It was at Café 44 where Art+10 first came to life. Artists Betty Curtiss and Meg Brinster Michael met at the breakfast-and-lunch-all-day eatery that opened in March and convinced the management at Café 44 that it would be the perfect venue for an art show.
“They are new, and we are new, and we’re both growing,” says Curtiss, who has a history of sparking arts organizations to life. She helped found Curtain Calls, the Arts Council of Princeton’s former New Year’s Eve celebration, and formed the Princeton Rep Company which performed Shakespeare in public spaces.
The former actress took up painting in the 1990s, and met Michael in a figure painting class. It’s a small world, and it was at small world coffee where further conversations about Art+10 included Ryan Lilienthal, an attorney who paints. Lilienthal is a student of Heather Barros, another member of Art+10 who lives down the street from Café 44.
The Arts Council of Princeton provides a space where the group meets monthly. The members hire a model and hold paint outs in Palmer Square, along the D&R Canal, and outside barns. Other artists may join the paint outs.
“We even do paint-ins,” says Lilienthal. “We’ve painted fruit at the Whole Earth Center market at night, as people look in.”
In addition to studying with Barros, Lilienthal studies with Stephen S. Kennedy, another member of the group. Barros and Kennedy painted together even before forming Art+10. Michael attends Barros’s classes at Art Collaborations. And Lilienthal, Michael and Barros, as well as Art+10 members Gill Stewart and Jeanine Honstein, all studied with Gregory Perkel.
“It’s interesting to look at Betty’s work – she’s studied a long time with Steve – and see how he’s influenced her, and how she’s gone on her own,” says Lilienthal. “And by my studying with Heather, my palette is similar to hers. And we’ve both been influenced by Gregory. Subject matter and style cross pollinate when working in a room together.”
Tasha O’Neill is the lone photographer. She finds color in her garbage disposal – in the remnants of a yellow pepper, the red skin of onion, green stalks of fennel. O’Neill had previously run Verde Art Gallery in Kingston, where Curtiss’s work had been exhibited.
Curtiss, whose artwork is in the collection of J. Seward Johnson Jr., is a documentary painter, having done a series on butchers in Sergeantsville and scenes along the Jersey Shore. For A Slice of Life, she has included three panels from her photo booth series. We see a white-haired Andy Warhol behind his dark sunglasses, hamming it up before the camera.
Curtiss learned that the glamour-obsessed pop figure wore a wig to achieve his trademark platinum shock of hair. “You never see him bending, because his wig would come off,” says Curtiss.
For A Slice of Life, Lilienthal got literal and painted a large canvas of his three sons, a son’s friend and himself on the bench outside Hoagie Haven, eating pizza off of white paper plates.
Other artists in the group are James Bongartz, Karen Stolper, Mary Waltham and Katja De Ruyter.
“Out of all these things, collectively, come ideas, and things happen,” says Curtiss. The plus sign signifies the group’s vision to expand beyond the initial 10.
A Slice of Life: Paintings & Photography by Art+10 is on view at Café 44, 44 Leigh Ave., Princeton, Sept. 7-Oct. 1. An opening reception will be help Sept. 7, 6-8 p.m. Café 44 hours: Tues.-Sun. 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.