Creative Spaces: We dropped in on 2 Chester County artists to learn more about their work

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Rachel Romano
The Jed Williams Gallery, 615 Bainbridge St., Philadelphia, presents “Totems and Allegories: The Art of Lynette Shelley & Rachel Romano” April 8-30. An opening reception will be held 5 to 7 p.m. April 8. Gallery hours are by appointment. Check out www.jedwilliamsgallery.com or call (267) 970-5509.
Romano’s homey studio is in the Coleman’s Artists Studio — a Phoenixville building that had previous lives as a factory and as a dance hall/bowling alley. Today 13 full-time artists have studio space here. It will be a stop on the 2017 Chester County Studio Tour May 20-21.
A contemporary painter, Romano’s works depict man’s history, memory, myths and dreams, with themes of allegory, serenity, sorrow and defiance. “I believe we carry the story of our ancestors in our DNA … you just carry it through the millennia,” she said. “People have to almost learn the language of my paintings. ‘Why is that guy all wrapped up? And why is there a heart on that scale’.”

Rachel Romano paints in her Phoenixville studio Tuesday, March 21, 2017. While Romano paints, she often writes thoughts, lists and notes on the paper beneath her canvas, which is pinned to a wall in the studio. Andy Stettler/Digital First Media

Everywhere you look, there are books, funky pieces of furniture, such as the Chair of Contemplation, and even funkier knickknacks. “I spend a lot of hours on this couch,” Romano says. “I end up sleeping on it sometimes.” Take a peek at www.rachelromanofineart.com.
Canvases with subtle, multiple layers of paint — which may or may not be entirely finished — hang on walls lined with taped-together, large sheets of Dick Blick sketch pad paper. Besides protecting the walls from stray paint splatters, this paper also offers an unfiltered look at whatever has popped into the artist’s head: A note to change an IRA beneficiary, a series idea to paint the seven deadly sins in animal form, quotes from famous people and other inspired words. “It’s my life on there — forget a journal. I have people that want to buy these walls,” she said.
Stan Smokler
A bumper sticker on his Ford F-150 reads: “Think sculpture.”

A stroll around Stan Smokler’s Kennett Township property — which includes a silo that is now a sculptural shrine, and the exposed remains of a mid-20th century barn — reveals both completed, playful sculpture and a pile of discarded farm tools, rebar, gears and other metal machine parts waiting to be welded together into something new. In the background flows the waters of the west branch of the Red Clay Creek. It’s a short drive from functional trail benches the sculptor crafted for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Sculptor Stan Smokler stands with his work in his studio Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Smokler is inspired by scrap metal and other materials that used in his work. Andy Stettler/Digital First Media

“It’s amazing what you get with steel. You can bend steel, heat steel, change it to forms,” he said.
An exhibition of metal work, “Reconstructed Materials,” is on view through April 15 at Oxford Arts Alliance, 38 S. Third St., Oxford. “I basically picked a name for all the media (in the show),” said Smokler, the show’s curator and one of the 12 featured sculptors. Seven of them have participated in Smokler’s annual artistic metalworking Marshall Bridge Workshop. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.
In recent years Smokler’s works have been exhibited at the Delaware Art Museum, Kim Foster Gallery in New York City, Philadelphia City Hall, West Chester University, the Delaware Museum of Natural History and Longwood Gardens.
Recently retired from the faculty at Delaware College of Art and Design, Smokler says he misses the students, and may consider a return to teaching.
Check www.stansmokler.com.

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