The Unseen Painter in the Room

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Scott Noel is an art school painter. That is to say, he paints life at art school. His scenes are set at the institutions for whom he’s taught: University of the Arts, Arcadia University, Community College of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he has been on the faculty since 1996.

In “Breaking the Pose”—a canvas that is 7 feet tall and almost equally wide—you can almost smell the oil paint that isn’t even visible in the scene surrounding a voluptuous Continue reading

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Being Realistic About Abstract Art

Lee Gatch, Thespian Night

“Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult,” said Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), often referred to as the father of abstract painting. “It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”

Curator Margaret O’Reilly uses Kandinsky’s quote as the jumping off point for Abstract Expressions: Selected Works from the New Jersey State Museum at The College of New Jersey Art Gallery January 27 through February 28, with an opening reception January 27, 5-7 p.m. On view are works by Mel Edwards, Lee Gatch, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Nevelson and many others.

“When people hear ‘abstraction,’ they think of Jackson Pollock,” says O’Reilly, “or art with no subject. They think ‘I can do that.’ But it’s not so simple. It was groundbreaking Continue reading

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Copper Belly of the Buddha

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The Brooklyn studio of Ursula von Rydingsvard is redolent of cedar. For more than 30 years she has been incising monumental cedar forms using a hand-wielded chainsaw. Wearing black pants and turtleneck, von Rydingsvard, 73, runs up and down a flight of steel stairs all day, as well as climbing ladders to look inside her sculpture, before taking a taxi home to her husband, neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Greengard.

All around are the 4-by-4-inch cedar beams the sculptor works with. Her abstract shapes are like vessels and suggest primitive dwellings, Continue reading

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Expression in Stone

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Visitors to Grounds For Sculpture observe how Magdalena Abakanowicz’s “Space of Stone”–a work that itself conveys a greater power–is enhanced by the long shadows of the sun sitting low in the sky.

Part of a series that includes major installations in Italy, Korea, Lithuania and Poland, the work seeks to “change sculpture from object to look at to space to experience,” writes the world-renowned sculptor. “I am confronting the imagination of man with the imagination of nature… What is the meaning of man’s creativity in comparison with nature’s wisdom? This coming together of two different powers creates the space to contemplate.

“Sculpture does not decorate but is part of the metaphoric language which conveys more than we can express in words,” she continues. “We must enter it, penetrate, become part. We learn about our scale and the scale of the surroundings.”

One way to get to “Space of Stone” is by walking through a red maple allée. Sunlight seeps Continue reading

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A Retrospective of Happy Accidents in Clay

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There are many ways to fall in love with Patricia Lange, beginning at the front lawn of her Hopewell home. Large, stainless steel modern sculpture and black Louise Nevelson-like formations keep company with circular enamel pieces that evoke the moon, and masks in mediums from aluminum to clay.

A grouping of clay masks leads you up a brick path to the front door, Continue reading

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The Good Earth

New York City’s newest park, Freshkills – site of the former garbage dump – will soon be covered with native plants. The seeds for the wildflowers are being grown at St. Michaels Preserve in Hopewell.

When Olmsted and Vaux carved out a piece of Manhattan, and later Brooklyn, to create refuges of rolling hills, expansive meadows, wooded ravines, ponds and boathouses – the first landscaped parks in the U.S. – no one was thinking about non-native invasive plants like purple loosestrife and multiflora rose.

Today, a 30-year project is underway to convert New York City’s former Fresh Kills garbage dump – the world’s largest landfill, Continue reading

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Chronicling New Jersey with a Paint Brush

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After more than 40 years at Mercer County Community College, Professor of Fine Arts Mel Leipzig can claim a large swathe of the population as students. Many have gone on to successful art careers, citing him as a major influence.

When he runs into past students, the first question he often asks is, “Are you painting?”

At least one of those students turned the question on him shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, when the lights went out for a week in his Glen Afton neighborhood: “Are you painting?”

A week without electricity could not stop the zealous painter – he opened the window shades and worked by natural light. “The only thing was, Hurricane Sandy forced me to go Continue reading

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Happy Stories, Told with Pictures

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Whether he’s painting or writing, Tom Kelly is telling stories. Even when he gives directions to his home, there’s a story element. “Turn left when you get to the big tree…”

He hasn’t yet painted Hamilton Township’s big tree, but he has painted the Mercer Oak. Leafless, it sits in a field of snow, surrounded by its split-rail fence. But the big tree in the middle of Quakerbridge Road is on his list.

Kelly keeps a notebook of everything he wants to paint. This way, when he finishes a painting, there’s never any doubt  about where he wants to go next. “I keep a short list of Continue reading

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1913: The Year of Modernism

"Jean Cocteau" by Modigliani

“Jean Cocteau” by Modigliani

One hundred years ago, the U.S. Post Office sent its first parcel post, Kafka stopped working on “Amerika,” Jim Thorpe relinquished his 1912 Olympics medical, Grand Central Terminal opened, the National Institute for Arts and Letters was founded, the first Avant-Garde show in America opened and the New York Armory Show introduced Picasso, Duchamp and Matisse to the American public.

And that was just the first two months of 1913!

Meanwhile, across the pond, Modern art and literature were getting underway in Paris. Guillaume Apollinaire established his reputation as a poet with the publication of “Alcohols” and crystallized the Cubist movement with his essay “The Cubist Painters.” Marcel Duchamp created his first readymade, Diaghilev’s Les Ballets Russes performed Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and Eugène Atget assembled his photographic album “The Zones.”

The exhibition 1913: The Year of Modernism at the Princeton University Art Museum March 23 through June 23 explores the Modernist moment in Europe through 50 prints, drawings, and photographs drawn primarily from its collections, as well as rare books and Continue reading

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Women Artists Making Their World

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Philadelphia artist Linda Lee Alter paints bright cheerful scenes of disturbing situations. With degrees in art education and art therapy, the septuagenarian created whimsical fabric wall hangings early in her career, influenced by folk art and her seamstress grandmother. When she switched to painting she created allegorical fables and tales from the Old Testament.

Ms. Alter’s most recent work focuses on the effects of trigeminal neuralgia — facial pain – a condition from which she has suffered since 2000. Close-up portraits, they express how Continue reading

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