A Celebration of Diversity | The Pastel Society of America 41st Annual Exhibition, Part 1

The Pastel Society of America (PSA) recently concluded its annual exhibition (September 3 through 28) aptly titled, “Enduring Brilliance.” This marked the 41st annual open exhibition during the month of September in the Grand Gallery of the National Art Club located in the historic Gramercy Park district of Manhattan. Concurrently, The PSA School for Pastels had its 24th student exhibition in the Trask Gallery, also in the National Arts Club.

One of the primary missions of the Pastel Society of America is to provide a forum for the exhibition of works in pastel by today’s most accomplished artists from both the United States and abroad. Included among the nearly 180 works to be selected from the more than 1,000 submissions were paintings from China, Canada, Egypt, Spain, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The use of the word “Open” in the exhibition’s title indicates that any artist working in pastel, whether a PSA member or not, may submit an entry into this most prestigious of American exhibitions devoted to pastel held within the center of New York’s discerning art world.

Me leading the Friday night Gallery Tour. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Mattson)

There were many exceptional pastels for me to highlight during the Friday night Gallery Tour. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Mattson)

The Grand Tour: A weekend celebrating the exhibit kicked off September 20th with a Friday night reception and gallery tour. For the second year in a row, I was asked to lead the tour. After spending considerable time reviewing the displayed works, I decided to repeat the theme of last year’s tour, “A Celebration of the Diversity of Pastel.” Works often hung in juxtaposition to each other easily underscored the topic. There were paintings representing every genre of subject matter and artistic style or expression. Some were small yet bold; others large yet delicate. Many displayed the marks and techniques often associated with pastel, while others were hard to recognize as pastel at all. Framing also revealed the diversity of the participants with the number being evenly split between matted and non-matted presentations. Attempting to keep the dialogue within the time constraints with a record number crowd in attendance was the most difficult part of the experience. There was definitely no shortage of observations to be made concerning the merits of the paintings on display. The most rewarding feedback received was that, while the conversation was informative to those artists in attendance, it was also inclusive to non-painters, providing an enthusiastic perspective into the medium.

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The crowd was record-breaking at this year’s PSA Annual Gallery Tour. (Photo courtesy of Christine Ivers)

Pastel Affair: On Saturday, September 21, from 10am to 4pm, the exhibition space was set up for the PSA Materials Fair. Vendors representing many major manufacturers of pastel products were in attendance. Attendees were able to enjoy conversation with manufacturers about their products and the handling of pastels in advance of purchase, and ultimately receiving good bargains. In conjunction with the Materials Fair were demonstrations throughout the day by master pastelists Liz Haywood-Sullivan, Janet Cook, Brenda Mattson, and myself. Saturday provided a triple-header of sorts with the ability to see the PSA’s Enduring Brilliance Exhibition, feast at the banquet of pastel products arranged throughout the Materials Fair, and interact with popular demonstrators.

Next week, I will continue my report on the PSA festivities with a recap of the Sunday Awards Ceremony, Honorees, Raffle, and Dinner.

 

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