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"Hopes and Fears Revisited" at Annenberg School's Forum

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November 1, 2011, Volume 58, No. 10

Penn students, staff and faculty have already begun to post their hopes and fears onto Post-It notes, “signed” the notes with their fingerprints and attached them to the wall in the new installation that Judy Gelles and Linda Brenner have unveiled—“Hopes and Fears Revisited.” It is a new interactive, mixed-media art installation on display at the Annenberg School’s Forum now through December. Featuring more than 100 images from previous works, video and text, this is the third generation of an ongoing project that began nearly two years ago during a day-long artist residency at the Welcome House at Love Park, where the artists captured the “hopes and fears” of our time.

Earlier this summer, the project was on display at the Pentimenti Gallery in Old City. People’s hopes and fears from the Love Park installation were scanned, printed and mounted onto square wooden frames. Written on the frames were the answers to two questions: What do you wish for? And, what do you worry about? An interactive component allowed the public to add their own fingerprints and texts to the wall, thus encouraging viewers to leave their mark and become a part of the exhibition.

As it turns out, nearly 50 years ago, sociologists Albert Cantril and Charles Roll Jr. studied this very same phenomenon and published a book, Hopes and Fears of the American People.

“We didn’t realize that we were replicating a sociological study,” Ms. Gelles said. “We were just doing an art project—and this project continues to grow.”

Back then, according to Ms. Gelles, people reported worrying about nuclear war and Communism, but they were not at all concerned with crime or the environment. Today, people have much different concerns—but one common theme has emerged during the last half-century: a lot of people still hope for peace and want happiness for their children.

“It will be interesting to see what Penn faculty, staff and students will write, compared with other people who have already been a part of the exhibit,” Ms. Gelles said. “We welcome everyone at Penn to participate.”

Ms. Gelles’ work, which is conceptual, photo-based and uses words and images to provide social commentary about who people are and how they think, has been featured in major collections across the US and internationally, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), the Philadelphia Free Library, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her work has also been on display in Cologne and Madrid.

Ms. Brenner has been a faculty member at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts since 1988 and was chair of the sculpture department, 1992-1995. She is a critic working with students during their independent studies. She has been involved in numerous projects and commissions, including architectural models for museum exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, the PMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Architectural Archives at Penn. Her sculptures have been on display at the Philadelphia International Airport, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site and Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

Related: Update: November AT PENN

Almanac - November 1, 2011, Volume 58, No. 10