STORIES FROM PAFA
BFA student Jeshima Lee DeVine responds to Rising Sun exhibition and museum programs
Learning at PAFA goes beyond the professors and artists who teach classes and mentor students. Of course, Jeshima Lee DeVine (BFA ‘23) has some favorite classes currently, from Foundry with Darla Jackson and Printmaking with Tony Rosati, to Book Arts with Rosae Reeder. She's recently learned from Doug Martenson, who teaches landscape painting at PAFA.
But she’s also picking up techniques from artists who lived 200 years ago.
“I’m able to walk down to the museum and look at landscapes and talk about the different aspects of the landscape and how to paint by looking at people's different brushstrokes, and having like that real kind of intimate, close relationship with the work.”
Being able to study art up close is one thing, but being able to engage with it deeply is another.
DeVine’s time at PAFA overlaps with a series of exhibitions that connect historic works from the permanent collection with new additions from contemporary artists. From Making American Artists, which offered new narratives in American Art History, to Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America, a transformative exhibition in PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building and the African American Museum of Philadelphia, students expand their education with the museum’s offerings.
“I participated in an artist’s workshop during Making American Artists and we were looking at art. I look at art all the time. But the way the workshop went, and being directed to look at things in a certain way or interacting with other people and art at the same time, it’s peeling back another layer of looking at art."
"I looked at works that I've seen a million times because they're here, but hadn't looked at them in that way. All of these different things start popping out that I hadn't noticed before. It's been a real enriching and eye-opening experience for me here.”
Coming to PAFA wasn’t originally part of DeVine’s life plans. She always loved creating and knew she was a good painter. She even thrived in high school art classes but didn’t see it as a career path.
She studied pre-business, thought she might work in advertising and had jobs in construction and traffic control. Art was always there, even if it wasn’t at the forefront.
Eventually, DeVine enrolled at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) with the intention of studying computer science. But when the classes were full she pivoted to graphic design and met CCP teacher Terry Peterson.
“He encouraged me to check out the art program. They have a great program and I got back into painting with oils again. I was able to meet with administrators from different art schools and that opened my eyes to a whole different possibility. Coming here and taking a tour of the facilities, seeing the work that's all around here, and the talent that's coming out of here. It was, 'I want to do that.'”
Now in her 4th year at PAFA, DeVine can’t believe she lived in Philadelphia for 15 years before visiting the museum.
“I knew it existed. But I hadn't come into the building, which I kicked myself about. There have been some great exhibitions and I never made it down here for whatever reason.”
With Rising Sun on view through October 8th, DeVine doesn’t want anyone to wait before finally visiting PAFA.
If it’s your first visit to the Historic Landmark Building or you see every exhibition, she says Rising Sun is not to be missed.
“It's hard to put into words. Even if you’ve been in the museum with the older works, it's definitely like a completely different experience."
"The architecture of the building is really specific, it’s really a work of art in itself so this new work really stands out.”
And with the current wall text and QR codes for visitors to scan and learn more, DeVine says the exhibition feels inclusive and connects people who aren’t ‘academics or art historians’.
History is deeply felt in the 20 commissioned works across PAFA and AAMP’s campuses, but interpreted by contemporary artists. Many who are new to PAFA’s galleries.
“Seeing Wilmer Wilson IV’s work, I would never expect to see that in this museum. And Petah Coyne’s work, being able to walk up those stairs and look into... I don't know if you'd call that a skylight... I didn't know if I was going somewhere where I wasn’t allowed to be. So it was kind of a thrill to go into that area."
"I think the way Rising Sun is set up, it feels welcoming.”
As she goes through her final year at PAFA, she is planning many more museum visits to broaden her learning.