Monthly Archives: June 2005

Art and the Avenue

Exterior, Gallery 20; Interior; Gallery 20Paintings by Linda Heberling; Exterior, Art Plus Gallery *It’s a sultry late spring evening and I’m strolling along Penn Avenue in West Reading. I take in the audio-visual pleasures of one of the regular First Thursday events that bring people together on this part of the extended corridor. Citizens move more slowly here than in other parts of the area. They appear dressed up yet quite casual. There is a lot of talking between visitors and it sounds animated and cheery. Good tunes surround us courtesy of a small partying group of residents out on their porch across the street. I’m smiling.I pass the adjacent mid-block galleries – Gallery 20 and Art Plus Gallery and encounter exhibition receptions at both venues. Small groups of people gather around the assembled artworks and comestible fare. We’re out for an aesthetic and edifying evening and we’ve found it here.At Art Plus Gallery, Alice Gerhart’s still life paintings are commendable. In the small gallery that houses the Holloran Fellowship Artists I note the brilliant watercolors of Gloria Urban and Robin Bissacia. I consider how many similar scenes people who drive a hundred and more miles to the beach purchase during their summer vacations. These watercolors by Urban and Bissacia are better choices. Also at Art Plus, the Alvernia Senior College artists who study with Barbara Harwith have a room of their own. This program, funded by Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts provides education in art for senior citizens in the community and is well worth our support.Next door, Gallery 20 features a new show by Linda Heberling called, “Night Reflections.” It’s a savvy combination of contemporary realism and traditional subject matter. Antique furniture, wood floors, and other earth-toned objects lend resonance to Heberling’s restricted palette.Among the entrancing works by Dan Butler, “Varsity Barbershop,” a photorealistic townscape rendered in color pencil captures the essence of nostalgia provided by the inherent longevity of familiar architecture. These scenes surround us but we typically do not notice them. Butler’s tightly cropped composition brings things close – right up to the picture plane.Josh Bolig’s large color photos are outstanding, especially “Gosh, They’re Big.” Viewers are confronted by a curious equine scene of a large pair of brawny horses viewed from thigh level by a small child. The little person stands by a tricycle gazing at the huge animals and we are left with a sense of wonderment – we imagine the child’s-eye view and can recall the exaggerated sense of size and scale we experience during our first few years on earth.Finally, I’m completely enthralled by the paintings of Sue Roedder. This artist has a signature style that unites her work. Figures are carefully observed and rendered in whole or in part, set against strong illustrated or monochromatic backgrounds. One painting here, a boldly presented nude torso is perhaps the strongest vision on the block. The stunning bovine portrait, “By the Light of the Moon,” visible from the gallery window captures the eyes of passersby with its strong contrasts and a full moon visible high in the upper right of the painting.I’m recommending several things in this piece. I urge you to come out to West Reading and find reward and value in these gatherings and I’m also encouraging you to purchase a work of art while you’re at it. There is much to be said for supporting local and regional artists. While every artist I know will continue to produce simply for the love of what he or she is doing, it’s really incumbent upon folks who enjoy their production to step up and confirm their appreciation with support. We all have some empty space on our walls and there is much to be said for hanging fine examples of local and regional art in our offices and homes. Doing this allows us additional entry into the creative process and authenticates our environment. When you get right down to it all art is local.*

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It's All ART

It’s All ART As I see it, since the beginning of civilization – perhaps even since the dawn of humanity – any distinction between what is art and what is not art has been moot. Without the arbitrary separations of media, venue, audience, class, and official academic and critical imprimaturs, aesthetic experience is something we are exposed to every day as a function of being human. As cultural animals, we live in culturally created artificial worlds. These begin with conceptualizations that condition perception and expression and are continued throughout our lives as inhabitants of particular cultural contexts. One thing about cultural contexts is that they present internally and externally consistent views to all who inhabit them and are the functional replacement of the “real world,” whatever that may be. Our experience as humans in cultural contexts is aesthetic – that of viewers and participants in the experience, expression, conveyance, reception, and transmission of cultural content. Our senses are immersed in aesthetics and the created and mediated realities we experience can be summed up most precisely as artificial – that is they are artifice or quite simply, art. A corollary of this is that as participants in the promulgation of this aesthetically mediated cultural continuum, we can be seen as active agents, or artists – each and every one of us. To see the world in this way allows critical perspective. In fact it is required. Crtical perspective is not so much about drawing value judgments as to what constitutes good or bad art but more a distanced and objectified way of looking at things. On the one hand, this permits experience to be filtered through a conscious and cognizant critical viewpoint and on the other hand, it presents with clarity the fact that things and experiences are artificial, mediated, and interpreted in so far as our perception, thinking, and consciousness of them are concerned. This is why on a given day I may focus on a cereal box as a set of cultural memes and on other days an exhibition of fine art, a car show, a ballet dancer, a farmer plowing a field with his tractor, a web site, a particularly mundane sunrise, a set of vernacular expressions, an avant-garde musical composition, current modes of thinking, or a commercial message as fitting content for an art review – or more to the point, as art itself.

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