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Articles By Ilene Dube

History Relayed by a Fine Artist

The woman in the photograph wears a perfectly crisp blouse, skirt, and apron. Even the mending work on her lap looks freshly ironed—and mind you, this was several decades before the permanent press was a thing. The combination of polka dots, checks, and plaid on the statuesque figure projects a panoply of patterns with the screen door behind her.

published on 07/06/2024

Stitching the World Back Together One Thread at a Time

If you're looking for the Folk Life Center of New Jersey, don't type it into Google Maps, don't go looking for a physical facility; rather, the Folk Life Center is an umbrella for activities, workshops, and exhibitions, says Sharon Kiefer, curator of exhibitions at the Perkins Center for the Arts, who has collaborated with the Folk Life Center for Perkins' current exhibition.

published on 06/20/2024

Turning the Screw Back: (re)FOCUS Redresses Censorship of Feminist Art

In the current exhibition at the CASE Gallery at Rowan University, a basket sits on a podium overflowing with black buttons whose white letters ask: "Where's Bernstein?" Just who is Bernstein, anyway?

published on 04/14/2024

Philharmonic Teams up with Circus Clowns, Aerialists, Jugglers, and Steel Band for Avant-Garde Revival

Trenton native George Antheil was called the "bad boy" of music. After dropping out of high school in his home city, he went to make music in Paris and in 1920 lived in an apartment over Shakespeare and Company, the famed bookstore run by Sylvia Beach. Antheil found himself in the Parisian art milieu among James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, and Erik Satie, among others.

published on 04/04/2024

Playing Seriously at the Hunterdon Art Museum

The Pattern & Decoration (P&D) movement emerged in the 1970s as an "irreverent upstart movement," to borrow the words of New York Times art critic Roberta Smith. It offered an alternative "to the general manliness of modernism," and elevated women's work. It looked to decorative traditions across the world, to surfaces like textiles, to wallpaper, manuscript illuminations, mosaics, glassware, embroideries, and architectural flourishes, writes Tess Thakara at

published on 03/28/2024


'We Are the River' Uses Beauty to Convey a Dire Warning

Driving from central New Jersey to the Gallery at Stockton University on a late February day in which the sunshine hinted at spring, I became aware of the changes to the landscape. Trees gave way to tall grasses, the earth seemed sandier, and the Shore was not far away. There were signs for rivers and other bodies of water.

published on 03/14/2024

From "Survivors of Colonization" to "Kings and Queens of the Diaspora," Montclair Art Museum presents Black Joy and Leisure in a Major Exhibition

It's an all-star lineup of artists' names, from Faith Ringgold and Howardena Pindell to Emma Amos, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Willie Cole, Bettye Saar, Joyce Scott... 59 in total! These are among the best of the best of contemporary artists, who just happen to be Black. And who just happen to be in the collection of the Montclair Art Museum.

published on 02/29/2024

Believing in Bright Colors and Angels Gets Artist Freda Williams through the Atrocities

As soon as the banner announcing the retrospective of Freda Williams hung from the red brick façade of Artworks Trenton, the excitement began. "She has so many stories to tell," Artistic Director Addison Vincent said of the 86-year-old artist who has lived all but the first five years of her life in Greater Trenton.

published on 02/15/2024

Life Forms are Blooming and Breathing at ArtYard in Frenchtown

It may be the middle of winter, but two exhibitions on view at ArtYard in Frenchtown connect us to the world of plants, living things, and the lightness of being. Kendall Buster: What Blooms is on view through January 21, and Lucia Monge: While a Leaf Breathes can be seen through January 28.

published on 01/18/2024

Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company Tells the Story of Chinese New Year’s Origin through Dance

Chinese New Year is always a favorite time of the year. Friends and family gather at favorite Chinese restaurants, wear red, eat dumplings and long noodles, and hand out red envelopes filled with money. But how many of us really know why it’s celebrated?

published on 01/04/2024

Celebrating the work of Contemporary Indo-American Artists with "Kendra"

The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster has, as part of its mission, a diversity policy "emphasizing its commitment to creating a safe and welcoming space where all voices and perspectives are heard and valued." Until recently exhibiting artists with last names such as Wallace, Evans, Campbell, and King dominated. The current exhibition takes things in a new direction.

