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Gallery View: ‘Starstruck’ lights the way to Lehigh University exhibition

Shimon Attie’s mixed-media installation “Starstruck: An American Tale,” interconnects Bethlehem’s past and present, through Dec. 3, Main Gallery, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Zoellner Arts Center.

As an internationally-renowned visual artist, Attie creates site-specific installations in public places, with immersive multiple-channel video and mixed-media.

The New York City-based artist engages local communities in finding new ways of representing their history, memory and potential future, while exploring how contemporary media may be used to re-imagine new relationships between space, time, place and identity.

Invited to create a new body of work as Lehigh University’s Horger Artist-in-Residence (2021-’22) in the Department of Art, Architecture and Design, Attie has created an installation which integrates Bethlehem’s past and present as a microcosm of America.

Six persons, representing Bethlehem’s progression from a Moravian Christian settlement in 1741 through its industrial rise and fall, and finally to a contemporary city celebrating diversity, were filmed at various sites linked to the area’s history. There’s a woman in traditional Moravian clothing, a steelworker, healthcare worker, singer from Central Moravian Church, casino worker, and a young woman.

They appear and reappear between two channels of synchronized video flanking a working scale model that Attie created of the 90-foot-tall brightly lit Bethlehem Star on South Mountain. The Chamber of Commerce built the structure in 1937 to brand Bethlehem as “The Christmas City.”

The star alternates lighting up with the white associated with candlelight from the early history of the Moravian settlement and multiple colors to reflect the city’s diversity.

“I had many, many collaborators at the university,” says Attie, “We had over 100 people who were involved in the making the piece [the exhibition].” Participants were recruited through Lehigh University, as well as community organizations, including the Steelworkers’ Archives, Historic Bethlehem, and the Moravian Church.

As part of the artist-in-residency, Attie is teaching a course focused on what he describes as “strategies of working with communities, of working with physical sites, helping young artists learn and be exposed to what it’s like to work outside of the studio. It’s called the ‘Art of Sites and Communities.’”

He began his creative journey in 1992 with his first installation, “The Writing on the Wall,” in the Scheuenviertel neighborhood of Berlin, Germany.

Previous to the Bethlehem project, Attie’s “Night Watch,” a floating media installation in San Francisco Bay, was co-produced by Boxblur and Immersive Arts Alliance in 2021.

Attie received a BA from University of California, Berkeley; MA from Antioch University, San Francisco, and an MFA from San Francisco State University.

The exhibit and program is supported through an endowment established by the late Theodore U. Horger in 2016.

“The Horger Artist-in-Residence is selected by a committee of faculty in the department of Art, Architecture and Design every three years through an open application process,” says LUAG Director Dr. William Crow.

“Starstruck: An American Tale,” through Dec. 3, Main Gallery, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem. Gallery hours: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wednesday - Friday, 1 - 5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday - Monday. https://luag.lehigh.edu/; 610-758-3615

“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 Shimon Attie with the replica he built of the Bethlehem Star that is atop South Mountain. Scenes move from one video screen to another as music plays at “Starstruck: An American Tale,” through Dec. 3, Main Gallery, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Zoellner Arts Center.