Past Exhibitions

The Carlow University Art Gallery, located on the 2nd Floor in University Commons, hosts a variety of exhibitions featuring everything from contemporary to animated art, ceramic pieces, and awareness illustrations with past exhibits focusing on topics such as rape, feminism, impact of guns and migration.

Past exhibitions have included:

Njaimeh Njie: Flight Plans
June 2023 – October 2024

“Black folks flying is the stuff of legend.”

Stories of Africans flying from bondage emerged from the Middle Passage. Since then they’ve been shared from the kitchen table, to the rocking chair, to the choir stand, and countless places in between.  They’ve traveled a long road, but their presence has never ceased.

Flight Plans follows these tales down a runway of time and space. It takes a reverse migration from the present and stretches back to the beginning of our story here. Along the way it imagines moments of telling, sharing, remembering, and preparing for flight.

Flight is folklore. Magic. Rebellion. Escape. Survival. It’s a burden being set down. A lightness emerging. A deep breath. An easement. Something created. A choice when no options are clear. A movement through fear, into what may be better, beyond.

“Somewhere on this path, is a reminder of how to soar.”
Njaimeh Njie

“To Hear It With Our Eyes”: Activist Voices in the International Poetry Forum (1966-1974)
April 2022-October 2022

This exhibition explores the poetry and spoken word performances of influential International Poetry Forum (IPF) writers in the 1960s and 1970s and the ways in which their activist-informed creative practices contributed to social change and helped reshape the country’s understanding of what it means to be an engaged citizen. The IPF writers who participated during the decades include a diverse lineup of challenging, thought-provoking, and radical speakers. IPF participants such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavio Paz, Daniel Berrigan, Adrienne Rich, Kurt Vonnegut, Lucille Clifton, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adonis and Ned O’Gorman, were an essential part of transformative thinking about race, gender, and class during this era.

Piece of art from the IPF exhibition

The IPF was founded and driven by the visionary poet and writer Dr. Samuel Hazo who brought an impressive and world-renowned slate of poets, creatives, and performers to Pittsburgh from 1966 to 2009. The exhibition features the rich materials of the IPF archive housed at Carlow University.

Grant funded by CIC Humanities for the Public Good, this exhibition, public programming and archive project is student led and driven by Carlow’s Department of Art, Communication and English, Grace Library and the Social Justice Institutes, and our community partner the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. A digital version of the exhibition is available on Carlow University Art Gallery’s Google Arts & Culture page.

The IPF archive contains video recordings, audio recordings, newspapers, posters, and other ephemera highlighting the rich local history of the IPF, which ran from 1967 to 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Forum’s director, Dr. Sam Hazo, had a vision – that poetry has its greatest impact when spoken aloud. It was for this reason that the IPF invited speakers from across the globe to read poetry in a spoken word format, in order to celebrate the power and potential of the art form.

Special thanks to:

  • Dr. Samuel Hazo
  • Sister Sheila Carney
  • Council of Independent Colleges

Grant Team:

  • Sigrid King, PhD
  • Amy Bowman-McElhone, PhD
  • Alyson Koenig
  • Ryan Scott, PhD

Student Interns:

  • K.J. Miller
  • Caitlin McDonough
  • Sarah Smilowitz
  • Kaitlyn Stamm
  • Alison Pirl

Special thanks to students in EN 102: Introduction to Writing and Research about Literature and AR 735: Art History and Curatorial Studies seminar.

Art for August: Organized by August Wilson House
March 2022

Inspired by renowned playwright August Wilson, ten local artists created works for the August Wilson House, a community and cultural center being developed in the playwright’s childhood home in the Hill District. Carlow is excited and honored to host this rich exhibition that showcases artworks honoring the Pittsburgh playwright’s legacy and influence. Participating artists include Brandon Jennings, David Pohl, Dominick McDuffie, Carlos Peterson, Donna Bundy Ford, Marlon Gist, Jasmynie Miller, Corey Carrington, Charlotte Ka, and LaVerne Kemp.

Love is Colorful: A K-8 Project
October 2021 – February 2022

Sarah Zeffiro, Inaugural Carlow Teaching-Artist Resident
Campus Laboratory School

“Love is Colorful” is an arts, learning, and empathy project designed by Sarah Zeffiro in collaboration with the Education Department, The Campus Laboratory School, and University Art Gallery at Carlow University. Love is Colorful is inspired by the power of sharing our stories to develop self-confidence and empathy.

