Palmer Museum Summer Exhibitions Highlight Past Roots And Present Experience During Its 50th Anniversary Year

Palmer Museum Of Art At Penn State Is In State College

July 8, 2022

In ongoing celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State 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,” the 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 25 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 20 faculty-based exhibitions have been organized at the museum. Organized by the Palmer and curated by 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 45 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.
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.
Included in the exhibition is a recently acquired watercolor by the university’s first full-time African-American 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 20th 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 Aug. 14, “HOME/STUDIO” is on view through Aug. 28, and “Staff Picks” closes Sept. 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.
The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is the largest art museum collection between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the most significant academic art museum in the state of Pennsylvania. A key element of Penn State’s land-grant mission of teaching, research and public service, the museum is a vital and accessible cultural resource for Penn State’s students, faculty, and scholars, as well as for all visitors to and from the entire central Pennsylvania region. Through its world-class objects, programs and outreach, the museum is a welcoming, inclusive and vibrant forum for authentic arts experiences and cultivates meaningful dialogue about today’s most potent ideas and pressing concerns.
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