Yearning for a childhood spent playing in the woods

by Len Lear
Posted 1/26/23

If you love beautiful depictions of nature in paintings and photographs as well as printmaking, mixed media and 3-D art, you are bound to appreciate “Woodlands Memories,” at Borrelli’s Chestnut Hill Gallery.

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Yearning for a childhood spent playing in the woods


If you love beautiful depictions of nature in paintings and photographs as well as printmaking, mixed media and 3-D art, you are bound to appreciate “Woodlands Memories,” a new exhibit at Borrelli’s Chestnut Hill Gallery that is chockablock with stunning, breathtaking work by six of the area's finest painters and photographers.

The artists, including Michael Adams, Nancy Agati, John Benigno, Linda Dubin Garfield, Anne Leith and Amie Potsic, were all inspired by childhood memories of playing in the woods, gallery owner Joe Borrelli said. All six will be present at the exhibition’s opening Saturday, Feb. 4, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

“Those woods were a magical playground for us,” said Benigno, who grew up playing in Wissahickon Valley Park and said he felt “very fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood surrounded by woodlands. There was even a brook, which fed into a great marsh with reeds at least six-foot tall, which ran through it. 

“One day we would play Hide ‘n Seek, be soldiers, play King of the Hill or be somewhere deep in Africa on safari,” Beningo continued. “My Woodlands project is dedicated to those memories. I've tried to capture that sense of adventure, wonderment, mystery and make-believe that boy imagined in those years.”

Benigno, a resident of Wynnewood whose photography has been collected by the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum at Ursinus College, Rosemont College, Woodmere Art Museum and numerous others, assembled this group of artists – one of whom is Garfield, a Germantown High School graduate who grew up in West Oak Lane and is now an award-winning printmaker and mixed media artist. 

“The main reason I like trees is that they are both beautiful and majestic. Different species display a seemingly endless variety of shapes, forms, textures and vibrant colors,” said Garfield, who uses hand-pulled printmaking techniques, photography, collage and digital imaging in her work. “As a young girl in about 5th grade, I started going to the Student Art League classes at Rittenhousetown on the Wissahickon Creek. We would do art in one of the old houses and often wander around the area which was filled with greenery and many different trees. This was much different from where I lived, which had small lawns and little trees. I loved the way the air smelled and how lush everything was, especially in spring when there was so much new green." 

Leith, who paints plein-air as well as in the studio from memory, has exhibited many times in both the U.S. and Europe: in galleries, cultural art spaces, nightclubs, bars and restaurants, universities and museums. The Ardmore native has a master's degree in fine arts from Penn and also studied at art schools in California and Paris, France.

“The immense pleasure that I get from making art is unlike any other activity,” she said. “I hope the viewer experiences a similar pleasure when they look at my work. I grew up playing in the woods and on the trails of Haverford College and in the mountains of Vermont, where I also grew up and dreamed. Those special places – the woods, fields, water, ocean, skies and mountains – informed the way I see the world and are the primary subject matter in my oil paintings.” 

As a young boy, Adams was drawn to art and nature. For the past two years, he has been painting moments he experienced on hikes in Evansburg State Park in Montgomery County. He has been working as an illustrator and designer for 45 years, and his watercolor designs have been authorized and sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the American Museum of Natural History and the National Geographic Society. He currently teaches watercolor classes in the Philadelphia area.

Amie Potsic is an acclaimed photographer who was born in Chicago but grew up in the Philadelphia area and still lives here. Her work has been exhibited at Woodmere Art Museum and in 20 solo shows and more than 100 group exhibits around the U.S. and in several foreign countries.

“Photographing in the lush woods of the Northeast, I am drawn to their aesthetic and nurturing qualities: sunlight dancing along the leaves, unexpected curves in tree trunks, the scent of new growth and the embracing canopy above,” she said in an interview last week. “I create images that speak to my own fascination and wonder in the forest to engender a desire to protect our environment in others.”

Nancy Agati, who has lived in Germantown and Mt. Airy since the late 1980s, had her first solo show at Allens Lane Art Center in 2000. She has received numerous awards and her work is now in many public collections. She recalls growing up near a place she and her friends just called “The Woods.”

“A creek ran through it,” she said. “We climbed down on the rocks, daring to venture into the dark tunnel underground. Blackberries grew deep in the thick of trees. We spent hours filling our buckets, fingers and lips turning purple with juice. Weeks were spent building a tree fort. It was a place for long hours with friends and making plans for the next 'woods' adventure.” 

For more information, call 215-248-2549 or visit Len Lear can be reached at