Artistic portraits hung on a gallery wall from the exhibit, Love is Colorful

“Love is Colorful” brings together 20 years of experience in art, design, education, technology, and museums to imagine an inclusive learning space where all ages and abilities are welcome. Research for “Love is Colorful” was developed at Carlow University from 2018-2019 while Zeffiro completed a Master of Education in Secondary Art. In 2020, she became Carlow’s inaugural Teaching Artist in Residence where “Love is Colorful” expanded as an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Education Department, The Campus Laboratory School, and the Carlow University Art Gallery.

… I Forgot to Laugh: Humor & Contemporary Art 
February 2021-June 2021

Historically, art has employed humor at the most (in)opportune times. In the face of war, tumult, and cultural change, artists have often reveled in the ridiculous. This exhibition brings together over a dozen contemporary artists that use humor to explore identity, social injustice, and the absurdity of modern life. By subverting expectations through surprising materials, challenging the notion of fine art, and using humor to confront the status quo, these artists show the power of tackling serious topics with levity.

Curators: Amy Bowman-McElhone, PhD; Anna Wall, Chief Curator, Pensacola Museum of Art; Carrie Fonder, Assistant Professor of Art, University of West Florida

This exhibition was organized in conjunction with the Pensacola Museum of Art at the University of West Florida.

Everything that Sounds in the Forest
Jan. – Oct. 2020

Everything That Sounds In The Forest” presents original work from contemporary artists that explores the traditional and rural dynamics of the Peruvian Amazon from the lenses of indigeneity and contemporaneity. From these perspectives, the artists approach the Amazon as a diverse and complex space presented in varied media and creative practices. The exhibition features embroideries, paintings, prints, and photographs that explore topics such as nature, mythologies, the lived experience of Amazonians, local customs, and knowledge, gender, identity, social, and environmental issues.

Artists: Graciela Arias, Christian Bendayán, Lastenia Canayo, Harry Chávez, Frank Gaudlitz, Thomas Locke Hobbs, Roldán Pinedo, Adrián Portugal, Elena Valera, Rember Yahuarcani, Santiago Yahuarcani

This exhibition is guest-curated by Christian Bendayán, an artist and independent researcher of Amazonian art and Gabriela Germana, Visiting Instructor, School of Art & Art History, University of South Florida Ph.D. Candidate for the Art History Department at Florida State University.

Woman It Woman
Sept. 19 – Dec. 13, 2019

Woman It Woman presents the work of the #notwhite collective, and explores constructions of womanhood and the fluidity of gender and feminisms grounded in the experience and voice of artists of color. The art presented here is animated through the framework of activism, presenting the visual arts as a force for justice and an agentive mode for change.

The #notwhite collective’s model, a non-hierarchal community of twelve artists, is rooted in the feminist histories of consciousness-raising learning groups that incubated education, empowerment, and action in order to foment change outside of dominant and exclusionary institutional spaces such as governments, universities, and museums. From these small, interconnected groups, powerful social movements were seeded that ranged from abolitionism, women’s rights, and civil rights movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that challenged colonial frameworks and, racial and gender inequities.

Woman It Woman represents a twenty-first century iteration of this activist legacy. With works that range in scope from intimate to epic, the exhibition interconnects personal testimonies, histories, experiences and imaginaries with the oppressive socio-political frameworks that give shape to the fraught environments within which we navigate. Through art that engages language, the iconography of the body, and excavations of personal and cultural memory, the #notwhite collective presents a body of work that is transcultural and trans-temporal providing an artistic platform for difficult discussions on the complexities of cultural identity in the U.S.

Dinosaur in the Dollhouse
Jan. 31-April 19, 2019

Dinosaur in the Dollhouse is a collaborative exhibition of the paintings of artists Sarah Jacobs, Kristen Letts Kovak, and Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann. Their practices each carry on the torch of tradition but are equally footed in legacy and possibility. Once established, their patterns are broken, and unpredictable references are allotted space within their images. Yet, they consciously don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater in favor of radical new practices. These three artists add the new to the old, not to replace it, but to change its context.

This exhibition includes one painting by each artist that is already completed, as well as a second painting that has been influenced by the paintings being exhibited by the other two artists. The three artists will then collaborate on a painting that will be on display in the gallery and finished by the end of the semester.

The title of the exhibit comes from Timothy App, a painting mentor to all three artists, who would tell the story to his students about watching his granddaughter play with her dollhouse. She noticed a toy dinosaur next to her, picked it up, and put it in the dollhouse. She continued to play with the dollhouse for a while and then finally decided to remove the dinosaur from the dollhouse. App would use the story as a metaphor for what painters do with images.

