Penn State School of Visual Arts Professor Helen O’Leary will be one of 35 artists exhibiting at the galleries of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, March 9–April 9, 2017, in New York City. The artists were chosen from a pool of 165 nominees submitted by the members of the Academy, America’s most prestigious honorary society of architects, artists, writers and composers. Works on display will include paintings, sculptures, photographs and works on paper.
For the exhibition, O’Leary will make a table of wooden “paintings,” titled Unravelling developments—works that interrogate their own structure, stability, and framing. These will be paired with a large, fragmented work that flirts with—but ultimately resists—collapse. In all of these works, uncertainty, and the inevitability of the uncertain, will be a given, rather than an anomaly.
O’Leary’s art draws on her Irish background, and explores with deftness, rigor and craft, the idea of origin, of how everything we subsequently become has been framed by the visual, cultural, moral and emotional lines of definition that are drawn around our formative childhood worlds. In these surfaces, one sees the shadow remnants of ploughed fields and scrubbed wooden tables, of the straight lines of rural conversation and tidy timetables, of the ongoing poetry of season and tide, pattern and ritual.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was established in 1898 to “foster, assist and sustain an interest in literature, music and fine arts,” and is chartered by Congress. Founding members include William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Vedder and Woodrow Wilson. Each year, the Academy gives approximately $1 million in awards to artists, architects, writers and composers. It presents exhibitions of art, architecture and manuscripts, and subsidizes readings and performances of new musicals. The 117-year-old organization is located in three landmark buildings, designed by McKim, Mead & White, Cass Gilbert and Charles Pratt Huntington, on Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Broadway.
The full press release from the Academy can be read here.
Photo credit: Zack Garlitos