Jane and Warren Rohrer, early 1990s, Screenshot from Language and Land (Courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum and Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State)

by William Valerio
Director, Woodmere Art Museum

Like so many of you, Woodmere’s staff is working from home. We’re hammering out the postponement of exhibitions, rescheduling classes and planning creative ways to recover from the lost opportunities of this spring. We’re also working on digital initiatives that share the museum’s work through this period of social distance.

This past Saturday, April 4, was supposed to be the opening day of an exhibition I’ve been dreaming about for years: “Hearing the Brush: The Painting and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer.” Now I’ll be dreaming a bit longer because it is postponed to January through April 2021. However, in the spirit of nourishing the present, we just posted a video on our website, offering a taste of Hearing the Brush made by students at Penn State University: woodmereartmuseum.org/experience/exhibitions/hearing-the-brush-the-painting-and-poetry-of-warren-and-jane-rohrer

The exhibition was conceived with Penn State professors Christopher Reed, an art historian and friend of mine from graduate school, and Julia Kasdorf, a poet, and was intended to coincide with an exhibition at the university’s Palmer Museum, called “Field Language,” which has also been postponed. Together, we chose paintings and poems that will be presented side-by-side on our gallery walls.

Warren, who died in 1995, is an abstract painter of great renown. His work is collected by museums near and far, and he continues to be represented by Philadelphia’s own Locks Gallery. Jane’s poems have appeared in American Poetry Review and elsewhere, and her new anthology, “Acquiring Land: Late Poems[GD1] ,” is forthcoming from Cascadia Publishing House.

Husband and wife were members of the Northwest Philadelphia community, living in a home known as Lower Cogslea, which had previously been the residence of artist Violet Oakley and her life partner Edith Emerson, who was also an artist as well as the director Woodmere for almost 40 years.

Jane, with her athletic linguistic abilities, provided many titles for Warren’s paintings. “Green Stance “(1984), “Suns of Buffalo Run” (c. 1970), and — my favorite — “Big Breathing Mouth I Love You” (1969) are among the works by Warren in Woodmere’s collection. Jane’s poetry conveys an intimacy with her husband’s creative process, and sometimes, as narrator, she stands next to him at his easel. The title of our show, “Hearing the Brush,” is the final line in a poem called “In the Studio.” Husband and wife continue to speak to each other through words and paint.

Please enjoy the video and we encourage you to share it on social media—it’s good medicine! I’ll be heading out to Palmer this fall to see Field Language, and I hope you will, too. And mark your calendars for Hearing the Brush in January. Stay safe and be well!


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