If you haven’t yet gotten to know the work of Spencer Finch, now’s the time. The Brooklyn artist works in a range of media to explore the expressive powers of color and light. He currently has a small, exquisite survey on exhibit at Arcadia University’s Spruance Gallery and a project on the RiverLink ferry that operates between Philadelphia and Camden.
“As Lightning on a Landscape,” organized by Arcadia exhibitions director Richard Torchia, offers a selection of Finch’s deceptively modest works, made between 1995 and 2018, among them a sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and books.
Finch’s imagination is as remarkable as his execution. To make his large graphite drawing of swooping lines, Vultures, Over Canyon del Rio Lobos, Spain 3/30/13 1593F, he videotaped vultures as they circled overhead.
Back in the studio, he attached acetate to a monitor and traced the path of each individual vulture in different colors of Sharpie markers. Finally, he transcribed those drawings in pencil on paper, rendering each bird’s path in a pencil of a different hardness.
Knowing none of this when I saw it, I was simply captivated by the freedom and energy of his lines.
Then there’s Back to Kansas, a print based on a wall painting. Each of its various colors represents a Technicolor hue from The Wizard of Oz.
Seen in natural light as dusk falls, the colors fade to gray according to their wavelengths. The gallery will be open until 8:45 p.m. on Thursdays through Aug. 1 so visitors can witness this wizardly phenomenon for themselves.
My favorite piece, The Outer-from the Inner (Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, dusk), is a series of seven photographs Finch shot from the poet’s bedroom window over the course of one hour at dusk.
Initially, the photos reveal what would have been her view outdoors from her writing desk. Then, as the natural light dims, we see eerie window reflections of bedroom interior, making the room and its furniture and door look increasingly distorted.
To see Finch’s When You Look on the River and Sky, commissioned for the Whitman bicentennial, take a ride to Camden and back on the RiverLink ferry, which leaves and returns to Philadelphia from a dock on the Delaware near the Independence Seaport Museum.
Whitman himself traveled back and forth on ferries from his home in Camden to Philadelphia. It’s fun to imagine what the great poet would think of the contemporary city skylines, and to interact with Finch’s spinnable color wheels that allow you to match the color of the sky and the water.
The ferry also flies two of Finch’s color flags on its mast each day, one to match the color of the sky and the other the color of the river.
“As Lightning on a Landscape” through Dec. 15, Spruance Gallery, Arcadia University, 450 S. Easton Rd., Glenside. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (hours vary, closed July 4-8). 215-572-2131 or arcadia.edu/arcadia-exhibitions.
When You Look on the River and Sky, all summer on the RiverLink Ferry, Penn’s Landing, ferry tickets: $9 adults; $7 seniors and children ages 3-12 (free for kids under 3). 856-964-5465 or delawareriverwaterfront.com/places/riverlink-ferry
Speaking of Whitman, be sure not to miss the terrific exhibition “Democratic Vistas: Whitman, Body and Soul,” at Rutgers-Camden’s Stedman Gallery — also part of the ongoing Whitman at 200 celebration.
Noreen Scott Garrity from the college’s Center for the Arts has gathered a group of artists who’ve been inspired by Whitman’s poetry but who share few stylistic similarities other than an ability to evoke a sense of the elegiac.
His words come across most emphatically in Paul Cava’s photographs of his collaged photographic images, in Paul Stankard’s glass orbs, and in Caroline Carlsmith’s deft visual reorganizations of some Whitman poems.
Mark Stockton and Lewis Colburn’s collaborative installation There Are a Dozen of Me Afloat, is the show’s most ambitious effort. The artists have cleverly combined Stockton’s drawings and Colburn’s carved-wood sculptures to recreate Whitman’s last years in his house in Camden.
Plaster casts of his body on his deathbed complete this solemn tableau. They were made from 3-D scans of original plaster death casts made by Thomas Eakins and Samuel Murray on the day of Whitman’s death, March 26, 1892.
The exhibition also features works by Allen Crawford, John Giannotti, and John Gutoskey.
Through Dec. 7 at Stedman Gallery, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Third and Pearl Streets, Camden, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (plus Saturday hours beginning in September). 856-225-6306 or rcca.camden.rutgers.edu
Center City’s newest gallery, Kapp Kapp, is inaugurating its space on South 13th Street with “Living and Real,” a group show of works by Eve Ackroyd, Ana Benaroya, LaKela Brown, Greta Johnson, Annelie McKenzie, Chelsey Pettyjohn, and Grace Weaver.
Weaver’s flouncy charcoal drawings (in a style reminiscent of Ludwig Bemelmans) and Pettyjohn’s ceramic figurines define the eccentric spirit of this show.