The Woodmere opened to the public again on July 25. By William Valerio On July 25, Woodmere opened its doors again, and it has been very satisfying to welcome visitors back. We are grateful to every …
By William Valerio
On July 25, Woodmere opened its doors again, and it has been very satisfying to welcome visitors back. We are grateful to every one of the roughly 300 visitors who, as of this writing, purchased timed tickets in advance and, while abiding by social distancing guidelines, are engaging with art. With the mandates of reduced capacity, the experience inside the museum is calm and encounters with art can be especially immersive. One longtime member remarked to me, on the porch and through her mask, as she lathered her hands with sanitizer: The Museum is an oasis of joy in our otherwise distressing times. So please come for a visit! This article is a brief tour to whet your appetite.
“Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia” has been extended through September 7. Energetic and alive with the inspiration of African dance, its patterns and colors leap off the walls of our large, rotunda-shaped gallery. Philadelphia Inquirer art critic Thomas Hine came to see the show two weeks ago and said that it “blew his mind.” He described it as the perfect antidote to the gray days of isolation.
If juicy, sensuous paint is what you love, then spend some time with “Sam Feinstein: Immersive Abstraction,” a new show of large-scale paintings from the 1950s through the 1970s. Feinstein was the leader of Group ’55, a contingent of artists who set out to educate Philadelphia’s public, nurture an openness to the challenges of contemporary art, and elevate the level of the cultural sophistication in our city. Feinstein taught at what is now Springside Chestnut Hill Academy early in his career, and Woodmere will be collaborating with the school this fall on larger exhibitions that explore his legacy.
Our other new exhibition, “Gilbert Lewis: Many Faces, Many Figures,” is all about a humanist approach to figure painting. Working in pencil, watercolor, and gouache, Lewis finds an inner elegance in each of his subjects. He depicts the human figure, both clothed and nude, with a unique combination of attention to detail and the ease that comes from being a master technician. Each portrait is like meeting a new person, and each figure strikes different emotional chords.
Many people tell me that Woodmere’s Helen Millard Children’s Gallery is their favorite part of the Museum; there we showcase work by young people in exhibitions that serve as models for art teachers across the region. The current show, “Expressive Path,” features poetry and art by teens from eight different schools. The art was inspired by stories from adults in recovery from addiction.
And don’t forget our historic galleries, which are filled with great works of art that are rich with history and beauty. Over these months of quarantine, we’ve taken the opportunity to restore and reframe William Winner’s wonderful 1858 painting of the Megargee Paper Mill. In Winner’s time, the mill was among the largest of many that populated the Wissahickon, then a busy industrial creek. The painting’s new historic frame dates to the middle decades of the nineteenth century and it is quite fetching with its leopard-pattern gold leaf.
When we first went into quarantine months ago, I promised our staff and visitors that, when Woodmere eventually reopened, we would welcome them with a glorious bouquet from Robertson’s. Please try to come before the flowers fade—they lift the spirits as much as the art!
William Valerio is the director of Woodmere Art Museum.