It's doubtful that Raymond Eck thought, while attending the former Williamsport Technical Institute in the early 1940s, that 70 years later he would be part of a group gallery show at his alma mater, now known as Pennsylvania College of Technology. Through Nov. 6, the Gallery of Penn College celebrates the artistic talents of past students like Eck with "Kaleidoscope - The Alumni Event."
"Artists were selected for the alumni show via two of our gallery advisory committee members, Craig Kaufman and Lori Crossley. They were the jurors who looked at all entries and selected the ones that would be in the show," Lenore Penfield, director of The Gallery at Penn College, said. "Most people had submitted three pieces and we thought Craig and Lori would select multiple works but they predominately chose just one from each artist. They took their task seriously and were judicious in their selections."
"People's reaction to "Kaleidoscope" has been great," Penfield said. "Everyone is really pleasantly surprised at the quality of work. Especially considering we're not a fine-arts school and didn't really have a fine arts program pre-Penn College days - it was more graphics drawing and technical illustration. This show demonstrates that the creativity was always there and the kind of school doesn't matter. A lot of alumni are from programs that do not have any artistic background, everything from computer information systems to tradesman and nursing students, so art is a hobby for them."
One such alum is Richard Karp, who attended the school during its Williamsport Area Community College days. At the "Kaleidoscope" show, his "Shoe Repair Shop on Market Street" garnered 2nd place for its striking photographic image of a deserted, slightly post-dawn Market Street.
"The owner of this building saw the first version of this, which was taken before the building was complete - it was bare cinderblock and the courtyard was filled with construction machines," Karp said. "He said, 'If you retake it when the building is finished, I will buy the photograph from you.' The problem is this image can't easily be re-done because it's with special light that was captured at just the correct moment very early on a Sunday morning."
So, Karp went back and shot the scene from the same spot. He used Photoshop to superimpose the now painted corner to finish it.
"Then I sold the picture to the building owner," he said. "I've now shot a lot of his properties he owns around town."
Karp fell in love photography as a teenager growing up in Williamsport. His dad owned Lenny's Sports Center downtown (that site is now the Merrill Lynch parking lot). One day, a customer came by and traded a 35 millimeter camera for a gun. Soon after, for the teenage Karp, a lifelong hobby was born.
"My love for photography started when my sister gave me a gift book of great photographers," Karp said. "Then after coming across that 35mm camera in my dad's store I went out and got a light meter. The camera was all manual aperture and shutter speed-that is how I learned photography. I remember him holding it, manipulating it. I still have that image in my brain."
In addition to photography, "Kaleidoscope" features great sculpture, "Harp" by Mark Lewis , mixed-media found art, James Schweitzer's "Blossom" and even a viola constructed with Legos - it netted 3rd place in the contest for its creator. Among the many show highlights are Eck's watercolor painting "Bee Balm on Barnyard Fence," a surprise and welcome addition to the show via one of his daughters as well as Lori Sayman's pen and ink work "Excalibur."
The show's first prize winner was "MC Carlos 360" by Larry Erb.
"It's a photograph taken with a pin-hole camera," Penfield said. "The photographer gave us a magnifying glass because you need to really get up close with it to see the detail. Basically it's an amazing panoramic 360 degree view that has to be seen to be believed. Larry is a teacher in Georgia and does a lot of classes in old photography."
Karp, like Erb, forged a career in another profession while continuing his shutterbug ways, blending a successful career in computer programming with his undying passion for photography. Since retirement, he's focused on the latter and has become a celebrated area talent behind the lens.
"My first show in 2008 was at the Williamsport Frame Shop," Karp said. "It was a big thrill for me to have all these pictures and it was really great. Since then I've been fortunate to have several shows in the area. I've been featured in Woodlands Bank a bunch of times, also Eagle Rock Winery and the Community Theatre, as well as being part of the Shutterbugs' shows at the Taber Museum."
"I just love my pictures and I want to sell them to people who love them. If they don't want to pay for them I don't care. Photography is how I express myself. It's a way to show beauty and capture all the things I want to show whatever my interests are. A few years ago I shot a tai chi festival in New York state and I got to see Tai Chi masters and take some great photos they are on my website. I do tai chi as well," Karp said.
The freedom that he finds with his camera is mirrored by his enthusiasm and enjoyment riding motorcycles.
"I ride all the time," he said. "I have an 1150 GS, new in 2002. What really appeals to me is the way I feel when I get on the bike. I feel like Steve McQueen. I just love the whole, going-fast-around curves thing. The independence and freedom you feel on the open road."
Sometimes he combines his two-wheel zeal and photographic fervor.
"I shot the BMW motorcycle international rally, which was in Bloomsburg this year, and I shot an event called the GS Giant, which is an obstacle course for dual sport bikes," Karp said. "I had eight pictures published in their magazine."
Currently, Karp is part of a Susquehanna Valley Shutterbugs black-and-white show at the Thomas T. Taber Museum, running simultaneous with this one.
"The Susquehanna Shutterbugs is a great organization," he said. "They have three shows a year or maybe more. I'm in every one of those. I'm also a member of the Grand Canyon photography club in Wellsboro.
"I want to continue my nature photography, my ongoing shoot capturing the impact of gas exploration along the Marcellus Shale corridor and shooting buildings downtown. I have a nice body of work going. I intend to continue to let that grow and have something to someday give to the museum for posterity. I would also definitely be up for any future alumni show too."
Penfield said, "This was our first alumni exhibit and we'll be definitely doing it again. I think that the alumni that did come and participated really appreciated the opportunity. It's as much about making relationships with the alumni as it is about having an art show. So I think we did a great job connecting with people we haven't connected with in a while. We think we have some real quality work in here. There's nothing that we're embarrassed to hang on the walls."
In addition to the already awarded prizes, A Viewer's Choice Award will be announced at the conclusion of the exhibit.
For gallery hours and show info visit www.pct. edu/gallery. For more information about Karp, visit www.rikkisan.com.