The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Uncanny Congruencies

The power of art is often found in those uncanny spaces between formal abstraction and the narratives of representation. This exhibition investigates the uncanny spaces between these two diametric points through the work of eighteen alumni of the Penn State School of Visual Arts—all of which intersects and dialogues with one another in surprising ways.

Curated by Professor Emerita Micaela Amateau Amato, this exciting and impressive exhibition will be on display in the Palmer Museum of Art September 10–December 15, 2013.  Participating artists include Brian Alfred, Cara Judea Alhadeff, Christa Assad, Kenn Bass, Judith Bernstein, Gerald Davis, Robert Ecker, Suzan Frecon, Krista Hoefle, Marina Kuchinski, Helen Harrington Marden, Beverly McIver, Tim Roda, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Allen C. Topolski, Jason Walker, Henry Wessel, and David W. Young.

Below is Dean Barbara Korner's foreword from the exhibition catalogue:

In My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok writes about a gifted child artist growing up in a Hasidic Jewish home that discourages artistic expression. The little boy struggles to understand the agony he feels watching his mother suffer an emotional breakdown. His pencil is not sufficient and he experiments with ashes from her cigarettes to capture the shades of her grief. She pleads with him to paint pretty pictures, to make the world beautiful. He tries, but he can never follow the admonitions of the people he loves and respects from the close-knit community. He explodes through the social boundaries to discover the creative impulses that free him as an artist—to discover the congruencies in what he feels, sees, knows, and believes.

I have often used this novel for general education courses with students who are not majoring in any studio art form; Asher Lev allows them to catch a glimpse of the commitment and cost it takes to pursue art. Developing as an artist requires the dedication to the breadth of Vitruvius and Alberti, the discipline to learn the technical capacities of a range of media, and the courage to push beyond technical and cultural boundaries.

The best educational foundation in any art program—regardless of the discipline in visual, design, or performing arts—pushes students to grow in knowledge, skill, and courage. Art seldom makes us comfortable. It often makes us squirm. It makes us question. It creates incongruencies in our soul. It calls us to explore our place in the world and in our communities. It causes us to challenge others who would deprive us of our place and identity. It generates hearty laughter, even in the quiet reverence of a museum.

This exhibition allows us to display art and art education at its best—a mark of excellence at Penn State since the founding of the College of Arts and Architecture in 1963—one of the earliest and most broadly conceived arts programs in the country. These alumni found Penn State a place to explore, develop technical skills, and find encouragement to push boundaries in the lifelong pursuit of their art. Most of the essays are penned by current faculty who carry the same caring commitment and who push students to ‘get inside art,’ whether as a student in art or a student of art. A distinguished alumnus also contributed several essays and this gave occasion for a lively debate. The essays remind us that while art is to be experienced rather than explained, thoughtful commentary raises new questions that help viewers see how art probes and prods—it’s not merely to hang on the wall to make the world a pretty place.

It is a privilege to serve in a leadership role at a place such as Penn State, where talented students relentlessly pursue artistic and intellectual excellence, where faculty push those students to new levels of accomplishment, and where alumni propel our culture and world beyond established boundaries. You will find explorations in all forms of artistic expression and media in these works—evidence of another strong aspect of the broad range of disciplines within our college and this extensive research university.

Thank you to those who support the arts in our community and around the world.