Celebrating its 50th year, Art of the State is the annual, juried exhibition held at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.
With an established tradition of exhibiting highly creative art chosen by a distinguished panel of jurors, Art of the State exclusively features Pennsylvania artists and craftspeople.
Art of the State has been showcasing the work of Pennsylvania’s artists since 1968. The body of art that has been exhibited over the years reflects half a century of creative endeavors in the Keystone State. Exhibitors have annually shared their ideas and engaged viewers in the categories of painting, photography, craft, sculpture and work on paper.
On exhibit for the golden anniversary of Art of the State are 130 works by artists representing 28 counties, selected from more than 2,200 submissions.
Cumberland County-based artists made a strong showing in this year’s exhibition. In the photography category, Linda Benzon’s “J.R. the Woodcarver” is a striking color portrait of a solemn craftsman looking directly at the viewer. Conversely, Nicole Dube’s black-and-white portrait of a young woman, “Miranda,” is rife with emotion as the subject’s gaze is downcast and melancholy. Both pieces have painterly qualities, capturing the essence of their subjects in very different manners.
Photographer Richard K. Kent takes a very different approach in his piece, “New Holland & Franklin, 1st Series, 5X” as he employs a picture within a picture, or visual recursion. The same scene is framed and repeated within the photo five times. It is a fascinating use of repetition, which catches the eye when examining the detail.
The works on paper category has several high points, including Joseph Opshinsky’s cut paper collage, “Floating Self-Portrait.” Layers of paper construct the artist’s face emerging from the surface of calm waters. The distorted reflection, along with the streams currents, melts toward the edges of the frame.
Paul Plumadore’s “50/50 #6” is described as paper montage art. In his piece, a trio of figures is clad in Victorian garb, yet the distinction is that the individuals constructed are half male and half female, with only a fine line bisecting the figures.
The painting category has a range of techniques and perspectives, from Hyperrealism to Surrealism. Robert Stickloon’s “Roses of Sharon” is a large scale oil painting bursting with color. The flowers appear so real, they seem to leap off the canvas, as beautiful as the flowers would be when found in the summertime garden.
Lauren A. Litwa’s oil painting “The Night Visitors,” takes a more Surrealistic vantage, with a scene straight out of a sci-fi movie, as mysterious beams of light are emitted from the sky over an idyllic farm scene. A burning building looms in the distance, a forewarning of danger perhaps to come from the “visitors.”
From another Cumberland County artist, Paul Nagle’s “Man in Stripes” was selected for inclusion in the sculpture category. The wood carving painted with acrylic, portrays a man reclining against wooden base. This folk-style sculpture has an ease about its subject, with an expressionless face exuding calm as he gazes off into the distance. The actual man’s figure is dwarfed by the tall wooden stool upon which he sits, mixing proportions within the piece.
Nikki Moser’s “Springville Fracking Well and Pond” is a sculpture built from cast iron, cast glass, steel and mixed media. She addresses the subject of fracking for natural gas, a hot button topic in many areas of the state. She portrays the gas well in light-colored glass as the darken pool of gas sits below the surface in a perspective offering a look of both above and below the surface.
Several artists have multiple pieces included within the exhibition, and it is particularly fascinating when an artist is included in multiple categories.
Michael Brolly’s “Homage to My Mother” within the craft category is a traditional woman’s corset constructed solely of wood. The delicate details create a herringbone pattern with intricate craftsmanship.
Brolly also shows his construction skills in the sculpture category in “Bag Room or What Do You Do with 1200 Military Air Sickness Bags?” In an answer to the title’s question, a wooden frame is lined with the bags and lit with bright LED lights. The structure is large enough to be entered like a small room. Both works show Brolly’s attention to detail and fabrication skills on both a small and large scale.
Marie Manski represents the future of sculpture in her work “Purgatory.” Sculpted using wood, mat, digital photo frame and stop motion video, she created an evolving display of photos that continually shift from one portrait to the next. This interpretation of the modern sculpture employs both traditional construction and modern video technology. Her creativity earned the prestigious “Museum Purchase Award” meaning it will be included in the State Museum’s permanent collection, representing the 50th edition of Art of the State.
If the annual Art of the State is any indication, the state of the art in the Commonwealth continues to grow, evolve and push the boundaries. From cutting edge techniques to the mastery of the traditional, the artists of the Keystone state are among the most talented and creative in the country.
The 50th annual Art of the State exhibit runs through Sept. 10 at the Pennsylvania State Museum, located at 300 North St., Harrisburg. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for children. During the Sept. 10 Harrisburg Gallery Walk, admission to the museum is free. Visit www.statemuseumpa.org for more information.