Familiar Faces Are the Art and Soul of the Lore Degenstein Gallery
At first glance, the Lore Degenstein Gallery seems much like other galleries: white walls punctuated by canvases, textiles or sculpture; plenty of space for studying and contemplating; a general hush conducive to the mind’s expansion. For last winter’s exhibition, “Women of a New Tribe: A Photographic Celebration of Black American Women,” an arresting series of black-and-white portraits depicted African-American women of all ages, from all walks of life, their expressions ranging from ethereal to frank in artful compositions of shadow and light. Among the striking faces conveying graceful curves, long lines and echoed shapes, captured so compellingly by fine art photographer Jerry Taliaferro, are models, activists, artists … and faculty, staff and students from Susquehanna University. As it turns out, “Tribe” is just one of a host of exhibitions that have given Susquehanna community members a starring role.
“Our mission statement says that the gallery, ‘exhibits, interprets, collects and preserves objects of art and material culture that support academic investigations and contribute to the cultural life of central Pennsylvania,’” says Dan Olivetti, gallery director. “We are a national gallery, but including the community has been an ongoing tradition here.”
Olivetti was able to serve both aims with Taliaferro’s “Women of a New Tribe.” The North Carolina–based photographer regularly offers to include local women in his exhibition, conducting photo shoots of up to 20 subjects before the opening. He tells them to bring a prop, or something that holds special meaning for them, which explains the bowls, masks and musical instruments that enliven the images.
Alicia Jackson, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business, took her business suit. “I was reluctant,” Jackson says. “I’m not much for photos. But it was fun, very relaxed.”
Gallery Gives Students a Venue for Their Work
In the Lore Degenstein Gallery, masterful works by Dali and Warhol occasionally give way to contributions by faculty and students from the departments of art, theatre and modern languages.
Every spring, the walls come alive with the work of senior graphic designers and studio artists, a tradition known as The Senior Show. Last year’s exhibition featured the work of 15 seniors who not only presented their ads, logos, package designs, magazine layouts and studio art, but also managed the details of the show.
“Displaying student work in the gallery offers students the opportunity to gain real-world experience in a professional museum setting,” says Mark Fertig, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art “[For The Senior Show,] the students work as a team to develop and hang their exhibition, which is entirely their own, and they gain practical skills in the ways artists and designers present themselves to the public.”
“The gallery is a legitimate venue [for students] to display art, and because it’s [of ] the university, there is some- thing about it that people definitely respect,” says Caleb Heisey ’ 11, a graphic design graduate now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. “This gallery incorporates not only work that has been done by students, but work that features students. Actually seeing your friends in a painting or a photograph is so different from going to a gallery and seeing artwork of people you don’t know.”
The “Warhol and His Imitators” exhibition provided an- other opportunity for students to show off their talents. Graphic design students applied their talents and digital tools to create works for the show that imitated the style of Warhol’s silkscreen prints.
“I was ecstatic when I first saw my work on display,” says Ben Ross ’12, a graphic design major who used Photoshop to create a Warhol-inspired Polaroid piece. “I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to express my work in the gallery.”