Category Archives: Visual Art

Ready for Homecoming? Its arts-and-culture focus turns 5 this year.


It’s been five years since the University introduced an arts-and-culture focus to Homecoming weekend — a focus we here at the Arts Blog happen to love. Each year we bring you a roundup of the events we’re most excited to attend. Here is this year’s list. (Note that advance online registration for certain events, available here, closes at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4. You can find the full schedule of events for Homecoming weekend here.)

FRIDAY, NOV. 8, 2013

  • Tour of Penn’s 19th-Century Architectural Masterpieces (2 – 3: 30 p.m., leaves from the steps of College Hall): David Brownlee, the Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor of Art, will guide alumni through the 19th-century architectural gems on campus. (Advance registration is required. A tour focused on Penn’s 20th-century architectural masterpieces departs from the top level of Garage #40 on Saturday at 2 p.m.)
  • Opening Reception: Penn Alumni Artist Exhibit (4 – 7 p.m., 2nd floor of the Inn at Penn): The Burrison Gallery presents its first show devoted to alumni artists. Works on display will include photographs, paintings, mixed-media and etchings, all of which will be up for sale. The exhibition will remain on view through Dec. 20, 2013.
  • Film Sound: The evolution of the subversive art of sound in movies (3:30 – 5 p.m., Claudia Cohen Hall): Alumni filmmakers David Novack EAS’86 and Nancy Levy Novack C’87 return as co-curators for the Alumni Film Festival this year. In this session, they’ll discuss film sound’s history and evolution. (Advance registration is encouraged, and a reception follows from 5 – 5:30 p.m. On Saturday at 5:45 p.m., the Film Festival will screen Head Games, which exposes the concussion as a leading public health issue and features several Penn scientists and clinicians.)

SATURDAY, NOV. 9, 2013

  • Classes without Quizzes: The City and the Museum (10 – 11:30 a.m., Meyerson Hall): David Brownlee will join Gail Harrity, president and COO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and architect Tod Williams to discuss museums’ design history and their continuing impact. (Registration at
  • Life in the World of Theatre Today (10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts): This broad discussion of the theatrical professional boasts a number of distinguished panelists: Jed Bernstein C’77, Broadway producer and president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Lori Fineman C’92 W’92, executive director of Transport Group Theatre Company; Stephanie Kramer (Penn Parent ’16), board member of the Roundabout Theatre Company; and Brett Sirota C’89, CEO of The Road Company. Vickie Reiss, executive director of The Shubert Foundation, will moderate.
  • Curator Conversation: Jason Rhoades, Four Roads (11 a.m. – 12 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art): ICA Senior Curator Ingrid Schaffner leads a Q&A discussion of the museum’s current exhibition, Jason Rhoades, Four Roads. Roads kicks off the ICA’s 50th anniversary year and marks the first U.S. survey of the artist’s work. (Docent-led tours of the exhibit will follow from 1 – 5 p.m.)
  • Classes without Quizzes: How to Teach Poetry to 42,000 Students at Once: ModPo, MOOCs, and Online Learning (4 – 6 p.m., Kelly Writers House): Al Filreis, Kelly Professor and faculty director of the Writers House, is in the midst of teaching ModPo — a massive open online course on modern and contemporary American poetry — for the second time right now. His students number in the tens of thousands and live all over the world. In this session, he’ll discuss teaching poetry via MOOC.
  • Gallery Hop (4 – 6 p.m., starts at the Arthur Ross Gallery): This year’s hop stops at the Arthur Ross Gallery (Auguste Rodin: The Human Experience), the architectural archives (Louis Kahn: Three Houses) and the special collections center at the library (Recent Acquisitions). A director or curator will be available at each stop to discuss the works on view.

SUNDAY, NOV. 10, 2013

  • Mural Arts Tour (10 a.m. – 12 p.m., departs from Inn at Penn): The group will explore Center City and West Philadelphia via antique trolley, taking in the murals each has to offer. (Pre-registration is required and there is a $35 fee for this event.)

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Filed under Alumni, Museums, Music, Theatre, Visual Art

This alumnus moonlights as ‘Ali G with an M.F.A.’

We were chatting with one of Penn’s art history professors the other day and she happened to mention a series of videos by alumnus Jayson Scott Musson GFA’11. “They are hilarious,” she promised.

