Four Women Artists Featured in "Color Theories"
At MCCC's Gallery Through April 6

3-08-07

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- As part of its celebration of Women's History Month in March, Mercer County Community College's Gallery is showing the art of four experienced and vibrant women, Jeanne Calo, Betty Curtiss, Graziella Smith, and Marie Sturken.

Called "Color Theories," the show runs now through April 6. An opening reception takes place on Wednesday, March 14, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., and a Gallery Talk with all four artists will be held on Tuesday, March 27 , at 12 noon. The Gallery is located in the Communications Building on MCCC's West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. Call 609-570- 3589 for show hours.

According to Gallery Director Tricia Fagan, the Swiss artist Paul Klee once said, "Color and I are one. I am a painter." Fagan says the four artists featured in "Color Theories" could easily say the same. "This show offers the viewer an entry into the color-saturated, unique worlds of four women - most of whom came to visual art later in life, and all of whom 'are one' with color. These are artists who have lived, and continue to live, full, rich lives; and who are able to translate some of that richness into individual vibrant pieces of art." She adds that this show is a prelude to spring, "a happy junction of four amazing women who continue to celebrate what is joyful in life."

Jeanne Calo:

Born in 1916 in Tunis, Tunisia, Dr. Calo's family relocated to Paris, where she grew up, living there for 20 years. Shortly after marrying, she and her husband returned to Tunis where they lived until 1958, when they emigrated to the United States.

Ms. Calo had a French degree in law, but returned to college in order to earn the U.S. degrees required to teach college here. She enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned both a Masters and a Ph.D. in French, while simultaneously pursuing a teaching career at Trenton State College. During this time, she was also raising her children.

In 1985, she retired from Trenton State as an Associate Professor of French and Italian. It was then that she decided to try her hand at painting. She enrolled in art classes, including Mel Leipzig's Painting class at Mercer County Community College. For a time, Jeanne worked on various class assignments. One week, however, she set up her own still life using some of the hundreds of colorful artifacts she had collected. "This is what you should paint," Mr. Leipzig declared. And that is what she paints. She has continued to study painting with MCCC faculty members for the past ten years.

Jeanne says, "Throughout my life, I have traveled extensively in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, and have been exposed to many cultures. This has had a strong influence on my painting. In my compositions I make use of the textiles, ceramics, masks, wood carvings, and all sorts of handicrafts acquired during my travels and also at flea markets and garage sales in my area."

Jeanne Calo
Betty Curtiss
Graziella Smith
Marie Sturken

Although she draws inspiration for her work from these small, international models, they provide a "jumping off" point. In reality, Jeanne composes each work, altering size, colors, and even designs of her original models in order to achieve a fresh, unique look.

Jeanne's first one-woman show was at the International Tour Office in Princeton in 1990. She's been exhibiting her work consistently since then.

Betty Curtiss:

"...if you know exactly what you're going to do, what's the point of doing it?" -- Pablo Picasso

Betty follows this concept of Picasso's when approaching her work and in her study with other artists. As part of this commitment, she instituted the "Visiting Artists Workshop Program" which she coordinated for several years at ARTWORKS in Trenton, NJ, starting in 1999.

Betty was raised in Princeton, where she attended Miss Fine's School. Her first career was in professional theatre; at age 19 she was touring with Mae West and Burt Lahr. When her three daughters were born, she took time off to raise them, but then returned to Douglass College in the early 1980s to earn her BA. While there, she met Vicki Liberatori, and together they founded the Princeton Rep Theater, which operated in various venues in Princeton, producing contemporary plays, often premieres.

It was while teaching creative theater in Glasgow, Scotland, in the early 1990s (for the Cultural City of the Year event) that Betty's career took a left turn. She signed up for a drawing class at the city's School of Art, tried some watercolor, and has been painting ever since. Back in New Jersey, Betty began studying with various artists at ARTWORKS, including Steve Kennedy, Robert Beck, Susan Winters, and Ken McIndoe.

