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An exhibition of new paintings by Ed Kerns, Eugene Clapp II Professor of Art and director of the Williams Visual Arts Building, will be on view at the Banana Factory’s Binney and Smith Gallery, 25 W. Third St., Bethlehem, from Sept. 30 through Nov. 27. The gallery’s hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

An artist’s reception 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, will include music by Tom DiGiovanni ’96. Kerns will deliver a public lecture at the gallery 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8. The event will feature performances of poetry and music by Ross Gay ’96 and Alexis Siemons ’05. Kerns has collaborated with DiGiovanni, Gay, and Siemons on several creative projects combining art, poetry, and music.

An internationally known painter, Kerns has mounted more than 30 one-person shows in galleries in New York City, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, including three shows in the 1990s at New York’s Howard Scott Gallery.

“The visual thrust of Kerns’ recent works is the suggestion of order and life persisting despite the apparently omnivorous entropic abyss,” Gay says. “Bearing witness to the notion of morphic resonance” set forth by the English biologist Rupert Sheldrake, “the new paintings are significant departures from Kerns’ previous oeuvre of the topographical, archeological, and scarified paintings from the eighties and nineties: images which had as their essence the human hand laboring against the inevitable dark.

“Morphic resonance suggests that once a thing occurs in a specific way, that thing will reoccur throughout the world,” Gay explains. As Sheldrake puts it, “A cumulative memory will build up as the pattern becomes more and more habitual.”

Kerns’ new images reflect a fascination with this idea “that nature—that apparently random dance—might actually have a kind of gathering intelligence, a deep, internal communication,” Gay says. “The paintings suggest the human yearning, analogous to the biological yearning, for chaos’s usurpation. In creating them, Kerns likes to see himself ‘as the condition rather than the maker.’ Consequently, the images are deeply mysterious, concurrently minute and expansive, employing the overlapping visual symbologies of the biological and cosmic.”

Kerns has participated in more than 150 group exhibitions in the United States, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Mexico. His work is in numerous public and corporate collections, including those of the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Citicorp, New York City; Bass Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, Fla.; Chase Manhattan Bank, New York City; and Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas. It has been reviewed in many journals, magazines, and newspapers.

A member of the faculty since 1980, Kerns has mentored more than 400 students through scholar research projects, independent studies, and honors projects and this year played a key role the developing the First-Year Experience for the Class of 2009. Themed “Imagining America,” it’s a year-long program in which the students are exploring issues related to America’s identity, human security, and civil society, with the visual arts serving as a catalyst for intellectual dialogue.

With Andrew Smith, assistant professor of English and chair of American studies, Kerns co-produced the documentary film Towers of Shadow & Light, illuminating the diversity of views within the Lafayette community about Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir In the Shadow of No Towers, which was read and discussed by the incoming class.

He also delivered the Class of 2009 convocation address, urging the new students to “identify ways in which you can contribute to our national need for a new civic activism based upon dialogue and respect for the power of differences.” The central question for them, he said, is, “Should unexamined, partisan spinning continue to dominate our national conversations, or should your generation take the lead in repairing our country’s ability to talk about difficult subjects in a consilient and civil manner?”

Seniors Greg Herchenroether (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Jesse Tron (Pelham, N.Y.) worked with Kerns this summer as participants in the EXCEL Scholars program, in which students collaborate with faculty on research projects while earning a stipend.

Herchenroether and Tron applied their creativity to several different high-level projects to help Kerns prepare for the Banana Factory exhibit.

“In Greg’s case, he’s a consummate organizer, planner, and very good designer, and in Jesse’s case, he’s very good at model-building, executing design, and running the technology in the studio,” Kerns says. “I think they’re both kids for whom this was probably a very good experience.”

“Developing a way of thinking, I think, has been the most beneficial part about working under Professor Kerns,” Tron says. “He’s really helped us develop our own way of thinking and incorporate that into our own work.”

“There were some times where Ed said, ‘We’re doing this or that,’ and we would nod our heads and later look at each other and ask, ‘Now, what are we supposed to do?’” agrees Herchenroether, a Phi Beta Kappa inductee who is managing editor of the College’s student newspaper, The Lafayette. “Then we would get it done. But just discovering how to do it, solving problems, and using that independent thought process that if something doesn’t work you have to approach it from a different angle was something that surprised me. His guidance was always just enough to allow us to put our mark on the project.”

Binney and Smith Gallery exhibitions in 2005 are supported by Cornerstone.

Categorized in: Academic News