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What to See at the Palmer Art Museum

Nestled in the northern part of campus, the Palmer Museum of Art is quite the gem and often goes under-appreciated by Penn State students. Did you know that there’s a Picasso piece there? What about some fantastic sculptures in their sculpture garden? Or maybe you’re quite fond of Renaissance-era art and don’t want to go out to a big art museum to see pieces like that. If you haven’t ventured out to the Palmer, maybe it’s time to take in some really neat art pieces and see for yourself.

I went to the Palmer Museum with fellow Onward State staffers, Catie Simpson and Sarah Hanrahan, who helped me scout out some beautiful pieces. Sarah spotted one piece that really caught her eye. Pitcher Painter, by Milton Avery. This piece is an oil on canvas painting.

Pitcher Painter
I’m all about the bright colors and artwork that looks like I could’ve painted it myself (it gives me hope). Influenced by European modernism, this painting is bold and eye catching. It shows a painter painting which is kind of trippy in a paintception kind of way! It’s fun and pretty respectable that Avery had such a unique style.

Some of Catie’s favorite pieces included a piece from the Qianlong period, called Tea Caddy.

tea caddy
I am a tea addict, so anything that even references the caffeine laden beverage is right up my alley. The intricacy of the painting on the caddy is what first caught my eye, along with the odd overall shape. Knowing that someone used this for tea hundreds of years ago is pretty cool — it’s nice to know someone else shares my addiction.

She also was fond of the Peruvian “Effigy Jar,” because she thought it looked like a “cute little frog man.” Who wouldn’t love that? Oh, and in case you’re wondering, an effigy jar is any sort of a jar that takes the shape of an animal or a human.

effigy jar

Finally, one of her favorite pieces was a polyester resin sculpture of books, by Sheila Waitzkin. Catie decided that it would be better to add a little flair to the title of the piece, Untitled (Books on Books [ON BOOKS]).
These books look like one giant candle, and it might just be me, but I find it hilarious that a candle would look like the books you usually light candles to read by. Yeah, I told you it was just me.

As for me? I had several favorite pieces in the Palmer. Like Catie, I was fond of some of the Peruvian pieces. I fell in love with a piece from the Recuay culture that was known as Globular Effigy Vessel. I liked it simply because it looked like a hybrid between a balloon sculpture poodle and a cow. I’m actually a small child at heart, so this really delighted me.

Another one of my favorite pieces is by Willie Cole, and it is a sculpture entitled Harlem Rose.

harlem rose

It is in the shape of a chrysanthemum (or at least I’d like to think so) and is made entirely of shoes. When I looked at the history behind the piece, I became fascinated with it, because it was made with “worn, scuffed female shoes,” allowing people to think about the images of African-American women who were a part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott with Rosa Parks, using their feet to take them to and from their jobs across town.

Remember how I mentioned that there was a Picasso piece at the Palmer? Before you get your hopes up thinking it is some sort of magnificent painting, you might be interested to know that he has done some earthenware pieces. It’s a small blue and white piece simply known as Vase, and it was created in 1955. Like many of his paintings, this vase is an abstract representation of a woman. You also have to look very carefully for this piece because it is easy to miss. It’s in a display case on the second floor of the museum.

I’m a huge fan of abstract art. The longer I stare at a piece of abstract art, the more it morphs in front of my eyes into something strange and unique. This is the case with Abe Ajay’s Polychrome Wood Relief 209. At first glance, it looks like a painting with several shapes across the canvas. When you get closer, however, it morphs into a 3D piece filled with different textures and patterns. It is also a piece comprised of wood stained with oil and enamel. It’s much different than the paintings that are exhibited nearby in its place in the gallery.


In case these pieces don’t satisfy your hunger for some art, you might also be interested to know that there are some really awesome exhibitions going on: “Lit With Piercing Glances: Linocuts” by James Mullen, which features some Warhol-esque linocuts of teacups; “Varied and Untried: Early Twentieth-Century American Paintings” from the James and Barbara Palmer Collection, featuring some well-known American artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe. There’s also an exhibit called “Drawn to Paint: The Art of Jerome Witkin,” which features pieces from nearly forty years of his career.

If you’re interested in going to the museum, it is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. It’s also free to go, so you don’t have to worry about an admission fee. Just know that there are certain pieces that you are not allowed to photograph while you are there, and it’s always best to ask someone who works there if you can or cannot take a picture.

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About the Author

Meghin Moore

Meghin is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in English. She transferred from the Harrisburg campus as a junior to finish out her schooling at University Park. She has a passion for all things music, fashion, art, and food. She's a Pennsylvania native (born outside of Pittsburgh, and lived in Lebanon for 11 years), but resides in Virginia when she's not in school, and has moved a total of ten times in her life, mostly thanks to the military.


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