Gross McCleaf Gallery
127 S Sixteenth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Current Exhibitions

Penelope Harris
In Plain Sight

September 3 - 27, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, September 12, 5 - 7 pm

Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to announce In Plain Sight, a solo exhibition of new work by Penelope Harris.  The show runs from September 3 – 27,  2014, with a reception for the artist on Friday, September 12, from 5 – 7 PM.

Harris’ show is particularly exciting for Gross McCleaf, since it has been almost twenty-five years since the artist has soloed at the gallery and more than ten years since Harris’ 2001 retrospective at the Woodmere Art Museum.  That is not to say, however, that during this time Harris has been non-productive or retired from painting.  She has participated in group shows both in Philadelphia and Maine, where she summers, and recently was commissioned to paint a portrait of Jane Pepper, renowned president of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society.  Harris’ paintings have also been included in three recent exhibits at The Woodmere Art Museum, Pennsylvania Impressionism and Landscape from the Collection of Woodmere Art Museum and the Promised Gift of Dr. Dorothy J. del Bueno in 2011, Haunting Narratives:  Detours from Philadelphia Realism, 1935 – Present, 2012 and Realism and Contemporary Still Life, 2013.  However, recently, much of Harris’ energy has been spent not only with dealing with the loss of her husband in 2006, but also in her exploration of a medium that she had set aside many years ago.  After a cancer diagnosis many years ago, Harris, concerned that toxins might have triggered the disease, decided to work only in colored-pencils and aqueous media such as gouache and watercolor.  However, the appeal of oils never left her, so in 2008, Harris enrolled at the Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia to immerse herself in a return to her favorite medium. 



Being part of Studio Incamminati’s supportive art community and sharing studio space in a building teaming with art production and collegiality, Harris found a source of new energy and inspiration.  While continuing to explore gouache, pencil-drawing and pastel, many of the new still life and figure paintings glow with the luminosity that only oil-based media can achieve.  Harkening back to early Italian and Flemish painting for inspiration, Harris’ exaggerated perspective allows for a unique opportunity to appreciate the juxtaposition of surfaces and textures.  Commonplace objects are combined with quirky additions so that the viewer’s attention is constantly being reengaged by the unexpected. The artist pushes us to consider each object in the painting separately but also in relationship to other forms.  Harris’ portraits are both timeless and specific – delving into what makes a human face universal but also individual.  Against an often bold but neutral background, her figures are starkly set apart from any limitations of location or moment. 


Harris, who was the daughter of two painters, didn’t follow in their footsteps until the 70’s, after she was married with two children and had moved to Philadelphia.  She first took a painting class at Woodmere and later studied at PAFA with a faculty that included important painters such as Roswell Weidner, Jim Lueders, Elizabeth Osborne, and Ben Kamihira.  While at PAFA, she met painter and writer Bill Scott with whom she shared a studio for part of their last year at the school.  Scott wrote the essay, On Friendship and Painting, as an introduction to the catalog for Harris’ 2001 Woodmere retrospective.  (


 As Scott states in his catalog essay, “Passion, sensuality, exuberance and joy are the emotions she (Harris) brings to life in her paintings.  She realizes the value of art (and specifically painting for her), is that it has the ability to help all of us to feel free as we strive to expand and grow within the limitations of our lives and work.”  Gross McCleaf cannot be happier that Harris has allowed the Philadelphia art scene to have a taste of the growth and expansion that the artist has achieved in her recent paintings.


Sharon Ewing, Director


Jim Williams
New Paintings

September 3 - 27, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, September 12, 5 - 7 pm

Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to announce New Paintings, a solo exhibition by the painter Jim Williams. The show runs from September 3 - 27, 2014, with a reception for the artist on Friday, September 12, from 5-7 pm. 


Williams paints familiar locations, primarily Manayunk and Roxborough, but sees them anew. His motifs remain recognizable but are filtered through Williams' own personal way of seeing and the experience of painting. The works revel in unexpected color relationships and are infused with a nearly tactile light, bringing to mind Monet's haystacks and the Rouen Cathedral series.

Williams says of his work:


Painting from life is essential to me. I try to paint myself into a state of heightened awareness... as I try to marry what the subject suggests to me with what is developing on the canvas. I also imagine the visual world as full of various weights, densities, and textures that do not stand up to scientific observation -- and I paint these imaginings, providing, again, that they work with what is developing on the canvas.


I try to be receptive to the subject, to let it speak, to do what I have to do to feel as though I am not imposing on it. This may be an illusion, but I think it allows for greater immersion in the painting for me, and I know that in the long run it makes for discovery and growth.


Jim Williams's paintings invite viewers' eyes to wander and notice. He has competing infatuations with light and color as he embraces a literal luminosity. In these works, that which is usually unstable and elusive becomes solid and concrete; the translucent becomes opaque and light becomes matter.


This is Jim Williams' sixth one-person exhibition with Gross McCleaf Gallery. A resident of Philadelphia, he received his MFA from the University of Delaware and currently teaches at LaSalle University.


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