Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Improvisational painting of Paul Harryn is 'Essence of Nature' at Allentown Art Museum

Raising consciousness through contemporary abstraction is "a wonderful language" for artist Paul Harryn. Many are confused with it, he explained, which is why he uses nature as a conduit. "It's a commonality we all share. We all encounter nature," Harryn said. The Lehigh Valley will get an up-close view of one of its very own beginning Sunday, when the Allentown Art Museum presents the multimedia experience, "Paul Harryn: Essence of Nature."

Bethlehem-born Harryn, 61, took time for an interview from his restored 1820s barn studio-residence near Raubsville, off the Delaware River in Northampton County.  It's been his local residence since 2000, when he named it "Arcadia," or rural paradise, according to Roman times. He's had studios in Europe and the United States, even on site in the Mojave Desert. He currently maintains a studio in Santa Monica. But, Harryn said, "I love the seasons. Living in New Mexico and Los Angeles, it's the same all the time, lots of subtlety. Here (Lehigh Valley), it's dramatic. It feeds the work. It revitalizes something. There's a constant reminder of nature."

Harryn described the Allentown exhibit, which runs through May 18, having 100-plus works of art ranging from his small-scale "Seasons" series to his large-scale "Pacificus" series. His preferred paints used for the "complex, selective layering" are mostly customized for him by a company in upstate New York, he added. There also will be drawings, sculpture, music and film.

Harryn also is a musician (bass and keyboard), and many of his original compositions will accompany video by local Tom Ardizzone which will detail his process with contemporary painting. Harryn said a current documentary project by Los Angeles producer Michael Barnard will show his process of painting at the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. By painting in partnership with the sea, Harryn explained, he is able to create a layering of color and patterns inspired and imbued with elements of nature.

Harryn will present two talks at the museum during the run of his exhibition. "An Artist Talk" on Jan. 26, at 1 p.m., will illustrate the evolution of his work, his influences and inspirations, and materials he uses to create abstract works. "Bridge of Abstraction" on March 2, at 1 p.m., will explore his technical processes.

Harryn said he knew since age 5 that he wanted to be an artist. He recalled how he "loved to melt things and experiment with materials." He would find inspiration in visiting a museum and spending hours in front of paintings done by the Masters.

He also mentioned the many mentors he had along the way, "handing knowledge off to the next generation." They included Larry Day at the Philadelphia University of the Arts, James Carroll at Kutztown University, and Robert Doney at Northampton Community College. He also added Academy Award-winning composer Joseph Renzetti on music composition, recording and technology.

Harryn's primary inspiration now is derived from an intimate communion with his natural surroundings. Aspects of nature's inherent properties – the tangible, visceral, micro, and macro – all permeate his art, from the genesis of the creative process to the visual and sensory impact of his final surfaces. Fittingly, "Essence of Nature" explores media, materials, processes, and technologies in determining his most suitable vehicles of expression.

The evolution of Harryn's art came more as a personal journey, he said, one that took the better part of 20 years after academia before he could "really figure it out." He stressed how experimentation is vital. For the younger artist, he said, "Anyone who wants to take that leap of faith has to feel their own voice…to make a communicative statement…in raising consciousness. We're responsible for everything we're born into."

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While at the Allentown Art Museum, be sure to catch the solo exhibition currently underway by Berks artist and Kutztown University professor of fine art Matthew Daub themed "The Maiden Creek Series." In his first Allentown Art Museum exhibit, Daub documents 22 miles of the creek that extends from the town of Kempton to the Schuylkill River in panoramic format. In many of these nearly monochromatic works, the creek is often obscured by structures and growths, but it is the creek that ties these seemingly unrelated locations together – the rural, the residential, and the industrial.

Daub will present a talk, "Responding to the Environment," at the museum on closing day of the exhibit, March 16, at 1 p.m.

His Maiden Creek series was exhibited this past fall at ACA Galleries in New York City. He is nationally recognized for his watercolors and drawings. His work has been shown in juried and invitational exhibitions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the National Academy of Design in New York City. He attended Pratt Institute in New York and holds degrees from Southern Illinois University. His work is in private collections internationally.

Locally, Daub's art has been exhibited at Kutztown University, Reading Public Museum, GoggleWorks, The Banana Factory, and Lafayette College. He will be judging the 2014 Art in the Fast Lane competition sponsored by the Berks Arts Council later this month. Winning art will be exhibited on local billboards.

Daub and his wife, Barbara, also conduct an annual Arts Sojourn to Italy for those who love art and artists.

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Secondary art students in grades 7 to 12 from Berks, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties are competing in the 2014 East Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art Awards, leading to the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Selected juried art entries in 15 categories were submitted by the students' art and technology teachers. Work can be viewed at the Allentown Art Museum and The Baum School of Art beginning Sunday through Feb. 16. An award ceremony and reception will be held Feb. 2, at 1 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. A reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m., at the museum. Snow date is Feb. 16.

The Scholastic Art Awards are recognized as one of the largest student art competitions in the state, offering more than $3,500 in scholarships and cash prizes. Gold and Silver Keys and Honorable Mention awards will be bestowed. Five American Visions award nominations will be chosen as the best entries of the show. Regional Gold Key and American Visions winners are the only entries admitted and juried at the national level in a ceremony held in New York City.

Retired art teacher Dennis Danko, of Alburtis, Lehigh Co., serves as regional director for the East Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art Awards.

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The Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg may be over for another year, but Studio B in Boyertown is presenting "The Farm" exhibition opening with a reception on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. According to Susan Biebuyck, gallery director, "It offers a broad spectrum of fresh takes on the traditional subjects of agriculture and farming while saluting our agricultural roots, paying tribute to our area's natural beauty in creative ways." Prizes will be awarded.

Studio B is located at 39 E. Philadelphia Ave.

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It's live musical theater comedy, and it's back by popular demand! It's the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players with "H.M.S. Pinafore" on Saturday at 8 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. The Players join with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra for ASO's Pops Series with intrigue on the high seas and romance among very different classes.

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Personally, I catch this 1993 film every time it's on TV because its characters are so intriguing. Now you can experience it when its originator, Chazz Palminteri, brings "A Bronx Tale" and its 18 characters to life on the stage of Easton's State Theatre on Saturday at 8 p.m. Academy Award-nominated actor Palminteri wrote a one-man show in 1989, about a killing he saw in the Bronx when he was 9 years old. He performed it at a little theater in Hollywood, where it became an overnight hit much like "Rocky." But Palminteri refused to sell the rights to the big screen unless he played the character of Sonny and wrote the screenplay. He held out and got his wish for Robert DeNiro to come on board, but DeNiro would do so only if he (DeNiro) could direct it.

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