It's not exactly the artwork you would expect from the hands of a 75-year-old woman. Then again, Janet Sullivan Turner of Philadelphia has always been before her time.
Her heavy duty industrial-type artwork is on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art until Aug. 20 where one can view her unique sculptural assemblage pieces.
The exhibit: "Janet Sullivan Turner: How to Survive an Atomic Bomb" is named after one of her pieces, in which Turner used pages from the book "How to Survive an Atomic Bomb," along with a document signed by the undersecretary of war in 1946 thanking everyone who worked on the bomb.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
SAMA-Altoona Site Coordinator Barbara Hollander examines an oil painting by Janet Sullivan Turner titled “Philadelphia: 4th of July.”
SAMA at Altoona Coordinator Barbara Hollander was moved by this piece and the 34 other pieces chosen for the exhibit. She said they are unlike anything previously displayed at the museum.
"It obviously kind of struck a chord with me," she said. "We have never had anything like this before. It's recycled materials, heavy duty. I thought it was unusual for a woman to be working with such an industrial tone."
Hollander describes Turner as lady-like in appearance and mannerisms, which is in stark contrast to her assemblage artwork. Turner, who grew up in a period relatively unfriendly to woman artists, has consistently been breaking barriers.
If you go
What: "Janet Turner Sullivan: How to Survive an Atomic Bomb"
When: Through Aug. 20, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Special reception is 6 to 8 p.m. Monday. Cost is $20 for the reception.
Where: The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona
For more information: visit www.sama-art.org or call 946-4464
A 1956 University of Michigan graduate, Turner always had a love for art, though women artists weren't prevalent when she was growing up.
"It was the dark ages for women. There were very few women artists if any. They were not in magazines or books," Turner said.
Though she dabbled in artwork after college, she wasn't able to devote ample time to her passion until she was 40 and her kids were older.
Her husband, the late Marine Corps. Lt. Col. Terry Turner served two tours in Vietnam, so Turner was raising the children almost as a single parent, not leaving much time for art.
"Women my age, if they're artists, men had a 25-year start on them because we took care of the children, which is fine because I like my children, but that pretty much precluded careers," Turner said. "Women's lib had never even been thought of at the time."
Once she and her husband were settled in Philadelphia, Turner pursued her career in art.
About 25 years ago, Turner started her obsession with flea markets and antique shows where she finds many items for her assemblage pieces.
"I pick up what looks interesting and then sometimes use it later," Turner said. "They're three-dimensional pieces. They hang on a wall.
"I tend to see things as a sculptor, but I never had training as a sculptor. I find things and put them together to create artwork."
Turner, who manipulates and reshapes materials to create her pieces, has been featured in exhibits at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, Noyes Museum in New Jersey, Villanova University and Michigan State University.
"To view the work of Janet Sullivan Turner makes one feel as if they are being transported back in time, to another era, or is it advancing forward on an unlikely course toward the unknown," Hollander said. "Her collection of assemblages is erratic, ecstatic and totally unexpected."
To celebrate the exhibition, the museum will host a special Blue Monday program with Turner from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will include live music as well as dinner and drinks for $20. Call the museum for reservations at 946-4464.
The public can view the exhibit for free at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona in the Brett Building at 1210 Eleventh Avenue from Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.