Palmer Museum shows drawings, watercolors by Leon Kelly

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Palmer Museum of Art is presenting "Suspended Contemplation: Drawings and Watercolors by Leon Kelly," which is currently on view at the Palmer Museum of Art through Aug. 11.

The title of this exhibition is taken from a foreword written by Julien Levy for the catalogue accompanying the 1965 Leon Kelly retrospective at the International Gallery in Baltimore. In that text, Levy, a close friend of the artist and a dealer of his work for many years, described Kelly as being “closed in the chrysalis of his art,” and then goes on to explain: "If one were to imagine the visions of a larva within its chrysalis ... and it is always the artist’s business to imagine such things and to inform us of them ... then one might come to share the state of suspended contemplation which Leon Kelly spins for us ... he being always in a metamorphosis."

The lepidopteran characterization relates in part to the bizarre, insect-like figures that had inhabited Kelly’s art since the early 1940s and which were highly influenced by the regular contact with the Surrealist movement that Levy’s gallery afforded him. It also references, perhaps more so, the hermit-like existence the artist had imposed on himself over the last 30 years of his life. Living alone on Long Beach Island, a narrow strip of land off the coast of New Jersey, Kelly formulated a plethora of alternative worlds, many born out of an imagination so fertile that they still today remain enigmatic.

Suspended Contemplation includes a large contingent of surrealist-inspired compositions for which Leon Kelly is best known today, as well as numerous additional sheets that range from his early cubist studies to his neo-baroque experiments of the early 1960s. The drawings, several of which were given to the Palmer Museum of Art in 2011, are selected from the collection of Drs. Albert, Class of 1939, and Lorraine Kligman.


12:10 p.m. Friday, June 7
Gallery Talk: Suspended Contemplation: Drawings and Watercolors by Leon Kelly
Patrick McGrady, Charles V. Hallman Curator

10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 15, 10:15 a.m.
Workshop for Children and Youth: Metamorphic Me: Self-Portraits Inspired by Leon Kelly
Explore the stylistic diversity of Leon Kelly’s works and discuss ideas about metamorphosis and change in the exhibition "Suspended Contemplation: Drawings and Watercolors by Leon Kelly," then head to the studio. Under the guidance of museum educator Lillian Lewis, participants will develop self-portraits that utilize contemporary materials to create unique drawings, which will then be deconstructed and reassembled. The goal is to fuse Leon Kelly’s unique style with the tools and techniques used by illustrators and street artists working today. Recommended for ages 14-18.

A parent or adult learning partner is encouraged to accompany young attendees; participants should wear appropriate clothing for working with materials. Workshops are free, but participants must preregister by contacting the curator of education at 814-863-9188 or Space is limited.

3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3
Workshop for Adults: Stain, Wash, Splatter and Soften: Basic Watercolor Techniques
The medium of watercolor looks deceptively simple but is in fact very difficult to master. In this workshop, Pennsylvania Watercolor Society member and local artist Ruth Kempner will guide participants through "Suspended Contemplation: Drawings and Watercolors by Leon Kelly" and then gather back at the studio to introduce and practice beginner watercolor painting techniques on a variety of papers. Workshops are free, but participants must preregister by contacting the curator of education at 814-863-9188 or Space is limited.

All gallery talks begin in the galleries unless otherwise noted. A greeter will be available in the lobby to direct visitors to the appropriate gallery for all noontime events. Workshop participants should meet in the lobby. For more information on scheduled events, please call 814-865-7672. The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is located on Curtin Road and admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays, including Thursday, July 4.

The Palmer Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The Chevron Corp. is the Palmer Museum of Art’s major corporate sponsor.

Children’s and family programs are partially funded by the James E. Hess and Suzanne Scurfield Hess Endowment for Art Education in the Palmer Museum of Art and the Ruth Anne and Ralph Papa Endowment. All other programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art unless otherwise noted.

Also on view at the Palmer Museum of Art this summer are "From Your Town to Ours: Pennsylvania Prints from the O’Connor-Yeager Collection Revisited," continuing through Aug. 11; and "La Manière Anglaise: Mezzotints from the Permanent Collection, continuing through Aug. 25.

For more information or to request images, please contact Jennifer Feehan, coordinator of membership and public relations, at 814-863-9182 or

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated June 04, 2013