Richland octogenarian's work to be displayed at Westmont arts center
Mar. 2—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The life of a Richland Township artist will be chronicled in an upcoming exhibition.
"My Life and My Art, a Very Natural and Comfortable Clutter," an exhibition by Sally Stewart, will be on display Saturday through April 28 in the Goldhaber-Fend Fine Arts Center gallery at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd., Westmont.
The show will feature a collection of woodcarvings, drawings and paintings, ranging from newer pieces to those Stewart completed decades ago.
"I'm 89 and I wouldn't be having another large exhibition, so this is an important one for me," Stewart said.
"When I look at the things that I've gathered for the show, it really speaks a lot about my whole life," she said.
"I started with art when I was a little kid, and over the years, it never went away. It's always with me and one of the things I am."
The exhibition includes more than 100 pieces.
"There's art of many media because I have a love of media and it sets me free to express things in a lot of different ways," Stewart said.
"There are some pieces that are history because they were in existence when I was growing up, like the steel mills and street cars, and now they're gone. Then there are little things that are expressions of something I felt in that moment, and there are things that are known and felt by everybody and are common."
Stewart said art to her is a language that speaks when words wouldn't.
"The pieces that I'm finishing now are global issues that pound at us day after day such as the Ukrainian war, COVID-19, the refugees and the homeless," she said.
"This show represents what was important to me at certain times, but also maybe had a connection to community or to world events."
Stewart said she enjoys drawing with a pencil and painting with watercolors.
"In the early '70s, I discovered that I could do woodcarving, and I've loved that over the years," she said.
"Each medium opened the door to meeting certain people, so one of the blessings is that through art, I've met some wonderful people."
Stewart said she's inspired by life around her and her feelings toward things.
"I find that it's very difficult to come to terms with a feeling," she said.
"How do you take something that doesn't really exist in form with no color or shape and express that? So some of the feelings, like the isolation from COVID-19 and the invisible barrier that kept me where I was and kept other people, how do you do that in a way that you can share those feelings?"
Stewart said the show will be arranged in groupings.
"There will be several steel mill-related pieces, as well as some street cars, farms and floral things," she said.
"In another, I hope to have pieces that relate to human suffering.
"I've written little blogs about some of these that will explain to viewers what I was up to when I did them."
Stewart said she hopes that viewers will find at least one thing that will register with them and they can relate to.
"It might be a tiny thing or a big thing they'll have to study longer, but I hope they find a place for themselves at the show and a place for themselves in the art world," she said.
"To me, art is a very inclusive thing, and I appreciate a lot what other people will tell me about my art. I learn things about it from their perspective."
Stewart said the show offers variety for viewers.
"It wouldn't be boring, and I think there will be some surprises in it for people," she said.
Stewart holds bachelor's and master's degrees in art education, and was employed as an art teacher and supervisor of art in Greater Johns-town School District.
Her work has been shown in many regional exhibitions, and she's completed numerous woodcarving installations for churches and seminaries.
Stewart competed for the chance to create artwork that the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gave as gifts as he traveled and met with world dignitaries. Her work from that experience can be found in more than 30 countries.
In addition, she carved the mahogany entrance door at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County.
Rachel Turco, the arts center's exhibition and community engagement developer, said she had the privilege of being invited to Stewart's home. The amount of work Stewart had completed blew Turco away.
"Little did I know, inspecting the art further would blow my mind even more," Turco said.
"Her attention to detail is extraordinary, not only in her woodcarvings, but in her other mediums as well."
Turco said even at 89 years old, Stewart continues to actively create art.
"I'm excited about the exhibit, especially the woodcarvings," she said.
"You don't see woodcarving as an art form very much because a lot of time goes into these pieces. As people get older, dexterity vanishes a little bit, but with her she's still going at it. She has these beautiful, intricate pieces, and I can't begin to imagine what goes into them."
Turco said viewers will see that art can be created at any age.
"I can't wait to see people's faces when they realize just one person completed all these beautiful works," she said.
"They will be staring the life of Sally Stewart directly in the face.
"She is very proud of what she does."
To celebrate the exhibition, an opening reception will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. March 4.
Stewart will be on hand to discuss her work and thought process.
In addition, a video tour and artist lecture about the artwork will be available on the arts center's YouTube channel and Facebook page following the opening reception of the show.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Stewart will offer two workshops for the public.
From 11 a.m. to noon April 12, she will virtually present "Coffee and Conversations."
Stewart will lead a lecture on her exhibit and her art. The event will take place on the arts center's Facebook page as a live video.
There is no fee to attend.
From 11 a.m. to noon April 15, Stewart will offer her in-person "Coffee and Conversations" event.
Attendees will be surrounded by her artwork as they listen to Stewart talk about her lifelong passion for art.
Coffee and refreshments will be served.
Registration fee is pay what-you-decide.
"I'm interested in meeting with small groups because people sometimes have very valuable things to say and I'd like to have those conversations," Stewart said.
"They can be a part of the creation process."
Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
There is no fee to view the exhibition.
For more information, call 814-255-6515 or visit www.caccc.org.