Several spring art gallery exhibitions offer the opportunity to get up and out and experience the works of area artists, visit a couple of annual events, and even reflect a bit on the cultural value of the exhibition venues.
We’ll start with one of the newer gallery venues in the region: the Tulpehaking Nature Center at the Abbott Marshlands in Hamilton Township.
If the names seem unfamiliar, they are. “Tulpehaking” is a Lenape term that translates as “land of the turtles” — which the marsh certainly is. And the Abbott Marsh is the recently adopted name for the Trenton Hamilton Bordentown Marsh.
The county-led name change not only shortened the name from nine to three syllables but emphasizes historically important archaeologist Charles Abbott who owned a home on the marsh and did a good deal of his groundbreaking research there.
The center is currently hosting “The Voices for the Abbott Marshlands 2019 Photography Exhibit” through September 15. Organized by the Friends of the Abbott Marshland, this is the ninth annual installment of an event that engages local artists to show the marshlands’ ecological and historic significance and to engender support and protection of the marshlands.
The 39 works — selected by noted Princeton photographer Ricardo Barros and Nature Center Manager Kelly Rypkema — reflect several different approaches.
Some are photojournalistic, such as “Bass Fishing on Spring Lake” by Princeton photographer Maia Reim; others are nature studies, Princeton’s Darcy Chang’s “Silver-Spotted Skipper”; pastorals, Langhorne-based Sharlene Holliday’s “Morning at Spring Lake,” and visual mediations of natural designs and patterns, Lambertville resident Jim Amon’s “Tree/Vines/Wires.”
For those visiting the first time the center’s three galleries will provide a homey feeling because it was a former home — a 1963 ranch house that has mixture of traditional and modernistic touches — interior stone walls, hardwood and tile floors, and a large bay window.
And as one looks at the artwork — with this show being one of a series of visual art exhibitions — visitors can find themselves sharing the room with children exploring a science project or looking at a turtle from the marsh.
Tulpehaking Nature Center, 57 Westcott Avenue, Hamilton. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Free. Donations accepted. 609-303-0704 or mercercountyparks.org/parks/tulpehaking-nature-center.
The Trenton City Museum in Ellarslie Mansion in Cadwalader Park is currently celebrating another annual event — the juried Ellarslie Open.
Now in its 36th year, the original 1982 event was to encourage local artists to submit their work for adjudication and exhibition. Then, as coordinators note, the “open became a significant exhibition in its own right, drawing on the work of professional artists from the tri-state region and beyond, while encouraging and recognizing emerging artists.”
This year’s event features 125 works that coordinators say show “the depth and breadth of artistic talent in the Delaware Valley region.” Independent Bucks County-based curator Liz Kelton Sheehan juried the show, selecting from the 520 pieces submitted by 280 artists.
One work is Best in Show recipient Cassaundra Flor’s etching “Aeolian Cityscape.”
About her work, the Chalfont, Pennsylvania-based Flor says, “My drawings, paintings, and prints focus on creating an implied landscape. Imagery that may not be considered a traditional landscape can be read as one when it is presented in an abstracted manner — my work explores this concept. My recent works include presenting sections of musical instruments and geometric architecture in an abstracted state. An unusual view of an everyday object can create a space like that of a cityscape. Looseness and realism are contrasted in my work. This contrast represents how emotion operates in collaboration with the reality we experience.”
And as finely done as the work is, don’t stop just there. There is enough art to explore. Take for example, “Awestruck,” by Hamilton Square’s Daniel Zimmerman, a gray-toned oil homage to the bygone Saturday matinee movies — showing that a finely wrought piece of art can be seriously fun. Then there’s Lawrence High School instructor Sean Carney’s “State Line #2,” an engaging work made more engaging when one realizes the medium — wood and stain.
And while there are plenty of large works that attract the eye, don’t forget to take a big look at the small art too, like Philadelphia artist (and former Trenton gallery director) Joanne Donnelly’s oil pastel “Four Square.” It is a pleasing reminder of the wonder of a simple arrangement in muted colors.
This year’s exhibition also marks a change. The coordinators for the past several years, Caroline Stetson and Carol Hill, are welcoming a new group of curators to carry on the event.
In addition to the exhibition, take some time to look at the building itself. Designed by Scottish-born American architect John Notman, it too is a work of art and a lesson in letting natural light lift enclosed spaces.
Ellarslie Open 36, Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Cadwalader Park, Trenton. On view through July 7. Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. Free. 609-989-3632 or www.ellarslie.org.
“Remembering Norma Jean: A Retrospective of the Works of Norma Jean (NJ) DeVico” lets the late Titusville artist continue to be a regional presence through 60 oil pastel works at the Capital Health Hospital art gallery in Hopewell.
And that is perhaps what the artist, who died in 2018 of cancer, was thinking.
“She wanted to live for whatever time she had left with art, museums, the outdoors, and love,” writes her friend G. Veen of the exhibition coordinated by Capital Health and the Hopewell Valley Arts Council. “NJ, as she was known to her many friends, wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, write, paint landscapes, travel, have art shows, and definitely not live like a patient. She taught art to special needs kids, volunteered in Trenton, and curated arts shows in banks, coffee shops, libraries, and churches. She inspired many others to not just think about doing art (or showing it), but just go do it.”
Her arrangements of colors, shapes, and energies — sometimes soft and sometimes powerfully expressive — are a testament to her artistry. And while her tone is often flip or defiant, she provides small clues about how she saw herself. And while she confesses in one painting, “I Have a Feeling I’m on the Wrong Planet,” the nearly 20 depictions of fishes suggests that she found herself a fish out of water and painting to stay alive — a way of breathing.
As with the other stops, the building is also worth considering. Designed by Array Architects in association with HKS Inc, the hospital uses spacious and light-filled atria and surfaces of glass, metal, and stone — including a rock wall with water falling along its considerable width — to create a hotel or resort-like impression to lift the spirit. And in addition to the current exhibition, be on the lookout for artwork from regional artists ranging from the late Princeton architect Michael Graves, Morrisville artist Kate Graves (no relation), Hopewell’s Rory Mahon, and others.
Remembering Norma Jean: A Retrospective of the Works of Norma Jean (NJ) DeVico, Capital Health Hospital – Hopewell, One Capital Way, Pennington. On view on the hospital’s second floor atrium through July 19. www.capitalhealth.org.