A good collection of metalwork tells posterity something fresh. That's the way it is with the excellent "Everyman's Metal: 17th-, 18th- and 19th-Century Pewter in America," an exhibit in Chadds Ford celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Pewter Collectors' Club of America.
The especially good news is that club members lent all the many large and small objects on view at the Brandywine River Museum. They include everything from a baby's nursing bottle, a soap box, buttons and buckles to fasten clothing, dishes, drinking vessels, cutlery, oil lamps and candlesticks to cuspidors, inkwells and tools for working with pewter. Also displayed are such ceremonial objects for sacred use as baptismal basins, patens and chalices.
Over the span covered by the show, there were many changes in this craft, with objects varying from very simple to quite elaborate. Pewter was constantly in demand, as it was practical, useful and durable.
A porringer (shallow bowl with handle) by Rhode Island's William Billings is eye-catching with its "flowered" openwork handle, and the mid-18th-century covered sugar bowl attributed to Thomas Danforth II is one of only five known to exist.
Around the same period, English pewterer Samuel Ellis' tulip-shaped pint mug was a newly fashionable style of imported item then popular in Philadelphia. But while this city's own William Will made a noteworthy, slenderized Federal-style coffeepot, he didn't hesitate to produce mugs in that newer, trendier English mode that Philadelphians liked so well.
A handsome inclusion here is the tall, 18th-century flagon of blended German/American character by Lancaster pewterer Johann C. Heyne.
Lee Wierenga curated this outstanding show.
An openness and an airy vitality characterize much of the work by regional artists in Cheltenham's "66th Annual Awards Painting Exhibit."
This is the art center that stirred controversy 50 years ago when it pioneered locally the now widely accepted idea of competitive group shows judged by a single judge, not several judges combining their efforts.
Doing the honors this year is painter Bill Scott, who chose work by 48 artists. "I tried to select works that were not loudest but which to my eye offer the most resilient visual experience," Scott said. "Some paintings worked for me because of their pleasant awkwardness, while I was drawn to the rough polish of others."
The general impression of this display is its acknowledgment of several established artists and a friendly outreach to new talent of many kinds. It is a valuable display.
Yasuji Paul Hamanaka, a Tokyo-born Philadelphia artist, rejects gestural, precious-object assumptions about art in his show "Look Closer - Set Me Free" at Cerulean.
Here he applies the yin and yang concept - the two opposing forces that together make up the unified world. These polarities, he believes, enhance our artistic vision dramatically. And by combining the two disciplines of painting and sculpture, "Mr. Feel-it" makes the emotional potential of his work a major issue.
Confronting viewers in the gallery are sizable, box-shaped pieces attached to the wall. Made of coarse materials, these perfectly neutral, arid shapes each have a couple of deliberate surface cracks in front.
Lit from within, these reveal to viewers who look closely enough a painting of a smiling (or weeping) woman. Glimpsed this way, these hidden images have an oddly powerful intimacy that enfolds their natural poignancy.
Hamanaka's installation of an earthwork beneath a towering Asian empress tree in Cerulean's sculpture garden further amplifies this feeling.