It took a raft of fiddling, but here is the review of the exhibitions at the Friends’ Center. The reviewer suggests a low turnout, but he was there mostly during our Press Preview period, when of course not many people were around. We estimate that 70-100 people were there at one time or another, and that ain’t bad.
What the review doesn’t really mention is that the exhibitions continue until March 9, so you still have time to get over to the Friends’ Center at 1501 Cherry St. (15th Street, halfway between Arch and Race) and take it in. The exhibitions are open daily, whenever the galleries are not in use for classes or meetings. So to be safe, call the Friends’ Center and check their schedule before going there: 215-241-7000.
I’m promoting a visit on Sunday. Our exhibitions are only half a block from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (PAFA) with its major retrospective of Henry Tanner, free on Sundays. So do both on Sunday and enjoy a Free Double Feature.
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: MONDAY, FEB 20, 2012
Friends Center exhibits art inspired by Occupy Philly
By Kevin Smith, Inquirer Staff Writer
Charles Fox, Staff Photographer
Hanging in a corner of the Friends Center is a painting of a distraught man chasing what appears to be a bird but is not.
Take a closer look. The bird is a flying word, “One,” and its mouth is a dripping dollar sign. It eludes the grasp of the man, who carries a sign that says simply, “99%.”
That is one view of the Occupy Philadelphia movement as filtered through the imaginations of local artists Leroy Forney and Elise Luce Kraemer, who found their muse in the societal phenomenon that sprang up last year on Dilworth Plaza. “Artists tend to think they’re very important to culture,” Forney said. “Here we have Occupy Philadelphia on our doorstep, and we asked, ‘What should artists do now that we have this opportunity?’ ”
The answer went on exhibit Sunday at the Friends Center, 15th and Cherry Streets, where it will remain until March 9.
Setting up his easel on the plaza, Forney began painting portraits, which became the collected “Many Faces of Occupy Philadelphia.”
“I painted pretty much anyone on the site who was willing to be painted,” he said. They included not only protesters but also a plainclothes police officer and homeless people who took up residence there.
With each portrait is a response to the question, “Why are you here?”
Where Forney’s artwork focuses on the literal, Kraemer’s “Occupy My Soul” pieces lean toward the abstract: flowing, mostly faceless figures.
“I didn’t think the media was showing the Occupy movement very accurately,” Kraemer, 43, said. “I wanted to . . . allow a bigger story to be told.”
Kraemer painted the figures on large Mylar heat sheets, adding quotes from Occupiers who wanted to voice their opinions. She not only allowed people to come to her studio and paint their own words, but she also opened her project to other artists, including some Lincoln High School students.
Her plan is to produce 99 panels, each with a person’s message, and use them to make a quilt or tent. So far, she has 27.
Although both artists were painting on the plaza at the same time, neither knew of the other’s presence. Having heard of Kraemer’s work through mutual friends, Forney came up with the idea of putting on a show.
Via the Internet, he became aware of Jon Offredo, a journalist. Offredo had done a series of interviews with protesters in which they expressed their opinions about the state of the world and explained why they were demonstrating.
Forney persuaded an initially reluctant Offredo to include his work in the Friends Center exhibit.
Norma Notzold, a retired sociology and American studies professor at Pennsylvania State University who was involved in Occupy Philadelphia, was among the group attending the opening Sunday.
Even though the protesters have been evicted from Dilworth Plaza, she said, the movement is still alive. The exhibit “brings it back to people’s minds.”
Contact staff writer Kevin Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
February 20, 2012