Connections in stainless steel

Now visible as you drive past the AvalonBay apartment complex on Witherspoon Street is a 17-foot-tall work of stainless steel created specially for the main entrance to the development.

The sculpture is called “Einstein’s Brain” and was created by Patrick Strzelec, an associate professor of sculpture at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts. Meant as a tribute to Einstein and his connection to the town of Princeton, Strzelec says “this abstract sculpture is designed to reveal the essence of communication, exploration, and connectivity.”

Strzelec was selected for the project after AvalonBay asked the Arts Council of Princeton to solicit proposals for the site from artists.

Avalon also commissioned Strzelec to produce a second piece, similar in style but smaller in scope, that has been installed in the interior courtyard of the apartment complex. It is called “Connection” and is dedicated to a former Avalon Bay employee and Prince­ton resident, Sandy Bertelsen Gilbert.

Syrian perspectives

The Princeton Public Library explores recent Middle Eastern history in an upcoming film series focused on Syria. Films will be shown on Fridays, August 14, 21, and 28, at 7 p.m.

The series starts with “The War Show,” a documentary that follows the country’s descent into civil war following the Arab Spring protests in 2011. The filmmaker, radio host Obaiah Zytoon, offers a ground-level look through the perspectives of his close circle of friends and journalists.

The August 21 film is “Dalya’s Other Country,” the story of a mother and daughter displaced by the Syrian conflict. They try to balance their Muslim values with their new world as the daughter attends a Catholic high school and her mother starts college.
The series finale is “Last Men in Aleppo,” a documentary showing the daily struggle in the streets of Aleppo through the eyes of volunteer rescue workers called the White Helmets.

Solar eclipse, as viewed through an artist’s eye

It’s time to pull out the protective eyewear. On Monday, August 21 — for the first time since 1979 — a total solar eclipse will hit a broad swath of the U.S. stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. While Princeton is not in the path of totality — the sun will be about 80 percent obscured by the moon here — there are a number of events to mark the occasion, including a viewing party in Palmer Square from 1 to 4 p.m.

For the Princeton University Art Museum, the eclipse serves as inspiration for its current exhibit. “The solar eclipse has always been a source of mystery and fascination,” note materials on the museum’s website, “serving at some times as a foreboding omen and at others as key means of understanding the scientific concept of general relativity.”

“Transient Effects: The Solar Eclipses and Celestial Landscapes of Howard Russell Butler,” on view through October 8, highlights the works of Butler, an 1876 alumnus of Princeton University’s first school of science.

Butler left a career doing technical illustrations for Thomas Edison and practicing law to pursue art full-time. He rose quickly in the art world, funding the construction of the future home of the Art Students League in New York City and leading the American Fine Arts Society for the first 17 years of its existence. After being invited to join the Society of Artists in 1902, he was asked to paint a portrait of Andrew Carnegie, the noted philanthropist. The discussion between painter and subject turned to rowing, a sport Butler had participated in at Princeton despite the lack of a suitable place to practice on campus. From this discussion Lake Carnegie was conceived.

Butler’s association with Carnegie paid off again, in 1918, when he was invited to view a total solar eclipse in Baker City, Oregon. Despite having just 1 minute and 52 seconds of totality in which to make observations, the resulting paintings were surprisingly accurate and more vivid than efforts to photograph the eclipse.

In the Princeton museum materials, American art professor Rachael DeLue — who will give a talk on Butler’s paintings at Princeton Public Library on Wednesday, August 16, at 7 p.m. — notes: “When he undertook to paint a solar eclipse, Howard Russell Butler faced a seemingly impossible task: making an accurate and scientifically useful picture of a complex, transitory astronomical event that the unaided eye cannot fully perceive. In so doing he joined the ranks of artists and other image-makers who have struggled to translate un-seeable or fleeting natural phenomena into visual form the for the purpose of scientific study and the dissemination of knowledge in the public sphere.” (Notable among those seeking insight from solar eclipses in 1918 and 1919 was Albert Einstein, who used measurements from them to support his theory of general relativity.)

For more information on the exhibit and the art and science of solar eclipses, visit artmuseum.princeton.edu/transient-effects.