The last time I talked with Sharon Kiefer, Curator of Exhibitions at Perkins Center for the Arts, she was in the first few weeks of her position at Perkins. It was 2020, so Kiefer was not just navigating a new job, but she was learning a whole new way to curate exhibitions.
Now, here we are in 2022, and Kiefer is pleased to report that things are back to normal. “At this point, we are completely open in both Moorestown and Collingswood,” she said.
And the BIG story at Perkins is the addition of a second-floor exhibition space – aptly named the Loft Gallery – at the Collingswood location. “We had a lot of requests from people in the community to offer more exhibition space,” Kiefer said.
“This is definitely a new and exciting thing to talk about.”
The first exhibition to grace the new gallery walls will be “Art for Ukraine,” featuring the work of three Ukrainian artists, Catherine Kuzma, Steve Kuzma, and Athena Zhe. “We will have a soft opening at the end of April,” Kiefer said, “with the exhibition on view from April 18 – April 29.”
And on Friday, April 22, from 5:00 – 8:00 PM, Perkins will be the host venue for an artist reception and special cultural event with Ukrainian music, food, crafts, and more.
“I partnered with our Folklife Director on this,” Kiefer said, “and we are thrilled to announce that all proceeds, from art sales and donations, will go directly toward Ukrainian relief efforts.”
Also through April is the current exhibition in Collingswood’s Main Gallery – “Carlos A. Gil: Apparent Spaces,” and at the Moorestown gallery is a solo exhibition by Sandra Koberlein called “Encaustics.”
While both artists create dynamic and vibrant contemporary works and draw inspiration from nature, the medium and process that each use is vastly different.
“Displaced cubes #2” – multi media
Carlos Gil was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He earned a Fine Arts degree at the Cristobal Rojas School there and mastered printmaking, engraving, and analog photography in Europe. In the 1960s, he lived in the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, and Spain, where he studied graphic design. And in 1994, Gil moved to Philadelphia. This change in location coincided with him shifting to immersion in the digital world.
Moving to this new realm greatly expanded Gil’s ways of communicating his ideas and perspective. His artist statement says it best.
My work is based on photographs of nature, artistically modified using drawing and photography software. I believe that this technology is a powerful tool used to enrich artistic expression and explore the images. With this in mind, I transform my work into new spaces in order to submerge the viewer into a world of visual sensations, different and unknown to them.
This world of visual sensations is vivid and rich, like nature itself, and there is depth – both actual and evocative – to his works. Using digital technology, Gil combines multiple layers, like a painter mixing colors and designs, and fashions cardboard sculptures that add a third dimension to his pieces.
Aside from the technical tools, the medium Gil uses is photography, which he learned while studying film in Spain. “Whenever I go out, I take my camera,” he said.
“At that time, I came to understand that photography is not just a representation of real life, but a technique that offers many opportunities to experiment,” Gil told Philadelphia Inquirer Communities reporter Jesenia De Moya Correa in the fall of 2020, when “Apparent Spaces” was on view at Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia. “I’ve worked with the objective of exploring the viewer’s perceptions of nature with these fragments of art.”
Beyond the beauty of his works, however, is an underlying message. Gil believes that while humans rely heavily on the benefits of a healthy natural world, we can sometimes overlook its importance in our lives and fail to take seriously the impact of our actions on the environment.
“I worry some about the future,” he said. “I have two grandchildren, and I want them to have the beauty of nature in their lives.”
Artist with her work “Sunrise on the Sand”
Koberlein’s path to the world of art was different.
She is a high school art teacher as well as a professional artist, and when I asked her how long she had been making art, she told me, “I was born to be an artist.”
“I was always encouraged and supported by my family,” she said. “I have been an artist all my life.”
In the blurb on her exhibition page on the Perkins’ website states that her love of mark making … is apparent in my work. And I just had to ask what she meant by mark making.
“Whenever I pick up a tool, whether it be a piece of charcoal or a rock, I am making a mark, setting my intention,” she said.
“It is about documenting life.”
In her stylistically abstract works, Koberlein uses encaustic, a technique that involves burning beeswax mixed with pigment onto a surface.
“The Egyptians did it on their mummies; the Greeks used it on their warships,” she said. “It has been around for centuries.”
The practice made a comeback in the 50s – with Jasper Johns being the most notable artist to use the medium – and, according to Wikipedia, had another resurgence in the 1990s. And although Koberlein wouldn’t go as far as saying that the use of encaustic is widespread, she thinks that more artists are dabbling in the medium.
“It’s my favorite,” she said. “I can paint and collage and layer-in 3-dimensional elements – like photos and handwritten materials and textural things that I find and collect,” she said.
“Beeswax is my glue.”
And as a teacher, Koberlein believes in the importance of demonstrating the value of experimenting to her students.
“I don’t paint realistically. My work is abstract and contemporary,” she said. “My paintings go every which way.”
These exhibitions, one in Moorestown and two in Collingswood, are a perfect fit for the month of April. They are bold and bright and inspirational, and they offer, like the onset of Spring, an attitude of renewal and hope.
Don’t miss them.
MORE TO SEE AND DO
Perkins Collingswood, 30 Irvin Avenue
Loft Gallery, Francisco Grisolia Davila, May 9–June 24; Artist Reception, May 14, 5-8 PM
Main Gallery, Syd Krochmalny, May 9– June 24, Artist Reception, May 14, 5-8 PM
Perkins Moorestown, 395 Kings Highway
Members/Faculty Show, May 9 – June 24; Artist Reception, May 21, 5-8 PM