published on 11/16/2023

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Nearly three decades ago, Michael Joseph founded the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium. A writer of everything from poetry, comics, children's books, and novels, who has created 14 one-of-a-kind, limited-edition artists’ books, he is just the sort of person who would start such an annual daylong event.

published on 10/19/2023

Zimmerli Art Museum Celebrates a Vanguard Art Center

An enormous banner heralding the exhibition The Brodsky Center at Rutgers University: Three Decades 1986-2017 hangs from the façade of the Zimmerli Art Museum on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, as if announcing a major homecoming. The gang's all here: Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Carolee Schneemann, Joan Semmel, Joan Snyder, Willie Cole, Emma Amos, and so many other major artists who spent time at the renowned print and papermaking center.

published on 09/21/2023

Finding the Modern Spirit in Tradition: The Sculpture of Liu Shiming at Mason Gross Galleries

From time to time, a wise thinker comes along, helping us contend with existential mysteries. Liu Shiming, celebrated as a sculptor in his native China, thinks and speaks like a philosopher. "You should look at life like a child does," he wrote in his diary in 1982. "When you take the perspective of an innocent child, all love and everything in life feels fresh and lovely."

published on 08/17/2023

Sun, Sand, and Artist Open Studio Tour on Long Beach Island

Summertime, and many head down the shore to the barrier island and summer colony known anachronistically as LBI. Surfing, sailing, cycling, or swimming may be on the agenda, along with snorkeling and summer concerts, but on the weekend of Aug. 12 and 13, the LBI Artist Open Studio Tour will add to Long Beach Island's cultural amenities.

published on 07/27/2023

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Ellarslie Open Celebrates 40 Years of Award-Winning Artists

​​​​​​​Forty years – it can seem like a very long time if, say, you’re waiting for a bus or Uber Eats delivery. On the other hand, if you’re watching something grow – like the Ellarslie Open, the annual signature event at the Trenton City Museum that draws accomplished artists from the greater New Jersey region, you may be wondering: where did the time go?

published on 07/13/2023

Earthsongs Ceramics Unveils New Peace Mural in Metuchen as a Benefit for Ukraine

Though taking up less than 3 square miles in the heart of central New Jersey, the borough of Metuchen boasts a robust public art program. Among painted storefronts, sculptures both historic and contemporary, hanging banners, and artfully painted pianos and Adirondack chairs, a new mural is about to be unveiled.

published on 06/08/2023

Connecting With Cows, Meeting Cute, and Finding Humanity Within the War in Ukraine – the 28th Annual New Jersey International Film Festival

Belted Galloways – they are those incredibly cool-looking cows with big white bands, or "belts," around their middle. In New Jersey, I've seen a field of these sandwiched between two giant warehouses in the vicinity of Monroe. Filmmaker Michel Negroponte has found bliss with Belted Galloways near his home in the Catskill Mountains.

published on 05/18/2023

When the Candy Dish Itself Becomes the Confection

Ever since childhood, Amber Cowan has known she wanted to be a glass artist. Not just any artist – 2D, admittedly, is not her thing – but specifically, an artist who works in glass.

published on 05/11/2023

New Jersey Folk Festival Bridges Tradition and Innovation

As we stroll through our neighborhoods at dinner time and the aromas of garlic, cumin, fenugreek, chilies, cabbages and tomatoes waft through the air, we are reminded that one in five people in the state is from somewhere else. Each community that settles in New Jersey brings with it a wealth of folkways. The New Jersey Folk Festival has been celebrating this for nearly half a century.

published on 04/20/2023

Sculptor Autin Wright: Giving Birth to Ideas Inside His Head

"My studio keeps getting smaller and smaller," says Autin Wright, of the space where he makes and stores his sculpture, located on the Grounds For Sculpture campus in Hamilton.

published on 04/08/2023

New Jersey Artists Have Much to Say about the State of the Planet

Is it OK to brag about our state? New Jersey often gets a bad rap, but those of us who live and work here know that among its many assets is the presence of some of the finest artists.

published on 03/30/2023

'Neither on Our Knees nor Hanging From Trees' - Alison Saar and Toni Morrison Foster the "Cycle of Creativity" of Black Women

