James A. Michener Art Museum James A. Michener Art Museum
Doylestown, PA
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James A. Michener Art Museum
138 S. Pine St.
Doylestown, PA 18901

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Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water

Selma Bortner: The Journey

Ponstingl: Dreams of Past Futures

Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art


Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water
April 4, 2020 - August 23, 2020

•Emily Brown’s delicate renderings of water elicit emotion and consideration for the element that nurtures all life on Earth. While water permeates our world, we rarely study its subtleties. Brown’s large drawings allow close observation of its surface, composed of simple gray and white lines that swirl in alluring, abstracted arrangements. She has replicated this imagery on painted glass cylinders, which will also be included in the exhibition.

Curated by Laura Turner Igoe, Ph.D., Curator of American Art

April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, founded in 1970 to educate the public about environmental issues impacting our planet. To commemorate this event, the Michener Art Museum will feature work by contemporary artists from the Bucks County and greater Philadelphia region that are investigating the effects of global warming, climate change, pollution, and related environmental concerns on bodies of water and aquatic species. Including large-scale painting, works on paper, sculpture and installation, this exhibition will celebrate the power of art to visualize ecological crisis and global change through the eyes of seven local artists.

•Diane Burko operates at the intersection of art, science, and environmental activism. To begin her work, Burko first travels to regions of critical concern to collaborate with scientists who are learning and spreading awareness about Earth’s deteriorating conditions. Featured in Rising Tides are mixed media paintings and inkjet prints, whose aerials views of glacial melt emphasize the scale and real-time effects of Earth’s warming climate.

•For Janet Filomeno’s most recent series of paintings, As the Sea Rises—Blue Crystals Revisited, she streaks brilliant blue paint across each canvas, creating dynamic, abstracted compositions that visualize troubled waters highlighted by red boxes and lines. Filomeno created the original Blue Crystals series following the devastation of 9/11. In linking this new series to the previous one, Filomeno conveys her profound concern for our current turbulent political climate and the rapid acceleration of climate change.

•Marguerita Hagan’s ceramic sculpture focuses attention to the remarkable diversity of creatures that comprise aquatic ecosystems, from microorganisms to larger organisms, like coral and the blue whale. In representing the most infinitesimal of life forms, Hagan stresses the interconnectedness of life on Earth, particularly aquatic life and its susceptibility to pollution and ocean acidification. Hagan’s sculptures thus allude to the monumental change human practices are imposing upon ocean ecosystems.

•Pat Martin will exhibit two works of art that address the deteriorating conditions of oceanic ecosystems due to pollution. One work, Floating Reef, offers an unsettling depiction of discarded, tangled fishing nets that ominously float on the water’s surface, just above the sea life.

•Stacy Levy’s installation, comprised of small vials of water collected from the Delaware River, will visualize the river and its swelling banks when flooded. This installation will track the Delaware’s fluctuating water levels and conditions, while considering the larger weather patterns that affect them.

•The jagged, white surfaces of porcelain sculptures by Paula Winokur (1936-2018) evoke glacial ice. Winokur regarded porcelain as a contradictory material, as it is simultaneously strong enough to withstand searing temperatures when fired, but afterward becomes fragile and will shatter if disturbed. Porcelain is also sourced directly from the Earth, and its use in her work prompts consideration of the materials and processes that comprise our planet, as well as the glaciers, ice cores and globes her sculpture represents.

Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water is generously supported by Visit Bucks County.

Media support is provided by Grid Magazine.

Selma Bortner: The Journey
February 22, 2020 - July 26, 2020
Pfundt Gallery

Curated by Laura Turner Igoe, Ph.D., Curator of American Art
An innovative printmaker and beloved art professor at Bucks County Community College, Selma Bortner (1926-2019) drew upon folklore and myth to explore her own autobiography, current events, and social justice. Bortner’s prints confront challenging issues like domestic abuse, immigration, and international conflict head on with bold and colorful, graphic imagery that still resonates strongly today. To celebrate Bortner, who passed away in August 2019, this exhibition features some of the artist’s most iconic prints from her family and the Michener’s permanent collection.

