From Playful Abstraction To Environmental Narratives: Hunterdon Art Museum Starts 2024 With Three New Exhibitions

January 21, 2024
Posted In: News

From Playful Abstraction To Environmental Narratives: Hunterdon Art Museum Starts 2024 With Three New Exhibitions

CLINTON, NJ, (January 2024) – The Hunterdon Art Museum has introduced three new exhibitions, presenting the works of artists Cynthia Carlson, Kate Dodd, and Ellen Siegel. The exhibitions, now open to the public, feature a dynamic range of art from Carlson’s vibrant color and form explorations, Dodd’s environmentally conscious installations, to Siegel’s narrative assemblages.

Cynthia Carlson: Serious Play (Main Gallery)

Serious Play,” an exhibition curated by Mary Birmingham, is a focused exploration of Cynthia Carlson’s work from the last twenty years. Carlson, a dynamic force in the art world for over sixty years, is renowned for her adventurous spirit and boundary-pushing techniques. A key figure in the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s, she has been celebrated for her immersive installations and large-scale paintings, characterized by thickly painted swirls applied with a cake decorating tool.

Cynthia Carlson's 'What’s That?', 2017: A vibrant, shaped oil painting with abstract forms.

Cynthia Carlson, What’s That?, 2017, Oil on canvas, shaped, 36″ x 36″

This exhibition features Carlson’s continued fearless exploration of color, shape, and space. In her early 2000s paintings, Carlson combines cat toys with intricate, colorful patterns, creating compositions that float in spatially ambiguous settings. Her quest to expand the boundaries of painting led to the creation of shaped paintings from 2015, consisting of multiple, irregularly-shaped panels. These works, often featuring abstract shapes and lines suggesting letters, numbers, and symbols, showcase her ability to blend playfulness with serious artistic inquiry.

Carlson’s work exudes a sense of joy and optimism, reflecting her belief in the importance of a ‘healthy sense of play’ in her artmaking process. This exhibition not only showcases Carlson’s vibrant and groundbreaking art but also celebrates her enduring spirit and the joy she finds in creation.

Born in Chicago and based in New York, Cynthia Carlson’s illustrious career includes exhibitions in prestigious galleries and museums across the USA. Her work is celebrated in major collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Carlson is a recipient of numerous awards and is a Professor Emerita at Queens College, CUNY.

“Serious Play” is on view through April 28, 2024. Learn more about Carlson at

Kate Dodd: New Work (First Floor Gallery)

Kate Dodd, Words Have Weight, 2023, Repurposed reference book, 8” x 12” x 4”

Kate Dodd’s exhibition “New Work” is a profound exploration of excess and the lifecycle of everyday items. Dodd is captivated by the overlooked – the discarded, the unwanted, and the superfluous. Her work is a journey in giving new life to what has been deemed useless. She expresses a deep fascination with materials and making, seeing the treasure in what is often mistreated and neglected.

In this exhibition, Dodd continues her tradition of using overlooked materials, particularly paper. Sculptures like “Decoy” and “Words Have Weight” are made from cut-up Golden Book Children’s Encyclopedias, once popular in the 1950s and 60s. These works reflect Dodd’s perception of the books’ portrayal of an overconfident, resource-endless world – a view now questioned. Her sculptures, by reimagining these materials, offer a new narrative and purpose.

The Hunterdon Art Museum, a repurposed nineteenth-century gristmill, serves as an ideal backdrop for Dodd’s work. In her site-specific installation “Production Line,” she utilizes the mill’s existing grain chutes, transforming them into conduits for cascading paper lipstick holders. This melds the mill’s historical role in manufacturing with its current role in nurturing art. Here, Dodd juxtaposes the necessity of art with the luxury it represents, echoing the building’s transformation from a life-sustaining flour mill to a space celebrating the aesthetic and intellectual.

A Pratt Institute and Columbia University alumna, Dodd has been shaping the art landscape with her site-specific installations and innovative use of repurposed materials. Teaching art for over 30 years, she has influenced many through her artistic philosophy and works.

“New Work” is on view through April 28, 2024. Learn more about Dodd at

Ellen Siegel: Tell Me a Story (River Gallery)

In “Tell Me a Story,” Ellen Siegel explores the ancient and evolving art of storytelling, a vital human tradition that unites and defines us. This exhibition embraces the concept that objects carry narratives, and Siegel, as an assemblage artist, masterfully brings these tales to life. Using everyday items, from vintage advertisements to buttons and sequins, she creates scenes that weave together the inherent stories of these objects.

Siegel’s work sparks imagination and humor, encouraging viewers to explore their own interpretations. One might encounter a Dutch Girl figurine, placed under a glass bell jar next to a disproportionately large parrot, prompting a flurry of imagined conversations and storylines. Her assemblages are replete with provocative juxtapositions, inviting viewers to ponder and invent narratives. While some pieces reflect themes such as domesticity, female empowerment, and social movements, Siegel leaves the interpretation open, allowing each viewer to become a co-creator of the story.

The exhibition is a testament to Siegel’s belief in storytelling as a shared experience, an invitation to viewers to engage in a creative dialogue. Inspired by the universal request of children and grandchildren for stories, “Tell Me a Story” is Siegel’s artistic response to that timeless appeal, offering a space for imagination and conversation. “Tell Me a Story” is on view through March 10, 2024. 





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