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Marcy Hermansader: Drawings

November 4, 1984
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.

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November 4, 1983 through January 1, 1984
Marcy Hermansader’s drawings are shaped by the content of her dreams, her travels, current events and the world around her Vermont studio. She draws inspiration from such sources as Rufus Porter, the 19th-century itinerant mural painter, contemporary folk art, and women’s traditional handwork. As a student at P.C.A. she was asked by teachers if she was from Chicago, so much was her work in harmony with that of the Chicago Imagists. But Hermansader’s aesthetic sensibility was formed before she was ever aware of the Hairy Who. Today she regards her own work as close in feeling to the colorful mosaics and decorative embroidery her mother made as she was growing up.
Her drawings reflect her deep concern with the quality of life. In The Two Realities of Vermont we are led beneath a spare winter landscape to a factory deep within the earth, illuminated by sinister, woundlike fluorescent lights. Radiation’s Smile takes its name from a Hugh Masekela song which suggests that “fallout shelters cannot hide me from radiation’s smile.” Black Woman’s Fountain is in part an homage to author Toni Morrison, whose novel The Bluest Eye inspired Hermansader’s rendering. here of a walk through “the valley of eyes.” What Women Know About Weaving spins connections between several images, including a Lewis Hines photo of a child textile-worker, a Navaho rug-weaver and a group of nuclear-arms protestors who wound thread around the Pentagon.
Time’s Beach takes advantage of both the specific geographic reference and the larger metaphoric implication of the name of the town that was recently found to be contaminated by toxic chemicals. Against a pink and blue sunset edged by spirit-shaped clouds, we see a moribund landscape punctuated with mourning trees. Two large wheels, one whole, one broken, fill the foreground. On the left a large television is tuned into the disaster, rendered as a 19th-century Deluge. A second set has a broken screen, as if the forces of destruction had escaped the boundaries of the monitor and spilled out into our lives. Two diamond doves hold out the promise of renewal.
Hermansader works on both dark and light ground and varies the scale of her drawings. One of the most intimate pieces is Work Song, a veritable self-portrait of the artist. A swathe of fabric from an old garment enfolds the homey interior of a near and far room. The cloth’s brightly colored geometric pattern is echoed in the hooked rug and patchwork pillow, and is set off by the undulating, Matissian line of the printed tablecloth. Here, it would seem, is the artist’s “room of one’s own,” not a literal studio but rather an image of the conditions conducive to creativity. A treasured piece of folk art–the bottled figure of a woodsman — is the composition’s core. Engrossed in his tasks, this miniature alter ego is effectively shut off from the world, a necessary state for the creation of art. Hermansader is an artist who successfully balances this requisite isolation with a passionate concern for the rest of the world.
Judith Stein
Morris Gallery Coordinator
Artist Statement
The process of creating a drawing may begin months or even years before I touch the piece of paper. It begins with a certain fusion of thoughts and imagery. Gradually these connections build into a sort of constellation. I do not understand it and do not try to understand it. I don’t do much in the way of preliminary sketches, for I feel this robs some of the energy. When I feel the idea is rich and I have an intense desire to begin drawing it — then I get out the piece of paper.
I try to create a real feast for the eyes — an image that is intense and mysterious. I want each drawing to feel as full and complex as a world. Within this world there is often a suggestion of a story. A running theme of these stories is the process of renewal. Renewal involves destruction, fear, and pain as well as certain brightness, magic, or spiritual power. In the process of doing the drawing I partially destroy the paper by tearing It, scratching or chewing it. I also lavish a lot of care on transforming its surface to look like other materials.
Although I am concerned with human themes –people’s struggle against oppression, destruction of our environment, and individual rebirth, people are not prominent in my drawings. I want the viewer to feel like the person within the drawing. I create a scene for the solitude of the viewer — I try to create images to stir things up; for them to know what they can know from within themselves.

