BETHLEHEM, PA - Taking a long, hard look at yourself is therapeutic for some, difficult for others, and inspiring for many. But here at “The Last Picture Show” in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, seeing how others express themselves helps all know each other better.
“I was asked by Richard Redd, the late Richard Redd, who was a professor of art of Lehigh University--he had originated the concept in 2011, he came up with the idea of seeing what it would be like to mix artists and non-artists” explains Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission’s Vince Gentilcore, “and see what they would come up with in a self-portrait.”
The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission’s self-portrait exhibition returned this summer to highlight 40 locals who are not traditionally recognized for their roles as artists. Alan Meyerson is a professional musician from Macungie who worked as a musical instrument repairman for 40 years. Today, his saxophone self-portrait is being displayed right next to his wife Jaqueline’s artwork at the Bethlehem town hall rotunda.
“I sort of took this broken old saxophone without it there was no keys or anything on this thing, and I took apart some other broken saxophones and took all the pieces off and just sort of thought this would look good here, this would look good there,” Meyerson explains, “The keys are flying off the instrument; this represents what I am trying to do with my fingers when I am playing the instrument. So that’s the piece and the representation of the piece.”
With participants coming from all types of professional fields; from music and education to business and nonprofit leadership, these citizen artists are proving art is for everyone.
“The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission does a great job presenting this exhibition. This is the fifth show that they’ve had that showcases portrait work from artists and non-artists and how they see themselves and what the differences are and how creative everyone can be,” says Jacqueline Meyerson, “and I think it’s a great opportunity to show the public that anyone can do art regardless of whether they are talented as an artist or not.”
And just as diverse as their backgrounds, are their medium. Featured artists have utilized painting, collaging, sculptures, mosaic, jewelry and photography to define their personal identities through art. The resemblance of Former Morning Call Columnist, Bill White’s self portrait is uncanny and unmistakably a creation of his life and career.
“This represents, the Eating My Way Through MusikFest, for better or worse, is probably the thing that I’m best known for as a columnist. But I did a lot of other stuff as well. So there are some eating related things, but also some things that represent other parts of my job as a columnist,” White explains, “One of the great things about this is the crazy variety in formats people use to represent themselves but to me it was just an honor to be asked to be apart of this group with these other folks and to say hey you’re part of the community, someone might like to see your portrait of yourself.”
And in the age of the social media selfie, these locals are using their own materials to define themselves and share those identities with their neighbors. For Bethlehem resident Barbara Kozero, the symbolism behind the broken mirror used in her self portrait proved to be a common thread that tied together several local artists featured here and those audience members staring back.
“Well you think of a mirror, you look in a mirror and you see who you are and the idea behind breaking it up was to shatter that illusion that it’s facets of many things coming together, there’s no one particular image that is me,” Kozero says, “and to tell you the truth, Dick Begbie, next to me also came up with the shattered image so--which is very serendipitous.”
To jump on your last chance to gaze at “The Last Picture Show,” head to the Bethlehem Town hall Rotunda Gallery this week. It’s open 830AM to 430PM through Friday, August 9th.