Creative Tension, An Open Media Exhibition

Soundings series, 3 drawings by Stella Untalan

Creative Tension, An Open Media Exhibition, is on view now through December 7, 2014, at Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown. Curated by Phillip J. Carroll, the exhibition displays 53 pieces by 30 artists, selected from a field of 81 entrants and 153 works. Submissions came from four states, and those selected for the show were from the Philadelphia and New Jersey region. This year’s juror was Maiza Hixson, Director of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. There were five Juror’s Awards winners and one work selected to be purchased as part of the permanent collection at the Delaware Art Museum.

This is the second Creative Tension show, Perkins’ annual juried fall exhibition, and Diane Felcyn, Perkins’ Associate Director, explained to me the meaning of the exhibition title. “We want to celebrate artists working in different media and the creative tension of the art-making process,” said Felcyn. To explain further, she cited a quote from Peter M. Senge, founder of the Society for Organizational Living and author of the groundbreaking book, “The Fifth Discipline.” Senge said, “The gap between vision and current reality is a source of energy. We call this gap creative tension.

Juror Maiza Hixson told me that it was important to her to keep in mind the title when assessing the works submitted for the show. “I was interested in the plurality of approaches,” explained Hixson, “and that is one of the ways that the creative tension played out. “The works that were submitted were so varied,” she said, “and each one showed a clear commitment to whatever medium the artist worked in.”

And, what a range of media! There are prints – woodblock, silkscreen, plate prints, carborundum, and etchings. There’s drawing, pastel, acrylic, ink on paper, encaustic on wood, paint on canvas, and aluminum enamel over acrylic. And, there’s collage, with many made from paper and other created with mixed materials. At the risk of cliché, I have to say that there is truly something for everyone in this show.

There is also diversity of what the works say. “You have process-based work and you have work that conveys a sense of activism,” Hixson pointed out. “You see visionary art, street art, and art made from materials you don’t expect an artist to use. “There are works with psychological themes, works about gender, works with strong political overtones, and works that are emotional and poignant.”

With such a wealth of wonderful art from which to choose, how did Hixley narrow down the submissions to those that are in the show? Her decade-plus career as a curator trained Hixley to value art in all its forms. However, in putting together Creative Tensions, she intentionally selected work that felt fresh. “I appreciate landscape and portraiture,” she said, “but for this show I was looking for what I had seen the least of. What I hope we are doing is broadening the basic understanding of what art is,” Hixley said, “and conveying the idea that a person does not have to be “trained” to create good art.” Hixley is confident that the show achieves on all of those levels. “We are showing art that is appealing and accessible,” she said, “but also challenging. It definitely gives people a lot to think about.”

Erin Endicott Juror’s Awards – Creative Tension 2014
Erin Endicott, Port Republic, NJ (also Museum Purchase Award, Delaware Art Museum)
Lisa Imperiale, Philadelphia, PA
Elizabeth Hamilton, Philadelphia, PA.
Lesa Chittenden Lim, Gulph Mills, PA
William Schnug, Mt. Laurel, NJ

Author: Shen’s been a Jersey girl for most of her life, other than living for a three-year stretch in Portland, Oregon, and six magical months in Tokyo. Shen loves the arts in all of its various forms – from the beauty of a perfectly-placed base hit to the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll – and has successfully passed on this appreciation to her three grown children. Shen’s most recent jobs include WXPN (1993-2001) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2003-present). Shen also has been a working freelancer for 25 years, and operated her own frame shop in Mt. Holly in the late-70s.

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