On October 27th I was on a class trip in NYC with my Painting II class. Students were given the option to go to the MET or to Chelsea where we could walk around and visit various galleries. I’ve been to the MET numerous times over the last few years so I chose Chelsea as a way to give my mind a breath of fresh air with an entirely new experience. I’ve been to Chelsea before, but never to aimlessly walk around its galleries. I was curious and excited.
On West 26th St. between 10th and 11th I wandered into the Hollis Taggart Galleries. William Sharf: Imagining the Actual was the collection on display.
I pulled out my phone and searched William Scharf and Hollis Taggart Galleries on Google. The gallery website popped up including pictures of each piece in the exhibit and a press release. Thanks to the press release I learned that Sharf was born in Media, Pennsylvania in 1927 and formally studied art in Philadelphia.
The press contact for the release, Ashley Park, states: “Scharf combines virtuoso paint handling, vibrant color, and rich symbolic language in canvases that engage the viewer in a transcendent and emotional dialogue.”
I often find myself drawn to a single piece within seconds of entering any art-filled space, whether it be a grand hall in a museum or a single-room gallery. I immediately have a favorite, often times without even viewing the other works. I see a piece, am magically drawn to it by a force I cannot describe or explain, and then for the rest of my visit I cannot shake the feeling that one piece gave me. The rest of the artwork displayed can be amazing, but the first piece to catch my eye will hold a special place in my brain and my heart.
The first time I had an experience like this I was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I saw a burst of color through a doorway and beelined my way through a thick crowd until I was within two feet of the ginormous tapestry that caught my eye. I stood there for about 30 minutes, taking in how gorgeous I found the weaving to be. Turquoise blues and melon oranges clouded my vision. I left the room remembering nothing other than that tapestry.
As soon as I entered the Scharf exhibition I found my piece and was as close to it as I could get within mere seconds. I’m not sure if it was the fact that Halloween was only days away, but the first thing I saw was a cute little ghost hanging out in the middle of the canvas. The bright white shape with two black circles painted on it reminded me of a bed sheet with two eye holes cut out. It made me smile. Once I finished staring at my ghost friend, I moved my focus around the rest of the painting.
I was in love with Scharf’s color choices in this painting right away. It again made me think of Halloween. I love warm, burnt colors and the reds and oranges he worked with were fabulous to me. Some areas of the painting seem to be dripping, one color bleeding onto another, which was a weirdly pleasing effect. Cool grays and blues formed the frame of the painting, enhancing the brightness of the color towards the center.
The plaque on the side of the painting labeled it To A Dead Poet. It was created in 1956.
The title only intrigued me further. If the painting was for a dead poet, was Scharf purposely portraying a ghost-like figure? Was it my imagination just toying with strange coincidences? Was Halloween playing creepy tricks on me?
Just as I fell in love with the Nike of Samothrace for the level of mysteriousness due to her lack of identity, I fell in love with To A Dead Poet – for feeding my brain with so many unanswerable questions and allowing my mind to play.