More Beautiful Than Answers: 78th Juried Annual Exhibition at the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia




representation and

re-presentation are fraught subjects in every aspect of our lives. 

Sometimes I visualize them as gods operating in the world and in our heads.







Untitled, 2018, ink, charcoal and graphite on paper; and detail.  Rod Jones II, American born 1994.  Courtesy of the artist.

One of a series in which the artist is exploring totems



They rank for us everything we have them touch – material and non-material, organic and inorganic – in categories of relative desirability, relative ugliness, relative worth in a commodified world.







More Beautiful Than Answers, 2018.  Sarah Bloom, courtesy of the artist.  


Difficult if you are a Philadelphian (or an inhabitant of any industrial city in decline) not to be touched by this image.

Its multiple meanings stretch to the long decline of the city’s industrial base and the devastation which it continues to wreak.  Our fabled and historic city

to the status of women and our battle to find a way between conforming and not conforming to the unforgiving ‘norms’ which govern our behaviour and appearance

to the doll: (this is an old doll factory): a stand-in for all the ways in which women are and have been represented in our civilization  

Can I say:  how we have been played with?

to the doll again:  a reminder of the Artificial Intelligence which is already with us:  us and not us which we created and is a prime territory to test the maturity and the strength of the double Sapiens of our species

to the detritus in this old factory: ashes to ashes. 

I woke up the morning after I saw this work and remembering it, I began to grow anxious.  


Until I recalled that the artist, with her co-artists in this exhibition, and many others, are moving forward, thinking, acting and creating;  and that this is the opposite of anxious territory. 

I thank the artist. Artists.



They sit in the middle of the distribution of  power, control of wealth, and the distribution of social pain;  and of the ways in which we imbibe pleasure and have joy.







Government, Government, 2019, pencil on paper.  Clare Robinson, American born 1966.  Courtesy of the artist







Midas, 2019, mixed media and metal leaf on card; and detail.  Anne Leith, American born 1961.  Courtesy of the artist





Untitled (Facing Inversion), 2018, archival inkjet print.  John Cariano, American born 1956.  Courtesy of the artist

The museum note indicates that the composition depicts strange human activity.  The artist removed pigment from an existing inkjet print and then reprinted the resulting dried and scanned image as a photograph.





They control and influence us in an infinite number of ways and order our relationships to ourselves, to our communities, countries and world. 







Indigo XII, woodcut print, monoprint onto paper, fabric and stitching; and detail.  Agathe Bouton, French born 1969.  Courtesy of the artist





Lucky for us they are gods, who, although jealous, tenacious and tendentious like all gods, we can talk to.






Rooted 1, Spring 2018, synthetic braiding hair and chicken wire.  DeJeonge Reese, American born 1991.  Courtesy of the artist





Discuss, petition, demonstrate against,  persuade, trick, seduce, fight, sue.

Re-present, too.








Tearing Layers of Language, 2018, oil and pen on panel; and detail.   Katherine Volpe, American born 1994.  Courtesy of the artist





Public conversations; private also.






Bedroom Scene, 2019, archival pigment print; and detail.  Tiffany Tate, American born 1989.  Courtesy of the artist






The Chair, October 2018,  35 mm coloured photograph (expired film), digitally printed; and detail.  Austen Camille Weymueller, American/Canadian, 1991.  Courtesy of the artist



These processes being more beautiful than answers because they entail the evolution and maturing of the individual and of the body politic.




Towards less pain, more distributed power, more widely accessible joy, ways of being human to the widest and most generous extent of our imaginations. 




Pfaff Suzanne in the Kitchen

Suzanne in the Kitchen, 2018, composite photograph.  Valerie Pffaf, British and American born 1948.  Courtesy of the artist.





The artist, Eileen Neff, was the juror this year for the 78th annual exhibition at Woodmere Museum of the work of artists in and within 50 miles of Philadelphia. 






