Palmer Museum summer exhibitions highlight past roots and present experience during its 50th anniversary year

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Palmer Museum summer exhibitions highlight past roots and present experience during its 50th anniversary year
John Bowman, Zentrum Argos, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 46 inches © John Bowman.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.- In ongoing celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State recently opened three exhibitions that bring home its connection to faculty, staff, and the collection as it reflects on its history during its jubilee year. Headlined by HOME/STUDIO: 2022 Penn State School of Visual Arts Faculty Show, which opened May 28, the summer exhibitions represent a symbolic “homecoming,” according to Museum Director Erin M. Coe, “as we reflect on the museum’s historic connection to organizing faculty shows since our founding in 1972, and our own connection to the growing collection during this 50th anniversary year”.

HOME/STUDIO features recent work by twenty-five current faculty members from the Penn State School of Visual Arts (SoVA). Exhibitions of work by visual art and art education professors have long been a vital part of the life of the University, with annual group shows occurring well before the Museum of Art at Penn State officially opened its doors in 1972. Since then, more than twenty faculty-based exhibitions have been organized at the museum.

Organized by the Palmer and curated by Museum Director Erin M. Coe, what sets HOME/STUDIO apart from prior faculty shows is the unprecedented period during which the works were produced; that is, during the Covid-19 pandemic and the social and political upheavals that marked 2020 and 2021. The forty-five drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed media, and multimedia works present a range of individual responses to the collective, tumultuous experiences of the early pandemic and national unrest that made up the last two years, poignantly considering topics from the emotional and deeply personal to critical commentary on societal turmoil. Other works address the public health crisis itself. The art on view was shaped by a disruption to daily life and work routines, the sense of uncertainty that permeated lived experience, and the physical and psychological barriers created by the confinement of sheltering in place. Lines between home and studio blurred, and “home” became the metaphorical studio for the faculty artists, as well as the place they addressed challenges, created opportunities, and adapted, responded, and reimagined their life and work.

Featured artists included in HOME/STUDIO are Brian Alfred, Alexandra Allen, John Bowman, Paul Chidester, Bonnie Collura, Anthony Crisafulli, Kimberly Flick, Robin Gibson, Shannon Goff, Gulia Huber, Lindsey Landfried, Thomas Lauerman, Kimberly Lyle, Vagner Mendonça Whitehead, Cristin Millett, Zsuzsanna Nagy, Eduardo Navas, Helen O’Leary, Matthew Olson, Courtney Redding, Carlos Rosas and Leanna Rosas, Steven Rubin, Rudy Shepherd, and Ann Shostrom.

As a companion to HOME/STUDIO, the special exhibition Those Who Taught: Selected Works by Former Faculty showcases watercolors, drawings, and prints from the permanent collection by some of the dedicated teachers and makers who were long a part of Penn State campus life. These artists and art educators showed their work on campus, served on college committees, received teaching awards, and laid the groundwork for the University’s longtime support of the arts that began in the early 1960s. Included in the exhibition is a recently acquired watercolor by the University’s first full-time Black faculty member, Mary E. Godfrey, hired in 1957. Others who paved the way include Harold Altman, Yar Chomicky, Albert Christ-Janer, Stuart Frost, William P. Hanson, Jules Heller, Bruce Shobaken, Edwin Zoller, and Geroge Zoretich, to name a few. Though many former faculty have passed away, two of the featured artists, Richard Mayhew and Linda Plotkin, are still living and making art.

“This exhibition makes clear that visual arts and art education professors contributed unique experiences and diverse perspectives to the broader Penn State faculty in the second half of the twentieth century,” said Assistant Director Joyce Robinson, who curated the companion show. “Many State College residents will recognize the names of these faculty artists—Altman, Frost, Shobaken, Zoller—who dedicated so many decades to making and teaching art.”

Also on view this summer is Staff Picks: A Selection of Palmer Favorites, an exhibition that highlights works from the collection carefully chosen by individual staff members. The works on view showcase the wide spectrum of aesthetic preferences and personal interests of the Palmer team who spend their working hours surrounded by the art in the museum’s collection. The exhibition features an eclectic mix of prints, paintings, photographs, and drawings alongside commentary from the staff on what makes their chosen works meaningful and the stories behind their selections, inviting visitors to consider works that might, in turn, become their new favorites too.

Those Who Taught closes on August 14, HOME/STUDIO is on view through August 28, and Staff Picks closes September 4. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon until 5 p.m.

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