Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bob’s Art Blog: “Observations & Experiences” at AAH

The Art Association of Harrisburg (AAH) wishes everyone a Happy New Year with an after-holiday gift of a brand-new art exhibit that opened last week.

For those of you experiencing cabin fever lockdown, this is an exhibit well worth venturing out for—visual and valuable with the volume set to “imagine.” It’s not by accident that the show is titled “Observations & Experiences.” For must we not first observe, which leads to experience? For the artists and individuals, the two-part postulation will be different for each and everyone.

Carrie Wissler-Thomas, CEO of the AAH, could barely contain herself in announcing the first invitational exhibition in over eight months. This exhibit is a cohesive commentary “on life and its celebration of,” as seen and experienced by a quartet of female artists all well versed in the discipline of art.

Peg Belcastro “drew” on her 10-year sojourn in the wilds of Alaska as the experience of a lifetime. Belcastro’s palette is a result of diffused color, as if the paint were stretched across the canvas. Imagine a sunset with a surreal sky of pink and a touch of blue appearing as a new hue. Painting gives her joy, brought to the canvas and a sense of adventure in everything and everyone she paints. For viewers, the experience may well transcend its vicarious nature when that joy captures colors of celebration, which portray poetry in paint. With her adept brushstrokes, the canvas comes alive, revealing a humanness in the “acceptance of ourselves.”


Carden Holland, once an art teacher in secondary education in Connecticut, now resides in Lewisberry. Personal experiences over the years inform her mixed media works with a certain unpredictability often providing the backstory. With a highly unusual painting process, using India ink, the works take on a life of their own, creating a well-defined graphic look. For a deeper appreciation of her method to the madness, one must solve the underlying mystery in person, up close, seeing the details come alive.




Maureen Joyce employs a personal style that is recognizable as hers alone in her sculptured pieces. Often, the face is cherubic in nature, offering a joyful countenance. Joyce draws on her visual experiences as a child inspired by beatific sculptures seen in churches. In that regard, the human figure becomes a crucial element as she desires her work to invite interpretation. The artist states, “In making my art, I see character, not perfection. It is life experiences that provoke the representations I make.” Curator Rachel O’Connor adds, “There is a certain conceptuality of conversation in the way Joyce arranges her finished busts.” They allude to dialogues unspoken yet meaningful in mannerisms.



Julie Riker, an award-winning plein air painter, rounds out the quartet. Featured in a number of national art magazines, Riker is now focusing her attention on the human figure. Self described as an “observational painter,” the current world situation has entailed painting live figures to now working from photos instead. However, in keeping with an on-location approach to this, she keeps the paint fresh and loose. She shares, “I like to look for interesting compositions, and often it is a light effectual that draws me to a particular idea, not the subject matter.”

A painting by Julie Riker

In the end, “Observations and Experiences” delivers on its promise to inform and allow for personal investigation and illumination. Seeing is believing at the AAH through Feb. 18. A special word of thanks to gallery assistant Nate Foster for sending exhibit photos. The exhibit is a featured attraction for January’s 3rd in the Burg, which arrives early this month on Jan. 15. For those desirous of avoiding any chance of a crowd, feel free to take advantage of the association’s open door Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.

The Art Association of Harrisburg is located at 21 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit

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