Two new exhibitions will open this month at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art. Only Connect: A Conversation About Image and Word, Photographs and Texts by Brian H. Peterson will open Jan. 21 in the Upper Gallery and runs through March 9. Barbara J. Zucker: 40 Years of Painting: A Visual Journal opens Jan. 27 in the Main Gallery and runs through March 23. Opening receptions for each artist’s exhibition will be held Jan. 30 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Only Connect: A Conversation About Image and Word, Photographs and Texts by Brian H. Peterson
“Only connect,” says the English writer E. M. Forster in his novel Howards End. In this unusual exhibition, Philadelphia photographer Brian H. Peterson has selected a smorgasbord of pictures and prose that explores his spiritual life and the art and practice of photography. He is inspired by Forster’s insight into the need for connection in our lives.
A critically acclaimed author, Peterson has chosen excerpts from his two published memoirs, The Smile at the Heart of Things (2009) and The Blossoming of the World (2011), to create an exhibition that explores the connections between word and image in his own work. Periodically, Peterson will be at the Museum to “only connect” with museum visitors.
In addition to being an artist, curator, critic, and arts administrator in the Philadelphia area for more than three decades, Peterson has had more than 30 solo exhibitions of his photographs since 1980. His work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum, the Library of Congress, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Denver Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Dayton Art Institute, the State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Danforth Museum of Art, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Peterson discusses his photographs using written statements that offer a window into the creative process. His Earth Music series (1993-1997) started with a simple fascination with the “outside” of things, “particularly how complex, textured surfaces can be rendered with such exquisite beauty through the precise alchemy of the lens.” The from . . . to series (1993-1994) began with a playful desire to move in the opposite direction—to break free from the constraints of the pristine photographic print and find out if anything would emerge from a more spontaneous way of working, he writes.
Of the Interior Light series (2003-2004), he says that “making photographs, for me, has usually involved packing up my stuff and going places: Montana, Arizona, a local park, or maybe somebody’s home to do a portrait. It never occurred to me that there were pictures to be found inside my house as well as outside.” The Fire Music series (2004) began with the idea of a tiny piece of flickering flame recorded by a camera in front of the fireplace, first turning the fire into pixels.
Peterson worked as a curator from 1990 to 2013 at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Bucks County, Pa., and was the editor and principal author of the 2002 publication Pennsylvania Impressionism (co-published by the Michener and the University of Pennsylvania Press). His memoir The Smile at the Heart of Things: Essays and Life Stories (2009) was co-published by the Michener and Tell Me Press, New Haven, Conn. He was a member of the Museums Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, and has served on the Visual Arts Advisory Panel of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He received two Fellowships for Visual Arts Criticism from the PA Council on the Arts, and his critical writing has appeared in several newspapers and journals. He has taught photography at the University of Delaware, the Tyler School of Art, and Swarthmore College. He received an MFA from the University of Delaware and a BA in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania.
More information can be found at www.brianhpetersonwordimage.com.
Barbara J. Zucker: 40 Years of Painting: A Visual Journal
Montgomery County artist Barbara J. Zucker paints nature’s story. The retrospective of her will show changing phases of painting and life, and also constants: a love of color, form and balance, the persistence of landscape and a reference to the human body–overt or hidden–and a sensual expression of the subject matter.
Nature, she says, “constantly intrigues me… [It] fills me with a sense of nature’s mystery, power, and beauty.” Zucker’s paintings, grouped by series, vary by style and medium, but consistently illustrate vivid variations of nature’s colors, shapes, and textures. She has found that by developing a subject in many ways over time, she is able to experience a place more fully and continually discovers new variations.
The exhibition showcases work from each phase, works that are transitional or that she personally has selected as her best work, or works which capture her spirit at the time. These include moonscapes, goddess images, paintings related to family events, organic forms in a geometric structure, paintings inspired by travels, and a topiary series inspired by Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia. More recent is the Stone Hill series depicting the woods and sights of this Montgomery County area, and paintings of beloved Maine locales, such as the salt water Mill Pond, “to celebrate its beauty, its peacefulness and its changeability; infinite variations of colors, patterns on the water, shapes of clouds, movements of the grass or times of the tide.” Other favorite Maine places which find their way onto the canvases include the blueberry fields which turn brilliant scarlet in autumn, islands beyond the harbor, and the rocks and water on the Schoodic Peninsula, part of Acadia National Park.
While these painting are about special places, they are equally studies in color, light, shape and other formal abstract elements. The paintings have a contemporary feeling due to heightened colors and simplified forms. In addition, many are painted on deep, wrapped canvases with the edges painted rather than framed in a traditional manner. Many of the paintings employ multiple panels: diptychs and triptychs.
“Nature,” she writes, is “more rich and varied than our minds can imagine and in looking at the same subject matter over and over, I am always excited by seeing something new.”
Barbara J. Zucker is a 1966 graduate of Ursinus College and earned her master’s degree from Tyler School of Art in 1971. She is President Emerita of Philadelphia/Tri State Artists Equity and was Exhibition Chair of that organization from 1993 to 2010. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of The Berman Museum of Art, The Reading Public Museum, Woodmere Art Museum, Rosemont College and other public and private collections.
The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and College holidays. The Museum is accessible to visitors with disabilities. Admission is always free. Exhibitions and programs are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Of the over 12,000 museums in the United States, the Berman Museum of Art is one of only 781 museums accredited by the American Association of Museums.