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First Friday – April, 2007


Spring has sprung in Philadelphia – although the First Friday of April was rather chilly. After visiting some fifteen, twenty galleries in the span of four hours, here are some of my favorites.

The highlight of First Friday down in Old City was, as Roberta and Libby pointed out in their post last week, Jackie Tileston’s exhibit at Pentimenti, Everything, In Your Favor.

Jackie Tileston "Analogy of Transit"
Jackie Tileston before her painting “Analogy of Transit”

Tileston’s exhibit was composed of 4 oils and 4 drawings, each embodying the same euphoric, spiritual feel. Tileston, a teacher at UPENN, grew up overseas, and has recently returned from an extended tenure in India. The landscape elements in her paintings are derived from these and other excursions abroad. They feature her own pictures, namely of the Himalayas, and also have historical references, such as to the Hudson River Painters. I thought the paintings were the perfect size to represent the subject – big enough that you could lose yourself inside of them but not so big that they were overpowering.

Jackie Tileston "The Way Things Might Really Be"
Jackie Tileston’s “The Way Things Might Really Be”

Tileston’s work has been labeled as deconstructive in nature and likened to the Abstract Expressionist painters. However, as she asserts in her own words, “I’m not taking something apart. I’m putting everything back together again.” And her paintings do create a certain level of empathy with the viewer. The abstractions in the foreground work with the landscapes behind them to feel “multicultural,” culminating her experiences of travel, and also seem to speak to somewhere in the viewer’s subconscious that recognizes the forms as familiar and beautiful.

The University of the Arts hosted its Fine Arts Senior Thesis Exhibit at Havana Lofts on 301, 303, 307 N. Third St – a space that sprawled over three buildings and even down into the dingy basements. I found that the artists made great use of the space – especially Diane Huebner‘s exhibit downstairs.

Diane Huebner

After following the “exhibit continues downstairs” sign, I was not sure that I was in the right surroundings. However, I kept the faith and looked at what the other viewers were studying in the far corner where a small bare light lit an alcove. Inside was a sculpture of what looked to be a mummy or a decomposing body – eerie! The curved, white form fit perfectly in the space. I was alternatively addled and intrigued by this exhibit, and by the further work I found of Huebner’s upstairs.

Diane Huebner "Dismantling my Childhood"
Diane Huebner’s “Deconstructing My Childhood” – “flayed” stuffed animals.

Huebner’s show exhibited the pelts of stuffed animals, pinned to the wall in a manner that was reminiscent not only of the rare leopards that can be find in collectors’ households, but also, oddly enough, of Jesus on the cross. Both the stuffed animals and the sculptures in the basement were quite affecting.

There were many more artists that I enjoyed at the UArts show. See pictures on my flickr site.

The Knapp Gallery, on 162 N. Third St. has a new director, Jeffrey Frederick, and a new image – the first exhibit dedicated solely to one artist, Jon Eckel‘s Selected Works signals a transition that will mark Knapp as a sophisticated gallery that should be taken seriously.

Jon Eckel’s “Artist’s Studio” at Knapp

Eckel’s paintings reminded me of cubism and Gauguin while having a unique primitivism of their own. Much of the imagery, fish, birds, etc, are obviously symbolic to the Christian faith. However, Eckel’s style of painting allows them to exist on their own as archetypes of human experience. See more on my flickr site.

There were several highs – and a whole lot of shows to pass over for April’s First Friday. Honestly, after synthesizing what I had seen into an overall view of how the night went, I found many of the exhibits lacking. I suppose the galleries are gearing up for their best shows to open in May, when the weather is actually warm. A more complete photo journal of what I gleaned from the night can be found in my photos here.