Hair. It seems a trivial topic to lead off with when discussing two of the most accomplished, influential women in literature and the arts. And yet you can't ignore the references to the reclamation of Black female identity through hair in the artwork of Alison Saar.

published on 03/24/2023

Speaking Out Through Art

In the days leading up to Purim – the holiday during which Jews rejoice, don costumes and perform skits, eat triangular cookies filled with jam, and thank Queen Esther for saving them from persecution – Michigan’s attorney general announced she had been targeted in a threat to kill Jewish members of state government.

published on 03/16/2023

Leroy Johnson Felt Called to Make Art

Gazing out the window on NJTransit south to Trenton, and then on Amtrak further south to Philadelphia and Baltimore, one sees brick row houses, sometimes crumbling, sometimes boarded up, covered with words that express desolation. There are solitary figures here and there, or perhaps a face looking out from a window. Better times might have been in the past, for these places.

published on 02/25/2023


Strings Attached: Puppet Maker Irena Gobernik and West Windsor Arts Workshop Have Ties to Ukraine

When Irena Gobernik gazes into a piece of wood, she sees more than the texture and the grain. Like other artists working in wood, she is connecting to the soul of the tree. Where some of us may see worm holes, Gobernik sees eyes. While others might observe a curved branch, Gobernik sees the undulations of a human body.

published on 01/12/2023

Manifesting 'Busual' -- Exhibition at Monmouth Art Alliance Benefits Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Honors Juan Sanchez Who Saw Beauty in Everything

Busual. It’s not a word you usually hear, and yet once you learn what the word is, you’ll find yourself thinking about and saying it. 

published on 01/06/2023

With Coping Strategies and Resilience, 95 Artists Reemerge in Annual Exhibition

The theme for the New Jersey Arts Annual 2022 is “Reemergence.” It is on view through April 30, 2023, at the New Jersey State Museum. And yet on the balmy November afternoon I went to see it, I wondered: Have we reemerged? Neighbors and friends are still contracting COVID, there had been FBI warnings of threats to synagogues in New Jersey, and in the days leading up to the elections, fears of voter intimidation and violence loomed.  

published on 11/17/2022

Video-based Art at the Morris Museum Evokes Roman Festivals of Excess and Greed

In past visits to the Morris Museum, I have admired music boxes from the collection of mechanical instruments. Viewing Federico Solmi’s Joie de Vivre, on view at the Morristown-based museum through Feb. 26, I felt as if I were inside a music box.  

published on 10/21/2022

A ‘Circle of Black Artists’ is, at Long Last, Receiving Recognition in Princeton

A selection of Black artists from the Greater Princeton Area, long overlooked, is finally getting its due thanks to a group of collectors who recognized and preserved the body of work and two ambitious curators. 

published on 09/29/2022

Princeton's New Director of Creative Writing Continues the Tradition of Inspiring Generations of Writers

Though slim at 192 pages, Yiyun Li’s 2019 novel, “Where Reasons End,” is packed with profundity.

published on 09/01/2022

Two Exhibitions Cross the Lines Between Art, Craft and Poetry

Behold the titles used by Rina Banerjee. They read like poems.  

published on 07/16/2022

Move Over, Tea Sets - Ceramic Artists of Color Respond to the World of Today

Enter the exhibition space for Roberto Lugo: The Village Potter, on view at Grounds For Sculpture through January 8, 2023, and you feel like you’ve entered the artist’s studio. There are metal shelves with pots in various stages of completion, a row of potter’s wheels await, and there’s a shiny new kiln. This is, in fact, a Maker Space, where museum-goers can actively participate in the process.

published on 06/03/2022

Garden of Earthly Delights? Artists in Rowan University Art Gallery Examine the ‘Cultivated Space’

Ever since – even before – Joni Mitchell penned the words “and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” humans have been seeking to do just that. A return to the “Garden of Eden,” the original utopia. Paradise.

published on 05/19/2022

Award-Winning Artwork Helps Cope With the Stresses and Anxieties of Our Time

Immediately upon entering the gallery space at Artworks Trenton, a viewer is struck by what appears to be a tribal necklace sized for the Great Sphinx of Giza. Suspended from the soaring ceiling, this assemblage of gold circles by artist Kate Dodd shimmers.

