Friday night proved to be the quintessential evening for a walk around downtown Carlisle and then taking in a brand new art exhibit at Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC). “Somewhere Over the Rainbow…bluebirds fly…” kept going through my head as I discovered art that could only be found in the “Land of Oz.”
I followed the yellow brick road through the front door. All my favorites were there, most of all the Tin Man who wanted a heart desperately, and Toto, too. It took some sleuthing, but after meeting the artists, Arlyn Pettingell and Sharon Pierce McCullough, I found out that even the great and powerful wizard was there—behind the curtain, of course.
What sets apart McCullough’s work as a sculptor is that found objects form the foundation of her pieces.
“I seek to repurpose items others would discard and give them new life,” she said.
When you mix those objects with cement, metal and glass, one-of-a-kind creations emerge. And for this exhibit, she picked up gemstones along the yellow brick road.
Her Tin Man really is constructed out of a discarded car muffler, and the open cavity in his chest reveals a heart wrapped in metal wire. Mr. M, as she refers to the sculpture, is life-sized and characteristically quirky in the most endearing way.
Toto in this iteration is actually titled “Smokey,” a stretched-out, elongated cement dog with a bundle of colorful sticks tied to his back. After all, an impromptu game of fetch with the flying monkeys could be just the thing.
Departing from Oz momentarily, I was agog at seeing “The Man in the Moon” in a close-up, concrete orb replete with moon-sized craters. Filled with the remnants of a multi-colored meteor shower made from the bottoms of colored glass bottles filling its holes, it made for an unexpected treat.
She finished off “The Man…” with another miniature made of used spark plugs and wire standing within the cavern of the moon surveying the scene on the gallery floor. Another life-sized sculpture, “All Dressed Up,” takes evening wear to a whole other level when the attire is a cement sheaf adorned with a metal necklace. McCullough works intuitively, operating under the umbrella of an artist without borders. Hers is a polymath universe of art mediums, displaying skills in drawing, painting and sculpture.
In the Upstairs Gallery, where the Munchkins may have decamped, I found an equally whimsical installation. As part of the CALC Collaborative, artist Tom Oakes worked with a group of 16 students from CPARC, distilling a magical land of creativity. Working in diverse media such as pottery (vessels), craft on homemade paper (butterflies), cork board and pipe cleaner (flowers), a gallery of hand-tinted trees were resplendent in spring tones of nature, demonstrating that developmental disabilities bear no weight on the spark of imagination and the ability to express it through art.
Traveling from Oz to Paris all in the same evening, I was brought back to the G. B. Stuart Gallery. Expressionist painter Arlyn Pettingell works with a palette rich with muted tones of inky blues, lichen greens, dusty rose and mud brown. Pettingell’s paintings tell of a workforce complicit in celebrating their vocations. Those celebrations are restrained and refined just like the visually arresting quality she brings to her works.
“The sense of accomplishment during one’s day is desired and deserved by all,” she said. “I feel we must appreciate the simple beauty of everyday life.”
A Francophile through and through, she has a certain je ne sais quai about her. Eight years spent in Frenchville, a hamlet north of State College, she immersed herself in the history of the region settled by French and Irish immigrants. Her works guide the viewers to another place in time like Paris at the Fin-de-Siecle. In many instances throughout her portraiture, she inserts the Eiffel Tower as her landmark of love. Represented in her collection is The Cook, The Grocer, The Seamstress, The Truck Driver and the list goes on. All are lovingly depicted in dark shades that give an added depth of emotion to the dedication these laborers bring to their professions.
Personal favorites depart from the professional panoply to lend equal inspiration to leisure activities found in “Afternoon in the Park,” with families enjoying life away from the toil of labor. Another, “The Sidewalk Café,” one of her larger works, shares a scene of a street café in Paris, perhaps in the 16th arrondissement by the Seine.
“The Eiffel Tower motif repeats itself, representing our highest ambition, the promotion of culture, and a beacon of hope and contentment,” according to Pettingell.
The commitment to her art has been enhanced by travel to New York City and France.
On my way out the door, I happened upon the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Cathy Stone, curator at CALC, stepped away from the curtain long enough to take a quick bow for curating this monumental show. Her deft staging and placement of “Works and Working,” so subtle in its delivery, belies the adroit approach she has brought to her craft for the past five years.
Art transports us to lands both real and imagined all in the blink of an eye. And remember, there is no place like home.
“Works and Working” runs through July 27 at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC), is 38 W. Pomfret St., Carlisle. For more information, visit http://www.carlislearts.org/exhibits.