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GMG Presents: Scott Noel: Current Events, Provisional Painting, Bethann Parker: Almanac + Fellowship Annual Exhibition of FPAFA

I love to paint in the presence of a sitter or in the light of a cityscape, but I can’t “capture” the appearance; rather, I move the paint around, simplify, blur, scrape, and rephrase until the beloved seems to appear…. The vocation of art begins in a longing that only the art can address. At first, the longing attaches to something in the world. But, over time, the artist notices something about how picturing itself causes almost anything seen to open as an occasion for wonder and surprise.”

- Scott Noel

In his eleventh solo exhibition at Gross McCleaf, Scott Noel presents an impressive selection of monumental, narrative paintings. Noel’s complex compositions include references to mythology, portraits of Philadelphia-based artists and his students, and cityscapes seen from the top floors of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, all painted with a sense of humor and play. His scenes blur the line between documentation of the art school social scene and allegory. Often featuring titles like “Judgement of Paris” and “The Young Spartans”, Noel tips the scale toward a literary interpretation.

At a distance, the large-scale works exude the sophisticated painterly light and color of modern-day masterpieces. The spaces are so clearly defined that temperature, humidity, and time are reflected in the blues, flesh tones, and chromatic neutrals. While in many ways Noel stays true to the observed scene, saturated moments of color offer a thrilling surprise in his most recent compositions, departing from an earlier palette of browns and neutrals. The pictures are emphatically applied with a luscious, seductive stroke of the paintbrush. Noel is both confident and tender in his approach to the painted forms. While his current body of work is, perhaps, more provisional and improvised than works of the past, every inch of his painting seems lovingly considered.

Since completing his undergraduate studies at Washington University in Saint Louis in 1978, Noel has exhibited in over 30 solo exhibitions at galleries, universities, and museums including the State Museum in Harrisburg, the University of Virginia, the Bowery Gallery, the Painting Center, the More Gallery, Mangel Art Gallery, and Gross McCleaf Gallery. Noel’s paintings are included in numerous private, public and corporate collections. He has received grants from the Bader Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Independence Foundation, and a fellowship to the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. His work has been reviewed in Arts, Art in America, and American Artist.

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Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present Almanac, a series of oil paintings charting the phases and places of artist Bethann Parker’s visual mind.

An almanac records past celestial observations to forecast future environmental conditions. Similarly, Parker delineates her thoughts and emotions through the act of painting which helps her to predict and understand oncoming shifts in her mood. Parker’s painted “forecasts” offer sensuous and chromatic windows into her subconscious. It is through the process of looking both forward and backward that Parker’s perspectives become charged with tradition and foresight. Her imagery is conjured through memory, dreams, and imagination, and she explores the mind’s potential through a combination of both observation and fabrication. Rich in texture, the surfaces act as sculptural sundials, casting shadows and marking time.

Guided by intuition and curiosity, Parker utilizes ruggedly tactile paint to build up layers that depict her conscious and unconscious memories. At times, the paintings are dominated by rich surface-texture, color, and strokes that conceal a nameable subject. Only slowly do the colorful marks reveal objects like figures, animals, beds, and elements of the landscape. The results can be interpreted as domestic and spiritual narratives that reference her experience of rural living.

Bethann Parker (b. 1984) runs a homestead in the mountains of northeast Appalachia that is rooted in traditional living. There, she tends a studio practice with interdisciplinary research and material experimentation provided by the land. Parker considers herself a midwife to the myriad forms and formats of her art. She received a BFA and Certificate of Fine Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a Certificate from the Barnes Foundation. She was the recipient of The Fred and Naomi Hazel Art Scholarship, The Richard Von. Hess Travel Scholarship and twice awarded Venture Fund Grant for large project proposals. Her work has been featured in the New York Times and the Voice of America. Almanac is Parker’s first solo show at Gross McCleaf Gallery.

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On Monday evening, April 19, 1897, approximately five hundred people met in the Pennsylvania Academy lecture room at the behest of Edward H. Coates, President of PAFA, and Harrison S. Morris, Managing Director, to form an organization of alumni that would become known worldwide as The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The idea was quickly endorsed by 32 prominent artists. Robert Vonnoh, a former student and later Academy instructor, suggested that a notice be sent to several thousand alumni and the group was officially formed. 

The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is one of the oldest, alumni art-nonprofit organizations in America. It is an independent entity, staffed solely by volunteers, whose sole purpose is to benefit all PAFA Alumni.  

After 124 years the Fellowship is still going strong and is proud to celebrate the 2021 Annual Exhibition at the Gross McCleaf Gallery.

This year’s exhibition is comprised of two shows; a live exhibition featuring 63 works will be on display at Gross McCleaf from November 3 - 27, 2021, and a large virtual show featuring 112 works will remain on view at from November 7 - January 31, 2022. All of the artwork is created by Academy alumni and is for sale. 

This year’s juror, Rebecca Segall, has selected the artwork and awards. 

Juror Statement:

“It was a pleasure to review the vast array of subjects and media submitted for this year’s Fellowship Annual. Sorting through the many accomplished works posed a difficult challenge; however, a narrative emerged and began to shape the selection. I am grateful to every artist offering their work for review.    

This body of work beckoned me toward an alternative world… a not all-together comfortable place with more questions than answers, and the lingering feeling of dislocation. 

In this unknown, dreamlike place, I wonder what has happened to the land that surrounds me. The scent of metal hangs in the air and I’m aware that all of my friends are missing. I begin to perceive coded messages that demand to be deciphered. This keeps me busy.

While uncanny visions abound, I am also relieved that organization and order find their way into the fray. Richness and meaning are retained.

Thus, I am not totally lost in this altered space.”

- Rebecca Segall

Director, Gross McCleaf Gallery