Trenton Artists Workshop Association (TAWA), a not-for-profit organization, has organized art exhibitions and special projects for artists in the Trenton area for 40 years. They have partnered with the Trenton Free Public Library for their current exhibition Urban Art Scenes, which features nostalgic scenes from Trenton by two local artists, Kate Graves and Marge Miccio. An opening reception is scheduled for Friday, August 5 from 5-7 p.m. as part of the Trenton Downtown Association’s First Fridays events.
And what better place for an exhibition of this kind than the Trenton Free Public Library, the oldest library in New Jersey? Founded by dr. Thomas Cadwalader in 1750, her story, which is fascinating to read at trentonlib.org/about-the-library/, began with the first 50 books bought by Benjamin Franklin. Today the library stands on Academy Street, firmly anchored in the new Creek2Canal Trenton Arts District, creektocanalcreative/projects.org.
The artists are well known and respected in this region. Although Kate Graves was born and raised in California, spent a semester in Kathmandu and toured Tibet, she came to Trenton in 1995 to work at Johnson’s studio. She brought with her the nurturing and “eternal sunshine” of California, which she describes in her artist statement on kategravesartist.com, as well as her training in Asian art history and more recently, meditation, which she says “continues to serve the essential purpose bringing them a silent reminder of the ever-turning world.”
We see that in her watercolors in this exhibition as in FLIP, the abandoned factory now owned by the city of Trenton. She has an innate ability to capture and preserve that moment when she was there, taking in the scene, the structure, the particular tilt of the light as it shone down on or just rested on the artificial structure, stretching out from the green planting up to the building rose blue of the sky and white of the clouds that were passing visitors.
Notice the feel of a moment she conveys in Roebling Market. You, the viewer, can almost dictate the time of day you stand there with Graves, gazing at the aged-white red bricks, the concrete tower rising from it like a sentinel, the rows of windows that hold their secrets. Her watercolor “FLIP” shows us another multi-storey building, but one with the red bricks a fresher colour, the trees and hedges surrounding it painted fresher tones, and the windows letting light through the building. There is nothing sinister about Roebling Market. It just stands more firmly in its story, while “FLIP” seems poised for what’s next.
Where there are no human figures in Kate Graves’ paintings, people regularly appear in Marge Miccio’s paintings. In “Botanica-South Broad Street” two figures are seen walking past the store with the red and green striped canopy. Her shadow is strong, as is that of the bare tree, which extends into the composition and effectively determines the time and season. But Miccio draws your attention with her portrayal of the two characters – one wearing a blue coat with a fur collar and slacks and the other wearing a tank top with her blue jeans, her bare arms fully exposed to the weather. Block your view so you only see the person dressed for the cold of winter. Then just look at the girl’s bare arms and then at the bare branches and I guarantee you will tremble a little.
Miccio is also adept at painting night scenes. Spend time with Lucky Fortune, her shot of the Chinese takeaway restaurant on South Broad Street in Trenton, and watch the light softly fall from the upstairs window onto the bold red and yellow sign, the striped awning. Notice how she reflects the light coming from the building and its neighbor onto the rain-sparkled sidewalk and street – even onto the knees of the figure sitting on the neighbor’s stairs and talking on his phone.
Miccio knows Trenton well and portrays her street scenes with the love of a longtime Trenton resident and business owner. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Miccio studied at the Italian University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy and at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in Princeton. She brought her education and training to the Artifacts Gallery, which she owned and operated on South Broad Street for 31 years. She has also become a municipal art commissioner, painting teacher, grantee and art exhibition judge, while constantly creating her own works in oil, pastel, drawing, mixed media and digital works. She was honored with the First Place Award in the 2020 New Jersey Senior Artists Show and is currently featured in the Trenton City Museum’s Ellarslie Open.
As Trenton steadily moves towards a rebirth, and scenes from its streets and neighborhoods are brought to life with the city’s expertise and love, this is an exhibition enjoyed by both art lovers and all of us with a history and a future here be able.
WHEN YOU GO:
- WHAT: Urban Art Scenes
- WHERE: Trenton Free Public Library, 120 Academy Street, Trenton
- IF: Until August 27th. Hours, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday. Opening Reception: Friday, August 5, 5pm to 7pm
- CONTACT: The library at 609-392-7188