Two years ago, the painter Patrick Connors was enjoying a summer picnic with his wife in Laurel Hill Cemetery when it struck him that he had only occasionally focused on the grounds of this National Historic Landmark, even though he’d often depicted it from the outside looking in. A project was born.
For 2019, Connors resolved to lug his gear — easel and oil paints, plus prepared papers layered with acrylic paint and matte medium — into the cemetery in all four seasons. Gross McCleaf Gallery is displaying the results in a one-person exhibition, “Patrick Connors: A Place Apart.”
Despite his picnic there, Connors’ approach to the cemetery differs from the one originally envisioned for it, in 1836, as both resting place for the deceased and leisure destination for the living.
In his small, intimate works, Laurel Hill is devoid of visitors and doesn’t have the grand sweep one sees from Kelly Drive or the Schuylkill Expressway. It appears in a series of fleeting, frequently elegiac moments.
Connors is especially sensitive to the atmosphere of a particular place. He catches both the chill in the air and a feeling of abiding love in Early Spring Afternoon, in which the branches of two old trees appear to embrace above a group of gravestones. His Summer, Northwestern Lea has the humid lushness of a hazy, hot Philadelphia day.
More than anything, though, Connors’ paintings evoke his meditative state of mind while working alone, at one with nature and the silent statues. It’s a way of being in the world that more of us might be wise to try.
Through Dec. 28 at Gross McCleaf Gallery, 127 S. 16th St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-665-8138 or grossmccleaf.com.
The last Foerderer to live at Glen Foerd, the family mansion on the Delaware River, Florence Foerderer Tonner continued the art-collecting tradition of her parents. She died in 1971, at 89, and most of the Foerderer art collection remains there.
Glen Foerd is open to the public, and contemporary artists have been commissioned in recent years to produce installations that interpret the family’s holdings. Cindy Stockton Moore, whose installation is now on exhibit, is the first to look closely at Tonner herself. It is situated largely in Tonner’s childhood bedroom.
Rummaging through the mansion’s holdings, Stockton Moore has brought Tonner to life in a “speculative portrait" titled an openness to all things lovely. It includes the subject’s Louis Vuitton luggage (the family made its fortune in leather), with handmade materials by Stockton Moore arranged inside. Also part of the portrait are poems by Tonner handwritten by Stockton Moore and paintings by Thomas Sully and Violet Oakley.
Stockton Moore’s large-scale ink paintings of trees have been transferred to the paneled recesses of the period bedroom. They make reference to a cucumber magnolia on the Glen Foerd grounds that is estimated to be more than 150 years old. I came away wishing that Stockton Moore’s installation could be as permanent.
Through March 29 at Glen Foerd on the Delaware, 5001 Grant Ave. Guided tours Fridays and Sundays at 11 a.m., $5, children under 12 free; self-guided free tours 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday Dec. 14, Saturday Dec. 21, and then every first and third Saturday of the month throughout the winter. 215-632-5330 or glenfoerd.org.
There’s still time to see two one-person shows at Swarthmore College’s List Gallery, both ending their run at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15.
Jan Baltzell’s gestural charcoal drawings from the past three years show her expanding on her nature-informed imagery with an eye to Willem de Kooning.
Sue Hettmansperger’s collages and abstract paintings based on those collages, rendered in dark colors and suggesting view of caves and uteruses, hark back to surrealism and works by American modernists. But they seem to draw most strongly on figurative paintings by Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico channeling the horrors of early 20th-century wars.