‘Before and After’ Offers Artistic Glimpse Into Tragedy, Triumph

Published 06.09.2014

The Gallery at Penn College

The power and potential of art to heal and inspire will be demonstrated in the exhibit “Before and After,” opening Thursday, May 29, at The Gallery at Penn College, on the third floor of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Madigan Library.

Showcasing oil paintings by New York City artist Ned Martin, the exhibit explores how the creative process can be dramatically altered by a single event and how that experience can encourage an artist to paint the beauty of life with intense love, even while communing with the arcane darkness of loss.

"The Gap" is one of Martin's "Before" oil paintings. It was inspired by rural northcentral Pennsylvania.Last year, Martin witnessed a tragic equestrian accident that took the life of his beloved wife, the former Renee Ann Eck, daughter of Rodney C. and Susan Eck, of Oval. For a time following the accident, Martin could not paint. He was eventually called back to the easel, but in a world blurred by grief, he could no longer produce his norm – realistic paintings; abstract art emerged as his new genre.

In his first exhibit since his wife’s death, “Before and After” presents two distinct sections of Martin’s paintings produced before and after the accident. The works will be physically divided in the gallery. Video footage of a distorted cornfield and other disoriented visuals, with narration by Martin, will separate the genres.

“Painting realism was an expression of my reality, and my reality was something I wanted to run and hide from,” he said. “I didn’t want to feel all of the emotions, so I wrongly approached the abstract genre as a mechanical method that wasn’t going to involve as many emotions. What happened surprised me, to say the least. Because you’re not hand-held to telling a certain story, you’re more open to express yourself.

Photo gallery

"Fractals 23," an oil painting created on recycled metal printing plates, is among Martin's "After" works.“I discovered that abstract expression allows all kinds of emotions that I was originally trying to get away from. The more I resisted feeling, the more entangled I became in my own emotions. Finally, I accepted that my emotions were the very raw fuel of creativity itself. Now I know the pain, the joy, laughter and tears are extremely powerful gifts. To refute those emotions would be a bigger tragedy still.

“When I summon enough courage to express my emotions with paint, it has the power to transport me. ... and most importantly to me, when I embrace and use my emotions in my creative process, I honor my Renee. So, I feel. So, I paint.”

A graduate of Jersey Shore Area Senior High School, Renee had been an animal nutrition specialist and a spokesperson and advocate for the famous carriage horses of Central Park. The couple was married in Central Park with horse-drawn carriages in attendance.

Martin was a fine arts major at Towson State University in Maryland, followed by formal art training at the Schuler School of Fine Arts in Baltimore. The painter embraced the Schuler School experience and continues to grind his own paint. He paints on recycled metal printing plates and lives and paints both in Manhattan and rural central Pennsylvania.

As part of the Thursday, May 29, opening, set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Martin will deliver a gallery talk at 5:30 p.m.

Before and After” will run through June 29. The gallery’s summer exhibit hours will be Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. (closed Saturdays and Mondays).

Admission to The Gallery at Penn College is free and open to the public. In addition to serving as an educational resource for Penn College students and a cultural asset to the college and community, the gallery is dedicated to promoting art appreciation through its exhibitions of contemporary art.

For more about The Gallery at Penn College, email or call 570-320-2445.

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