Sculpture By Judy Keathley. Photo Credit: Contributed

Discoveries and Homecomings: Art at Kings Oaks Returns for its 8th Year

By Louise Feder

Kings Oaks is, in every sense, the classic Bucks County farm and estate. It’s tucked back from busy roads, with a long tree lined drive, a main stone house, several outbuildings including a large wooden barn from 1839 and an intimate stone chapel, with a rolling garden leading down a grassy hill to fields beyond. The setting is bucolic, emblematic of the region’s agricultural architecture history, and visitors may be tempted to assume they know just what to expect. But, when I arrived at the barn a few weeks ahead of Art at Kings Oaks’ September opening, co-curators Alex Cohenand Clara Weishahn, alongside a crew of volunteers were hard at work on something that stopped me in my tracks: an enormous cardboard cake.

A stylized display base for playful cardboard and papier mâche sculptures by Florida-based artist Judy Keathley, the cake immediately evokes a smile. It was a clever, thoughtful installation, specific to the artist, her work, and an especially fun surprise within the cavernous, traditional barn. And, in a year in which the exhibition hosted 28 artists from across the U.S., England, France, Georgia, Israel, Pakistan, and Scotland, it was treat to discover the many ways in which Cohen and Weishahn highlighted each artist while simultaneously engaging the architecture and landscape at Kings Oaks.

The last iteration of Art at Kings Oaks took place in 2019. Like so many things, the exhibition took a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Now, Cohen and Weishahn feel the 2022 exhibition took on greater significance as a community event that responded to the isolation of recent times. Cohen reflects that, “artistic expression inevitably exists in relationship with everyday pressures –– as the everyday pressures of the last few years have become extraordinary, so too has the creative response.”

I returned to the fully-installed exhibition with my family on a gray October weekend, and was impressed at how unified the exhibited works felt as a group as well as how at home each one appeared in the unconventional galleries. A trio of sizable paintings by DC-based artist Susan Yanero hung from an upper bay, the center piece, Golden Lion, perfectly framed by the barn’s beams and its cool tones highlighted by a patch on the roof above. The textures in Yakov Veyser’s sculptures were celebrated from their pedestal in a repurposed wooden cabinet in the barn, while the tones from papers and handwoven silk in Alyssa Sakina Mumtaz’s Garden of Fidelity were reflected in the stones and mortar in the chapel’s walls. An impressive 32 of Stuart Shils’ works were installed in and around a former granary, its walls reinvigorated with an unexpected, saturated shade of blue. Some pieces were visible only by peeking down, over, and through previously-functional openings into the tight space – an exercise our six-year-old was thrilled to show us repeatedly.

Throughout the exhibition, the barn and chapel galleries’ specific, regional architecture was celebrated, challenged, and reawakened by pieces that interacted with and pushed up against what we may expect of each space. A cohesive experience punctuated by moments of discovery, the installation invited close looking and an appreciation of details in both the art and its surroundings. True to Cohen and Weishahn’s description, Art at Kings Oaks was, “both soulful and joyous, showcasing a diverse group of artists from near and far, with an emphasis on innovation with materials.”

Programming during this year’s exhibition also considered materiality and sense of place. The Grammy-winning chamber choir, The Crossing, performed Walking the Farm: a Progressive Concert on September 17th and 18th during a preview of the exhibition. Based on the “progressive dinner” model, this unique concert visited five stations around the farm: the barn, the creek, the old chapel, the field, and the garden. At each stop, attendees were able to, “commune, sharing locally sourced bites, local beers and wines, and a choral work inspired by land and our relationship to it.”

On October 2nd, Philadelphia painter and teacher Stuart Shils held a workshop for artists and non-artists alike titled, “Drawing as the Beginning of Presence.” Shills’ aim with the class was to, “frame drawing as beginning of presence – the critical thought-engine behind design, painting, photography and anything involving the construction of form…explore observation as the foundation of drawing, ushering your eyes more deeply into paying closer attention.”

Paintings by Abigail Dudley. Photo Credit: Contributed.

Then, on October 8th, U.S.-based Pakistani artist and art historian Murad Khan Mumtaz, taught an introduction to Hindustani painting. Mumtaz’s own traditional Indian miniatures, which portray contemplative landscapes and figures of saints and ascetics, were included in the Chapel Gallery.

Art at Kings Oaks is a labor-of-love for Cohen and Weishahn, taking over six months from inception to completion. In its eighth-year, Cohen’s own work as an artist (his paintings were included in this year’s exhibition in the Chapel Gallery) and Weishahn’s background in theatre production were on full display in this year’s vibrant exhibition. Only open to the public for three weeks, this year’s iteration was a welcome return to the annual fall exhibition line up.

Work by Chuck Bowdish. Photo Credit: Contributed.

Art at Kings Oaks is located at 756 Worthington Mill Road in Newtown, PA. The 2022 exhibition ran from September 24th through October 9th with gallery hours of 11am – 5pm Wednesday through Sunday and by appointment. There was also an opening reception on Friday, September 23rd from 6 – 9pm and a closing reception on Sunday, October 9thfrom 2 – 5pm. Admission is free and parking is available onsite. Art is for sale in person and remotely; visit or call 215-603-6573 for more information.

2022 Exhibiting Artists: Rotem Amizur, Poogy Bjerklie, Chuck Bowdish, Stacy Caldwell, Larry Calkins, Alex Cohen, Charles Cooper, Abigail Dudley, Stephen W. Evans, Dee Jenkins, Judy Keathley, Tutu Kiladze, Stanley Lewis, Maria Michurina, John Joseph Mitchell, Murad Khan Mumtaz, Alyssa Sakina Mumtaz, Sean Noonan, Bethann Parker, Catherine Ross, Stuart Shils, Eric Stewart, Omri Sudri, Ali Sultan, Yakov Veyser, Grant Watson, Emery Williams, Susan Yanero.

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