STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Rock crushes scissors, paper covers rock, and scissors cut paper, making some losers if they play that childhood game. But in the “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Drawn from the JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey Collection” exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), everybody’s a winner. That’s so because the exhibit gave student curators a taste of what the art world is like outside the confines of their classroom walls. It showed them what the art world they’ll enter after school can look like, giving them a glimpse of what their artistic futures may be.
The exhibit features selections made by students in PAFA’s Fall 2014 Advanced Drawing seminar led by Senior Curator Robert Cozzolino and artist/faculty member Astrid Bowlby. As the course progressed, the students established a relationship with Hickey, who collects mostly abstract contemporary drawings, traveled to see her collection displayed in New York, and used their studio experience, class discussions, and experience with original artwork and the broader art world to shape the exhibition, organizers say.
Cozzolino said the exhibit fits well with the goal of the class, which was to explain what drawing is and to explore how to push the boundaries of the definition.
Cozzolino and Bowlby chose works, too, and the teachers and students put the exhibit together as a group. During a brainstorming session, Cozzolino tossed out “Rock, Papers, Scissors” as a title. The group decided it made sense.
“Paper is the thing that binds everything together in JoAnn’s collection. Rock or minerals smudge on paper. Scissors are used to cut paper,” he said. “We started thinking of how it related to the process. It was perfect.”
Andrew Perez, who creates works through drawing, collage, and mixed media, enjoyed the process and seeing the final product — the exhibition.
“It was interesting to see this grouping together, having people with such different tastes and different intentions behind their selections,” he said.
The experience opened his eyes about what life might be like after graduation (he graduated on May 15 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree).
“We went to a collector’s house to see how things are distributed outside a studio or gallery space,” he said. “It gave us an idea of how to think about categorizing things. It let us see how people go through the collecting and displaying process. It was intense and a valuable real-world experience.”
In addition to the real-world experience, artist Dee Glazer found a new appreciation for drawing. She didn’t consider drawing to be her primary medium. She always thought of herself as a painter, but through this experience and the class, she realized she’s a draftsman with a painter’s sensibility, she said.
“There is a sort of immediacy and tenderness in drawing,” she said, “like the capturing of a very private and very real moment.”
Being a curator has inspired her in ways she didn’t realize it would.
“Working with JoAnn was an unforgettable experience. She is extremely down to earth, patient, and caring with the help she provides to artists or thinkers like me. I admire her desire to open the collection up as something to be studied, not just by artists, but by people of all fields,” she said. “It has inspired me to collect more from the artists that I work with.”
Perez thinks all art students should have the same type of opportunity he and the other student curators had putting this exhibition together.
“It was so practical,” he said. “It’s one thing to learn technical skill, but this helped to show what happens after in the real world.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Drawn from the JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey Collection”
When: Through Nov. 1.
Where: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Richard C. von Hess Foundation Works on Paper Gallery, Historic Landmark Building, 118-128 N. Broad St., Philadelphia.
Info.: Call (215) 972-7600 or visit www.pafa.org