Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution


Plain & Fancy

Plain & Fancy makes connections between anonymous, early American traditional artisans and contemporary American artists.

“Plain & Fancy” refers to competing styles held in tension in historical Pennsylvania. “The Plain” discouraged decoration and nurtured a simple aesthetic of utilitarian objects and a humble, unadorned lifestyle. “The Fancy” engaged more directly with decorative and visual pleasure. “The Fancy” was more associated with the secular world whereas “The Plain” reflected the disciplined world of the severe religious communities. Sometimes, these lifestyles would converge with one another and plain would become fancy, while fancy became plain. These tensions between the insider and the outsider, the worldly and the meditative, the decorative and the utilitarian continue in the arts as we know them today.

Traditional quilts, rugs, redware pottery, fine china, chairs and kitchen implements, and toys from the HBMS collection are paired with the contemporary work of six mid-career artists: Leslie Fletcher, Jill Odegaard, Scott Sherk & Pat Badt, Rhonda Wall and Brian Wiggins. Each artist has developed their work in highly personal and unique ways in drawing, fiber, painting, collage and sound. A sense of touch, texture and an affinity to materials can be found in the work of these contemporary artists. They find themselves caught somewhere between the plain and the fancy.

On Exhibit

View the exhibition on video from The Painting Center here and here.

October 1 - 30, 2020 at The William J. and Pearl F. Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, Kent State University at Stark, North Canton, OH

Previously on exhibit at Cedar Crest College, the 1810 Goundie House, and The Painting Center.

Artist Gallery

Leslie Fletcher

Leslie Fletcher’s work embraces both “The Plain” and “The Fancy”. Fletcher sets up polyptych compositions that establish resonance and difference between graphite monochrome drawings and the same composition done in heightened color. One could say the graphite greys are plain and the bold color plays fancy. Fletcher says his work “makes strong use of dualities: rational and intuitive, simple and complex, hot and cold, urban and rural, fast and slow, geometric and organic, hard and soft, quiet and loud.” Fletcher’s dualities set up oppositions and challenge expectations.

Leslie Fletcher is an artist based in Allentown, Pennsylvania. For the past several years he has been working primarily on a series of expressive geometric/organic drawings, the Untitled Drawings. The series is concerned with the formal organization of pictorial space: the interrelationships of line, shape, color, value, texture, and space, developed in a manner that gives the drawings both an analytical — formal and emotional — expressive reading. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the country. Mr. Fletcher has taught in the art departments at Muhlenberg College,

Brian Wiggins

Brian Wiggins’ paintings emerge from and disrupt the grid, a different way to break expectations. Wiggins’ working method is to create a strategy for a given painting and then implement it. Each painting demonstrates over time its own surprises. The novelty of the hand’s work and the human touch create warm abstractions. Wiggins’ method may be simple or plain but the results are fanciful.

Brian Wiggins was born in Northwest Arkansas in 1965. He completed his BFA in painting and printmaking at Memphis College of Art in 1989. After moving around a bit he eventually ended up in New York City and currently lives and works in Northeastern Pennsylvania with his family.

Rhonda Wall

Rhonda Wall’s work identifies as fancy. The beautiful color and composition offers a way into the serious content of her pieces. Wall responds to real issues in real time. She cuts and pastes from current events to create quirky worlds that question what is going on now. Time collapses and past, present and future coexist in a sensory overload. In Wall’s work more is more.

Rhonda Wall received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from Vermont College. Wall works in a variety of media including painting, drawing, collage, prints, mixed media, installation, and performance. In the 1980s, Wall was part of the vibrant NYC East Village art scene. Wall’s work has been reviewed in publications including The New York Times, New York Magazine and ARTNews. Her artwork is in public and private collections including The City College of New York, the Allentown Art Museum and the Keith Haring Foundation. Recent solo exhibitions have been at Spring/Break Art Show, NYC and Accola Griefen Gallery, NYC.

Scott Sherk and Pat Badt

Badt and Sherk’s approach is “less is more”. They have been a collaborative team for over 2 decades. Badt brings color to their collaborations, Sherk sound. Their approach engages the viewer to participate with multiple sensory experiences by isolating simple colors and sounds and have them plainly resonate together.

Scott Sherk and Pat Badt often work as a collaborative team. Scott Sherk and Pat Badt both have independent studio practices as a sound sculptor and painter, respectively. They have been collaborating as a team since 1997 HorizonLines (Kim Foster Gallery). Their recent collaborations include: Route 22 Haiku (Soft Machine Gallery 2019), Edges | Transitions (Suzanne Arnold Gallery, 2017), Cor + Som at Evoramonte Castle in Portugal (2016) and After Lodi with Sound Shadows at the Allentown Art Museum (2015). They have a sound and color piece in the permanent collection of the American Embassy in Riga, Latvia. Individually they both have studio practices and are Emeriti Professors at Muhlenberg College and Cedar Crest College, respectively.

Jill Odegaard

Jill Odegaard also uses reduced means to create interesting dichotomies. Recently her work has explored place, through maps, constructing and deconstructing the grid. She comes to this as both a sculptor and a papermaker.

Jill Odegaard has lived and worked in Allentown as an artist and educator since her arrival to the Lehigh Valley in 2000. She holds the position of Professor and Chair of the Art Department at Cedar Crest College in Allentown PA. She earned her MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis MN and her BFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead MN. She has exhibited in solo and group shows across the United States and recently has been involved with The Woven Welcome in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Minnesota.

Plain & Fancy in the News



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