Library of Life

Richard Berlingeri, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Richard Berlingeri, Ode to a Dear Old Friend, newspaper and glue, 80″ diameter, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Sean Stoops, one of the jurors for the Library of Life exhibit in the art gallery in Philadelphia City Hall, explained to DoN how he came to be part of this monumental exhibition.

I’m on the Art in City Hall Committee, so when there’s an open call jury, usually one of the jurors is a committee member and then we try to invite an outside person, a guest juror. In this case, Jennifer Santchi of the Academy of Natural Sciences, their exhibits person. So, she come’s at it from a science and art background.

The show looks very impressive and exciting, it’s really a diverse group of artists in terms of the styles of working and approaches to how they portray Nature and Science. I would say it’s more of a Nature show, than Science. There are obviously over-lapping ideas there but I kind of see it how Nature is portrayed by these people. And investigating the relationship with Humans and Nature.- Sean Stoops

Richard Berlingeri, Ode to a Dear Old Friend, is made from the New York Times and glue, using only the green paper. The paper tendrils are actually just the green pages from the newspaper twisted up like a jungle vine, loose tendrils dangle to the floor like roots.

Ted Warchal, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Ted Warchal, The Medusa and the Gastropod, assemblage, paint, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

Gary Steuer, the Chief Cultural Officer, greeted the audience gathered in the halls outside of Philadelphia’s unique art gallery located on the ground floor of City Hall.

“I run the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and I want to thank you all for being here with us in this wonderful building, City Hall. I want to thank all the artists, forty artists selected from over two hundred artists. It was really an extraordinary array of art that was submitted and I just think it’s a really, really exciting show, thanks to the work of the many artists. There are too many to name but I want to thank you en masse. I want to thank the jurors, Jennifer Santchi and Sean Stoops, needless to say with all these submissions jurying this show was a lot of work.

Karen Spiro from the Academy, who worked on this project, I want to thank her. And, also, Tu Huynh from my staff, without these shows, these exhibitions in City Hall could not happen. I want to talk a bit about the gallery space and the work we do. We try to make the programming work that we do, rather than having it competing with other organizations around town, it reinforces, it magnifies their work. So, we really try to work through partnerships. The work that we do in the gallery particularly, virtually every exhibition we do in the gallery is a partnership with another organization. It uses the gallery and the visibilty of City Hall to give the opportunity to tell different stories of our wonderful organizations throughout Philadelphia.” – Gary Steuer

Elisabeth Nickles, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Elisabeth Nickles, Creature of Sea Consciousness, steel wire, handmade Abaca paper, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

“We began a conversation between our team and the Academy about a year ago about how we could be a part of the celebration of their 200th Anniversary. And, we’re really, really excited that we were able to partner with them to make this exhibition happen. I think, one of the great things about this exhibit, I was talking to Sean Stoops earlier, is that it really plays on a strength in Philadelphia.

We have an extraordinary arts community but we also have an extraordinary science sector here, as well. We have The Science Center, great teaching and research institutions and as a result of that we have a lot of artist who are really interested in exploring the inter-connection in Art and Nature and Science. I think we’re particularly strong in this aspect and the caliber of the work in the show is a reflection of that particular strength. When I tell folks what defines Philadelphia, we have a lot of artists who are interested in working this way and frankly there’s a lot of science and technology folks who love collaborating with artists.

And, so I don’t think it’s an accident that we have a Science Festival and Arts Festivals and Tech Week and all of these things happening, sometimes simultaneously. Because it is part of the truth that makes up Philadelphia right now. And I think it’s a really exciting time to be here.” – Gary Steuer

Maria Markovich, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Maria Markovich, Doll With Fish, wire mesh, birch bark, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

DoN met the artist Maria Markovich in the gallery and asked about her art making process? Doll With Fish has a found object vibe but it is very much human made.

“I work mostly with birch bark. I build the forms with wire mesh. A lot of the work is about my experience of nature growing up and the interest it’s given me in nature throughout my life. I thought a lot about my early experiences with nature. This particular piece called Doll With Fish and it’s about a fish I caught. It’s about a lot of things, but one of the things it’s about is a fish I caught when I was 18, right before I went away to college. It was the largest fish that anyone in my family had caught and it was a Salmon.