published on 04/29/2022

Elizabeth Colomba Is Claiming Her Place in the History of Art

The France-born, Harlem-based artist was recently featured in Vogue; she was commissioned to create a painting for New York City’s Park Avenue Armory; she has a painting in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Princeton University has hung her first solo museum exhibition.

published on 04/13/2022

Arts Utopia in Frenchtown

What first made Invisible visible to me were artist Vasiliki Katsarou’s posts about her installation, in which gumball machines dispense haiku poems on fortune cookie-sized pieces of paper. Invisible – besides being the state of eluding observation – is an exhibition at ArtYard in Frenchtown (on view through April 10) that looks at “omitted histories and unspoken narratives” through the work of 12 artists.

published on 03/23/2022

With Contributions to Theatre, Literature, Visual Arts, and Social Justice, Rhinold Ponder’s Impact Can be Felt Throughout Central New Jersey

In his 62 years, there’s not much Rhinold Ponder hasn’t accomplished.

published on 02/03/2022

Every Blanket Tells a Story and Every Stitch is a Unique Voice in the World of Seneca Nation Artist Marie Watt, On View at the Hunterdon Art Museum

It’s the time of the year when many of us feel like hibernating, perhaps under a favorite blanket or two. It seems fitting, then, that the Hunterdon Museum of Art is featuring the artist Marie Watt, known for her totemic assemblages of wool blankets, in the exhibition Companion Species (At What Cost): The Works of Marie Watt, on view through January 9, 2022.

published on 12/21/2021

Climate Artists and Scientists from Mongolia Attempt to Communicate What Others Have Not

When I went to Google Maps to see how long it would take to get to Mongolia, the app could not calculate – not by bus, not by car, not walking, cycling, even plane. When I simply Googled the distance, I learned it is 6,426 miles from New Jersey. That’s more than twice the distance across the United States. A site called Travel Math calculates it would take 13.9 hours to fly from Newark to Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia is really far away! That could explain why its climate catastrophe is not top of mind for most of us here in the Garden State.

published on 11/19/2021


Navajo Weavings at Montclair Art Museum Reveal Innovations in Color and Abstraction

The debate over whether it was Kandinsky or Hilma af Klint who created the first abstract painting falls into perspective when visiting Color Riot! How Color Changed Navajo Textiles, on view at the Montclair Art Museum through January 2, 2022.

published on 09/30/2021

Grounds For Sculpture is Back with a 60-Year Retrospective of One of its Original Artists

Back in the day – the “before times” – while meandering through the nooks and crannies, portals and mounds, at Grounds For Sculpture, I’d fear a future in which a natural disaster might befall this utopian garden of contemporary art, allowing it to fall into ruins: a possible disease that would confine people to their homes? A loss of revenue? The death of a founder?

published on 08/19/2021

Utopia or Dystopia? Book Artists Respond to the World We Live In

Simple Pleasures – it’s the brand of pink hand soap at the Hunterdon Art Museum, and also a recurring theme for those seeking to regain life post pause. On a recent summer day, young ones were experiencing the simple pleasures of returning to camp in a white tent alongside the Raritan River.

published on 07/09/2021

Fifty-one Years in the Making: Peters Valley Is Back

Enrolling in a workshop at Peters Valley School of Craft was like taking a journey back in time. You could have an immersion experience studying, say, blacksmithing, ceramics or weaving, living communally in the historic village of Bevans in Layton, N.J.

published on 06/20/2021

Operating Without Walls While Building Anew at Princeton University Art Museum

When museums that closed their doors during the pandemic re-open, the Princeton University Art Museum will not be among them. In 2018, the thriving institution announced that Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, in collaboration with executive architects Cooper Robertson, would be designing “a bold and welcoming new museum.”

published on 05/01/2021

McCarter Theatre’s "The Manic Monologues" Rises to an Ambitious Agenda in Virtual Theatre Programming and Mental Health Advocacy

Enter the virtual space to experience McCarter Theatre’s The Manic Monologues and, accompanied by gentle music, you approach a mobile of silhouettes—a dancer, a sax player, athletes, a woman carrying an umbrella. Click the silhouettes to see their stories performed.

published on 03/31/2021

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