Making Magic: Beauty in Word and Image, on view at the Michener Art Museum through March 31, 2013, explores beauty through the through the eyes and ears of poets and photographers from the greater Philadelphia region. Here, you can recline in a comfy chair, don a set of headphones and listen to poems about beauty by 16 regional poets, including several former Poets Laureate of Bucks and Montgomery Counties, as well as faculty members at regional colleges and universities. While listening, you can look around at the works of 17 of the region’s most distinguished photographers, many of whom are nationally recognized, including Emmet Gowin, John Weiss, Paula Chamlee, Michael A. Smith, and Andrea Baldeck.
“I see beauty in the play of shadows on a building façade, in the way music makes me feel, even when the memory is ominous – and in words written with precise and eloquent language,” writes Lisa Tremper Hanover, the Michener Art Museum’s Director and CEO, in the exhibition catalog. “Splendor, magnificence, loveliness, gorgeousness, good looks… there are varying degrees and kinds of beauty… Sometimes beauty… is not pretty.”
Is a mosquito beautiful? Brian H. Peterson, the Michener Art Museum’s Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator, thinks so. “So fragile, so delicate as it descends, slowly, steadily, proboscis extended, light as a dandelion seed riding the wind.” Peterson admits he doesn’t expect everyone to agree with him. “In fact you may believe that mosquitoes are ugly… when it bites you’ll be scratching for a very long time.”
Curating this exhibition is a personal journey for Peterson, and he wants it to be a dialogue with visitors who come to the museum. His reflections on beauty can be found in brief commentaries, and visitors are invited to write down their own ideas which are then posted on the walls.
“The world has an endless supply of terror, and an infinite supply of beauty,” writes Peterson. “This exhibit is about the beauty side of the equation, but never forgets that beauty is not a vacation from reality. It is reality. True beauty absorbs the darkness like an oyster absorbs a grain of sand.”
The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, Pa. Museum hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm;
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday noon to 5 pm. Admission: Members and children under 6, free; adults $15; seniors $13; college student with valid ID $11; ages 6-18 $7.50; under 6 free. For more information, visit www.michenerartmuseum.org or call 215-340-9800.