Portrait photos of artists in their studios are rare. In recent years, though, Bucks County photographers have produced series of such portraits and exhibited them locally.
I think it's a spontaneous response that some photographers are generously making to a cultural-community-building effort under way for several years in Bucks. Some of that leavening effect is felt in the fall-season opener at Bucks Gallery of Fine Art, a for-profit showcase being agreeably community-minded.
On view is photographer Rick Gould's show "Inside the Artist's Studio," featuring dozens of color photos that he presents as "a record" of 17 artists active in Bucks - mostly painters, a couple of illustrators, and a furniture-maker, shown in head shots and at work. Gould sees this as the start of a continuing project. Accompanying it are samplings of the artists' own work.
The artists in Gould's gallery are portrayed in a journalistic style of photography, and impressionistically. This enterprising commercial photographer from Buckingham begins to take chances here, as he explores his potentially rich subject, searching for ways to treat it in increasing depth.
Bucks Gallery of Fine Art, 201 S State St, Newtown. To Sept. 14. Mon, Wed, Thu 11-6, Fri-Sat 11-9, Sun noon-5. Free. 215-579-0050.
Widener University. Andrew Turner's major retrospective at Widener features 63 paintings that speak directly to the emotions.
Turner's special subject was African American lives lived in Chester, where he was born in 1941 and raised, and Philadelphia, where he died in 2001. In this, Turner's most important show to date, his work lends itself to thematic rather than chronological grouping - jazz, jobs, recreation, children, church people, portraiture and abstraction.
The paintings have a strong sense of dynamics, of the interplay of elements. Turner very often produced paintings that breathe the spirit of simple, everyday action, whether of one person or the interactions of many.
In certain paintings, the brushwork maintains a life of its own, never for a moment losing itself in the object or figure represented - one of his works painted on an old car door he found.
And it's the raw, crude handling of the paint that creates the life-affirming directness and down-to-earthness of figures painted in that way - the technique used to spectacular effect when hundreds of tiny marks are meshed together.
With few precise details or well-defined volumes, Turner fashions a riveting vision. Dramatic and filled with excitement, his art projects his conviction about the enormous value of human life lived with courage, simplicity and hope.
Widener University Art Gallery, 1 University Place, Chester. Sept. 4-Oct. 20. Tue 10-7, Wed-Sat 10-4:30. Free. 610-499-1189.
Villanova University. The 95-item "Other Side of Art" exhibit at Villanova, featuring varied handcrafts, is like a flash flood after a long, dry summer - so large is it.
The show is eye-catching, witty and gaudy, but not all at the same time. Mary Ellen Bilisnansky-McMorrow of Chadds Ford shows several kinds of works chock full of their dizzying catalog of period styles. Her life-size, realistic cow painting with a gold-leaf background stands out.
Quite witty are functional tables by woodworker Don LaJeunesse of Merchantville, N.J., their surfaces broken up as though almost negating balance.
By contrast, the two artists working with fiber - Rita Bernstein of Sarasota, Fla., and Christina E. Johnson of Philadelphia - seem to coolly fulfill the formula of wistfulness. Bernstein does it through cloth hangings with inspirational texts; Johnson, with quilts, their sharp, crisp edges and cutout shapes, and varied techniques showing the beneficial influence of her research in Ghana.
Villanova University Art Gallery, Connelly Center. To Oct. 4. Mon-Fri 9-5. Free. 610-519-4612.