Mountain Sign, 2017/2019, archival pigment print on Dibond.  Eileen Neff, American born 1945.  Courtesy of the artist and Bridgette Meyer Gallery

From a series taken of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia







Tree Forest Leaning, 2016, oil on linen; and detail. Bruce Pollock, American born 1951.  Courtesy of the artist and Schmidt Dean Gallery

The simplest and most complex image of natural variation and its beauty.




She chose to facilitate such a conversation, the gods being – as at Delphi – always present.





Rough-Legged Hawk (Buteo Lagopus), 2017.  Bruce Katsiff.  Courtesy of the artist




The result is installed until September 2, 2019 in the balconied rotunda of the Woodmere Museum: an habitual temple, one could say, for such a discussion. 













Views of Odysseus on Ogia, and Later His Memory of Calypso, 2019 box, 2018 drawing, box, foam core, archival foam core, acrylic paint, painted paper collage, graphite, pin pricks, and caran d’arche crayon; drawing, ink, graphite, caran d’arche crayon, cut paper collage and postage stamp.  Stuart Shills, born 1954.  Courtesy of the artist


A work which came out of the experience of hearing the voices of Odysseus and his men ‘caught in the wind’.

  The artist was on the Aegean Sea.  Odysseus was travelling home from Troy.  Western archetype of the transformations of a human and his worlds. 




The juror asked artists to focus on re-presentation: (Second Nature: The Poetics of Re-presentation).

re-presentation: of their way of being;

of seeing, of touching, hearing, of sensing, of interacting with others, with the natural world;

of experiencing the politics of our lives, and of the constraints and possibilities of the man-made world. 







Summer Picnic, 1919, oil on canvas.  Theresa Bernstein, 1890-2002, American born Poland. Woodmere Museum of Art.

A painting in the museum’s collection, a work chosen by the juror, for this exhibition.  This is a re-interpretation of  Édouard Manet’s 1863 painting, Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe.  This was painted in the year of Theresa Bernstein’s marriage and contains vivifying commentary on Manet’s great work and on this artist’s own life.



A focus always timely and valuable. 


The Woodmere Museum, as always, on point.







A visitor on the balcony of the museum studying For Freddie, 2018. Meredith Sellers.  Courtesy of the artist





Here a few of the works.  All thoughtful and beautifully crafted.
















Between the Rhymes, 2018, risograph on paper mounted on wood; and detail.  Illya Mousavijad, Iranian born 1996. Courtesy of the artist.

The particular melancholy which accompanies a presence which is an absence and an absence which is a presence;  and the interplay between them.  The condition of life of many immigrants and of many forms of grief.

(hiraeth in Welsh, tezeta in Amharic (one of the languages of Ethiopia), saudade in Portuguese: otherwise thought to be untranslated in any other language) 





Jones blackboyjoy


Black Boy Joy, 2018.  Rod Jones II.  Courtesy of the artist








Home-made (View #1), 2019, cardboard, packing tape, shoe polish and string; and detail.  Elizabeth Silbaugh.  American born 1963.  Courtesy of the artist

A bridge bent forward; reaching for the possibility of other notes. Our bodily integrity holding, but barely.






Forest Mandala – Yellow, 2019, flashe and glitter on wood panel.  Kiki Gaffney, American born 1971.  Courtesy of the artist and Pentimenti Gallery






With Your Eyes Closed, in the Woods, 2018, acrylic and ash on MDF.  Marissa Georgiu, American born 1984







Philly Philodendron, 2017, ceramic; and detail.  Jacintha Clarke, American born 1986.  Courtesy of the artist.






