The same sentiment has been expressed by various figures throughout history: to quote novelist Samuel Butler, it's the idea that "every man's work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself." Painter Chuck Close put it more succinctly, saying simply, "everything is a self-portrait."
Artist and professor Seth Goodman probably knows this better than most; he's a prolific painter who shows his work internationally and teaches painting, drawing, two-dimensional design and color theory at Lycoming College. He was recently approached by the Converge Gallery and asked to curate a show for November.
For Goodman, "Outside In" began with one painting: "Baltimore House Painter Falls from Ladder" by narrative painter Greg McLemore. "The painting never really received the the time on the wall or the viewers that it deserved so I knew I wanted to start there," Goodman said.
Greg McLemore’s painting “Baltimore House Painter Falls from Ladder” is the centerpiece of “Outside In,” an exhibit curated by artist and professor Seth Goodman. The exhibit opens Friday at Converge Gallery.
McLemore's 8-by-5-foot tour de force depicts the artist in a series of interrelated panels, combating boredom, the mundane and his own fears of heights and early-30s failure.
The beautifully-painted sections range from the most literal (a self-portrait of the artist) to the fantastic (giant owls, disembodied heads, men with legs for arms and arms for legs).
"I thought, 'what if I put together a show based on this idea of projections of the self from the literal to the dissolved and poetic?' " Goodman said.
Featured alongside McLemore will be works by sculptor Anthony Cervino, photographs by Michael Darough, drawings and prints by Lawrence Charles Miller and the prints and dioramas of Kimberly Witham.
Like McLemore's "Baltimore House Painter Falls from Ladder," the work from the other featured artists ranges in its approach to (and depiction of) the idea of "self."
Lawrence Charles Miller was born in 1949 in Harrisburg. He worked as a medical artist and an editorial illustrator for the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times. He was head of the art department of the U.S. Army War College and worked as an artist at a research laboratory at Penn State University.
His prints are sophisticated, dark in mood and naive (in style). Before Goodman knew the overall theme for the show, Miller was the second artist he approached.
"Between Larry (Charles Miller) and Greg (McLemore)," Goodman said "I noticed the similarity of these really dense, textural surfaces and spaces ... I thought, 'I'm starting to get a show together; this is starting to make sense.' "
With the theme and overall direction of the show decided, Goodman approached Michael Darough, visiting professor of photography at Lycoming College. In Darough's photographs, the "self" is still tangible, recognizable. Darough constructs narratives, often in everyday settings.
One body of his work features the artist in scenes joined either by his identical twin brother, or a second exposure of himself expertly introduced into the image - "a second and invented self," Goodman called it. "In every single piece, there's a merging of physicality - of surface, of texture, pattern, density - along with the ideas of 'depiction of self' and the 'embodiment of self,'" Goodman said of Darough's work featured in "Outside In."
In Kimberly Witham's work, the "self" isn't so much abstracted as absent from the compositions. Left are traces: subtle hints arranged carefully in the style of a natural history diorama or still life painting - two strong influences on her work.
As in still life paintings, the objects chosen for Witham's compositions are deep in symbolic meaning. Vessels, flowers and exotic foods share space with a pair of squirrels, a doe or a chipmunk. A licensed taxidermist, Witham is able to make the animals appear as lifelike as she chooses.
"I'm not looking at the pieces in the same traditions (still life painting and natural history dioramas)," Goodman explained of his choosing Witham's work, adding, "I see them as character studies - little bits of information left for (the viewer) to piece together."
"Self" in Anthony Cervino's sculptures is something malleable, like scale or even medium. Childhood seems to be a regular impetus for his work; whether it be a return to his own, or an evaluation of fatherhood and the roles of fathers and sons. "Hunting Blind" is a miniature treehouse built to the scale of the artist's proportions at age 12.
When returning to items from his childhood, it's with the materials and the know-how he has now as not only an adult, but as head of the sculpture program at Dickinson College, Carlisle.
"Outside In" will show at the Converge Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., starting tomorrow and will hang until Dec. 22. The opening reception and Gallery Talk will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.Friday at the gallery for November's First Friday.
The Converge Gallery can be found online at www.ConvergeGallery.com and on Facebook. The gallery can also be reached by phone at 570-435-7080.