Out of Many
Sept. 13-Dec. 6, 2018

While migration today has become one of the most divisive elements of our contemporary discourse, the arguments both for and against the newcomer —whether we mean migrants, immigrants, or refugees—echo throughout our history. Our immigration laws show how the entrance into the country has widened and narrowed since its beginning. Not all were welcomed, let alone considered equal. A century ago, Irish and Italian immigrants were characterized as criminals, as we are often told is the case for immigrants today.

America is bound together by the idea that, whether in our own lifetime or that of our ancestors, we have all come from somewhere. As migrants, we bring with us different names, foods, and customs. We may look different from our neighbors. We may wear different clothes, speak different languages, and worship different gods—or none at all. We may elicit curiosity, and fear. But choosing to learn each other’s stories offers us a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves.

The project from which these photographs are taken is about the process of moving—or being moved—to a new place. Rather than looking at migrants as faceless, nameless stereotypes, this project gives us individual stories. Using Pittsburgh as a lens through which to consider the American migration experience, the project shows how our paths are interwoven: each person’s journey becomes a part of the culture we share.

Though the project is expansive, it is not possible to be all-encompassing. All around the country, the shaping of our cities and culture continues to unfold. Every story of immigration has its own set of circumstances and affects each area of the country in different ways. Our hope is that this project will create space for civil discussion that can lead to responsible actions. E Pluribus Unum — “Out of Many, One” — has informed the identity of this country since its inception. This is a project about us, about the stranger in all of us; it offers a glimpse of our collective story. It is the hope of the team that sharing this will encourage a sense of empathy among us, an appeal to what Abraham Lincoln described as “the better angels of our nature.”

Brian Cohen and Laura Domencic

Curators, Out of Many – Stories of Migration

5th Floor Balcony
Summer 2018

Over the summer six Carlow students created the designs that will be incorporated into the University Commons 5th floor balcony this fall. Artists: Emily Armstrong, Jasmine Cho, Victoria Hirsh, Taylor Humes, Katie Krall, Katie Winter; Professor: Sarah Jacobs. Thank you to Dr. Mellon and David Meadows for their support of this project. Thank you to Bill, Anthony, Johnathan, and everyone else at LGA Partners for their time, feedback, and kindness.

Ten out of Ten
Feb. 12-April 27, 2018

Guest curator and artist Sigrid Zahner invited ten well-known ceramic artists from around the country to participate in this exhibition. Each of those artists was asked to invite another artist to the exhibition. The result is TEN OUT OF TEN, a national exhibition of contemporary ceramics. The show includes a wide-range of artists and practices, from wood-fired pots and porcelain installations to 3D printing. The works engage subjects as diverse as the refugee crisis and the endangered bee population to popular culture and the history of still life. 

This exhibition is held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in Pittsburgh, PA in March 2018. In keeping with NCECA’s core focus on ceramics education, TEN OUT OF TEN highlights artists who are actively involved in teaching, be it on the college level or in the community. According to curator Sigrid Zahner, “the goal of this exhibition is to present a show that displays excellence in the field at all levels of an artist’s career, from the undergraduate to the professor who allows students to stand on her or his shoulders and soar.”

Nov. 16, 2017-Jan. 26, 2018

PROSECUTERIX is a participatory and ongoing installation that addresses the issues of rape, assault and sexual violence in contemporary society. Stemming from the artist’s own experiences as a child in India, this project aims to bring awareness to sexual abuse and to give voice to those who wish to share their stories.

Kane/Qualters: My Pittsburgh
Sept. 5-Nov. 10, 2017

MY PITTSBURGH focuses on the Pittsburgh subjects of two iconic artists, John Kane and Robert Qualters, giving special emphasis to the influence that Kane’s work had on Qualters’ paintings. This exhibition also highlights works in Carlow University Art Collection, including John Kane’s Mount Mercy, donated to Carlow by Mrs. Elsie Hillman in 2001, and For John Kane and Big Self-Portrait by Robert Qualters, donated in 2017.

Up in Arms
Jan. 17-April 28, 2017

UP IN ARMS presents a number of perspectives on the image and impact of guns in contemporary culture, though none endorse them as a means to an end. Works by nine artists touch upon a host of issues surrounding access to and use of firearms, examining and representing the role that guns continue to play in our national mythologies and pathologies, suicide and homicide rates, domestic violence, and mass media.