It turns out Musson started posting the recordings back in 2010 — during his first semester at Penn Design — but they span the last few years and were all new to us. As his invented character Hennessy Youngman, Musson offers up “Art Thoughtz,” discussing everything from the debate over attending grad school to becoming a successful artist to “Poetic Waxin’.”

One biography of the artist described these Youngman videos as “pit[ting] hip-hop and art world idioms against each other in a dual parody of cultural clichés.” A New York Times article called them “insightful jabs made by a hip-hop personality whose faux-outsider perspective is intended to challenge the art world’s pretensions and inaccessibility.” Art in America said Musson was “Ali G with an M.F.A.”

Here’s Hennessy Youngman’s YouTube channel, and here’s his most-viewed video, “How to Make an Art”:

In addition to recording videos and delivering in-person lectures as Youngman, Musson makes art under his own name, too. He had solo shows last year at the Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philly and Salon 94 in New York City, and he also exhibited in group shows at the Contemporary Arts Museum — Houston, FLAG Art Foundation and Postmasters in New York and Penn’s own Institute of Contemporary Art.

At ICA, Musson’s work “Early Imperial Luxury Arts” appeared in the exhibition First Among Equals. Here’s what it looked like:

Photo: Alex Klein

Photo: Alex Klein / ICA

Musson also became the voice heard ’round the world earlier this year thanks to “Harlem Shake” — a song-turned-Internet-meme. (This Top 10 compilation alone has nearly 60 million views.) The song’s creator, a DJ who goes by Baauer, sampled the key line “then do the Harlem shake” from the song “Miller Time,” which Musson’s rap collective Plastic Little released in 2001. The only problem was that Baauer didn’t have anyone’s permission. If you’re curious, the Times published this detailed account of what happened.

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‘High art’ from Penn fine arts professor and astrophysicists


Photo by B.Doherty/PennDesign

An unlikely trio of Penn faculty and researchers recently joined forces to create the highest-altitude art installation on record. The work covers a polarization-sensitive receiver upgrade (ACTPol) for the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, which sits 17,030 feet above sea level in northern Chile.

ACTPol itself is a collaboration between researchers from Penn and more than 25 other institutions on five continents. One of those researchers — Benjamin L. Schmitt, a Penn Ph.D. student in physics and astronomy and a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow — said the group wanted their telescope to have “significant cultural impact,” so he turned to PennDesign’s Fine Arts department for help.

There he found Jackie Tileston, an associate professor of painting who, according to the artist’s statement on her website, aims to create “a stronger, weirder, and more complex pictorial version of the world” in her abstract works.

Tileston and her sculptor husband Kirk McCarthy worked with Schmitt and Mark Devlin, the University’s Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, to come up with ideas for an abstract, mixed-media mural. Courtesy of PennDesign, here are the results of their collaboration, including the 48 x 120” painting Radical Measure (Not Entirely Random) that Tileston created to cover the camera’s body. Check it out for yourself next time you’re atop the Cerro Toco stratovolcano in Chile’s Atacama Desert.


Photo by B.Doherty/PennDesign


Detail shot of Jackie Tileston’s 48 x 120″ painting “Radical Measure (Not Entirely Random). Photo by Evan Robinson Photography.


Jackie Tileston and Mark Devlin. Photo by B.Doherty/Penn Design.

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From finance to fine arts

Ray of Sunshine

Jill Krutick, “Ray of Sunshine.” Oil on canvas, 40″ x 30″

After more than 20 years in the corporate world as an investment analyst and media executive, Jill Krutick W’84 was ready for a change. Why not, she thought, give “full-time artist” a try?

Jill KrutickKrutick had been painting since childhood, initially copying the old masters —Van Gogh, Monet—but over time evolving her own style. She kept painting through business school and the jobs that followed, returning to her art during maternity leave or “whenever my job allowed a little extra time.”

Over the years, her work transformed from “geometric” to a “much more free-form” style, she says. “I’d describe my work as abstract expressionism, but each piece is different from the last. Depending on how the light, color and texture interplay, my paintings can range from fairly representational to truly abstract.”

Krutick now spends most days painting inside her bright Scarsdale home studio—or, when time permits, traveling the world to “collect colors.”

Stairway to Heaven

Jill Krutick, “Stairway to Heaven.” Oil on canvas, 36″ x 24″

“If we’re out on a family vacation to Antarctica, for example, I’ll be looking at the way the icebergs reflect the sun and each other and the water and the mountains,” she says. “All of that will be seared into my mind, and when I come home, I try to capture a lot of that feeling on canvas.”

