There's great tact and spareness in Tripod I, a bronze abstract sculpture by Mark Pettegrow of Point Pleasant, Bucks County, that is a strong and valid choice for first prize in sculpture.
But I was taken aback to realize that this show does not provide us with an indication of where figurative artis, instead offering something more like a tally of accepted styles reflecting the outdated concept that figure painting should be joined at the hip with modernism to have any validity. The reality is otherwise.
Patrick Lee of Pittsburgh is one figure painter who realizes the importance of studying earlier masters, and it would be a mistake to toss his work aside as old hat. The show's largest piece is Lee's huge three-panel oil Allegory for Autumn (Awaiting the Bridegroom), which portrays six life-size robed figures of women interacting.
The painting quotes earlier tradition rather than comic books, yet it's art for today. And in an understated way, it may actually be rather advanced for its time. Such figure work is involved far less with realism than with some new sort of idealism.
Naturally the talent here varies widely. There's much to enjoy and savor throughout. The Greater Harrisburg Arts Council plays a key role in this welcome annual event.
State Museum of Pennsylvania, adjacent to the State Capitol, Third Street entrance at North Street corner, Harrisburg. To Sept. 9. Wed-Sat 9-5, Sun noon-5. Adults: $5. 717-705-8639.
The world takes
Another current exhibition with regional importance is "Trenton Makes" at Trenton City Museum, featuring about 70 works by 50 artists from the Trenton Artists Workshop Association, founded in 1979. The event celebrates the reopening of the museum, located in Ellarslie, the Italianate villa-style mansion architect John Notman designed in 1848. It was the summer residence of industrialist Henry McCall Sr., located in an Olmsted-designed park. In its current incarnation, this city-owned museum is run by the all-volunteer Trenton Museum Society, which has named Bob Sands director.
Front and center are two large multi-panel paintings by Mel Leipzig. Especially meaningful is his portrayal of Jon Naar, the prominent photographer, at his home and studio in a two-part painting by an artist who never works from photos. Leipzig here sees Naar as an extension of himself, capturing the sense of an active, creative perception at work.
This, perhaps more than any other work in the show, symbolizes the wide reach of the robust Artists Workshop group, from Naar, now 90, who published an early book on graffiti art, across several generations of active artists to youths with a fair amount of graffiti skill themselves.
Exhibitors include photographers Aubrey J. Kauffman and Naar, sculptor Judy Tobie, printmaker Harry Naar, and painters Jude Harzer, Linda Osborne, John Styner, John Szabo, and Ewa Zeller. This is a bucolic charmer.
Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue between W. State Street and Stuyvesant Avenue, to Sept. 1. Tue-Sat 11-3. Sun 1-4. 609-989-3632.
Gang's all here
Looking for in-depth exposure to oil paintings largely of the much-admired New Hope School? If so, the summer-long "Private Collection: A Special Exhibition of Extraordinary Paintings" at Doylestown's Gratz Gallery is certain to light your fire.
It features more than one work each by headliners Daniel Garber, Edward W. Redfield, Mary Elizabeth Price, Harry Leith-Ross, and Fern Coppedge, as well as an occasional rural scene by Rae Sloan Bredin, Helen McCarthy, Roy Nuse, Radnor's Charles Morris Young (acquainted with Claude Monet), and Morris Hall Pancoast of The Inquirer's art department, 1905-07.
The 20-plus works, acquired personally by their current owner, who prefers anonymity, are for sale and represent a fraction of the collector's current holdings.
Gratz Gallery, 68 S. Main St., Doylestown. To Aug. 31. Wed-Sat 10-6, Sun noon-6. 215-348-2500.
As for me, it's been a privilege to serve you writing about art these past 50 years at The Inquirer. Just seemed a natural thing to do as the only child of two illustrators, whose earliest kin arrived in the United States as a typecaster from Londonderry and built himself a tiny brick house in Philadelphia's Southwark district in 1841.
Thank you all, editors and readers.
- Vicky D.