One of the most elusive Cybis-related publications has been the exhibit catalog of the sculptures that were donated to the Mercer County Community College in June 1975. It is softcover, with a plastic comb/ring binding and un-numbered pages.
This publication appeared only on one Cybis price list (Fall 1975) as this item under Publications:
Mercer County College Exhibit Catalog, dedicating June 1975 permanent Cybis collection. Limited printing of 1,000 …. $3.00
At some point, one of these was offered for sale on Amazon but it must have been a one-shot because its ASIN number (the unique identifier assigned by Amazon to each product offered for sale on their site) has only a single result. It does not have an ISBN or a Library of Congress number. However, I have been able to acquire images of some of the interior pages.
I am going to nitpick on their spelling of their page title: In the USA, the usage is to have only one E (acknowledgment) while in the UK spelling, there are two (acknowledgement.) For some reason, the MCCC editor used the British spelling for an American publication.
On the Porcelains Not Illustrated page, the name of the russet/orange sleeping kitten is misspelled as “Topac”, instead of Topaz.
The photos in this book/catalog are not of the actual pieces that the college was given at that time. Instead, they are the official press/advertising photos that the studio used for the retail marketing of that sculpture. It is not known whether the college took their own photograph of each actual piece that Cybis gave them.
For example, this stock Cybis advertising photo shows the Beaverhead Medicine Man on a non-retail base; all of the ones found to date have been on a routed/shaped base rather than this rectangular one.
This is the yellow Dutch Crocus ‘Golden Goblet’, judging by the color of the flowers. The other colorway was called Dutch Crocus ‘Blue Enchantress.‘
The Goldilocks image has an error in the title caption. It says Goldilocks and ‘Panda Bear’, but the actual Cybis name for this piece was Goldilocks and Panda ‘Bear’. They did get the name of the companion piece correct; it was indeed Panda ‘Bears’.
The background of this work-table photo featuring the Madonna with Bird also shows two Pandora, two Heidi, a Rebecca, and an Alice in Wonderland. This same photo appears as the final page of the 1974 Cybis catalog.
The stock photo of Pollyanna, at the left, shows the apple in her left hand rather than her right which is how all the retail editions were made.
Each photo caption shows the sculpture name, declared retail edition size, and A/P to indicate that the piece given to the college was marked as an Artist Proof. The studio normally designated any piece that was given under non-standard (i.e., not sold at retail) circumstances as an AP. It did not mean that the piece was actually one that the studio artists worked from as a guide.
Some pages contain a collage of smaller images; most of them also appeared in other Cybis publications. In the lower right corner photo, an artist paints one of the Limnettes. The other photos show Pollyanna, Cree ‘Magic Boy‘, and Nashua.
The catalog credits Vincent Ceglia for its design, which is no surprise because his name appears as the layout and design credit on the Cybis Studio’s 1967, 1970 and 1974 catalogs. The circa-1970s Cybis dealer signs were also designed by him. Mr. Ceglia was Professor Emeritus of the Visual Arts department at MCCC as well as being an artist in his own right, and running summer painting workshops in Italy on Lake Maggiore. His specialty was landscape painting in watercolor and acrylics as well as graphic design work. He passed away in 2012.
The Origin and Status of the MCCC’s Collection of Cybis
The MCCC itself was originally the Trenton School of Technical Science and Art, established in 1898. In 1901 the school changed its name to The School of Industrial Arts. The school grew, especially after World War II, and in 1947 it became the Trenton Junior College and School of Industrial Arts (a/k/a TJC) and became fully accredited in the early 1960s. 1966 saw the establishment of Mercer County Community College (MCCC) which then legally merged with Trenton Junior College; a new 292-acre campus site (West Windsor) was begun in 1968 and finished/dedicated in 1972. The initial donation of the Cybis pieces occurred three years after that.
I have been attempting to learn whether Marylin Chorlton was an alumna of the School of Industrial Arts (as it was at the time), or whether the studio later recruited their artists from the college during the 1960s and 1970s – but so far, no luck. After Marylin Chorlton died in 1977, a scholarship fund was established in her name at MCCC; however, in the mid-1980s the name of the award was changed to “the Cybis Art Award” instead. It is a $940 cash award to an outstanding continuing art student having a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
The original location of the physical collection, part of which is shown in this photo, was immediately adjacent to the front entrance to the Library. The following sculptures are identifiable: (rear cabinet section, left) Minnehaha, one of the small floral baskets, Beatrice, Columbia; (rear cabinet section, right) Windflower, Christmas Rose, Pansy (?), one of the pair of Blue Headed Vireo with Lilac, Colonial Flower Basket, Dahlia; (front cabinet) Conductors Hands, Eros, Queen Esther, Ophelia, Abigail Adams, Portia, Carousel Goat, Cybele, and Carousel Horse ‘Ticonderoga.’
This late 1970s/early 1980s photo shows part of the second level of the Library, where individually-framed Folio One lithographs (circled in red) hang on the walls.
During the mid-1980s, construction began on a new MCCC Art Gallery in the separate but adjacent Communications Building; the gallery was completed in late 1989. The Cybis collection cases were then moved from the Library entrance area to the second floor of the Library, at the library end of a new hallway that connects it to the Art Gallery within the Communications Building.
At some point during the 1990s, the ‘powers that be’ at MCCC decided that the Cybis collection should not be considered part of the rotating-exhibit Art Gallery because they are part of the college’s permanent holdings. The Cybis pieces were removed from the hallway area, boxed up, and put into storage in a back room inside the Communications Building, which is where they have remained ever since.
The college shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has only recently re-opened. There are currently no plans to return the Cybis collection to public display, and it’s not known whether the studio continued to send an example of each newly introduced piece to MCCC during the 1980s and/or 1990s.
When MCCC was queried about these details in 2020, they could not supply any information because the archived material and all records became inaccessible, partly because of COVID but also because renovations were begun to some of the buildings. If anyone has any insight into the circumstances surrounding any phase of the Mercer County Community College’s collection of Cybis, I’d love to hear from you in order to ‘fill in some blanks’; there is a contact-form link below.
In the meanwhile, however, the Cybis collection at Mercer has gone the way of almost all other public collections of Cybis: i.e., either in permanent storage or slated for disposal/de-accession. For example, the Ellarslie Museum in Trenton is reportedly looking for a buyer for their Cybis pieces (other than the Polish Bride which has been on loan to them from the MCCC collection for decades.)
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The Cybis Archive is a continually-updated website that provides the most comprehensive range of information about Cybis within a single source. It is not and never has been part of the Cybis Porcelain studio, which is no longer in business.