Weekender

Penn State professor takes on urban landscapes in art exhibit

“Spillway” is among the pieces in Penn State professor Paul Chidester’s new exhibit at the Juniata College Museum of Art.
“Spillway” is among the pieces in Penn State professor Paul Chidester’s new exhibit at the Juniata College Museum of Art. Photo provided

Penn State professor and artist Paul Chidester will present “Psychotopia” at Juniata College Museum of Art through Jan. 28.

“Psychotopia” comes from Chidester’s real-life findings on artistic walkabouts.

“Mostly, these walks take place around urban edges, brownzones, etc,” he said. “I take photographs and make drawings to use as source material for preparatory drawings. From these, the paintings take on the air of an imagined place, but made of real things. ‘Psychotopia’ is a product of the mind as place.”

Chidester isn’t limited to one specific set of themes or ideas.

“I usually work with ideas and conventions of landscape depictions,” he said. “Past works have taken the form of imaginary travel guides and office calendars, urban and rural interventions, artist’s books, photographs, and of course, paintings.”

The artist’s landscape paintings have fit well with the artistic themes at Juniata College.

“I’m very happy to have been invited to do this show,” Chidester said. “The Juniata College Museum of Art is a gem. The collection is terrific, and the people who work there have been among the most professional that I’ve ever worked with.”

Some of Chidester’s recent work has been shown at Future Tenant and Unsmoke Systems art galleries in Pittsburgh. But because the landscape of central Pa. has played a large role in his work, Chidester said it was a priority to exhibit in the area.

Chidester’s landscape work inspired the the Juniata College Museum of Art curator to take an interest in exhibiting “Psychotopia.”

“The curator of the art museum at Juniata College came by for a studio visit and offered me the show,” he said. “I’ve done solo exhibitions in not-for-profit and commercial galleries before, but this is my first museum show.”

Art is intrinsically valuable to society, according to Chidester. The artist thinks it helps us better understand other cultures, or even older times in our own culture, by studying their art.

“ Art places value on certain ideas and ways of seeing. When we experience art from other cultures and historical eras, we can come to know them better,” he said. “It’s like a bridge to a better, more tactile understanding of the human family.”

Chidester thinks that making art is natural for children — the difference is that he never gave it up.

“Most children make art. It’s inherently human,” he said. “I just never stopped, and made decisions that would allow me to continue. Those decisions have provided a lot of joy, but also sacrifices. Visual art has provided a framework through which I see the world.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: “Psychotopia”
  • When: through Jan. 28
  • Where: Juniata College Museum of Art, corner of 17th and Moore streets, Huntingdon
  • Info: www.juniata.edu/museum
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