Be Our P.S. Guest: Walking the Shady Side of the Street

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"Three Graces" at Grounds for Sculpture

As you know, we have a bevy of all-knowing, fabulous friends who we call on to bring their P.O.V. on a variety of local topics to our blogosphere. Today’s post is compliments of Rae Padulo: artist, writer-blogger, master potter, foodstuff genius (her blueberry buckle is not to be denied), and lass about town. In this installment, she waxes artistic about the glare of the summer sun, peach gelato, and the current exhibitions at the Princeton University Art Museum.

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The dog days of summer bring to mind all those splashy, barbecue-smoky, firework-y pleasures: hot, sandy afternoons on the beach, bare feet out the window on a road trip, or sticky, dripping peach gelato on the bench outside of The Bent Spoon. And though these experiences are all lovely, I am one of those lone souls who search for the quiet, cool places in summer; the one carrying the polka-dot umbrella at sun-blasted high noon down Nassau Street, crossing to the shady side of the street.

During one of those 98-degree days on which I felt I was walking on the actual surface of the sun, I found refuge on Princeton University’s leafy campus: The Princeton University Art Museum beckoned with its promise of air conditioning and great art. And it’s free, people. Free! Right now, there are two exhibits running. The main gallery is home to Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980. Though it may fall short of its sexy name, its impressive lineup of artists and the eye-candy of its saturated color, definitely make this a show to check out.  (It’s worth the trip if only to see live, and in color, William Eggleston’s haunting image, “Memphis.”)

If the Starburst show is the splashy, firework-y side of summer, then the quiet, shady side is the Toshiko Takaezu ceramics exhibit Presence and Remembrance, a tribute to the 13 Princeton alumni who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

The show is part jewel box, part Zen garden: Nineteen pots are tucked into a small gallery on the second floor; some are from the permanent collection there and some are on loan. The designs seem simple and effortless, though I am old enough now to know that things that seem simple and effortless are actually the result of years and years of exactly the opposite.

It’s always inspiring to come in contact with the work of a genius, especially a genius in your genre. Takaezu taught at Princeton University from 1967 to 1992, so PUAM has the inside track on just how important she is, and as a result, the show is thoughtfully curated by Cary Liu and Xiaojin Wu. I’ll admit that though I am late to the Takaezu party, I have loved her work from the first day I saw her massive “Three Graces” at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton. (Another place to get thee to, and a momentary digression, if you’ll allow: While there, eat at their yummy café under a canopy of leaves.)

In both “Three Graces” and the PUAM show, Takaezu shows her need to liberate herself from the restrictions of the wheel, combining throwing with handbuilding, to create these large-scale works. She was one of the first modern potters to successfully close her pots, and in doing so, elevated the modest pot to something else completely—from craft to art. Though several pieces are over three, four, and five feet tall, it is not just their physical size that makes their “presence” known. They have soul. They stand like sentinels, watching us, guarding us, remembering.

The show at the Princeton Art Museum runs from now until Saturday, September 11. Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton University, Nassau Street, Princeton; 609.258.3788 or princetonartmuseum.org.

Rae Padulo lives in Princeton with her ever-patient husband and two delicious boys. She is the hands and heart behind mudstar ceramics, which makes modern ceramics for the home. She also writes a blog about inspiration, which you can find at mudstarceramics.blogspot.com.

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