America, Through Artists’ Eyes

By Linda Arntzenius

The holiday season draws visitors to art museums in Princeton and beyond and Princeton Magazine here presents a round-up of exhibitions in town and further afield. Beginning close to home, art lovers who recently enjoyed the Arts Council of Princeton’s singular show marking the 25th anniversary of the Princeton Artists Alliance, will be able to see more work by this group as well as other contemporary New Jersey artists in America, Through Artists’ Eyes, an inspired new exhibition at the New Jersey State Museum.

Founded by local artist Charles McVicker, the Princeton Artists Alliance (PAA) includes some of Princeton’s most talented painters, sculptors and photographers. America, Through Artists’ Eyes began as the brainchild of one of them, Nancy Lee Kern. Kern passed away in the spring of this year and the show stands as a memorial to her.

Prompted by a 2011 exhibition of “stars and stripes” from the Pierce Collection of American Parade Flags on display at Morven Museum & Garden, Kern pondered the symbolism of the flag. Then, she contacted State Museum Curator of Fine Art Margaret O’Reilly to suggest an exhibition of artwork that would focus on the many ideas of “America.” As a PAA member, Kern had the group in mind.

O’Reilly ran with Kern’s original conception and enlarged upon it. She urged PAA members to collaborate with other artists whose life experiences might be very different from their own. In addition, she invited artists not involved with the Princeton group to participate. In this way, O’Reilly has captured a broad range of responses from diverse perspectives. Each artist was asked to define and depict “America” in the visual manner most appropriate to their own personal ideology, style and convictions.

The resulting exhibition features painting, photography, sculpture, documentary video, installations, prints and handmade paper. In short, America, Through Artists’ Eyes is a multifaceted manifestation of the myriad ideas and styles that contemporary New Jersey artists offer in response to the concept of America.

Visitors will recognize many of the featured artists: Joanne Augustine, Hetty Baiz, Joy Barth, Anita Benarde, Siona Benjamin, Zenna Broomer & The A-Team Artists, Jennifer Cadoff, Will “KASSO” Condry, Rajie Cook, Clem Fiori, Tom Francisco, Carol Hanson, Shellie Jacobson, Margaret Kennard Johnson, the late Nancy Lee Kern, Maria Lau, Charles McVicker, Lucy Graves McVicker & Everlyn Nyadenya, Harry I. Naar, Jim Perry, Leon Rainbow, Tamara Ramos, Richard Sanders, Ela Shah, Madelaine Shellaby, Marie Sturken, Barbara Watts and Shoshanna Weinberger.

According to O’Reilly, artists usually inspired by the natural world looked at America through that particular lens while others approached the topic from their own personal narrative. Some responded to events in American history, while others explored current social and political issues. “Each is unique; some are challenging; all provoke thought,” she says. “Just like America.”

America, Through Artists’ Eyes, in the first floor East Gallery of the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, continues through April 5, 2015. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 9 AM to 4:45 PM, closed Mondays and State Holidays. Suggested admission: $5 (adults), $4 (seniors and students); free for children under 12, teachers, veterans, active duty military and Friends. On weekdays, metered street parking is available, as is parking in paid lots throughout downtown Trenton. On weekends, free parking is available in the lot behind and adjacent to the Museum. For more information, including schedule of gallery walks, visit: www.statemuseum.nj.gov.

AREA EXHIBITS

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street and Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road: Princeton’s Portrait, town history through vintage photographs. For more information, call 609.921.6748 or visit: www.princetonhistory.org.

Morven Museum & Garden at 55 Stockton Street: Festival of Trees, Morven’s holiday tradition is to decorate for the holidays with trees adorned by local businesses, garden clubs, and non-profits. November 26 through January 4, 2015. Also, Hail Specimen of Female Art! New Jersey Schoolgirl Needlework, 1726-1860 through March 29, 2015. For more information, hours and admission, call 609.924.8144 ext.106 or visit: www.morven.org.

Drumthwacket, the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey, at 354 Stockton Street is open weekly on Wednesdays for regular guided tours and is decorated for special Holiday Open Houses from 11 AM to 1:30 PM in December. Reservations required; $5 suggested donation. For more information including dates, visit: www.drumthwacket.org.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton: Seward Johnson: The Retrospective, extended by popular demand to July 2015. For more information, visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Princeton University Art Museum on the university campus: Kongo across the Waters, through January 25, 2015; Chigusa and the Art of Tea in Japan, through February 1, 2015. For information and hours, call 609.258.3788, or visit: http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/exhibitions.

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick: A Place in America: Celebrating the Legacy of Ralph and Barbara Voorhees through February 8, 2015. For admission and hours, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.

FURTHER AFIELD

The Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia: William Glackens, the first comprehensive survey of William Glackens (1870– 1938) in nearly 50 years, brings together more than 90 paintings with key works from each decade of the native Philadelphian’s long career, through February 2, 2015. For more information, call 215.278.700, or visit: www.barnesfoundation.org.

James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, Pa: A Sense of Place: Paintings by Ranulph Bye, more than 40 works by Ranulph de Bayeux Bye (1916-2003), the Princetonborn watercolorist known for masterful renderings of rural American landscapes, from November 8 through March 1, 2015. For more information, hours and admission, call 800.595.4849 or visit: www.MichenerArtMuseum.org.

Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street, Philadelphia, Pa: Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography continues through January 4, 2015. For more information, hours and admission, call 215.763.8100, or visit: www.philamuseum.org.

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library at 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Del: Costumes of Downton Abbey, designs from the award-winning television series through January 4, 2015. For more information, hours and admission, visit: www.winterthur.org.