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A Titanic show in an apt venue

Two Wideners died in the tragedy.

Many hundreds of images, artifacts, and objects are on display in "R.M.S. Titanic" at Widener University.
Many hundreds of images, artifacts, and objects are on display in "R.M.S. Titanic" at Widener University.Read more

Keen intelligence in exploring the 20th century's greatest maritime disaster is the hallmark of "R.M.S. Titanic" at Widener University, which features many, many hundreds of fascinating objects, images, artifacts, reproductions, and facsimiles commemorating the hundreth anniversary of the tragedy.

The exhibition's location is appropriate, as Widener bears the name of a prominent Philadelphia family hard hit by losses in that maritime disaster. Furthermore, everything on view was collected during nearly three decades of intensive searching by one man - the present owner of the entire collection, J. Joseph Edgette, a popular Widener professor and folklorist emeritus.

On entering the show Edgette has curated, each visitor is handed a White Star Line boarding pass for the Titanic bearing the name of an actual person who boarded the ship at Southampton for its 1912 maiden voyage. Upon leaving the display, the visitor learns the fate of his or her passenger.

Meriting special mention is the full treatment given the Widener family and its local Elkins family connections. On the night the Titanic struck the iceberg that sank it, George Widener and his wife, Eleanor Elkins Widener, hosted a dinner party in honor of the ship's captain; hours later, George and their son, Henry, perished. Eleanor survived. By studying passenger lists we catch glimpses of members of other Philadelphia-area families who were aboard - Thayers, Potters, Carters.

Also on display are unique interior photos of the ship before it departed Southampton, and pristine table settings for first-, second- and third-class passengers. In subtle ways, the depth of Edgette's research focuses attention on passengers of all three classes. In the aftermath of the sinking, toys and games relating to the Titanic soon appeared, and the eventual impact of the losses was brought to stage and screen - all documented here.

Among the show's surprises: the meticulous attention given to the search for bodies in icy water, and the tally of dogs traveling first class, which included two Pomeranians and a Pekingese, all saved.

Checking my boarding pass near the show's exit, I learned that my passenger, Augusta Tyler Goodwin - traveling third class from Wiltshire, England - died with her two daughters, four sons, and husband Fred. They were emigrating to Upstate New York, where a new job awaited him.

Find time to take an unhurried look at "R.M.S. Titanic," a phenomenal exhibition.


Damon Kowarsky, an Australian artist having his first U.S. solo show at Twelve Gates Gallery, appears to have learned from Americans while remaining firmly within the European tradition. Those of his drawings seen here are academic in the fullest sense, the references they make accompanied by a high degree of technical control.

In his city views of scattered locations - in Australia, the United States, the Middle East, South Asia - his use of a hard overall drawn line to structure his work is responsive to American art.

In urban views done with etching and aquatint from copper plates, he's often influenced by the dominant tonality of a city - the red sandstone of Pakistan and India, the bluestone of his native Melbourne, or Sydney's limestone. In some of these, he achieves tonal darkness by leaving the plate in the acid solution for a longer time.

Some of his best results are seen in his striking 3-D image Melbourne and a couple of New York City scenes, in which he at times favors a complex layering of multiple techniques.

Visions and dreams

Philadelphia painter/designer Andrea Beizer shows colorfully patterned paintings with a whiff of folk art about them. She produces visual richness in her solo at PII Gallery, along with a superabundance of detail in work that sometimes has yet to be skillfully subdued to the totality of design. Beizer's own visions and dreams are key elements here, as are various spiritual traditions alternating with storytelling domestic scenes.