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The Art Gallery of Lafayette College’s Williams Center for the Arts will exhibit “Hearts and Bones,” a collection of mixed-media works by Janet Taylor Pickett, February 6 through March 12, as part of the artist’s residency at Lafayette College. The display reflects the award-winning artist’s personal exploration of gender, African-American identity, self, and place.

Gallery hours are noon -5 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, 2-5 p.m. Sundays, and by appointment. For information, call the Art Gallery at 610-330-5361.

During her residency at Lafayette, Pickett will interact with students and work on an artist’s book with art professor Curlee Holton in the college’s Experimental Printmaking Institute.

The public is invited to attend a brown bag lecture by the artist 12:15-1 p.m. Thursday, February 10, in the Williams Center auditorium. Lunch may be brought or purchased for $3. There also will be a reception for Pickett 3-5 p.m. Sunday, February 13, at the Williams Center. These events and the exhibition are part of Lafayette College’s celebration of Black History Month, which includes an exhibition of works by Philadelphia-based artist Paul Keene Feb. 5 through March 10 at the Portlock Black Cultural Center.

A tenured professor of art at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey, Pickett’s works have been included in dozens of exhibitions and public and private collections. She received a Doctoral Study Fellowship Grant from the Ford Foundation for 1966-70. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts awarded her a fellowship in visual arts in 1985. She also was selected for a Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking Fellowship in 1991.

Over the years, Pickett’s art has evolved into an examination of the potency of objects and images found in everyday life and nature. The human heart, birds, photographs, and dresses have been incorporated into her artwork. The dress — her metaphor for identity — is an especially expressive symbol for her. Some of the mixed media dresses in “Hearts and Bones” look like paper doll cutouts; others are paintings on paper. Close examination of the dresses reveals powerful personal and historical imagery.

In 1989, Pickett began using the medium of collage, a “scissors and paste” method of combining ready-made images, notes Alejandro Anreus, curator of the Jersey City Museum in Jersey City, New Jersey, since 1993. This innovation within twentieth-century art has been used by Cubists like Picasso and Georges Braque, Italian Futurists, Dadaists like Hannah Hoch, and Surrealists like Max Ernst. The medium of collage proved a liberating experience, which opened the door to other media for Pickett, says Anreus. Since that year, she has been working in a variety of technical processes: painting in oil and acrylic; drawing with charcoal, pastel, and oil sticks; quilting; constructing with metal, wood, fabric, and hand-made papers; and integrating all of these approaches into several site-specific installations.

The artist’s father, Dempsey Taylor, Jr., died in 1993. Three years later, her mother, Ethel Beard Taylor, passed away. These two events affected Pickett deeply, causing a meditation on roots, home, and identity within her artistic production, explains Anreus. In 1995, she created an installation at the Jersey City Museum partly inspired by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s book, The Book of Embraces. In 1997, Montclair Art Museum presented More Than One Way Home the first survey of her work.

Since 1998, Pickett has created over 20 large paintings, works on paper, and mixed media pieces with a dress as the central subject. In many of these works, the dress shelters the body both physically and emotionally, Anreus observes. At times the dress becomes the body itself — running, dancing, protecting the child that Pickett was. The dresses are sustained by birds, growing roots, and flowering plants, and inset with stained glass through which light pierces.

“I began thinking about using the image, idea, and object of the dress as another way of responding to life’s profound changes,” says Pickett. “The dress appears in various locations, manifestations, and appearances. At times the meanings of the garment in my work are blurred, spontaneous, unexpected, invisible, and colored, and have reflected the feelings I have experienced during the disquieting act of creating and living as an artist. In the act of viewing, the image is read many ways. As in many experiences, it is what is brought to the experience as well as taken away.”

Lafayette College’s exhibition series is presented under provisions of the Detwiller Endowment, and is funded in part through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National

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