“I am interested in the way birds’ patterns mimic their environments, creating the beautiful and extreme designs of their plumage… Throughout my long painting career, I have worked on many series that are usually multiple years-long and evolve to and from the real and the ideal.”
- Barbara Sosson
Throughout her career spanning over 50 years, Barbara Sosson has developed stature in the Philadelphia arts community as a painter, designer, and gregarious personality. In Sensuous Shapes & Mimicry, Sosson struts her stuff with a grouping of new oil paintings that combine two wings of her practice: abstraction and representation.
Sosson began this exhibition with two fully abstract, shape-based paintings, Chills and Knotted, that use formal devices to suggest the effects of specific physiological experiences. Moving deeper into the series, namable components begin to appear. Parts of the human form and the trunk of a tree are nested within flat planes of expressive color and texture. The bulk of the series further incorporates representation by presenting colorful, exotic birds within dynamic shapes, patterns and colors that complement their beautiful plumes.
These most recent works capture Sosson’s interest in the ways birds blend in with their environments. Not only do mockingbirds and parrots mimic the sounds of their environments, but a millennium of evolution has selected for the colors and patterns that act as camouflage for some species and mating displays for others. These combinations of representation and abstraction flock together to create the variety of feathers we enjoy on our avian friends! Sosson’s eagle eye enhances these gorgeous combinations, making this exhibition a delightful experience. You’ll be happy as a lark.
Since her graduation from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1967, Barbara Sosson has exhibited her works in the galleries and museums of Philadelphia, New York and beyond. She has won awards, scholarships and commissions including a commission for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and a Cresson Memorial Scholarship for European Travel. Her paintings are in public and private collections including Bryn Mawr College, CIGNA Corporation in Houston, the State Museum in Harrisburg and the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia. She flies dangerously close to the sun as the current president of the Fellowship of PAFA. She lives and works in Philadelphia.
“Autobiographical paintings are important because they are expansive enough to encapsulate contradictions.”
- Caleb Stoltzfus
In Signs of Life, Caleb Stoltzfus’ grouping of representational oil paintings create unexpected and mysterious narratives set within rural, suburban, and urban landscapes and interiors. His chosen imagery lacks the literal depiction of human forms, yet evidence of life abounds through his intentional placement of tools, clothing, structures, and piles of discarded items that have ostensibly been touched or at some point inhabited by humans.
Stoltzfus’ scenes give the impression of some unidentified action having freshly taken place, perhaps moments before viewers ‘arrive’. There is an implied invitation to investigate the meaning of what is being observed, the objects individually, how they arrived at their current orientations, and what can be inferred about their former or remaining utility and purpose. On a playful note, the search for narrative information is at times thwarted due to the artist’s penchant for stagecraft, and sometimes purposeful misdirection.
Each painting in Signs of Life hums with underlying drama and mystery. As an accomplished plein air and studio painter, Stoltzfus’ skillfully executed paintings put him in dialogue with other regional realists such as Andrew Wyeth and his sister Ann Wyeth McCoy. The believable pictures offer both complex and minute details for endless contemplation and appreciation.
Interpretation is open and unlimited in this body of work. For instance, in Dealer’s Choice, what at first seems to be an elegant, welcoming setting in the form of a beautiful dining room foils expectations with the conspicuous placement of blue nitrile gloves. The scene is transformed into a museum period room with demarcating ropes highlighting a curious and puzzling backdrop where the observer can decide whether or not to complete the story. Similarly, in Fall Garden, a red coat lies abandoned in the foreground, littering a mostly green lawn. An onlooker might wonder how the layer found its position as a dark form abruptly appears from behind a fence. Is it a tree trunk? A camera tripod? Someone returning their gaze? The allusions at times complicate rather than illuminate, and ultimately successfully hold one’s interest.
Currently based in Philadelphia, Caleb Stoltzfus is originally from Elverson, PA. He began his art education at Studio Rilievo in Kennett Square, where he studied fundamentals of painting and drawing in the Classical traditions with Neilson Carlin for 4 years. In 2015, he received his BA in art from Covenant College, followed by a year-long fellowship and solo show at The Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. From 2016-2017, Stoltzfus studied plein air landscape painting and multi-figure composition in the Russian tradition under artist Daud Akhriev. He has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, including Manifest Gallery, Cincinnati and First Street Gallery, New York. In 2020, he began this new series focused in part on Woodford Mansion, where he lives and is the caretaker. This is Stoltzfus’ first solo exhibition in Philadelphia.
Family Matter brings together twelve artist-parents whose lives and art practices have been forever changed by parenthood. As is typical for all new parents, the burden of new responsibilities can be a surprise or even a hardship. Resources and overall flexibility are depleted in unpredictable ways which can be particularly challenging for artist-parents who need time to work in their studio or on location for their career opportunities, exhibitions and residencies to flourish.
For this reason, historically, parenthood has been stigmatized within art spheres, especially for women. But the artist-parents in this show have found that the very transformation of their identities through parenthood has ignited their practice anew with purpose and focus, and that what might have been a limitation has now become a creative force.
There is immense joy in watching children create. Whether they are drawing, playing make-believe, or stringing words together for the first time, witnessing their creative discoveries first-hand gives parents the chance to experience these milestones once again through their children. This fresh perspective, or a “beginner’s mind”, is a goal for professionals in many artistic pursuits. For artist-parents, their children may become a conduit for experiencing creative novelty. Their child might even become a collaborator of sorts. In these moments, “parent” and “artist” labels disappear and their duality becomes an inspiring entanglement. The result is a myriad of new viewpoints that engage with the feelings and perceptions that come with becoming a parent and artist.
This exhibition, curated by Joseph Lozano, features the works of Anthony Bowers, Dave Campbell, Scott Dickson, Aimee Gilmore, Aubrey Levinthal, Adam Lovitz, Kate Moran, Bethann Parker, Sterling Shaw, Kristen Neville Taylor, and Ashley Wick.