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Tom George’s Clever Benefit

This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 12, 1999. All rights reserved.

If "one good turn deserves another," how

about 100 of them? If Princeton resident Tom George, an internationally-known

artist, has decided to give 100 gifts to the Arts Council of Princeton’s

capital campaign, who are we to stand in his way? Especially when

we’re the best ones to help realize his gift.

On Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15, we can swallow hard and bite

the bullet — we can purchase one or more of the art works that

George has earmarked for sale to benefit the Arts Council — and

enjoy owning it for the rest of our lives. Duty calls.

In quite an unusual gesture, George recently decided this was how

he might do his considerable bit for the Arts Council. A very pleased

Debbie Gwazda, coordinating the event for the organization, points

out that "when artists donate work, they make no profit."

They can’t write off the value of the art work — they can claim

only the raw materials that went into making each piece.

Three types of artwork will be offered for sale: line drawings in

ink of trees in Marquand Park and some Asian-inspired landscape sketches;

flower studies in brilliant watercolor; and landscapes in pastel.

Sizes start at about 12 by 18 inches, and, priced from $250 to $1,200,

all works will be matted. In the spirit of immediate gratification,

buyers may walk away with their purchases.

"These drawings, watercolors, and pastels are all done directly

from nature," says George. "They are the foundation of the

abstract painting I do in the studio and can be considered research

or as finished works in themselves. The important point, however,

is that they are what gives a solid ring of truth to my paintings

as a whole."

A champagne preview, on Friday, May 14, from 6 to 8 p.m., provides

the first look at works that the artist is letting go — and for

much less than usual gallery prices. Those interested in the reception,

at $50 a person, should phone the Arts Council to reserve an invitation

(609-924-8777). Also by advance reservation, the Saturday open house

and studio sale runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with all works displayed

in the Georges’ home on Greenhouse Drive. Originally part of the Moses

Taylor Pyne estate that included Drumthwacket and a park with formal

gardens and a zoo, the building itself is charmingly noteworthy.

George is a citizen of the world as well as Princeton. He was born

in 1918 in New York, graduated from Dartmouth, and studied in New

York, Paris, and Florence before his first solo show in New York in

1955. Both art and creativity in general run in the George family.

His father was Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist whose name has entered

the lingua franca for his drawings of notoriously complicated and

whimsical machines that achieved simple ends by means of mechanical

gizmos of absurd complexity. Goldberg reportedly gave his two sons

a surname that would enable them to grow up unencumbered by the family

fame. (Goldberg’s cartoons live on in cyberspace at

Laverne George, a long-time docent of the Princeton University Art

Museum, has been instrumental in its children’s programming.

George’s quieter art is represented in museums and collections around

the world, from New York and Washington to London to Norway, where

the Georges summered for many years. Closer to home, it can be seen

at the Art Museum Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced

Study, and the New Jersey State Museum, in Trenton.

All proceeds will go to the Capital Campaign for a Re-Imagined Arts

Center. Since its launch about a year ago, the campaign has realized

almost $3 million of its $4 million goal toward renovating and adding

to its premises at the corner of Witherspoon Street and Paul Robeson

Place. Architect Michael Graves’ design for the addition — also

a gift to the Arts Council — will both enhance and expand offerings

there. Hella McVay, community leader, and board member Micaela de

Lignerolles are co-chairing the Tom George studio sale.

"What you learn outside comes inside," George says of his

work, which, however abstract, echoes the basic shapes he knows from

long years of intimacy with nature. He often paints and uses pastels

outdoors. Recently described as "a second generation abstract

expressionist," George concurred, "In my case, you don’t think

— you feel."

In a salon talk last year, the artist mentioned intuition and truth

as the basis for all he does, yet stressed the inescapable technical

side: "You have to know what you’re doing." He can turn any

medium into what he wants it to be — for instance, his deep-toned

watercolors, his acrylics with oil-like effects. And he stresses painting

the part but looking at the whole.

Energetic and twinkly, with an appealing hearty laugh, George theorized

that art historians and artists look at things from different ends

of the telescope. "I’m doing weird things," he said. His salon

companion, the art historian and dealer Gary Snyder, put it differently:

"Tom George is dealing with the mysteries."

— Pat Summers

Studio Sale by Tom George, 20 Greenhouse Drive, 609-924-8777.

Champagne preview ($50) is Friday, May 14, at 6 p.m. Sale takes

place Saturday, May 15, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call to register.

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