Westphal 'puts out' at Pearlstein
Issue date: 8/6/10 Section: Arts & Entertainment
Depew is a Philadelphia-based artist whose resume describes an overwhelming amount of variety and experience. Her exhibit here is in some ways a summation of everything she has come in contact with. It takes her physical artwork, her humanities research and her desire to teach together into one large installation.
The walls are covered in prints with motifs ranging from heart flowers to koi to skulls. This might seem without purpose to a typical viewer but a few minutes with Depew will show you that nothing she does lacks intention. She spreads a message of love because "love is at the center of everything" and with her work she tends towards creating what is lacking. Take for example the leaves that engulf much of the back wall. These are inspired by Philadelphia's need for more green. Amidst the bright colors and joyful flourishes the skulls at first seem out of place. However, Depew describes the skulls not as "death or poison" but as our "most important container," and when you think of it like that, the exhibit becomes something deeper.
As for the title "Putting-Out! Practices in Cottage Industry and Urban Guilding" it's the part of the exhibit you probably won't glean without having attended Depew's talk at the opening reception Aug. 4. The concept of the putting-out system was the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. Women and children created handmade products in the home, which were sold to supplement the family income while the men worked outside the residence. There is a certain uniqueness to objects created that way - and the popular e-commerce website Etsy proves our desire for such products still exists. As for advice to students interested in sharing what they are creating Depew insists you not "let anyone tell you not to." She also believes "you only compete with yourself. That is the rule. You don't care about anybody else." This is relevant advice for the design students struggling to find their footing in such aggressive majors.
Perhaps the greatest part of the exhibit is that it is more than just visual stimulation. Part of Depew's work is the StudioSchool of Decorative Arts, which offers introductory silkscreening classes. She shares this with Drexel during the extent of the exhibit at the workspace in the gallery. Students are invited to try their hand at printmaking and the materials ready to print on paper or a t-shirt. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Sept. 10, and someone is on hand to offer assistance. The screens available are similar to the motifs that line the walls. The demo Depew offered during the reception was a major success as many of the audience members were able to create something to take home.
The exhibit came together thanks to Filiz O'Brien, an arts administration graduate student at Drexel. O'Brien found Depew's work on a blog and together they designed the exhibit. O'Brien said, "I felt like it engaged me but it would also engage others. Fashion students can take away something away from it as well as product design, graphic design, and printing making students."
O'Brien's statement that "this is what the gallery needs to be about" is absolutely correct. The Antoinette Westphal College of Arts and Design is full of diverse majors and students. It is refreshing to have an exhibit we can all appreciate and utilize in our studies - besides, who wouldn't want to take a break during the day to print something cool on their t-shirt?