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September 9, 2000 to November 1, 2000

PICTURA LUCIDA

This is an exhibition of "lucid pictures" curated by Amy Ingrid Schlegel. The five artists included in Pictura Lucida -- Diane Burko, Meg Saligman, Anda Dubinskis, Charlotte A. Schatz, and Linda Stojak -- represent the Established Artist Recipients of The Leeway Foundation's Grants in Painting for the year 2000. Three meanings of the word "lucid" connect the disparate practices of these five painters. Clarity and intelligibility of form aids viewers' comprehension. "Lucida," meaning "light," as a painter's tool, helps define form. And luminosity--the character of radiant light­acts as a representational device and pictorial quality.

The invented term "pictura lucida" is taken from a pre-photographic drawing instrument known as the camera lucida, a cousin to the camera obscura and a forerunner of the slide projector. The camera lucida aided artists in drawing an object or a landscape too vast for the eye to encompass at once without moving the head. The artist looked through a small, split lens so that, on one half, natural light reflected off an angled mirror on to a drawing surface below, and on the other half, the distant object was magnified. Pictura Lucida also consciously recalls French theoretician Roland Barthes's 1980 classic book Camera Lucida, in which he metaphorically invokes the instrument's ability to "shed light" on the subject of photography by tracing reflections. Pictura Lucida is employed here in a similar, overarching manner.

The paintings in this exhibition use various strategies of drawing that relate to the function of the camera lucida. Both Diane Burko and Meg Saligman compose with the aid of a slide projector in tracing the outlines of forms in order to achieve accuracy in perspective and scale across a large surface. This practice underscores the importance of reflected light and drawing as well as of photographic sources in the production of their paintings. Legible, schematically-rendered figures in the work of Anda Dubinskis and Linda Stojak demonstrate the importance of drawing and heavy line to these artists in a manner different from Burko's and Saligman's use of line as underdrawing. Dubinskis's and Stojak's figurative compositions elicit intrigue precisely because their forms are legible yet their implicitly narrative meaning remains enigmatic. As for light as a pictorial quality, Charlotte A. Schatz's expressionist industrial landscapes feature clearly defined, geometric forms and a tonality that appears infused with a personalized, non-naturalistic luminosity. And Burko's sublime landscapes of volcanic eruptions come as close as one can imagine to the pictorial representation of fiery, incandescent light.

Pictura Lucida marks the third occasion that the Philadelphia Art Alliance has hosted The Leeway Foundation's awardees in the visual arts. Since its founding in 1993, The Leeway Foundation has awarded grants to living women artists over the age of 20 who reside in the Philadelphia five-county area. In addition to the five artists honored in Pictura Lucida, works by seven painters who are recipients of the Emerging Artist awards are on view during the month of October at Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia.

A panel of jurors appointed by The Leeway Foundation selected the five artists in Pictura Lucida. Those jurors were: Maria Dominguez, a painter living in New York City; Kathryn Kanjo, director of ArtPace, a Foundation for Contemporary Art in San Antonio, TX; Sara Becker, Libby Harwitz, and Charlene Longnecker, both trustees of The Leeway Foundation; and Linda Lee Alter, president of the Foundation. Philadelphia Art Alliance curator Amy Ingrid Schlegel selected the works on view and devised the exhibition concept and installation. Curatorial assistant Melissa Caldwell ably assisted in the production of this brochure, the wall labels, and press release. June O'Neill, executive director, and River Trappler, program coordinator, of The Leeway Foundation were enormously helpful in facilitating the relay of information and other logistical details. Founder Linda Lee Alter, as always, was a committed and enthusiastic supporter of the Foundation's awardees and of the Art Alliance. Finally, Joan Wetmore, former director of Nexus Gallery, was a congenial collaborator. The Philadelphia Art Alliance also wishes to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Stephen Haller, founding director of the Stephen Haller Gallery, New York, and cooperation of Sueyen Locks, director of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia.

Diane Burko presents new work from a series on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. These panoramic views of volcanic eruptions signal a departure from the naturalistic landscape painting for which she is well known. Burko asserts that "the representation of the volcano has enabled me . . . to explore an unknown palette. I have backed my naturalism into a conversation with abstraction." The intense, luminescent quality of this palette of unadulterated reds, oranges, yellows, and whites compliments her effort to convey the vastness and power of nature ­ and her accompanying sense of awe. Burko's newest work evinces a contemporary incarnation of the Sublime tradition in landscape painting.

"The world's landscape has stimulated, challenged, and inspired me for over thirty years," Burko explains. "How the scale of the painting transforms discrete visual experiences into a image that becomes greater than any of its parts has been a constant preoccupation of mine. My current series concerns the volcano in all its manifestations. I'm interested in capturing molten lava flows, eruptions of fire and ash, as well as the pyroclastic deposits of magma, cinders, and pumice fragments that accumulate around the craters and calderas of dormant volcanoes. In 1998, I began visiting volcanoes in Costa Rica and Alaska. I am now focused on the activity of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. After exploring it, I plan to journey to Iceland, southern Italy, and New Zealand."