Marcy Hermansader
All works are colored pencil and acrylic on paper or museum board. Some include additional materials such as crayon, glitter, metallic foil, and mosquito netting.
1. The Two Realities of Vermont, 1978 .
colored pencil & acrylic on paper, 19-3/4″ x 29-1/2″
Lent anonymously
2. An Open Book, 1980
pencil, crayon & acrylic on paper, 30″ x 44-1/2″
Lent anonymously
3. Black Woman’s Fountain, 1980
pencil & acrylic on paper, 20″ x 26″
Lent anonymously
4. Small Point, 1982
pencil & acrylic on museum board, 21-3/4″ x 27″
Lent by Eva Mondon, Putney, VT
5. Old and New, 1981
pencil, acrylic & gold foil on paper, 22″ x 26″
Lent by Nancy Storrow and Robert Nassau, Putney, VT
6. Pieceworker’s Nightmare, 1978
pencil, acrylic & plastic on paper, 19-3/4″ x 25-1/2″
7. Silkwood Highway, 1979
pencil & acrylic on paper, 36″ x 45″
Lent anonymously
8. Factory Town, 1978
pencil & acrylic on paper, 20″ x 26″
Lent anonymously
9. Trade-offs, 1980
pencil & acrylic on paper, 21 ” x 26″
Lent by Marjorie Gapp, Philadelphia, PA
10. Jewels of Thought, 1983
pencil, crayon & acrylic on paper, 22″ x 29-1/2″
11. The Dark and the Light, 1983
pencil, acrylic, foil & glitter on museum board, 19″ X 19-1/2″
12. Time’s Beach, 1983
pencil, acrylic & screen on paper, 30″ x 40″
13. What Women Know About Weaving, 1983
pencil, crayon, acrylic & thread on paper, 30″ x 36″
14. Secrets of the Heart, 1983
pencil, crayon, acrylic, mosquito netting & thread on paper, 29″ x 30″
15. Feelings That Arise, 1983
pencil & acrylic on paper, 29″ x 30″
16. The Mechanics of Change, 1983
pencil, acrylic & foil on paper, 29″ x 30″
17. Radiation’s Smile, 1983
pencil & acrylic on paper, 15″ x 25″
18. The Tooth of Time, 1983
pencil, crayon, acrylic & gold leaf on paper diptych, each 30″ x 42-1/2″
19. The Road Like a Snake Leads You Onward, 1979
pencil & acrylic on paper, 38″ x 19-1/2″
20. Light and Shadow Horse Book, 1980
pencil, crayon & acrylic on paper, 19-1/2″ x 25-1/2″
21. Work Song, 1983
pencil, crayon & acrylic on museum board, 18-1/4 ” x 20-1/2 ”
22. Island Eyes, 1983
pencil & acrylic on paper, 29″ x 30″
23. Sevasso, 1981
pencil & acrylic on paper, 32-1/8″ x 44-1/8″
Lent by Robert Boyle, Philadelphia, PA
24. Main House, 1982
pencil, acrylic and glitter on paper diptych, each 35″ x 54″
Lent by Janet Fleisher, Philadelphia, PA

Artist Biography
Born in Glen Cove, Long Island, in 1951 and raised in Connecticut, Marcy Hermansader grew up in an unusual environment. Both her parents were Pennsylvania Dutch who had left their traditional communities to pursue careers as artists. In the past six years she lived in Vermont, where she worked as an instructor of drawing at the University of Vermont, as a groom, as a typesetter, and as a cementer at a handbag factory.
A film and sculpture major at the Philadelphia College of Art (B.FA., 1973), Hermansader studied with Rafael Ferrer, Cynthia Carlson, Don Gill, and Ree Morton. In 1977 she received a National Endowment for the Arts Painting Fellowship. The artist has traveled widely in China and the Yucatan. As an Invited Artist at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop in 1979 she created a cape and a wall hanging. In 1982 Hermansader spent six weeks as a resident fellow in the Genesis Program on Ossabaw Island, Georgia.
Her works are in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Vermont Council on the Arts. Private collectors of her work include: Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Brad and Margery Lee, Janet Fleisher, Dr. Robert and Jill Terranova, Hope Breyer and the law firm of Deckert, Price & Rhoads.

Solo Exhibitions
1978, 82 Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro, VT
1978 Bethel Gallery, Bethel, CT
1980, 81 Eric Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
1983 Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Selected Group Exhibitions
Rutgers National Drawing Competition, Camden and New Brunswick, NJ. Illustrated in catalog.
Jurors: Rafael Ferrer, Dore Ashton.
Illuminated Thoughts, Vermont Council on the Arts travelling show. Illustrated in catalog.
Jurors: Red Grooms, Pat Adams.
New England Drawing Competition, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
Jurors: Frederick Walkey, Robert Doty, Meredyth Moses.
Material Pleasures, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
For Real With Jack Beal, Katonah Gallery, Katonah, NY. Juror: Jack Beal.
A Class Portrait, Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro and Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT. Illustrated in catalog.
University of Vermont Faculty Show, Burlington, VT
Women’s Art -Women’s Lives, Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro, VT
Folk Fantasy, Expressionism, Silvermine Art Center, New Canaan, CT
Horse Show, Robert Freidus Gallery, New York, NY

Shirey, David L. “A Resurgence of Drawing,” New York Times, Sunday, 2/10/80 (N.J. Section).
Raynor, Vivian. “The Brightly Realistic Perspective of Jack Beal,” New York Times, Sunday, 8/17/80.
Stein, Judith. “Portrait: Philadelphia,” Portfolio Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1980, p. 104.
Donohoe, Victoria. “A Nonconformist’s Beauteous Legacy,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27181.
Katz, Jonathan G. “Around the Galleries: A Portrait Renaissance,” Philadelphia Bulletin, Sunday, 3/1/81.
Jarmusch, Ann. “Marcy Hermansader,” The New Art Examiner, Oct. 1983, p. 16.
Marcy Hermansader’s work is shown courtesy of Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia.
The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel and curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Ofelia Garcia, Anne d’Harnoncourt, Jennie Q. Dietrich, Harold Jacobs, Janet Kardon , Jay Massey, Charles Mather III, John Moore, Jody. Pinto. Mark Acey Wolgin; and Academy staff Frank Goodyear, Kathy Foster, Linda Bantel, Betty Romanella and Judith Stein, Morris Gallery coordinator.
Copyright The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1983
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