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Gallery View: The art of ‘Quarantine’ at Muhlenberg College

A group exhibition of faculty work continues through Jan. 29, Martin Art Gallery, and “Artists Quarantine with Their Art Collections” continues through Feb. 6, Galleria, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, Allentown.

It’s the first time in nearly a decade for the college to feature the faculty in a group exhibit, according to Muhlenberg College Martin At Gallery Director Paul M. Nicholson.

Full and part-time art and art history instructors were invited to submit one piece they felt was representative of their work.

Posted alongside each submission is information about the artist’s teaching philosophies and the personal motivations for creativity.

Muhlenberg College Assistant Professor of Sculpture Frederick Wright Jones’ massive “The Devil is in the Detail” (2021; wood, hardware, 10 ft. x 14 ft. x 10 ft.) dominates everything around it.

Inspired by the aesthetics of Pennsylvania’s water-powered grist mills he visited with his archaeologist dad, the poplar and oak functional sculpture takes a darker political turn.

“This machine here, it’s a gear and you can crank it by standing on that platform,” says Jones.

Jones says his late father told him that surplus flour from grist mills was sent to Caribbean islands to feed enslaved people. Abolitionist Quakers in Pennsylvania were accomplices in a global market that enslaved people, Jones claims.

In his artist’s statement, Jones asks, “With the strong bonds of labor, property and capital, is it possible to create political spectrums that ignore global class conflict as these Quakers did and as Americans do. Is out of sight, out of mind?”

Additional faculty members represented in a variety of media in Martin Art Gallery are Raymond Barnes, Greta Bergstresser, Les Fletcher, David Haas, Carol Heft, Margo Hobbs, Kim Hoeckele, Dawn Kramlich, Emily Orzech, Yangbin Park, Elena FitzPatrick Sifford and Kevin Tuttle.

Guest curated by Stephen Maine, “Artists Quarantine with Their Art Collections” began as a series of articles Maine organized and edited for the arts journal Hyperallergic, in biweekly installments in 2020.

Nicholson explains that during the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown, Maine asked his fellow artists, “In the context of rampant disease, do you look at your personal collection differently now, and which works in particular? Is there one that especially resonates with you at this weird, frightening moment? And does it take on new meaning?”

The artists reflected on their personal collections and provided Maine with answers to his questions. The responses are posted beside the pieces they provided for the exhibit.

Nashville, Tenn.-based painter Jodi Hayes lent an untitled, undated, crazy quilt she had acquired more than 20 years ago.

A collector of fabrics and textiles, Hays writes, “In grad school I pinned it to my apartment wall. Here in Tennessee, I slung it over a sofa.”

Fascinated by the unusual fabric pieces making up the “less improve, more grid” construction of the quilt, she carefully separated the top from the backing in May 2020. To her delight, she revealed her “favorite feature: floral linen edging, two inches wide around a cruddy and stunning linen-colored flannel batting with printed pink stripes.”

“In the slow days of unease, the quilt was a giver. I feel the love,” Hayes states.

Other artist-collectors lending works include Gina Beavers, Power Boothe, Dan Devening, Mark Joshua Epstein, Steve Greene, Carl E. Hazlewood, Lauren Henkin, Mary Jones, Christopher Kuhn, Elisa Lendvay, Judith Linhares, Helen O’Leary, Courtney Puckett, Vincent Ramos, Archie Rand, Howard Schwartzberg, Letha Wilson and Antonius Wiriadjaja.

A panel discussion with artists, moderated by Maine, is Feb. 3 in the Galleria.

Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Gallery hours: noon - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Galleria hours: 9 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily. www.muhlenberg.edu/gallery; 484-664-3467

“Gallery View” is a column about artists, exhibitions and galleries. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER At left, Muhlenberg College Assistant Professor of Sculpture Frederick Wright Jones with his faculty show entry, “The Devil is in the Detail” (2021; wood, hardware, 10 ft. x 14 ft. x 10 ft.). At right, Martin Art Gallery Director Paul M. Nicholson. Behind them is the “Artists Quarantine with Their Art Collections” exhibit in the Galleria Space.