Photograph by Jon Glaser Photograph by Jon Glaser

The Word is Out... Language Art is In!

An exciting new exhibition has been created at the Cornell Museum of Art.


Language Art features 10 national artists and runs through March 8th; admission is $5. JOIN THE CONVERSATION! Follow the Cornell Museum of Art on Twitter (@DBCornellMuseum):

Art that explores emotional, social and other themes through the infusion of text in the image provides another dimension for interpretation and conversation.  This concept is what compelled Cornell Museum Curator, Melanie Johanson to create the exhibit, which features the unique works of artists, Trey Speegle, Mary Coyle, Michael Dinges, Reed Dixon, Kathy Halper, Robert Indiana, Meryl Pataky, Johnny Romeo, Matthew Rose and Annie Vought.

Anchored by Trey Speegle’s large-scale works, infusing vintage paint-by-number paintings with imagery and text exploring a variety of themes, the exhibit has much to surprise and engage visitors.

Johanson achieve a major coup when she was able to secure three pieces by well-known pop-art painter, Robert Indiana, which are on loan from the Rosenbaum Contemporary Gallery in Boca Raton.  Indiana is widely known for his iconic “LOVE” sculpture in Philadelphia.  A print of his painting, “HOPE,” made during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, is one of the pieces on loan.  “Robert Indiana is like reaching for the stars for me,” Johanson explains. “I almost died from excitement!”

About the Artists

Trey Speegle used one of the world’s largest collections of vintage paint-by-number paintings as a starting-point to explore themes of hope, love, longing and transformation by using humor, affirmations, double entendre and word play.  Speegle has collaborated on projects with Fred Perry, Stella McCartney, Jonathan Adler, and Anthropologie Home.  Speegle’s work is collected widely; the Microsoft Art Collection recently acquired his iconic You Are Here painting for the lobby of their San Francisco headquarters.  He divides his time between New York City’s Meatpacking District and his converted barn in the Catskill Mountains.

Mary Coyle lives and works in West Palm Beach, FL; originally from Philadelphia, PA, she received her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She is a creator of fiction; adorning many disguises. Her performance as actor in her own video work allow for the re-invention of self. Issues of identity and gender are brought into question. As performer, she inserts herself into an invented world. In her constructed works, opposing imagery is delicately composed and placed with elements of interior design within an ornate frame.  Glamour, beauty, and humor are employed seductions to worlds that comment on narcissism, femininity, and the spectacle.

Michael Dinges repurposes defunct objects as surfaces for elaborate engravings of natural forms, scientific models, and apocalyptic quotations. His sculptures combine decoration with function, nature with industry, individuality with uniformity, and chaos with order. As tools of contemplation, Dinges' sextants, saws, and laptops provoke viewers to consider their relationship to the social and physical environments they inhabit. His work prompts viewers to ask how and why we seek to attain control over our surroundings, to recognize the destruction that may accompany such pursuits, and, in so doing, to make ourselves accountable.  Dinges received his MFA from the University of Chicago; his work has been exhibited in major galleries and art fairs across the United States and Canada.

Reed Dixon is a native of Pittsburgh, PA was educated at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, class of 1964. Formerly an illustrator for Hallmark Cards and a Senior Advertising Designer for Armstrong World Industries, Reed is well known for his non-traditional style and color pallet, and for his unusual subject matter.  His work has been chosen for the Society of Illustrators show in New York City and for the Communication Arts Illustration Annual. Reed has exhibited his work widely throughout the Eastern US, and has contributed numerous illustrations to magazines and children books.  In 1977 he started Dixon Graphics, an advertising design and fine arts studio. Dixon also co-founded the Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show in 1975 and served as its chairman while it developed into a major summer event.  Of his process, he has said: “What I do is imagery. By that I mean the end result is not necessarily a study of the subject, but how I feel or think the image should look in the end. I feel an artist owes it to society and himself to experiment with their art and keep moving on to that next level of creativity.”  Dixon currently paints full-time.

Kathy Halper is a contemporary embroidery artist who draws inspiration from images found on social media websites. Halper’s work questions the disappearing space between public and private online, the subversive use of fabric, needle and thread, and the role that technology plays in shaping today’s adolescent experience.  Deviating completely from traditional embroidery tropes by choosing to embroider these portraits, Halper makes a powerful statement by combining an ancient, time-consuming handcraft with digital images that take seconds to produce and share. Halper’s embroidered portraits flip the fast-paced social space, where decisions are made faster than synapses spark, to a meditative, labor-intensive cloth canvas where subversion and empowerment are threaded.

Robert Indiana has been one of the preeminent figures in American art since the 1960s.  He has played a central role in the development of assemblage art, hard-edge painting and Pop art.  A self proclaimed “American painter of signs,” Indiana has created a highly original body of work that explores American identity, personal history and the power of abstraction and language, establishing an important legacy that resonates in the work of many contemporary artists who make the written word a central element of their oeuvre.  Indiana’s artwork has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world, and his works are in the permanent collections of important museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. and several others in major U.S. and world cities.

Meryl Pataky left South Florida for San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art University where she developed an affinity for the tactile nature of sculpture.  Skilled in a variety of media and techniques, Pataky works with metal, paper, neon, and found objects. Contorting silver, copper, iron, carbon, and neon into symbols and text, her “scientific sculptures” explore the elements in the periodic table as they relate to the larger, universal experience of interconnectedness.  Pataky has participated in exhibitions around the country, including the prestigious Art Basel Miami; her work has been featured in numerous publications and contemporary art blogs.

Johnny Romeo is an Australian born painter.  Inspired by the raw power of Expressionism and punk rock, his work explores the postmodern fascination with the way modern people construct their identities from the vast array of images that pop culture has to offer.  Romeo’s vivid paintings recycle images from iconic works of art, comic books, and advertisements to make a statement about cultural homogenization, the failures of blind consumerism, media saturation, celebrity fetish and brand name heroes.  His work is in numerous public and private national and international collections; he is currently represented by 19 KAREN Contemporary Artspace.

Matthew Rose is an American artist currently based in France. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University, his extensive visual projects range from painting and drawing to mesmerizing mixed-media collage and wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor installations. Skilled in combining disparate objects and images, Rose has established himself as a master of design and composition.  Many of the materials Rose uses come from his daily walks on the streets of Paris: “There is a sensibility here; it’s easy for me to work here. The street gives me a lot of stuff. I find things all the time—pieces of string, paper, forms. You don’t fall into a coma here—like in America—there is a clash of history. Things can be hard or soft here, but the street and the architecture tell you things.” Rose’s influence spreads far and wide; his work has been shown extensively throughout the United States and across the globe. In 2009, Rose curated A Book About Death, a mail-art homage to two influential New Yorkers and friends, the late artist Ray Johnson and Fluxus art dealer Emily Harvey. The exhibition became a conceptual collage attributable to Rose, and A Book About Death has been acquired by both the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Los Angeles County Art Museum.

Annie Vought uses paper and an Xacto knife with utmost precision to create unbelievably intricate works of art. Using handwritten letters collected throughout her lifetime as source material, Vought deftly transcribes the notes into plain black paper, carving away until only an impossibly delicate chain of words remain.  Pieces vary depending on the handwriting style particular to the author, in hopes of portraying what the author’s personality is like.  She explains that “a letter is a physical confirmation of who we are at the moment it was written, or all we have left of a person or a time.” As the handwritten letter gives way to the impersonal, uniform fonts of email and text messages, Vought’s work endure as a testament to penmanship.  Vought lives and works in Oakland, California, and her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally.

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