from the Zimmerli’s

Dodge Collection produced in reaction to communist repression. Show

continues to March 17. Also "St. Petersburg, 1921," to March

10. $3 adults; free to students and children.

Also "The Victor Weeps: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh of Afghan

Refugees, 1996-98;" to March 31. Museum hours are Tuesday through

Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open free to the public

on the first Sunday of every month. Spotlight tours every Sunday at

2 and 3 p.m.


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