View from the Rear Window No. 1, 2019, oil on oil paper.  John Holsinger, American born the Philippines, 1988.  Courtesy of the artist







Unspoken Words in Red, 2018, oil on canvas; and detail.  Booyoung Lee, American born South Korea, 1958.  Courtesy of the artist

with this accompanying poem:


Unspoken Words in Red

each moment

concerned with words

out of me

would offend you

knowingly unknowingly

for the moment

all the words 


unleashed on the canvas in red






Green shirt, 2019, oil on linen; and detail.  David Aipperspach, American born 1987.  Courtesy of the artist







“Good Heavens!” Reading Room, 2018, oil on canvas.  Ilana Doneldson, American born 1993.  Courtesy of the artist







All in Green Went My Love Riding (after e.e.), 2019, oil on paper mounted on panel.  Stephanie Fenner, American born 1991.  Courtesy of the artist.

e.e. is e.e. cummings and the title is the name of one of his poems evocative of an incident in the artist’s life.






Walk in the Park, 2019,  archival pigment print on Dibond.  Eileen Neff,  American born 1945.  Courtesy of the artist and Bridgette Mayer Gallery





I See You, 2018, acrylic paint on panel.  Adam Lovitz, American born 1985.  Courtesy of the artist







A Fine Look, 2019, paper collage on foam core; and detail.  David Kettner, American born 1943.  Courtesy of the artist






Drawings about Drawings that Drew Themselves, 2019, charcoal and graphite on paper, mounted on panel (diptych).  Sophie Brenneman, American born 1989.  Courtesy of the artist






Alone in the Company of Another II, 2019, porcelain, acrylic and Barbie Dream House wall; and detail.  Chelsea Nader, American born 1985.  Courtesy of the artist







Portrait, 2019, ink, gouache and graphite on panel; and detail.  Marcelino Stuhmer, American born 1971.  Courtesy of the artist







Untitled (Hand-Lapped Series), 2017-18.  Hand-lapped blown glass, ground float glass, float glass panel with fired-on vitreous enamel, steel, wood, hardware, and four editioned prints on archival cotton rag paper ; and detail.  Alexander Rosenberg, American born 1981.  Courtesy of the artist







Looking Out into the Country Nite, 2019, plywood and housepaint; and detail.  Annson Conaway, American born 1990.  Courtesy of the artist






Masaccio’s Eve, 2010, oil on cotton. Marta Sanchez, American born 1959.  Courtesy of the artist.

Eve is crying in the fresco, c. 1425 of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden painted by Masaccio





Horse and Zebra and Zorse, 2018, acrylic on panel; from the series Love is Love.  Linda Lee Alter, American born 1939.  Courtesy of the artist










Waterline, 2019, welded plastic jugs and sand; and detail.  Silas McDonaugh, American born 1989. Courtesy of the artist






Sofia, 2008, oil on panel. Alex Griffin, American born 1978.  Courtesy of the artist.

From a picture of the director, Sofia Coppola






Seeing is Forgetting, 2018, oil on panel.  Clint Jukkala, American born 1971.  Courtesy of  Fred Giampietro Gallery







Moving/Still 2/15/2019, oil on canvas; and detail.   Qingsheng Gao, Chinese born 1993.  Courtesy of the artist












Still shots from Walking Forest, 2017, video 8 minutes, 49 seconds.  Raffaele Gans-Pfister, American and Swiss born 1994.  Courtesy of the artist.

The video shows a landscape assembling itself.  The museum notes that the primary source is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book, Nature.  In this he speaks of a symbol- or language-laden landscape which reference other thoughts, ideas, emotions.



















2 thoughts on “More Beautiful Than Answers: 78th Juried Annual Exhibition at the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia

  1. Thank you, Sarah, for this very sensitive response to the exhibition. I’m having the pleasure of sending it to the artists you’ve featured, many former students of mine, many new acquaintances,
    all wonderfully celebrated by your writing, and all will be grateful to know. Eileen

    1. Thank you, Eileen, for your generous comment.

      Of course, what I wrote is what was for me an inevitable reflection of the thoughtfulness and work-excellence of the wide response to your challenge. I thank you all and wish you all continued creative success.


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