Burko received her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and is a full professor at the Community College of Philadelphia. She is the recipient of the Bessie Berman Grant as well as several other awards, including: The Bellagio Study and Conference Center Residency from the Rockefeller Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship; and The Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation Residency in Giverny, France. Most recently, the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia awarded Burko its One Percent Public Art Commission Award to produce a 360-degree mural cycle entitled Wissahickon Reflections at the Marriott Hotel, Philadelphia. Burko is represented by Locks Gallery, Philadelphia.

A muralist whose work can be seen in various locations throughout Philadelphia and other cities, Meg Saligman often treats contemporary people from a specific community as allegorical figures in her complex, collage-like compositions. She is currently completing a mural entitled Once In a Millennium Moon in Shrevesport, Louisiana. The murals' digital design is being shown for the first time along with photographs of the installation in progress. "At 25,000 square feet," the artist explains, "this painting will be the largest publicly funded mural in the country. The design is a gigantic Shrevesport celebration of life cycles. Everything seen in the mural is from the physical or psychological worlds of this northern Louisiana community. All the figures seen are actual citizens of Shrevesport ranging in age from three months to eighty-six years. (They will appear 20 to 100 feet in height.) Water flows through the design, as it does the city. It spills into urns decorated with the carvings from local cemeteries. The water then pours onto a baby symbolizing the cycle of death and birth . . . Natural elements are a huge design element because they are so important in the daily life and cycles of the city." Once in a Millennium Moon is administered and sponsored by the Shrevesport Regional Arts Council. It is part the initiative Artists Create for the Millennium, sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Also featured in the exhibition are a CD-rom on the making of Philadelphia Muses, located at 13th and Locust Streets, and slide projections documenting the creative and production processes of Common Threads, located at Broad and Spring Garden Streets.

After receiving her bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Saligman moved to Philadelphia where she began painting murals for the Anti-Graffiti Network, now the Mural Arts Program at the City's Department of Parks and Recreation, with which she is still involved. She has been honored with several prestigious awards, including: The Leeway Grant for Excellence; The National Endowment for the Arts in 1995, 1996, and 1999; and the Pew Charitable Trusts in 1993.
Anda Dubinkis's multi-paneled compositions (which are inspired by early Renaissance altars) juxtapose, and sometimes overlay, figure and plant studies. Parallels are implicitly suggested between the two, both of which are drawn from life, and often at the same scale. The ambiguous narratives and dissonant color schemes seem to conceptualize both individual psychological states of mind and broader social interactions. Dubinskis states that: "My paintings involve a narrative, often juxtaposing several images. Recently, I have become more involved in evoking a psychological state. Various plant forms are interspersed with the figures. These weeds can be perceived as insidious invaders, but they also serve as a metaphor for tenacity and perseverance."

Anda Dubinskis received her bachelor's degree from Cooper Union in New York City and her master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently an adjunct professor at Beaver College and has taught at Moore College of Art and Design, the Tyler School of Art (Temple University), and Kutztown University. Dubinskis has received the Leeway Grant for Achievement, and other notable awards, including: The National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship in 1990 and 1992; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in 1995 and 1998; and the MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 1987.

Charlotte A. Schatz depicts abandoned industrial buildings in urban surroundings, but not in a documentary way. Inspired by French Fauvism, Russian Constructivism, and American Precisionism, Schatz focuses on the formal and geometric configurations of a specific industrial site, transforming the space into an expressionist landscape through her manipulation of color and composition. She presents a selection of paintings from this body of work completed during the last two years. Schatz states: "This body of work reflects my formal, aesthetic, and social concerns. Since 1996, I've been involved in an investigation of abandoned buildings in our urban environment; remnants of industrialism in North Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Portland, Oregon. My aim is to provoke a reaction to the geometry of these beautiful, empty buildings, sans people, in a seemingly unreal space using subjectively chosen color. I use a fauvist palette to refer back to the early times when these structures were new and glorious, full of life and industry."

Schatz received her bachelor's degree from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, and has since pursued graduate studies at Tyler, Skidmore College, Alliance Française, and Drexel University. In 1998 she retired as professor of fine arts at Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA. Schatz has received the Leeway Award for Achievement.

Linda Stojak's quasi-representational paintings are characterized by androgynous figures enigmatically suspended in voids of saturated color. Her spare compositions may represent a liminal state, in which her figures seem poised on the threshold of action yet remain immobile, perhaps representing a condition of emotional paralysis. Stojak builds her painterly surfaces and schematically delineated forms, until recently, solely with a palette knife on canvases covered with a grid of paper; she now also occasionally uses very fine brushes. Stojak's work has both autobiographical and literary ties; in particular, to her Polish-Catholic upbringing, her father's recent death, and the adoption of a Chinese toddler, as well as to the angst-ridden poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, all of which weigh heavily in the palpable emotional undercurrent of her recent work.

Stojak states: "In painting I examine my own life. Through the specifics of my life, I hope to describe something about the nature of everyone's life. These paintings are about being born, separation, touching, breathing, dying, loss, time, silence, waiting. I want to be concise stylistically, to keep images simple, suggestively spare and repetitive. I emphasize their emotional complexity through the painting process itself. For instance, I might convey an underlying tension by combining a static, restrained image with a layered, expressive surface. I want to describe and evoke the anxiety that inevitably exists in living."

Stojak holds a MFA from the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York and was awarded the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Painting in 1996. She has now received the Leeway Grant for Achievement. Stojak is represented by the Stephen Haller Gallery, New York.

Tags: painting