Lenses of many cameras Biennial exhibit features works by more than 50 photographers

Apr. 24—This exhibit is showcasing the world through the lens of a camera. The “Donald M. Robinson Photography Biennial 2021” exhibition is on display through June 25 in the Sullivan Gallery at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto, St. Francis University campus, 112 Franciscan Way. “This has been a […]

Apr. 24—This exhibit is showcasing the world through the lens of a camera.

The “Donald M. Robinson Photography Biennial 2021” exhibition is on display through June 25 in the Sullivan Gallery at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto, St. Francis University campus, 112 Franciscan Way.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Jessica Camp- bell, SAMA’s education coordinator.

“There were talks in creating a juried photography exhibition, which is something we’ve never done. This was supposed to be last spring, then COVID happened, but we were fortunate enough to work with all the artists and they were willing to let us hold their artwork.”

The juried showcase features 92 pieces from 52 artists, including a variety of subjects from traditional to collage to abstract.

‘Great collection’

“It’s a really great collection of photography, spanning all subject matter with a lot of landscapes and nature and some florals,” Campbell said.

“The way the prints were executed is everything from a traditional print to printed on aluminum, making them nice and vibrant.”

The display includes artists from across the state as well as nationally and internationally.

“When we placed a call for entries, we utilized some websites to get our notice out there about the exhibition, so we have a nice array of artists from mostly the commonwealth, but we have an artist from Florida and one from France,” Campbell said.

“We were really pleased with the turnout, especially because this was our first time with this exhibit.”

In conjunction with the biennial exhibition, “Through the Lens: Landscapes by Donald M. Robinson” will be on display in the Margery Wolf-Kuhn Gallery.

‘Important medium’

“It’s nice to dedicate our entire museum to photography because that’s something we haven’t done before,” Campbell said.

“Photography is an important medium these days because everyone has a camera on them — whether it’s a Nikon, Canon, Sony or whatever phone you have in your back pocket.”

Serving as juror for the biennial show is Linda Benedict-Jones, a photographer, writer and independent curator based in Pittsburgh.

In 2015, she retired from being the first curator of photography at Carnegie Museum of Art.

Benedict-Jones also served as executive director of the Silver Eye Center for Photography and curator of education at The Frick, both in Pittsburgh.

From 1999 to 2017, she taught courses in the history of photography at Carnegie Mellon University.

Benedict-Jones studied at Minor White’s Creative Photography Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a master’s degree in visual studies in 1982.

“One of our board members recommended reaching out to her, and she has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” Campbell said.

“She hasn’t judged yet, but she has made a trip to the museum to get a feel for our space. That helped her to put a limit in her head on how many photographs she could accept for this.”

Campbell said for patrons who view the exhibit, the hope is that they will walk away with a greater appreciation for photography.

‘Vast display’

“Photography has been a controversial medium, so it’s great to have this in a fine-arts museum, and I hope people will come in and see this vast display,” she said.

In addition, Benedict-Jones will present a virtual discussion “Survey of Landscape Photography” at noon May 24 via Zoom.

The program will delve into the historical aspect of landscape photography and will include some of Donald M. Robinson’s photographs.

“We’re just trying to engage our audience in the safest way possible by offering virtual programming,” Campbell said.

“We thought it would be great to have the juror interact with our constituents. We also can reach a much wider audience virtually.”

There is no fee to attend, but registration to receive the Zoom link is required at www.sama-art.org.

Artist Café series

Along with the virtual discussion, SAMA has reinstated its Artist Café series, inviting exhibiting artists to discuss their works in a coffee house-like setting in person from 4 to 5 p.m. on select Wednesdays.

For the exhibit, Artist Cafés will be held April 28 with Kelly M. Coursey-Gray; May 19 with Lisa Seligman; and June 16 with Dave Hammaker.

“We started this with our last juried exhibition and it was well-attended, so I thought it would be nice to resurrect this program because the conversations that come out of them are really great,” Campbell said.

“It’s an inexpensive way for our patrons to come and meet and interact with artists. They give a small presentation and we have some time for a question-and-answer session.”

Cost is $5 per person.

Seating is limited to 25 people and reservations are encouraged.

An awards ceremony and closing reception for “Donald M. Robinson Photography Biennial 2021” will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. June 5.

Cash awards will include a top prize of $2,000 for Best of Show, along with a $1,500 first-place award, a $1,000 second-place award and a $500 third-place award.

Cost to attend is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers.

Reservations are required by calling 814-472-3920 or online at www.sama-art.org.

The exhibition and events are sponsored by the Donald and Sylvia Robinson Family Foundation.

The museum is open to the public free of charge.

Gallery hours are noon to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

CDC health and COVID-19 social distancing guidelines are in place.

For more information, call 814-472-3920 or visit www.sama-art.org.

Robert G. Mull

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