Palmer Museum opens retrospective exhibition of Pa. artist G. Daniel Massad

September 19, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — "A Small Radius of Light: G. Daniel Massad, A Retrospective," a major loan exhibition featuring 72 works spanning five decades, will be on view from Sept. 25 through Dec. 9 at the Palmer Museum of Art on Penn State's University Park campus.

Massad has dedicated much of his career to depicting the world around him. His poetic, meticulously detailed still lifes, rendered in the medium of pastel, call to mind the work of the Old Masters. His work can be found in numerous private collections across the United States as well as in major museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, and the Palmer Museum of Art.

“Dan is widely recognized as one of the most important contemporary artists working in the pastel medium,” said Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “This is the first retrospective dedicated to his remarkable career, and it features a significant number of works that have never been shown before.”

Massad was born in Oklahoma City in 1946 and painted his first still life at the age of 10. After earning degrees in English at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, he worked for several years as a psychotherapist before making the decision to pursue graduate work in painting in 1979. Since 1983, he has lived in Annville, Pennsylvania, where he is artist in residence at Lebanon Valley College.

The Palmer retrospective explores the full gamut of Massad’s career, from early academic realist drawings from the late 1960s to his most recent pastel, "Memoria," completed in early 2018 as an homage to the upcoming 100th anniversary of the armistice of World War I.

Since 1990, Massad’s work has focused on architectural fragments of brick or stone supporting a dramatically lit array of natural and man-made objects, all set against a metaphorically potent expanse of pure black.

“Each of these exquisite pastels takes the artist upwards of four months to complete,” said Palmer Curator Joyce Robinson. “There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to Dan’s work.” 

The mature still lifes are filled with a remarkable array of “data” — maps, words, numbers, constellations, references to literature and ancient history, as well as autobiographical symbols. Some of these “ordinary things” — the enticing objects featured in Massad’s still lifes that are drawn from his studio and home — will be on view with the works of the remarkable artist, who wields shards of pastel rather than paintbrushes.

“This is the most satisfying collaborative project I’ve ever had the good fortune to be a part of, though I do wonder if there is life after a retrospective,” Massad said, joking. 

He added: “There’s already another work on the easel.”

Organized by the Palmer, "A Small Radius of Light" features signature works borrowed from public as well as private collections. Massad is represented by Bernarducci Gallery Chelsea in New York.

Accompanying the retrospective is a major publication featuring a comprehensive essay by Robinson and 43 “backstories,” short memoir-like reflections on the genesis of major works, written by Massad over the past 30 years. The book is available in both soft and hard cover and is for sale in the Palmer Museum Store.

Related programming

See below for Palmer events related to "A Small Radius of Light."

Lecture: "Yours Truly" — 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11

Massad will speak about his retrospective show, looking closely at key turning points in his work history that reveal the path he has followed for almost four decades. The artist will elucidate the historical and personal background that underpins much of his imagery and will welcome questions regarding the particulars of his studio practice.

Gallery Talk: "A Small Radius of Light: A Conversation with G. Daniel Massad" — 12:10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, with Joyce Robinson, curator, and G. Daniel Massad, artist

On Fridays at 12:10 p.m., the Palmer hosts interesting, enlightening gallery talks on current exhibitions or selected works from the permanent collection. Robinson and the artist will discuss the work within Massad’s retrospective show at the Palmer.

Third Thursdays: "Mindful Making at the Museum" — 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18

Take a break to enjoy a slow art experience at the Palmer as part of Student Engagement’s "Mindful Making" series. Attendees can participate in a beginning yoga class in the gallery or try their hand at drawing inspired by the still, yet powerful, images by G. Daniel Massad on view in "A Small Radius of Light." Third Thursday events include music and dance performances, art-making activities, and games, as well as evening access to the galleries, exhibitions and museum store.

Meditation Workshop — 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28

This 90-minute workshop will review the main forms of meditation practiced in the United States, discuss some of the scientific research supporting the practice, and provide instruction in three useful meditation techniques. Participants should wear comfortable clothing and be available to stay for the entire workshop. The instructor, Patrick Breslin, a retired professor of communication from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, has been practicing and teaching meditation for more than 40 years. The workshop will take place in the gallery housing "A Small Radius of Light."

Gallery Talk: "A Small Radius of Light: G. Daniel Massad, A Retrospective" — 12:10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, with Joyce Robinson, curator

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,000 objects representing and spanning a variety of cultures and centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present; Old Master paintings; prints and photography; ceramics and studio glass; and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents 10 exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, and 6 to 9 p.m. on Third Thursdays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit

  • G. Daniel Massad. Photo by Scot Gordon.

    Contemporary artist G. Daniel Massad has dedicated the better part of the last four decades to re-enacting the world around him through meticulously detailed still lifes, rendered in pastels.

    IMAGE: Scot Gordon

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 19, 2018