Bethlehem Press

Monday, September 16, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERFrom left, Femi J. Johnson, Emily Strong and Zach Kleemeyer in Muhlenberg College Baker Center for the Arts’ Galleria, between two of Strong’s “Corporeal Landscapes.” Copyright - © Ed Courrier PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERFrom left, Femi J. Johnson, Emily Strong and Zach Kleemeyer in Muhlenberg College Baker Center for the Arts’ Galleria, between two of Strong’s “Corporeal Landscapes.” Copyright - © Ed Courrier

Artists three at Muhlenberg College

Saturday, July 13, 2019 by Ed Courrier Special to The Press in Focus

“Femi and the Collection,” “Corporeal Landscapes” and “In search of” are concurrent exhibitions by three Lehigh Valley artists through Aug. 1, Baker Center for the Arts. Muhlenberg College, Allentown.

“Femi and the Collection,” 20 mixed media pieces by Femi J. Johnson selected from his ongoing “Abstract Story-Scapes” series, is in Martin Art Gallery.

Complementing Johnson’s work is art from Muhlenberg College’s permanent collection. Says Martin Art Gallery Director Paul Nicholson, “These were chosen to draw formal, aesthetic and conceptual connections to the themes and experiences in Femi’s Story-Scapes.”

With “Ancient Presence” (2019, acrylic on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in.), Johnson expresses emotions with layers of boldly-applied complementary colors. A photograph of a building wall, shot by Johnson in Philadelphia, fits like a puzzle piece into the abstract painting.

“Most of my work is about memory. A lot of it is about life, feeling, experiences and things that I see and have done aesthetically and professionally,” says Johnson.

Johnson was raised in Easton. After a career as a master draftsman and designer, he studied art at Hudson Valley College, New York. He is based at Expressions Studio and Gallery, Allentown.

Emily Strong’s “Corporeal Landscapes” are in the Galleria. Her careful oil studies of hands, arms, elbows and legs are tightly-arranged to create genderless, tangled human terrain.

“My work has been a celebration of all forms,” says Strong about her ongoing series which began during her senior year of college.

In “Enduring” (2019, oil on canvas, 30 in. x 20 in.), light filtered through window blinds is skillfully projected onto a figure.

“It really highlights the typography of the form,” Strong says, adding, “I have become less timid with my paint applications and my color choices.”

Strong photographs one, occasionally two, models in contorted poses. Then she works from the photos.

Strong, born in Allentown, received Fine Art and Psychology degrees from Moravian College. The freelance artist and artist’s model has a studio in Fountain Hill.

“In search of,” a trio of multimedia assemblages by Zach Kleemeyer, is also in the Galleria.

The largest is “Peace” (2019, acrylic paint, pastel, pyrography, magazine, cloth, found materials and discarded wood, 42 in. x 42 in. x 9.5 in.). A flipped-over round table top provides the foundation for the work with layers of found materials built outward. These include a discarded furniture base vertically bisecting it and two pieces from a headboard on each side to complete the iconic circular “peace” sign. Small drawings are sketched on or burned into the piece throughout. Pages from a booklet of quilting patterns designed by his grandmother are woven into the work.

“My grandparents were big influences,” says Kleemeyer.

Flanking “Peace” are rectangular “Happiness” and triangular “Love.”

Kleemeyer works with primary colors for each of the three primary shapes. Blue for “Happiness,” yellow for “Peace,” and red for “Love.”

“I’m learning, always,” says Kleemeyer of his experimenting with assemblages.

Kleemeyer received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Studio Art from Bloomsburg University. He is a regional arts advocate at Lehigh Valley Arts Council.

“It’s a neat opportunity to recognize and highlight some of this work that’s happening in our community,” says Nicholson, who curated the exhibition.

Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 W. Chew St., Allentown. Gallery hours: noon - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Galleria Lobby hours: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily. muhlenberg.edu/gallery/; 484-664-3467