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One Artist’s Multifarious Collection at Widener

August 22, 2013

By Maria Klecko ’15

A chance meeting prompted Dr. Janine Utell to orchestrate the Widener University Art Gallery’s latest exhibit. Utell, associate professor of English, was giving a talk at the Philadelphia Art Museum about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road when a member of the audience revealed that she had an aunt, Ann May Greene, who is the executor of artist Norman Rubington’s estate.

Utell was initially interested in the literary angle of Rubington’s work upon discovering that he was a writer for Olympia Press. She then became interested in his visual art and the interdisciplinary aspect of his work.

 “I’m trying to make connections through the arts and humanities between Widener and the wider world,” said Utell, who is curator of the exhibition. “Bringing the exhibit to campus seemed like a good way to build that bridge. It has a lot of variety, and we want to capture that and put it in context with his literary output. As a figure, he’s really intriguing. His writing is edgy and countercultural.”

Rubington will have his diverse collection displayed in Widener’s gallery from August 23 through October 19. The exhibition entitled From the Studio: The World of Norman Rubington will feature a cross section of art that Rubington created such as nude portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, still-lifes, and pieces pertaining to religious subjects like the Holocaust. The exhibit will also consist of artifacts including editions of his books, literary magazines, video of Rubington at work, and equipment from his studio. (Pictured is his painting Black Silk.)

As visitors walk through the various sections of the gallery, they will notice that Rubington’s pieces are organized by mode. “I really like the cityscapes, because they capture the movement of urban life,” Utell said. “I also like the still-lifes, because he takes ordinary things and infuses them with a kind of exuberance.”

Rebecca Warda, collections manager of Widener University Art Gallery, admires Rubington’s art as well. Warda highlighted Rubington’s playful nature as shown in his nude portraits. “He’s got a great sense of humor,” she said.

Utell hopes that visitors of the exhibit are able to make a connection between the visual art and literary art. Warda added that they will also learn about Olympia Press and Rubington’s time period.

The primary goal of the exhibition is to introduce the public to an artist who isn’t well known. “We want to show the breadth of his work,” said Utell. “The exhibit is a nice way to introduce more people to his art.”

The gallery will host a reception on September 25 in the Webb Room in University Center from 5 to 8 p.m. that will feature a keynote address by John de St. Jorre, author of Venus Bound: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press and its Writers. The speech, titled Norman Rubington: Graphic Pioneer, Sometime Pornographer, Lifelong Artist, will emphasize Rubington’s work for Olympia Press. For more information about the exhibition and the gallery, please visit the gallery’s website.

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