Faculty Spotlight: Bill DeBernardi, Associate Art Professor

Jason Naughton -

Sister Grace Ann Geibel sits over her desk under the low-ceiling entranceway of Carlow’s A.J. Palumbo Hall of Science of Technology: sheet music in hand, smiling lively to passersby through the amber of a canvas. She may be easy to miss; students might crane their necks when passing breezily to class, but few grant her the attention she deserves. Even fewer take the time to appreciate the artistry and detail of the portrait.

Fewer, still, appreciate the artist himself. And yet he, too, is worth a closer look.

Carlow Associate Art Professor William DeBernardi, the portraitist of Sister Grace Ann, is internationally recognized. His work is featured in private, corporate, and museum collections across 11 states, Puerto Rico, and abroad—including France, Italy, and Venezuela.


This month, DeBernardi’s work is featured in a solo exhibition, “An American Festival #55 (Stale),” at the Penn State New Kensington Art gallery.

Art, says DeBernardi, was not always his primary focus. As an undergraduate, his interests were creative writing, biology, and anthropology. In fact, he equates his artistry to biology and anthropology. His method, he explains, is the preservation of a moment, an object, or a being, and a deliberative exploration. “It’s examining,” he says of his artistic process, “it is an honest observation, influenced by memory and perception, but free of preconception.”

Installation view, "An American Festival #55 (Stale)" at Penn State New Kensington

But this examination is not without heart. “I am trying to be that little boy that I see as I walk by with that look of amazement: here’s a form, here’s a being, here’s a configuration,” he says. “It is that sort-of wonder, that’s at the heart of everything.”

At Carlow, DeBernardi works closely with Art Department chair Dale Huffman to educate students beyond college. “A lot of people come out of college and feel kind of senseless as to what happens next,” says DeBernardi.

The great strength of a small department, he notes, is the ability to develop lasting relationships with students. “We establish a rapport with students after they’ve left here, whether it’s phone calls and emails back and forth, doing a studio visit, or putting together an alumni show.”

Likewise, DeBernardi strives to bridge this transition from college into the real world in his curriculum. “I started to tweak some of the classes to order to make that arch and that transition into the real world more seamless,” he says, “to position students so that once they leave here they have the tools to express themselves, but also have the tools to continue in lifelong learning.”


Installation view, "An American Festival #55 (Stale)" at Penn State New Kensington

Bill DeBernardi has a featured solo exhibition this November at the Penn State New Kensington Art gallery, 3550 Seventh Street Road, New Kensington, Pa. The exhibition, “An American Festival #55 (Stale),” will run from November 4 through November 29, and includes a number of new works.

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