Such work seems to have a metaphysical ambition, one that focuses on what art might become in the future - that is, if we were to create a "new world" by transforming life and society and art along with it.
As matters stand, these sculptures, surrealist in spirit and finely crafted using such painstaking methods as the chemical process of electroforming, combine references to everyday objects (including random pieces of fabric caught in bare tree branches, something everybody has seen). Her sculptures refer also to organic forms, and she does this in ways that challenge the laws of nature, or seem to.
Porter is especially interested in examining matters of weight and weightlessness. There's a quirky feel to these pieces with their recombined parts, which sometimes suggests a century-old fantasy world. This artist surely has a madly associative eye. She is quick to spot correspondences among cast-off objects she collects.
Too, these sculptures are evocatively placed so as to emphasize that the shapes might be about to fall from the ceiling or wall. So, part of our looking at the show is our being introduced to this very real tension that is part of the viewing process here.
The otherwise pervasive calmness of this gallery installation is further eroded by the clear-cut, tense, thin silhouettes of the skinny sculptural forms against the white walls.
All the while, we try to puzzle out the clues to the half-hidden story that each of these tableaux enfolds. We never quite unravel the entire mystery of any one of the pieces, which is the way the artist intends things should be: Always, some element of mystery remains. Porter's understanding and manipulation of basic laws of physics for their emotional content is particularly skilled.
Swarthmore College's List Gallery in Lang Performing Arts Center, Swarthmore. To next Sunday. Thursdays and Friday, noon to 1 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 to 6 p.m. Also by appointment during the first two weeks of January. For information, call 328-8116.
PENNSYLVANIA ART CONSERVATORY. Henry C. Pitz (1895-1976) was an illustrator of children's books, painter, writer, teacher and World War I soldier, among other things. His 128-item informal retrospective exhibit at the Pennsylvania Art Conservatory offers numerous samples from a large cache of work belonging to Pitz's family.
These include pencil and pen-and-ink drawings, ink and wash studies - many of them for some of the 18 books and hundreds of magazine articles he wrote - as well as advertisements, book plates, watercolors and oils.
Pitz's career in itself is an instructive phenomenon. He had a survivor's energy. This benevolent man, who lived in Plymouth Meeting, was a writer in high favor in the Brandywine Valley, having invented the expression ''Brandywine Tradition."
Pitz applied that tag to the dynasty of artists who surrounded the brilliant illustrator Howard Pyle at his Chadds Ford and Wilmington studios, including subsequent members of the Wyeth family, to the second and third generation of them living and painting today.
On that Brandywine tradition theme, Pitz wrote his most significant book, which, besides being a best-seller, was in its own quiet way a landmark.
Henry Pitz is an unusual figure, a proselytizer on behalf of American illustration whose own work requires a certain adjustment for eyes jaded by the flood of consumer-age-oriented illustrative material. There is also a passion for the past in his art, a passion combined with a rare discrimination. His visible intimacy with tradition has meant a highly personal amalgam.
Black-and-white illustrations in several styles were his forte. These are appealing, companionable works.
Whether interpreting the classics of children's literature or portraying imaginary tales, these drawings exude a comfortable, old-fashioned bohemian luxury. In this sense, Pitz's work has a period flavor.
Pitz's paintings often feature whimsical fantasies and Byzantine richness. For these, he favored a dense style with myriad local details "written" with utmost fine-line refinement and abstract color.
Such ornamental work from his later years is elegant rather than searching. And, while it's very much associated with this artist, this generally exotic approach to a scene betrays no great concern with its particular character. In paintings and illustrations, Pitz tends to show people as members of a crowd or as types rather than individuals.
The work of this German immigrant bookbinder's son, who grew up in the city's Fairmount section, puts a considerable emotional distance between him and his human subjects, an exception being several paintings portraying Pitz as a seemingly preoccupied solitary figure within his family group.
His finest paintings here, early landscapes, are the least academic. Some festive figure groups are just as fresh, though more recent. But above all, his first love was illustration, and many of these originals for books and magazines will clearly repay close examination. I can only advise the drawing addict to pay a visit.
Pennsylvania Art Conservatory, 636 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn. To Dec. 24. Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 644-4300.
LESLIE EADEH GALLERY. The Leslie Eadeh Gallery, just down the road from Pennsylvania Art Conservatory, offers an abbreviated look at another aspect of the American artistic scene in an exhibit, "From Realism to Abstraction," that, coincidentally, provides an ideal counterweight to the Pitz show.
Leslie Eadeh, herself an able ceramic sculptor, here sponsors a display that marshals talent from around the region to report on the state of contemporary art. More than a dozen artists are featured. Those with pieces especially worthy of mention include Judith Ingram, Diana Kingman, Emily Brett, Giuseppe Riviera, R. Siemienski, Mitch Lyons, Rosalind Bloom, Kathe W. Chapman Grinstead, Carole Weisman and Leslie Eadeh. More than 100 small works are on view.
Leslie Eadeh Art Gallery, 111 E. Lancaster Ave., Devon. To Jan. 15. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday evenings to 8, Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m. For information, call 688-5300.