During a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, Gail Morrison-Hall found inspiration in a store that sold handmade paper with intricate inscriptions. Each sheet cost three times less than American paper.
“I went nuts like a kid in a candy store,” she said, as she pulled out stacks of paper from the shelves of her studio in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. “I am a paper freak. I love medieval manuscripts.”
Morrison-Hall, a 1966 painting alumna, is presenting works in the exhibition “Notes To Myself,” a collection of work fusing visual art with the written word. In the exhibit, Morrison-Hall showcases her work alongside artists Howard Silberthau and Patricia Dusman. Mat Tomezsko, a 2009 studio art alumnus, curated the exhibit.
The exhibit, presented by InLiquid, a nonprofit arts and design organization, will run until Oct. 1 at the Painted Bride Art Center on Vine and Bodine streets.
In her studio, Morrison-Hall keeps a box filled with various kinds of paper products, including lace, newspaper clippings, rice and oriental paper. For “Notes to Myself,” she used amate, a paper made from tree bark as part of an ancient Mexican tradition. She incorporates different layers of paper into her paintings of buildings, creating original architectural landscapes.
Many of her paintings in the exhibit depict buildings that are partly destroyed from wrecking ball demolitions.
“In college, I would see a wrecking crane, run and take a picture and sketch it,” Morrison-Hall said. “When a wrecking crane destroys a house you ask who lives there? What happened?”
“And I just pulled out a couple of paintbrushes and sat down,” she added. “That’s how it started.”
Silberthau said he feels the same sort of spontaneity when creating his art.
His parents fled Nazi Germany during World War II, so he never learned to speak German. But through his art, Silberthau said he draws from his German heritage.
In some of his paintings, Silberthau paints “German gibberish,” indecipherable words inspired by the German language, against a white or black background. He said he intends his painting to be abstract, but with a sense of logic behind it.
“The idea is you can’t actually read it,” Silberthau said. “My goal is the general visual impact. It is about the painting, not the words.”
Unlike Morrison-Hall’s colorful landscapes, Silberthau’s paintings feature blueish-gray colors and the majority are untitled.
“I prefer to let the viewer go in without any preconceptions,” Silberthau said.
For both Morrison-Hall and Silberthau, creating art is a process of revision, sometimes even resulting in discarding a finished painting.
“You keep pulling the thread on a shirt or dress, and you unravel the whole thing,” Silberthau said. “Similarly, when you are correcting something little, you have to scrap the whole painting.”
While creating pieces for the exhibition, the artists found that their art did not always look as they wanted it to. Accepting the occasional loss of work, Morrison-Hall said starting over is a natural part of the artistic process.
“The painting goes where it wants to go,” she said. “If it fails, I have no qualms with it.”
Morrison-Hall often draws inspiration from her childhood, titling works after places she frequented when she was younger.
In “Notes to Myself,” her piece, “My Grandfather’s Grocery Store,” includes real photos from her family’s store in New York City. The painting was based on “the sentimentality for my grandparents,” she said.
The name of the exhibition came from a series of Morrison-Hall’s paintings, also titled “Notes To Myself.” In many of her paintings in the series, she created symbols that resembled notes inspired by sheet music or liturgical missals — an instructional book for celebrating Mass.
“I want it to look like a line from a text,” Morrison-Hall said. “It starts with lines, colors, and gets into composition.”