Historical Journal

Journal Archives,Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Archives,Reviews

Lynn Denton: Sophia’s House

January 14, 1983
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

Learn More Here

"Cups, houses, trees — female images! Maybe the link with womb and rootedness is creative as well as procreative. What? A woman giving birth to objects and worlds? I believe some answers are found in caves, not churches."

January 14 through February 28, 1983
Witchcraft was hung, in History,
But History and I
Find all the Witchcraft that we need
Around us, every Day
– Emily Dickinson, c. 1883
It could be argued that the [enclosed] column…may be considered especially expressive of the goddess since it joined to its tree symbolism a specific description of a female state of being. Thus the whole palace became her body, as the earth itself had been in the Stone Age.
– Vincent Scully, “The Great Goddess And the Palace Architecture of Crete,” 1962
During the past five years, sculptor Lynn Denton has included images of houses, trees, and vessels in her site specific installations. Just as Emily Dickinson found around her daily indications of “witchcraft” a century ago, so Denton encounters intimations of the supernatural in the mundane objects of domestic life. To the artist, cups, bowls, and enclosed spaces are both symbolic of female experience as well as evocative of goddess archetypes.
For the project of Sophia’s House, Denton invited fourteen women artists to collaborate with her. She recounted to them the Assyrian creation myth in which the mother goddess is cast as a potter. The world begins when the great goddess breaks off fourteen pieces of clay and gives them to women who shape into being the very first humans seven girls and seven boys. The selected artists were given no instructions regarding the appearance of their contributions. Like Denton, they were intrigued by this story which alludes to women’s creative and procreative abilities.
Sophia, or wisdom, is one dimension of the complex, primordial goddess who was worshipped from earliest times. Later patriarchal religions incorporated aspects of her into their beliefs. For the Morris Gallery, Denton constructed a vast “house” for Sophia — part sculpture, part pavilion. Its open structure and stepped entrance imply a ritual setting. “Fresh-Baked Pots,” a performance Denton designed for this space, will explore the identity of the goddess and the theme of woman as creator, in the Morris Gallery on Saturday, February 12 at 3:00 p.m. and on Thursday, February 17 at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m.
Judith Stein
Morris Gallery Coordinator
Artist Statement
Sophia’s House is a happy merging of visual and philosophical reflections over the past few years. After painting for some time, I had made a switch to pottery, and spent a while making useful objects — plates and cups. Then surrounding forms began to take over: the sink, kitchen, window, trees outside. Finally the whole house, both real and imagined versions, was built and rebuilt in various ways.
Cups, houses, trees — female images! Maybe the link with womb and rootedness is creative as well as procreative. What? A woman giving birth to objects and worlds? I believe some answers are found in caves, not churches.
The fourteen female artists who contributed work here have approached this question directly. The myth becomes a scenario featuring an ancient part of ourselves. Sophia herself, irresistible Persona eternally present, is the connection to the here and now: she delights in salvaging what is at hand, and reminds us that any material can be transformed. You might say that all birth is rebirth; I like to think that that is what she represents.
Lynn Denton

Works by Lynn Denton
1. Sophia’s House
Wood, acrylic, ceramic tile, natural forms
L 12′, W 12′, H 16′
2. Silver Drawing
Mixed media
L 12′, H 11′
3. Ladder #2
Wood, acrylic
L 30″, W 5″, H 18′
4. Shrine for West Wall
wood, acrylic, barkcloth, natural forms
L 25′, W 2′, H 15′
5. Brush
Natural forms
Size variable
Key to Works by Invited Artists
These artists have contributed objects/sculpture based on the story of creation in an Assyrian myth, which forms part of the environment of Sophia’s House.
1. Phoebe Adams
Six Scrolls for Your Destiny
Canvas, cardboard, encaustic
L 30″, W 36″, D 8″
2. Susan Backman
Painted porcelain and snail shells
L 12″, W 5″, H 9″
3. Jill Bonovitz
Clay and Wire
D 24″
4. Joan Braun
Harvest, 1982
Earth, Xerox, bricks, grain carrier
H 1′, IN 2′, L 2′
5. Uta Fellechner
One Child Bom to Carry On: A Meta-Ethical
VoyageTransformed space/matter
H 3′,W 3′, L 3′
6. Glenda Frye
Clay, wood, fire
L 2′, W 2′, H 4″
7. Nancy Hellebrand
Nine Pictures of My Son
Silver photograph
4″ x 5″ each
8. Raquel Higgins
Mixed media
L 23″, W 4″, H 22″
9. Lydia Hunn
Mixed media
L 9″, W 9″, H 11
10. Eileen Neff
Black on Light
Lightbox and Kodaliths
L 20″, W 121/4 “, H 7 1/4
11. Joan Pettengill
Painted corrugated cardboard
L 24”, IN 11 “, H 24″
12. Jeanne SlIverthome
Painted plaster
L 27″, W 27″, H 151/2″
13. Suzanne Wheeling
BBB Big (Boy) Bang
Plaster, rag board, acrylic
18″ x 18″ x 18″
14. Lily Yoh
Isis and Horus
L 7″, W 10″, H 8”
Artist Biograph
Philadelphia resident for over a decade, Lynn Denton was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1941. Her B.A. degree was awarded by Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, in 1963. After studying at the Art Students’ League, New York during 1963-64, Denton earned the M.F.A. from the University of Tennessee in 1968. The following year Denton served a Residency at the Cite’ Internationale des Arts in Paris, France. She is a member of the performance collaborative, Bricolage, and a former member of the artist-run gallery Nexus. Currently she is on the faculty of Pennsylvania State University, Ogontz Campus and Widener University.

Selected Individual Exhibitions
1968 McClung Museum, Knoxville, Tennessee
1969 Quinnipiac College, New Haven, Connecticut
1971 The University City Arts League, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1972 Beaver College, Glenside, Pennsylvania
1974 Pennsylvania State University, Ogontz Campus, Abington,Pennsylvania
1977 St. Joseph’s College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1978 Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1979 Photo/Clay Transformations, Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1980 Personal Effects, Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Selected Group Exhibitions
1978 Nexus at A. C. T., Artists Cooperative Toronto Gallery, Toronto, Canada
Peep Show, 14 Sculptors Gallery, New York, New York
Sculpture Outdoors, Temple University, Ambler, Pennsylvania
1979 Art Dispensers, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Eight Hundred Miles from Home, N. A. M. E. Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
Nexus in Texas, 500 Exposition Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Women Working in Clay, Muse Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1980 Philadelphia: Clay 1980, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Projects: Made in Philadelphia 4, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I would like to thank all those who have helped and supported the work of this exhibition, beginning with Frank Goodyear and Judith Stein and including:
The 14 artists who contributed works
Bill Baumann
Randy Dalton
John Denton
Charles Grumbling
Bill Jameson
Tom Kelly
Dr. Gerald Maddox
The Powelton Community Education Center
Isaiah Zagar
Julia Zagar
I would like to especially thank David Bauman, Grace McDermott and Linda Kelly-McDowell for the giving of much time, energy and spirit; and Sue Cady and Hal Taussig, who introduced me to Sophia.
Lynn Denton
The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by committee composed of area artists, museum personnel lectors, and the curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Murray Anne d’ Harnoncourt, Jennie 0. Dietrich, Janet Kar Mather III, Dr. Perry Oftenberg, David Pease, Jody Wolgin; and Academy staff Frank Goodyear, Kathy Foster, Linda Bantel, Judith Stein.
Copyright Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1983
This is the start of the list
This is the end of the list