Know the Place Exhibition at PennWest Edinboro's Bruce Gallery
An examination of 'actual and invented interiors, landscapes, and built environments'
Know the Place, the fall show at PennWest Edinboro University's Bruce Gallery, honors, celebrates, and mourns "actual and invented interiors, landscapes, and built environments." Half of Know the Place is drawn from the university's permanent art collection, including prints by Christo, Alberto Giacometti and Giovanni Piranesi. Other artworks include media art by Feed.Art founder Benton C. Bainbridge, photographs of Parade Street by Lawrence Brown, metal work by Morgan Calabrese, Alaskan landscape drawings by John Jodwalis, an architectural plan by Jeff Kidder, a geocaching app by Gabriel Lander, and Jon Rubin's video HereThereHere. I spoke with four other artists at the opening reception.
Chris Schneider's life-size installation Parking Space is composed of narrow lines of burnt carpet attached on the floor and runs nine feet up the gallery wall. Schneider's work recreates the actual dimensions of a parking space. The dark carbonized surface of the lines was created with oxyacetylene torch and house paint. Schneider's contrast of domestic, interior materials with street imagery is a theme consistent with his other pieces of life-scaled parking stops and stop signs. Schneider, who earned his BFA in Sculpture at Edinboro in 2015, says that rather than investigating "personal associations" of place, he uses a formal and conceptual focus to explore "the systems organizing spatial distribution." Few of us think much about the way public space is organized — Schneider's work playfully brings it to our attention.
Steve Lewis has lived and worked in Leipzig, Germany for almost 20 years. Using Google Earth's street view display, Lewis recreated his long-ago "drives" to work and school in his New Jersey hometown. One of the more foreboding pieces, Old Shell Pile Church (2022) recalls a long-ago oyster business. "It was probably in the 40s — there was a disease that wiped out the entire oyster industry. There was a bit of a town that was there, and then it went bust." The building has since been torn down.
Lewis, who earned his MFA in Painting from Edinboro in 2001, reminisced about nights dancing with friends at the Hotel Bar, "There was a payphone on the dance floor and you'd call your friends … and yell over the music 'I'm at the Hotel!'" In 2023 the payphone is gone and instead of dancing, most people sit looking at cell phones. Despite all the changes, the Hotel Bar remains iconic and has been featured in the background of the CBS sitcom The Neighborhood, the Hallmark movie Sweeter Than Chocolate, and most recently, during a John Mellencamp concert suspended in time as the American "small town."
Rosalie Pekelnicky earned a BFA in Painting at Edinboro in 2017. In Know the Place, she presents Boiler House 1939 to commemorate the imposing brick building that stood for 84 years on Edinboro's campus. Pekelnicky recalls that, as a student, she often walked past and admired the architecture, "it had all this potential right in the middle of the art buildings, so I kind of romanticized it and what it could be." If you'd like to remember the Boiler House, buy one of her 84 copies (one for each year it was in use) of the silkscreen for $20 at Edinboro's Green-Eyed Lady antique shop.
Fred Scruton taught photography at Edinboro for decades. In this show, he presents two large works documenting Christmas and Easter displays by "folk artists'' in Ohio. Scruton finds "a uniqueness to the visions of . . . people untrained in the arts'' because these artists are not "imitating other art" but rather offering "a kind of purity that comes straight out of their life experiences and their soul." For about 40 years, Steve Kaselak's Jellybeanville in Euclid, Ohio has been on display during Easter week. Among the Easter memorabilia, Kaselak includes plywood cutouts of his family members and even a cutout of Scruton, now a permanent resident of fictional Jellybeanville. Jeanie Tagle's Christmas in July installation is just one of several seasonal holiday displays she presents in her front yard. Scruton commented that the artists he photographs are "not trying to sell anything," but rather creating work "for fun and pleasure." Check out Scruton's website for additional images (fredscruton.com).
The variety of approaches to "place" makes this exhibit worth a visit to PennWest Edinboro. Several artists will be at the free, public closing reception on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Know the Place runs through Dec. 2 at the Bruce Gallery in Doucette Hall, 215 Meadville St. It is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving week. Also open by appointment with the director (email@example.com). For more info visit: brucegallery.info
Writer Livia Homerski, who earned her BA in English at PennWest Edinboro, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org