The exhibition program in the Bette and Nelson Pfundt Gallery is presented by Vivian Banta and Robert Field.

Ponstingl: Dreams of Past Futures
January 25, 2020 - June 20, 2020
Beans Gallery

An artist with no formal training who achieved very little recognition during his lifetime, Franz Jozef Ponstingl (1927-2004) painted fantastical visions of surreal landscapes, future civilizations, and abstract networks. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Ponstingl grew up on a 60-acre farm in Coopersburg. He served in the Air Force during World War II and the Korean War. Themes of war and the military pervade several of his works. Following his service, Ponstingl worked intermittently as an interior designer for the Bolling Officers’ Club and the Monocle restaurant and bar in Washington, D.C., where he painted large-scale murals. He frequently returned to the Coopersburg farm to paint, until the death of his father in 1967 forced him to sell the property and donate many of his paintings to the Salvation Army in Philadelphia. There, they were discovered by Bert Baum, a gallery owner and son of painter and educator Walter Baum (1884-1956). Bert Baum held a solo exhibition of Ponstingl’s work in 1971 at his gallery in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, introducing the artist’s work to a wider audience. In the late 1970s, Ponstingl moved to his sister’s property in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, where he built a studio. He struggled to find success as an artist, however, and relocated to California in 1982, where he lived until his death in 2004.

Ponstingl’s extant body of work represented in this exhibition spans two decades from the 1960s until the late 1970s. Inspired by dreams, his work in the 1960s recalls the work of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and other Surrealist painters. In the 1970s, Ponstingl began exploring otherworldly landscapes inhabited by biomorphic, alien-looking forms. He also experimented with abstract patterning, creating a series of works that resemble circuit boards and interconnected networks. A recurring theme in his paintings are visions of abandoned, future civilizations, appearing as if discovered by intact, but uninhabited, by archaeologists. He was also preoccupied with the creation of a language of inscrutable symbols, evident in works like the monumental Tale of Bifurcations Through the Ages (1966).

Ponstingl: Dreams of Past Futures is the first solo exhibition of Ponstingl’s work at the Michener Art Museum and will include paintings and drawings from private collections, many of which have never been on public view. Featuring representative works from various stages of his artistic development, the exhibition will showcase the artist’s refined technical skill and extraordinary imagination.

Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art
Through March 1, 2020
Paton | Smith | Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries

Curated by Laura Turner Igoe, Ph.D., Curator of American Art

In 1999, the Michener Art Museum received the most important collections gift in its history: 59 Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings from Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, a gift that instantly established the Michener as the finest collection of the art of Bucks County in private or public hands and the premier center for the study of art of this period. Glorious examples by such luminaries as Walter Emerson Baum, Fern Coppedge, John Fulton Folinsbee, Daniel Garber, William Lathrop, Edward Redfield, George Sotter, Robert Spencer, and Walter Elmer Schofield illustrate the profound importance of art produced in this region. In 2010, the Lenfests gave another major collection of Modernist works by Charles Frederick Ramsey, Louis Stone, Charles Evans, Lloyd Ney, and Charles Rosen, and others, expanding the Museum’s ability to tell the rich story of American art and securely placing the Museum in the pantheon of significant American museums.

In memory of Gerry Lenfest, the Michener will exhibit this fall the entire Lenfest collection for the first time in history, allowing visitors to see first-hand both the quality and extent of the generosity of two remarkable collectors, visionaries, and supporters of the Museum.

Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art is generously supported by Visit Bucks County, Worth & Company, Inc., Bob and Joyce Byers, and Kathy and Ted Fernberger. Additional support is provided by FREEMAN’S.

Media support is provided by The Philadelphia Inquirer

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