Sordoni Gallery in Wilkes-Barre features new perspective on classical myths
WILKES-BARRE — Classical myths have captivated readers and listeners for thousands of years with riveting, often fantastic story lines and moral conflicts. The stories of Greek and Roman ancients, along with those told in the Bible and in folklore of cultures across the globe, have transcended through decades to be retold and interpreted in literature, film and art.
The pervasive quality of such tales is showcased in “Persistence: The Continuing Influence of Classical Myths,” an exhibition of 24 works by 16 artists on display until Oct. 12 at Wilkes-University’s Sordoni Gallery. The exhibit examines the proliferation of celebrated stories through the creative processes of contemporary artists.
Exhibition curator, Stanley Grand, has a vested interest in classical mythology. As an art historian, he studied Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods, in which art of the classical past was revisited.
“It’s hard to look at Italian Renaissance Art without knowing something about the saints, church dogma and the classical past,” Grand said.
Grand’s dissertation focused on new realist painter Paul Georges, who is included in the exhibition with his work “Three Graces.”
Along with the theme being near to his heart, Grand said he saw the exhibition as a way to introduce art students to classical myths and to use art as a medium for contemporary discussions.
“I thought this would be a great introduction and maybe it could pique the interest of a number of students and show that these myths are still relevant today,” Grand said. “Some of the works … have to do with male/female relationships, which is a big issue on campuses today. What is seduction and what is rape? That’s a major theme in classical myths.”
Gallery director Heather Sincavage said some works, like Ted Schmidt’s “Seduction of Callisto,” treat classical stories in a traditional way.
“He’s been working with ‘The Seduction of Callisto’ for a long time, and he really embraces the classical motif,” Sincavage said. “It looks like we stepped out of a Greek myth, and he keeps it in the vein of what we would expect.”
The director said other artists, such as Don Perlis, in his depiction of Electra, take more embellished approaches to depicting myths.
“He is really interested by how myth has been conveyed in opera,” Sincavage said. “He really sets it up like a stage set, and he’s trying to over dramatize the gestures and the lighting.”
Another of Perlis’ pieces, that portrays Polyphemus chasing after Odysseus and his men, is one of the showcase’s most popular, Sincavage said.
“We all know (the stories), so in that way, anybody, not just the art lover, can get wrapped up in them,” she noted.
Harvey Dinnerstein’s “Diana and Actaeon” brings contemporary elements of camouflage pants and a rifle, to the tale of Actaeon the hunter, who sees Diana naked and is promptly turned into a stag and eaten by his own dogs.
“This is nuts, because it’s pastel on canvas,” Sincavage said of the piece. “Pastel can be unwieldy, and he’s showing a huge mastery.”
In contrast to nationally known artists, former Wilkes faculty member, Herbert Simon contributed three bronze sculptures entitled, “Hercules and Antaeus,” “Psyche and Cupid” and “Atlas Shrunk” — a title that plays on Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
“I think Stanley was really holistic in how he curated all of this,” Sincavage said. “It also shows that (myth) is pervasive on all levels.”
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If you go:
What: ‘Persistence: The Continuing Influence of Classical Myths’
Where: Sordoni Art Gallery, 150 South River St., Wilkes-Barre
When: The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m., and the current exhibition is open until Oct. 12.