A ‘Reimagined’ exhibition at the Kemerer
“Artifacts Reimagined: A 5x5 Artist Exhibition,” through Aug. 18, Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, Bethlehem, of more than 50 contemporary pieces by five Lehigh Valley artists sheds new light on historic and vintage items.
The artists, members of the 5x5 Artists group for their work in five distinct media, spent a year researching, photographing and studying artifacts from the Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites Collection as inspiration for their works.
Photographer Richard Begbie, printmaker Pat Delluva, oil-painter James DePietro, multimedia and mosaic artist Barbara Kozero and pastel painter Jacqueline Meyerson were granted access to treasures locked away for safe keeping. Each artist in his or her own way has brought them back to life as “new” artifacts.
Begbie, who uses an Olympus OMG digital camera, says, “Photography can be considered a literal art form. What you see is what you get.” He followed with, “That’s not true,” explaining, “Most of my pieces have abstract elements.”
Some of the inkjet prints of objects he added to this dimension include an arrangement of numbered wooden blocks, antique crystal glassware and a close-up detail of a green circa 1930s Skippy tricycle.
Although she is not exclusively a printmaker, Delluva says, “I find it’s a medium that allows me to do a lot of experimentation.” She adds, “I’m a very low-tech printer. I don’t have a printing press. I use my grandmother’s wooden spoon to transfer images from a carved surface.”
Delluva created block prints and monotypes of decorative patterns and motifs she found in the collection. Delicate lace doilies, quilts, coverlets and scraps of wallpaper provided inspiration.
A wood cabinet with a thistle motif motivated DePietro to paint “Ode to the Thistle” in oil. A vintage wooden child’s pull-toy finds new life in his “The Adventures of Tiny Teddy.”
When DePietro discovered this in the collection, he says, “It got me to start thinking about the other toys I had found at Christmastime under the Christmas tree.” DePietro was a child in the 1950s and 1960s. DePietro says he also enjoyed the challenges of depicting light and shadow.
Kozero’s whimsical ceramic sculptures and multimedia pieces were sparked by the Kemerer Museum’s collection of highly-detailed antique dollhouses.
Kozero’s “Rabbits at Home” and “House of Cats,” alongside the toy buildings that inspired them, create a miniature neighborhood within the four-sided glass case they inhabit.
“Noah’s Ark,” one of the colorful mosaics created by Kozero, hangs above a display case containing an antique wooden ark and pairs of carved animal “passengers.”
Among the objects that brought creative inspiration to Meyerson is a collection of vintage firefighter helmets and belts. “Bravest” features a dark brown leather helmet grouped with a pair of colorful leather uniform belts with “Lehigh” and “Foreman” written on them.
Often, the five artists found inspiration with the same artifact. Meyerson’s photorealistic pastel of the Skippy tricycle perched on top of its own shadow, hangs next to Begbie’s digital print of it.
Works are available for sale. A percentage of sales supports Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites.
The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts Gallery, 427 N. New St., Bethlehem. Hours: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday, and by appointment, Monday - Thursday. Admission is free Sundays through the end of October). historicbethlehem.org; 1-800-360-TOUR.