Ruth Morpeth of Morpeth Gallery saw works by Betty at a Phillips Mill group show, and offered her a show at her Hopewell gallery. Betty has continued to show her work there and at other regional venues.

Betty is a colorist and paints form and color wherever she finds it. She has done a series of Hunterdon County landscapes; one on the cows and pastures of the Skillman Dairy Farm; another classic series of still lifes incorporating seafood or vegetables.

Her skill with capturing food has brought her to some unusual, but rewarding, places. A recent undertaking took her to Maresca's Meat Market in Sergeantsville where she and fellow artist, Jenny Hamel, painted the butchers, brothers Joe and Emil Maresca, throughout the fall/winter of 2005. In February, 2006, the two exhibited these paintings in a converted building near the meat market. [Maresca's is well-know for it's artistry in meat preparation and has been featured in the New York Times and Saveur magazine.]

Graziella Valenti Smith:

Graziella Valenti Smith was born in New York City in 1930. Her father was a noted gastroenterologist from Majorca, Spain; her mother was from Ponce, Puerto Rico. The family had a deep appreciation for all forms of Spanish art and culture and counted Andres Segovia, Salvador Dali, and Jose Iturbi in their circle of friends.

At age 23, Graziella married into an American family that also had a rich heritage in the arts. Her husband, Tom Smith, was a talented architect who occasionally collaborated with his brother, the noted painter and sculptor, Tony Smith, on projects. Tony's wife, Jane Smith was an opera singer and noted actress. The Smith's circle of friends included Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Tennessee Williams, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, and other key figures in American art in the 20th century.

Graziella dabbled briefly in painting as a young woman, but only after her children were grown and her husband had died, did she realize that she wanted to see life in a different way.

She enrolled in a painting class at Mercer County Community College. Her talent literally blossomed on canvas as she started to paint the flowers she loves so much. "I like flowers," Smith says, "because they are so unique and expressive of the Creator's imagination. A flower is like we are - each one is here for a time and hopefully we come to full bloom. When you start to look at each one individually, you see how beautiful it is...and besides, they hold still, so you can see them while you're painting!"

Graziella approaches any subject matter with her trademark joie de vivre. "It's so exciting to see how life really takes hold of us," she says, "It laughs with us."

She has no plans to ever stop painting. "Through painting I can share the beauty and the delight I see in life. And I exhibit my work whenever and wherever I am asked, because I want to encourage young artists to have the courage to share what they have created with others. I am still learning about life through painting, and through painting I'm still learning to share the joy of being alive."

Marie Sturken:

Marie Sturken is a papermaker and printmaker whose works in handmade paper are created at Dieu Donne Papermill in New York. She is a founding member of the Princeton Artists Alliance, and has exhibited recently in two PAA exhibits - "Marsh Meditations" at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and "Vision and Voice" at the New Jersey State Museum.

About her recent work she says: "Handmade paper is simply another medium, like watercolor or pastel, but a more pliable, flexible one, in which the image is an integral part of the image. The possibilities of this medium are endless. These recent works were created at Dieu Donne Papermill in New York, using flax as a base sheet. The result is a transparent, crisp paper when dry.

"These works reflect an interest in fabric and yarn, and include embedded, stitched gossamer Japanese papers and silk organza, along with transferred and printed words and images of the tools of needlework. Humble, rather ordinary, they are transformed through a series of processes, which give them new life and meaning."

Marie's works have been exhibited extensively in solo, group, and juried national shows; and are in many public and corporate collections, including: the Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, NY, The Newark Library Print Collection, Newark, NJ, the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lawrenceville, NJ, Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY, and Johnson & Johnson Headquarters, New Brunswick. NJ.

Recent purchase awards include William Paterson University, the Hunterdon Museum of Art, and the College of New Jersey. Marie Sturken has taught papermaking workshops for the Newark Museum, the Printmaking Council of New Jersey, Perkins Center for the Arts and the Princeton University Art Museum Children's Art Program.

The Fine Arts Programs at MCCC (page 97)

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