It was quite an experience, i was standing in the stream with waders on, which I’d done many times before because my father took us fishing on the weekends. But, I had never caught a fish by myself, that kind of a fish, by myself. And it was right before I went away to college and it’s always been a memorable experience.” – Maria Markovich


Nancy Agati, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Nancy Agati, Trees Are Like Water, digital photo, lightbox, articulated arm, diffusion glass, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

Library of Life Juror, Jennifer Santchi of the Academy of Natural Sciences, said to DoN,

“We have an Art of Science gallery at the Academy and we’ve found there’s a lot of inspiration in these topics for people. There’s a lot of artists, especially new artists, who are absolutely inspired by Nature. I think it’s wonderful if you’re coming from a big city. And I saw that here, too. Works that were submitted, over 200 plus submissions, they’re astonsishing. They’re so different. And some of them are so naturalistic. Some of them are so symbolic and decorative, some are much more ethereal. I really enjoy it.

There’s the piece by Elisabeth Nickles that looks so boney, ghostly, a little frightening. It’s called a Sea Creature and it’s just, to come up with that when you’re thinking of Nature is wonderful. Then there’s the piece that looks like bee-hive holes, rolls of paper, it’s amazing.” – Jennifer Santchi of the Academy of Natural Sciences

Ava Blitz, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Ava Blitz, Wings, carved foam, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

DoN has witnessed artist Ava Blitz carve ethereal, sinuous shapes, crisp white, from recycled blocks and chunks of styrofoam. Mountains and piles of the common material surrounded her like chunks on snow. Styrofoam is 98% air yet is transformative and persistent against air, water, dirt and biota. Wings represents Nature’s propensity to flying by using a modern marvel material, developed in 1941when Dow Chemical researchers were able to foam polystyrene, making a buoyant material with insulating properties. But this stuff doesn’t go away when we’re done with it. Ava Blitz makes it into art.

Ava Blitz says in her artist statement,

“Lines tend to blur in my work between fossil and artifact, natural history and cultural history, and the present, past and future.”

Stan Smokler, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Stan Smokler, Polaris, welded steel, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

Stan Smokler, Thomas Vance,Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Stan Smokler, Thomas Vance, Perfect Storm, oil, ink on canvasLibrary of LifeArt in City Hall

Elizabeth Miller McCue, Art in City Hall, Library of Life

Elizabeth Miller McCue, Ball of Leaves, patinated cast bronze. Nami Yamamoto, Radiant Flux, handmade paper: Abaca with phosphorescent powder. Library of LifeArt in City Hall

Florence Moonan, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Florence Moonan, LP1209, acrylic on vintage vinyl, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

Florence Moonan, LP1209, is not a cast bronze disc, it’s an up-cycled vinyl long playing record. The piece removes from the custom base.

“The outdated LPs have been prepared, and painted on both sides for viewing front and back. I enjoy recycling this part of my past into an artistic creation that can be appreciated by others, while helping to reduce man’s impact on nature.” – Florence Moonan artist statement.

Dolores Poacelli, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Dolores Poacelli, Acid Rain, sanded aluminum press plates, acrylic paint on pine panels, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

Orlando Pelliccia, Library of Life, Art in City Hall

Orlando Pelliccia, cast rubber, Library of LifeArt in City Hall

George Gephart, the President and CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University said,

“This is such a wonderful way for us to punctuate what has been a great year, our Bicentennial year. And I hope many of you have taken advantage of the different activities that we’ve had, but best of all, we have this exhibit. Which really marries our strength and history in science with art right here at City Hall.

Certainly, as I think about the work that has gone into this, and I just got a taste. There are two more floors, I’m excited to see it because just getting this first peek, it says that the Art in City Hall Committee and Tu Huyhn, you did a fabulous job. What’s fun for us from the Academy to see is that many, if not all, of the artists had a chance to come to the Academy, to get behind the scenes, to look at our collections and to be inspired by what we do. And, so looking at my team here, as we look at various pieces we say, ‘Ah! I know where that came from.’And I know what the inspiration was.’ That’s very, very exciting. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t encourage you to come to the Academy, we have a great line-up in the next several months.” – George Gephart

Written and photographed by DoN Brewer

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