Gun ownership and control is a divisive topic in this country. The artists in UP IN ARMS visualize the power of the gun as icon and instrument, the damage it can do and how weapons might be rejected, subverted or silenced. Some show the power that guns wield in our daily realities and personal fantasies. Others mourn and resist that power, doing everything they can to take it away, believing there are better ways to resolve conflicts, ensure safety and keep the peace.

Organized by Susanne Slavick, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Sept. 6-Dec. 9, 2016

Works by Vanessa German, Peter Oresick and Christopher Ruane

Feb. 8-May 6, 2016

DISPLACEMENT/REPLACEMENT examines community narratives through the lenses of four African American imagemakers, considering the changing milieus of the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of the Hill District, East Liberty, Braddock, and of Butler County. Marked by “urban renewal”, gentrification, and environmental blight, respectively, these communities have seen displacement of thousands of low-income residents, primarily African American and/or working class people. One may wonder where all of these people went and what we might learn from the fluctuations of populations due to race and class. From the Great Migration of millions of Africans Americans moving North in search of jobs and escape from Jim Crow, to the currently rapidly changing landscape of East Liberty, to the devastation of lives due to fracking, to the destruction of public housing, this exhibition explores the questions: who belongs, and who decides?

Nov. 19, 2015-Jan. 29, 2016

As is frequently the case with art, the works of William DeBernardi and Dale Huffman are not at all as they initially appear. In both cases, the product belies a hidden process of observation and exploration. What appears as random in the work of Dale Huffman in actuality is cultivated through delicate and nuanced technique developed through years of experimentation and critical analysis. In the case of William DeBernardi, what appears as photographic emulation is in fact an exploratory observation followed by an extensive process of developing and distilling information.

Huffman’s ceramic works echo the influences of wabi-sabi and the Zen foundation of traditional Japanese crafts, appearing casual and sometimes crude. His style emphasizes loose handling of the clay during production. However, this façade obscures the careful exploration that is implicit here. Each twist in the clay and every mark on the clay’s surface has evolved over decades of exploration with the clay, aided by15 years training as a student of tai chi. Each firing continues Huffman’s ongoing exploration of wood types, firing cycles, and stacking patterns. The failure rate is high but necessary. Quoting artist Andy Goldsworthy: “A lot of effort is going into making this look effortless.

DeBernardi’s paintings are couched in a realist and figurative tradition. The images present unguarded moments of everyday activity. At first glance, the work seems to consist of random “snapshots” of faces and figures in various environments. However, the visual information that explores light, gesture, human personality, and social ritual expresses a more layered meaning. Backgrounds may be specific environments or vague in their depiction of location. This intentional choice is indicative of the exploratory-based decisions made by DeBernardi for expressive purposes. Photographic references are developed through extensive drawing studies that search for the essential information necessary to express what he feels are universal truths about the human experience.

Close Reading
Sept. 15-Nov. 13, 2015

The Carlow University Gallery was proud to feature the work of Diane Samuels in its inaugural exhibition, “Close Reading: Selected Works by Diane Samuels” from September 15, 2015 – November 13, 2015. This exhibition marked the public debut of both Moby-Dick and Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie, and also served as the starting point for a public art project that Diane Samuels will create for the University Commons over the next year. 

The works in the exhibition — a monumental roll of blue parchment, a colorful map of India, a book of seemingly blank pages — require us to move closer to engage with hidden stories.

From Herman Melville’s canonical Moby-Dick to the lesser-known story of a Polish refugee, artist Diane Samuels uses the words that guide those narratives as the raw material for her art. Painstakingly transcribing each word from a book or interview, Samuels brings new life, color, and texture to these already profound stories and creates tapestries that invite us to experience the story through her unique lens.

In Moby-Dick, Samuels writes each page of Melville’s book across connected pieces of hand-colored, handmade paper reconstituted from her old artworks, adding collage elements. In Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie, Samuels divides Rushdie’s novel of the Indian independence and partition into 1,001 parts, each transcribed onto paper recalling the colorful patterns of Indian sari and forming the map of the new nation. In Book of Norma’s Words, the story of a young Polish émigrée emerges only when light passes through, revealing the words on the watermarked pages.

Diane Samuels is a visual artist, with studio and public art practices. She is also co-founder of City of Asylum Pittsburgh, which provides sanctuary to writers in exile. Her work is in public and private collections including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Bank of New York Mellon, Reed College, Municipal Museum of Art (Gyor, Hungary), the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Yeshiva University Museum, and the Center for Book Arts.

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