Penn State New Ken exhibit crosses barriers of art and music

November 30, 2018

Joyce Shellhammer is positively passionate about music. She says she loves it and all that it entails.

“I believe that music has a magic all its own,” says the resident of Parks Township, Armstrong County. “It can transport you somewhere else through a memory. It can soothe a nervous child, comfort a grieving person, make someone smile or bring life to a party.”

It also increases the learning capabilities of children if they begin to embrace music when they are young, she reminds, increasing their abilities to comprehend math and languages.

“Music is a language that can cross barriers of spoken language and distant lands,” she adds.

That’s why the self-described “hobbyist photographer” is happy to be part of the “Art of Music” show, running through Nov. 30 in the Penn State New Kensington art gallery.

A free meet-the-artists reception is set for 6-9 p.m. Nov. 9.

Art for a new audience

Featuring photography and art from members of the New Kensington Camera Club and Allegheny Valley League of Artists, the show has a theme to which a lot of people can relate, says Bob Sudy of Brackenridge, new president of the Camera Club.

“The Penn State show always opens us up to a new audience that normally wouldn’t know we exist,” Sudy says.

“I love photography. It’s been a part of me since I was 8,” says Shellhammer, who is entering two photos focusing on the instruments being played by her friends in Thieves, the Kiski Valley-based rock band.

“Just as a good photographer can find beauty in whatever setting he or she finds himself, a person who is willing to listen can find music anywhere,” she adds. “The wind hums a tune, the rain beats a rhythm, the flow of traffic has its own melody.”

Individual interpretation

How the theme is interpreted was left open to individual artists’ imaginations, Sudy says.

“As long as they can identify it with music, we are good with that. No matter what style of music you like, you can probably relate one of your art works to it, if it wasn’t inspired by a song to begin with,” he says.

Sudy often listens to music before or during a photo session.

“To paraphrase Joan Jett, ‘I Love Rock and Roll.’ I find that it revs me up for what’s ahead,” he says.

Creative inspiration

Instrumental jazz works for photographer Myla Pearce, a New Kensington resident raised in North Huntingdon.

“I listen to it when I’m my studio, in my car -- pretty much it’s my first choice. It inspires my creativity because there are no words and the sounds of the music create images in my mind,” the Norwin High School graduate says.

She loves the idea of the show’s invitation to transform something that is usually thought of as audio into a visual image.

Jazz became the theme for her entry.

“I photographed jazz musicians who were actually performing at an art show, and reduced the image into the simplest outline, like the outlines of musical notes on a page,” she explains.

Pearce says the cellist in her photograph is Paul Thompson, a well-known and loved adjunct professor at Duquesne University.

Personal and universal

Artist Peter Cehily of Allegheny Township, who is represented with two mixed-media paintings, appreciates that the music theme appeals to many.

“It’s really very universal and at the same time very personal. I find it can inform one’s art and painting in a variety of ways,” he explains.

“At times they can inspire me to paint a piece, and on occasion a completed painting just lends itself or is perfect to be named after a lyric or a song,” he says. “I sometimes use parts of lyrics that are more obscure and have a real connection to the subject matter and the way it looks or have a personal meaning.”

Cindy Downard of Lower Burrell says, though she enjoys all types of music, this themed exhibit provides encouragement to create something that she would not normally paint or draw.

Her pair of entries include a pencil drawing of international violinist, David Garrett, whose style she greatly admires. She has named her acrylic painting of a violin, “Music at Rest.”

Seeking serenity

Harry Shipman of New Kensington is a fan of country music but was not trying to reflect a particular genre with his featured photography.

“I wanted to capture the mood of serenity with nature,” he says.

The result is “Serenade of the Naiad,” set at Burrell Lake Park. In classical mythology, naiads are any of the nymphs living in and giving life to lakes, rivers, springs and fountains.

Musician Lauren Hornsby of Oakmont, a sophomore band member and cheerleader at Riverview High School who plays the flute, piccolo, cello, saxophone and clarinet, sat for the photo. Hornsby also performs with the Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra and is participating in its Apprentice Conductor Program.

Author-artist Terri Bertha of Allegheny Township finds the variety of ways in which photographers and artists have interpreted the theme interesting.

“Maybe the artwork will inspire a musician or vice versa,” she suggests.

In “The Keys to Unlocking Music” she offers a watercolor study of her own piano.

Multiple possibilities

Patti Giordano of Lower Burrell, president of the Allegheny Valley League of Artists, has rendered an interpretive watercolor of her grandson Mitchell Giordano drumming for the Kiski High School Band.

“The Kiski percussionists are amazing,” she says, adding that Mitchell is now a sophomore and member of the Pep Band at Penn State’s main campus in State College.

She says she is grateful that the New Ken show “covers a multitude of possibilities.”

Lynn Jacques of Lower Burrell illustrates that observation, entering two collages that pay homage to a hymn and to the streets of Pittsburgh, with a nod to a classic song from a Broadway musical.

“The musical theme is great. I am also an amateur musician (piano, flute, violin, handbells and vocals),” she says. “Creative things flow one into another.”

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