Shippensburg University has seen various art exhibitions come through its arts program. From unconventional ceramics to kitsch-based sculptures to bold performance pieces, SU is no stranger to provoking artworks.
However, Kauffman Gallery’s newest exhibit “Contemporary Classics,” is a different breed of art than what small-town Shippensburg has previously experienced. The exhibit, which is comprised of various works from different artists, comes from the eminent New York group Gallery Henoch. These artists’ works focus on different varieties of photorealism and trompe l’oeil techniques to create a refined and truly memorable exhibit.
Trompe l’oeil, French for “deceives the eye” is designed to make the viewer perceive a realistic three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. This, as you would imagine, is an incredibly sophisticated art style that requires an immense amount of skill to achieve. Take for example Elizabeth McGhee’s 2019 piece “On the Rag,” which showcases a portrait of an old Raggedy-Ann doll. If not for the frame surrounding the painting, I would find myself almost compelled to reach into the artwork and grab the doll. Every detail, from the frilliness of the hair to the glossiness of the plastic eyes is done with pinpoint accuracy.
Other artists in the gallery like Richard Combes focus on a different approach to trompe l’oeil. In Combes’ works, his focus is less on microscopic detail and more on reflection and perspective. Getting close enough to his oil paintings reveals every dab of the brush — every stroke of paint. But because his artwork is so attentive to the perspective and accuracy in that regard, it still gives the illusion of a three-dimensional space.
Other pieces in the exhibit, like Alexandra Pacula’s outstanding oil painting “Vibrant City” play with how the mind processes information and translates it onto canvas. The whole painting is painted under the illusion of motion blur in a night-time New York City scene. The neon glow of each stripe of light projecting from the windows of buildings to the subtle changes in stroke width to express direction are incredible and downright baffling.
I highly recommend those who have not seen this exhibit for themselves, and those who have should go again. The exhibit will be in the Kauffman Gallery, located in the Huber Arts Center, until Feb. 24. Those who are interested can check the gallery hours on the Shippensburg University website.