Art on the Main Line, activist and political

Roberta sees some art in the suburbs and reports that activist, political, eco-themed work is alive and well there.

Short and sweet, Everyone! I saw three things I want to share with you. Two of the three shows are closing soon. Run over and see them if you can.


A colorful photo-montage shows three very different works of art by three different artists in an exhibition. On the left is a patchwork quilt in purple and orange patterned fabric swatches mostly in vertical rows; the middle image is a sketch in white on black paper of a closeup of a Black woman; on the right is a collage of photographic and painted imagery on a fragment of a wood fence, the imagery centered on a seated Black woman, perhaps Harriett Tubman, whose head is surrounded by a golden halo.
Works by Toni Kersey, Patricia Renee Thomas, and Lavett Ballard, featured in “Speaking in Tongues” at Main Line Art Center

Three strong voices of African American women artists make an excellent exhibition at Main Line Art Center. “Speaking in Tongues,” curated by Michael Clemmons, presents Toni Kersey’s colorful quilted wall works, Patricia Reneé Thomas’s chalk drawings on black-painted paper and Lavett Ballard’s multi-media collages. All the works speak to the importance of the Black experience and to the passion and drive these artists bring. No one artist stands out above the others, and in fact, the show is three-part harmony in three diverse voices. Patricia Reneé Thomas’s works haunt. The black-painted backgrounds onto which the artist draws faces and bodies in delicate assured lines speak to contemporary issues of the Black woman’s body, who owns it, whose depictions matter. They are visceral and beautiful and questioning. Lavett Ballard’s collages are notable for their great choices of appropriated imagery and for the dizzying accumulation of stenciling, gold leaf and paint to create icons both respectful and exhortatory. Toni Kersey’s quilted wall works are sleepers, slow works in fast company. They grew on me, as they held the walls like gorgeous maps or cloaks of ancestors whose stories lie buried in the cloth and thread. “Speaking in Tongues” is open until Feb. 24, 2023.


A color photo shows a room with no windows and a long white table in the middle with many white chairs around it, with books and papers on the table and on the far wall is a digital display reading “2289” in red letters, referring to the number of prisoners currently on death row in the US.
“Currently,” an art and research project on capital punishment by Mark Menjívar, on view at Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery until March 3, 2023.

Walking into Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College is always an adventure. Over the years I’ve seen many wonderful art exhibits, plus, the occasional zinger, like a month-long skee-ball competition focused on the issues of winning, losing and competition. The gallery — as is appropriate in a high education establishment — is a great laboratory for ideas, many of them social-justice related. Check their archives to see what I mean. Currently, the exhibit is “Currently,” a multi-media offering by Mark Menjívar, taking off from a pun on electric currents as well as time lived in the present. Dovetailing with the title, the subject of the exhibit is capital punishment. And the gallery looks like an actual social justice laboratory. Twenty seven states (including Pennsylvania) allow capital punishment (although Pennsylvania’s new governor, Josh Shapiro, just announced he would not authorize any executions under his watch and urged lawmakers to rally behind the push to prohibit capital punishment in PA.). The exhibit’s wall materials and table offerings (books, printouts of news articles and current “how to” handbook used by Texas for its executions) are jolting to see. The ever present tick tock of an atomic clock in the background reminds you of “doing time” and of those for whom “time” is up. Almost 2,300 prisoners are waiting on death row in the US currently, a number presented on the wall in a neon red digital display which changes to reflect the actual number. Like visiting a special library devoted to one subject, visiting the exhibit is a self selection not all will want. I am finding that the material as well as the entire laboratory display has embedded itself in my memory.

A color photo shows a hand holding a copy of a training manual that is spiral bound at the left and whose cover indicates it is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Institutions Divisions Execution Procedure manual from April, 2021. Red letters at the top mark it “CURRENTLY” meaning currently in use.
“Currently,” an art and research project on capital punishment by Mark Menjívar, on view at Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery until March 3, 2023.

“Currently” is on view until March 3, 2023. Hurford Center, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College.


A color photo shows the exterior of a store in Narberth PA in a blue-tinted building with the store’s name “Shift” appearing above the main entrance. In the window on the right is an art installation, made of colorful ribbon-like strands of plastic spoons, beads and other small plastic wares. In the window shelf are hundreds of white and colored plastic bottle caps. The label in the window says the work is “Overflow3” by Eurhi Jones.
“Overflow3” by Eurhi Jones, in the window of “Shift” in Narberth, PA

I had passed “Shift,” several times before I went in. The small shop on Narberth’s main street opened recently and is a recycle/reuse station. You bring your empty laundry detergent bottle, honey or peanut butter jar, and they fill it up with safe, locally-sourced (if possible) alternatives to Tide, Jiffy, and the rest. You name it, they refill it, their way. I love the idea. And when I talked with one of the co-founders, I learned that they both are local women. All the more reason to support. One day, a colorful, whimsical window installation appeared at “Shift.” It was art, by Eurhi Jones! Wonderful stuff. (Right now and until Feb. 28, 2023, Eurhi Jones has a similar, larger installation in the 3-person exhibit, “Gather” at Asian Arts Initiative. Jones’s window installation, called “Overflow3,” vibrates with happy thoughts of picnics and jaunty outings in parks. Pretty and charming, enticing and entertaining, yet it points darkly to our easy seduction that leads ultimately to eco-devastation.

A color photo shows the interior of a store, Shift” located in Narberth, PA. In the window is an art installation, made of colorful ribbon-like strands of plastic spoons, beads and other small plastic wares. In the window shelf are hundreds of white and colored plastic bottle caps.
“Overflow3” by Eurhi Jones, seen from inside “Shift” in Narberth, PA