Photographs reflect rural area’s urban feel in ‘Seeing America: Centre County’

“Pisces” by Chuck Fong
“Pisces” by Chuck Fong

In a juried photography exhibition celebrating Centre County, one might expect to see shades of blue and white: stately Old Main with a blue sky backdrop, men in blue jerseys cheered on by thousands of fans clad in white, students strolling across campus and through town with Penn State pride emblazoned on their shirts, pants, hats, backpacks.

But, in “Seeing America: Centre County in Photographs,” which opens June 30 with an awards ceremony and public reception from 7-9 p.m. at the Art Alliance in Lemont, there’s barely a mention of the county’s most famous attraction and largest employer.

Instead, the featured photographs capture brilliant sunsets, autumn leaves, Amish barns and brown-tipped cattails. As for familiar landmarks, a weathered boardwalk angles across Millbrook Marsh, the red-brick Gamble Mill stands out brilliantly against a snowy scene, and the now-razed Garman Opera House sits quietly under a streetlight the night before its demolition.

“I think Centre County is an interesting, wonderful place because we have both an urban feel because of things that come into the university, State Theatre, Palmer Museum, etc., but you drive a few minutes in any direction and you have farms, you have forests,” said Art Alliance Executive Director Marie Doll. “I think this exhibition reflects that.”

Local photographer Ann Cortese, whose photographs “Winter Browns” and “Spring Creek, February” are part of the exhibition, said she was surprised not to see more photos related to Penn State and State College. Upon reflection, she said, she (and she suspects many others) had this past year’s long, cold winter on her mind when she submitted her photographs in early spring.

“(The exhibition) depicts Centre County as a naturally beautiful place. There are a lot of winter images, which reflects maybe what everybody was thinking about then they submitted.”

“Seeing America: Centre County in Photographs” features 48 photos taken in Centre County since January 2013. The exhibition is on display through July 13 as part of the “Seeing America” cluster of programming at the 2014 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Related exhibits include “First Person: Seeing America,” a performance by Ensemble Galilei to projected photographs from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with accompanying narration; and “Seeing America: Photographs from the Permanent Collection,” an exhibit highlighting photographs of 19th- and 20th-century American people and places. “First Person: Seeing America” will be performed at 8 p.m. July 12 at the State Theatre, and “Seeing America: Photographs from the Permanent Collection” is on display through Aug. 10 at Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art.