Art Watch: Art celebrates Earth Day

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

This Friday, April 21, The Oxford Arts Alliance celebrates Earth Day with an exhibition that is a delight to the senses, “Living Art”. The opening reception is from 5-8pm, and the show continues through May 12th. Also celebrating Earth Day this week is Street Road Artist’s Space, at 725 Street Road in Cochranville, with interesting discussions and artistic explorations planned all weekend long.

Gallery shows are in full swing for the Spring, and many exciting shows in our area are still open for viewing until the end of the month. This weekend is a great time to honor Earth Day and the arts, with such beautiful weather, art is everywhere, inside and out.

“Living Art” at The Oxford Arts Alliance on Third Street in downtown Oxford, is an exhibition conceived by local artist Vicki Vinton. With Earth Day as a kick-off point, she enlisted well known artist friends to explore nature in art through unusual perspectives.

Lenny Wilson shoes, at the Oxford Arts Alliance.

The highlight of the show are the nature inspired cobbled shoes by artist and horticulturalist Lenny Wilson. He is the Director of Development at the Delaware Center for Horticulture, as well as a professional shoe cobbler and artist.

His delightfully imaginative shoe creations have shown widely throughout the East Coast, including a popular installation at the Philadelphia airport. Each pair of shoes takes on a life of their own, as Lenny adds feathers, twigs, leaves and other natural items, to make a traditional wearable item into something both nature and man-made that is wholly un-wearable (I did ask). The shoes are whimsical and intriguing, and invite the viewer to enjoy the creations, as well as to see other everyday objects as possible sources of creative inspiration.

Curator of “Living Art” Vicki Vinton, is very excited about the show, and says that she is particularly “interested in the public responses to the show. The artwork is as provocative as the poem is beautiful. Maybe this will cause people to look at their outside world a little differently!” Vicki Vinton’s art studio (Studio 23/LabArt) is located across the street from The Oxford Arts Alliance at 23 South Third Street, and her studio location will be part of the huge Chester County Studio Tour May 20 and 21st.

A photograph by Kathleen Magner Rios, as seen at Oxford Arts Alliance.

Also in “Living Art”, 27 beautiful photographs of natural subject matter are displayed by artist Kathleen Magner Rios. These selected images are from her series “Metamorphosis”, inspired by Franz Kafka’s famous book. In Kafka’s piece, the protagonist awakens to find himself transformed into an insect, and thus many of the photographs by Rios are of insects, strange and beautiful amidst a garden of flowers. While most of the images were taken in the artist’s local home garden, the images seem out of this world, magical and dream-like. They are stunning.

Metal sculptor Rob Sigafoos and artist Vicki Vinton collaborated to create the final section of “Living Art”, which is all about natural and unnatural, uncaged and caged, birds in flight and birds locked up. Together the two artist creates a mammoth abstract steel cage with an open door. Behind this sculpture, Vicki printed Maya Angelou’s famous poem “Caged Bird”, where a “free bird..dares to claim the sky’, while a “caged bird” has clipped wings and can only sing of freedom. It a marvelous combination of words and imagery, together with the visionary photographs and whimsical shoes ala nature, come together to make an interesting and provocative show for Earth Day.

Further afield in Cochranville, Street Road Artist’s Space concludes their exhibit “back, forth: Street Road at 5 years” which looks back on their five years of experimental artist shows and happenings. The closing party for the show is Earth Day, Saturday April 22nd, and the public is all invited. The following day, Sunday April 23, at the Latvian Society in Philadelphia, from 1-3pm, Laris Kreslins, David A. Parker and Christianna PotterĀ Hannum participate in a panel discussion about their roles in the conception and development of “back, forth”, and the role of art as a connective force. The Latvian Society venue was chosen because it was special to the speakers, and also as a kickoff to plans to continue Street oad Artist’s Space beyond the borders of Cochranville.

Statue of Liberty by Damon Gray, at Galer Estate Winery.

At Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square, pop up art shows and music concerts celebrate Earth Day all weekend long. On Friday, abstract sky-scape painter Ellen Catanzaro shows her large, beautiful paintings at the winery from 2-6pm, on Earth Day Saturday artist Damon Gray shows his brightly colored paintings from 2-6pm while musician Alexandra March sings amid the baskets of spring annuals, and Sunday renown jazz singer Wendi Grantham give a free performance at the winery from 1-3pm. Wendi Grantham is famous for her beautiful voice, as well as for her starring role in the HBO series The Wire.

A collage by Jeremy McGirl, at Gallery 222 in Malvern.

Around the Chester County area, there are terrific art shows in local galleries that should not be missed. Some of the most notable art shows are the John Baker and Rhoda Kahler collaborative show at Mala galleria in Kennett Square, the “Figures and Cityscapes” painting exhibition of Mashiul Chowdhury at Church Street Gallery in West Chester, the paintings and drawing show of fellow artists and friends Abby Patterson and Torrey Kist at Blue Streak Gallery in Wilmington, and the three-person gallery show of Jan Weir, Jeremy McGirl, and Nancy Bea Miller at Gallery 222 in Malvern. Each of these shows highlight uber-talented artists with unique points of view, and you should check them out before the next month rolls around!

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