She’s had several solo and group shows over the last few years, and was named a “trending artist” last year by the art gallery website Artsicle. “Of course, the ultimate dream is to have my paintings hanging in the Museum of Modern Art,” she says. “That is a lofty goal, but one I’d definitely love to achieve over time. I really want to develop this craft and this art, continue to grow as an artist and continue to broaden the public who enjoy following my work.”

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday (May 10-12, 2013), Krutick will open up her home studio to present a solo exhibit of nearly 100 works. “I see it as an opportunity to share my passion with the community and generate more interest and excitement,” she says. You can find more on that open house here.

Field of Dreams

Jill Krutick, “Field of Dreams.” Oil on canvas, 36″ x 36″

Oil Painting on canvas by Jill Krutick, 30 x 24 inches, 2012

Jill Krutick, “Lady Liberty.” Oil on canvas, 30″ x 24″

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Filed under Alumni, Visual Art

Spotted on campus

As Penn has been preparing for the Time to Shine festivities tonight, we’ve been watching a chalk artist’s work take shape at the 34th and Walnut entrance to Locust Walk.

Here’s what we spotted on Tuesday morning:

By Wednesday, it had evolved into this:


And then yesterday evening, we finally got to see the completed piece:




The artist’s name is Hani Shihada, and this isn’t his first time making art on a sidewalk. Shihada’s website features numerous examples of his past work, and here he is drawing Spongebob on a New York City sidewalk:

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Beauty in the brain

Greg Dunn, "Cerebellar Lobe" (2012); 22K gold, dye, and enamel on aluminized panel

Greg Dunn, Cerebellar Lobe (2012)
22K gold, dye, and enamel on aluminized panel
Depicts the cerebellum, a region of the brain required for movement and motor memory.

Though he came to Penn as a Ph.D student in neuroscience, Greg Dunn Gr’11 always had a strong artistic bent. First his fascination was with music, then graphic design, then paintings from the Edo period in Japan. “I always needed a creative outlet,” he says, and he found his latest muse right there in the University labs.

As a neuroscience student, “you’re just looking at these gorgeous images of neurons all day,” Dunn notes. As he examined gold-leaf-stained neuron slices, “I just instantly thought of classic Chinese and Japanese art. It was such beautiful source material.”

He began painting based on what he saw under the microscope, and by graduation, he’d produced numerous works that now hang in universities, medical centers and private homes. “I don’t consider what I do to necessarily be ‘science art,’” he says. “I’m painting something that scientists happen to be studying, but painting a landscape of the brain is no different than painting a forest.”

While the people buying his work are “mostly academics” — neuroscientists, neurologists, doctors — Dunn says people with neurodegenerative diseases have also shown interest. “I think it helps them to see something good about something they’ve been so frustrated with,” he adds.

Cortex in Metallic Pastels (2009)
21K gold, palladium, enamel, mica, and dye on aluminized panel
Layered structure of the cerebral cortex, where processing of sensory and motor information occur.

When he’s not working on his art, Dunn meditates inside the sensory deprivation tank he bought himself as a graduation present. He says the darkness and quiet inside the tank can “really aid in reaching deeper states of meditation…things become very calm and you’re starkly alone with your thoughts. A lot of times ideas for my art will come to me while I’m in the tank. Without question, I always paint better after I’ve meditated.”

Is there any chance he’ll leave the artist’s life behind and go back to the lab someday? “No way. Absolutely no chance,” he says. “But I really love the scientific process, and it’s something that I try to bring into my art in various ways. And I wouldn’t be doing this in the first place without my background in neuroscience.”

With Dunn’s permission, here are some of the paintings he’s created, starting with Glomerulus, which hangs on campus inside the John Morgan Building’s Barchi Library (click any image to see the full gallery):


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Our 5 most popular posts of 2012

You may remember our “best of” (i.e. most-viewed) blog post countdown from last year. We’re back with another for 2012, only this time with a twist: We decided that only posts written this year would be included.

Before we get into our countdown, ever wonder where people are reading this blog?
Picture 1

It seems the answer is “all over the place.” This past year, we had visitors from Zimbabwe, Argentina, Australia, Thailand and 90 other countries. (Long-distance readers: please say hello sometime in the comments!)

Now, without further ado, here are our five most popular posts from 2012:

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Filed under Alumni, Film, Music, Television, Theatre, Visual Art, Written Word