In the Eye of the Viewer By: Terry Callahan

“An art exhibition brings together threads on the historical and social factors that influence an artist as they make the work as well as an enhancement of the work and what it means and how it came about, what mediums were used, and what time period it was made in,” explains Mehves Lelic, curator at the Academy Art Museum (AAM) in Easton.
From Cassatt to Chicago: A Celebration of Women Artists in the Permanent Collection is one of the current exhibitions running until March 20. Across the United States, works by women artists make up about 14% of permanent collections, but women artists make up 46% of all artists. “The Academy Art Museum is really proud that around a quarter of our collection is by women artists, but we continue to do work in order to diversify our collection and that’s really important to us.”
Women artists share a fundamental experience moving through the art world and moving through their careers. They enjoy less institutional representation which means their work is collected at a lower rate than male artists and also that their work sells for much lower prices. “We wanted to show that there was great diversity of artistic virtuosity and creative output in the works of women artists.” Just because they were women doesn’t mean their works were similar; what they had in common was the challenges brought into their careers just because they were women.
The AAM Instructors Exhibition is also being held. “We reached out to all of our instructors and asked them what work they would like to submit to the exhibition and the instructors who responded turned up incredible work.” There is anything from oil and acrylic to ceramics, contemporary printmaking, photography and collage.
“As a museum we’re really committed to bringing historical art to Easton so that our audience can engage with new works and think about art and expand their understanding of the time period or the artistic theme of an exhibition. We also have another mission that is just as important, which is enhancing the community and serving as a place where artists can come together and both show their work and teach others in the community who want to learn how to practice an art… Our instructors really show that you can live as an artist here and that’s really, really valuable. The museum is really proud to showcase this work because it’s such high-quality work and we love to support our instructors. We see all these different instructors coming from different mediums and walks of life reflecting on their subject matter, which is really, really rewarding.”
The next major exhibition focuses on a formative time in Joan Miro’s life where he traveled to New York and took part in a teaching and printmaking workshop, Atelier 17, run by famous printmaker Stanley William Hayter. While looking for works for this exhibition, Mehves found work by Norma Morgan, a black printmaker whose beautiful work, including enchanted landscapes, was relatively unknown throughout her career. AAM will have her pieces in a solo exhibition to show the entire spectrum of her work.
“The pandemic has definitely made us very resilient and responsive to how we can remain a resource to the community but be safe and careful.” The museum has enhanced its virtual presence, including a weekly Art at Home e-mail newsletter, children’s activities, educational videos, spotlights on works from the permanent collection and a number of online lectures, classes and exhibitions.
Mehves says, “I feel really grateful because I love art and, as with anyone who enjoys looking at other people’s creative work and finding enrichment and ideas and extended horizons, I feel very fortunate to be looking at art every day. I like how supportive the community is. It’s amazing that Easton is a relatively small town, but it has a community of really talented local artists, really intellectually and artistically curious visitors and also generous supporters who help the museum’s mission. In many ways I feel like I have a great responsibility to do the art justice. There’s so many talented artists whose works are in our permanent collection and I get to preserve them and make sure that they can be there for a long time for more people to see, for the public to engage with and to also experience that feeling of enrichment and excitement that I’m feeling when I look at them.”
“Our doors are open to everyone. Even during the pandemic, with the necessary precautions, we believe that our visitors can come into the museum and just step away from this very tumultuous, very stressful time and then just enjoy being in the presence of a beautiful work.”
For more information, go to academyartmuseum.org or call 410-822-2787.