Art of the State 2017

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Art of the State, the annual juried exhibition at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, marked its 50th occurrence this year, showcasing 130 works selected from more than 2,200 submissions. Since 1968 the museum has served as the venue each year for Pennsylvania artists to share their ideas and engage viewers through a diverse body of artwork (see “Representing Pennsylvania’s Precious Heritage,” Summer 2017). Cosponsored by the museum and Jump Street, a nonprofit in Harrisburg, with WITF Public Media and the Higher Information Group serving as exhibit sponsors, Art of the State opened with an awards ceremony on June 11, 2017, attended by more than 600 guests.

Fifteen artists received awards in five categories: craft, painting, photography, sculpture and work on paper. The special William D. Davis Memorial Award for Drawing was also presented, and The State Museum selected a Purchase Award. In honor of the 50th exhibition, Jump Street presented a Spirit of the Arts Award. In addition, the Art Docents Corps of The State Museum presented its inaugural Art Docents’ Choice Award.


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Following the awards ceremony, artists answered questions and discussed their works. Marie Manski of Philadelphia won both first prize in sculpture and the Purchase Award for her digital work Purgatory. She explained that the piece is rooted in the mystery of life, or more specifically, the ephemeral quality of life. The sculpture started as an experiment that involved taking video of Polaroid pictures as they developed. The artist spliced the videos into stop-motion animation. The photographs, all of which feature Manski’s friends, appear to fade in and out. “For me, what this piece speaks to is how people change,” Manski said.

Andrew Guth of Harrisburg won first prize in work on paper for his Where We Used to Go When Everything Was Wrong (I watched the lilies grow until they got old). He said he incorporated different types of media, such as “pages from old books, pages from music books, anything of that nature” to make “a medley of things.” He continued, “I also use beeswax, as well. I like how that layer helps to soften some of the media.” Guth’s works are narrative-driven and reflect how he views his life and experiences. The piece originated from a series he created of male figures, primarily within a beach setting. “I’m thinking about my own LGBT community and about where some of us are going during the summer. It’s just really about the feeling of being in a place where you feel safe.”

Michael Brolly of Bethlehem, Northampton County, won both first prize in craft and the Art Docents’ Choice Award for his Homage to My Mother, a work he created with wood. Brolly’s parents emigrated from Ireland and settled in Philadelphia. To bring in extra money, his mother worked as a seamstress and instilled in her son a love of material such as cloth. “When I saw the grain in this wood, I thought I could make this look like silk,” he said. Brolly’s work has been featured in previous Art of the State exhibits. “I’m a Pennsylvanian, and to me it’s just an honor to be in this show. That’s why I enter and that’s why I love it,” he said.


Sean Adkins is social media manager for PHMC. Look for his updates at Pennsylvania Trails of History on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.