Last Sunday I discovered that the PA Watercolor Society was having an exhibition opening at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA and I decided to go on the spur of the moment. It is fabulous! In high school we did a lot of watercolors, and I’ve always had a soft spot for them. In college there wasn’t even a watercolor class, so I had thought that maybe it was a dying art form or more for hobbyists these days. Looking at this exhibition I can tell you that watercolor is alive and well!
There was a huge variety of styles juried into this show. I saw ethereal landscapes, texture rich pieces, photo realism, and even a couple of abstract works. There were almost monochromatic pieces and others with super saturated colors. One thing that I was particularly drawn to was the outstanding treatment of light in a number of works. I really am not that big a fan of fruit still lives, but there was one piece where the peaches were highlighted and seemed to just glow on the paper.
Two of my favorite works were self portraits. One was a very straight forward (though larger than life) portrait called Outside Looking In by Daniel Vangeli. The texture in the face, the super realistic treatment of the eyes, and the reflections on his glasses were simply amazing. I can’t talk enough about the eyes. Seriously, you need to go stare into them. They look wet.
The other was a double self portrait by Denny Bond called Duplicated. It reminded me of the Escher drawing where the two hands are drawing each other. It was also a bit like a playing card where there are two faces one above the other. But this doesn’t do the piece justice. It isn’t in the style of either Escher or stylized like a card. It’s realistic and I doubt you’d even know that it was a watercolor if you didn’t see the label. The colors are saturated and very life like. I appreciate the bit of humor that he brought to the piece as well.
There were so many other pieces that I took notes on. Some with rusty metal, decrepit stairwells, and one with rusting construction equipment in a field. Dimly lit bar scenes, blue tinged sheep, castles in the mist, teenagers napping on a couch. What ever your taste, you’ll probably find it at this show. If you’ve never seen a watercolor show or think lightly of the media, I think you owe it to yourself to visit this exhibition to have your mind blown. Whatever you thought watercolors were, there is at least one painting here that will turn your ideas on their head.
The exhibition is up at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA until February 3, 2013.
You can find a list of the juried artists and who won awards at the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society website.