'Window on the West' opens June 10 at the Palmer Museum of Art

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Palmer Museum of Art will present a new exhibition, "Window on the West: Views from the American Frontier," from June 10 through August 31.

"Window on the West," a collection of Arthur J. Phelan, is an extraordinary examination of Western American art. It reflects the humble beginnings of America and the untamed land of its earlier inhabitants. The exhibition includes more than 60 works from artists who all share the rare characteristic of being one of the first to set eyes on the vast, untouched land of Western America.

Loosely divided into three themes, the exhibition explores the ways in which America’s ideas of national identity became intertwined with, and expressed through, our visual conception of the western frontier.

-- "Natural Beauty, Natural Wonder" consists of landscapes sometimes painted to lure potential settlers with depictions of the wide open spaces, mountainous skylines, and geological formations foreign to the native scenery of the East Coast.

-- "Western Settlement and Development" focuses on a century’s sequence of settlements built by the diverse populations inhabiting the West. This theme also highlights habitations of Native American tribes, military buildings protecting early Spanish colonists and forts and towns established later by Anglo-American settlers.

-- "Images and Icons" documents the way in which western settlement transformed the lives of native populations and gave rise to the occupations and personalities that would endure in western iconography.  

According to curator Joyce Robinson, the collection features works by many well-known artists — John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer, Frederic Remington and Carl Wimar — as well as works by lesser-known men and women who recorded their observations of the West.

Exhibition Related Events:

-- Curator Joyce Robinson will present a gallery talk titled "Window on the West: Views from the American Frontier" at 12:10 p.m., Friday, June 20.

-- A workshop for children and youth titled "Western Places and Spaces" will take place at the museum from 10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 26.

In this workshop inspired by "Window on the West: Views from the American Frontier," students will view paintings, watercolors, and drawings of the American West and then discuss their understandings of places west of the Mississippi River. Art educator Sue Uhlig will lead an investigation into the concept of place by helping students map locations and write a poem or short narrative based on works of art. In the studio, workshop participants will create a mixed-media landscape using watercolor and collage methods to illustrate their own wondrous place. Recommended for ages 6-10. 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 dck10@psu.edu. Space is limited; early registration is encouraged.

-- A workshop for adults titled "Luminous Landscape: Basics of Color Palette Control and Composition" will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at the museum on Saturday, Aug. 9.

In this workshop, art educator MinSoo Kim-Bossard will guide participants through "Window on the West: Views from the American Frontier" and emphasize viewing and analyzing landscapes. The studio component will provide an opportunity to learn beginner landscape composition principles and the basics of color palette control using acrylic paints.

Arthur J. Phelan’s visits to the West in the 1950s introduced the Maryland native to landscapes he had only seen in books. A longtime student of American history (B.A. and M.A., Yale University), Phelan turned his attention to the West while serving as a military historian at March Air Force Base. In 1963 he made his first purchase of Western American art. Phelan is retired chairman of an oil tanker company now headquartered in San Antonio, Texas.

"Window on the West" was organized by the museum in partnership with Exhibits Development Group.

The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is located on Curtin Road, University Park, and admission is free. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays, and will be closed Friday, July 4.

The museum 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.

Also on view at the Palmer Museum of Art this summer are "Mining the Store: American Prints from the Permanent Collection" through August 24; and "Seeing America: Photographs from the Permanent Collection" through August 10.

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Last Updated June 03, 2014