Unbreakable Bond: ‘Frances & Albert Paley’ Share Their Artistic Genius

Striking images and steel sculpture highlight RIT’s University Gallery exhibit

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A. Sue Weisler

The “Frances & Albert Paley” exhibition at University Gallery showcases images and steel sculpture designed by Rochester’s renowned artist couple.

Who would think Albert Paley’s steel sculptures could fit in a gallery space—or they’d be sharing space with some vibrant and spectacular photo-enhanced images by his wife, Frances?

Talent runs in the family as “Frances & Albert Paley” are the featured artists in University Gallery’s newest exhibition, located in James E. Booth Hall at Rochester Institute of Technology. The show is open to the public and runs through May 26, with an artist reception set for 5 to 7 p.m. May 15.

Frances has been exploring various media for more then 30 years, and her new montage of images are striking, romantic and surreal—with mysterious titles such as “Long Tail,” “Straw Hat,” “Gold Skirt,” “Long Legs” and “Fetish.” In her recent work, the artist uses a camera to photograph storefront windows—complete with mannequins and reflections of street signs, trees and foliage, buildings, streetcars—and then colorizes the entire image to “deepen and enrich the emotional impact.”

“For me,” says Frances, “these images ask the question, ‘What is alive and what is dead?’ I do not see the inanimate as ‘lifeless.’ By photographing images that are not technically ‘alive’ and adding color, I see them as lively and animated, reflecting feelings, attitudes and the ability to impart emotions.”

Meanwhile, Albert, who holds the Charlotte Fredericks Mowris Endowed Chair in RIT’s School for American Crafts, is recognized worldwide for his towering steel sculptures. The Sentinel, a 110-ton, 73-foot-high, steel-stainless and steel-bronze work of art, has been the focal point in the heart of the campus since its installation in 2003.

And now at University Gallery are four recognizable sculptures—white steel replications of Odyssey—Albert’s massive mixed-metal sculptures that were installed in 2010 at the four corners of the South 24th Street Bridge in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“The Odyssey models are 46 to 50 feet tall, made of mild steel, and weigh 1,000 pounds each,” says Jessica Erickson, University Gallery Manager. “So Paley Studio employees brought in a forklift for the installation. It was a first for us, but now they look like they belong here.”

The “Frances & Albert Paley” exhibit also features several of Albert’s proposal sketches of sculpture commissions from 2007 to 2011.

University Gallery is located adjacent to RIT’s Vignelli Center for Design Studies—home to the entire archive of graphic and product designs by renowned international designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli. Gallery hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For information, contact Jessica Erickson at 585-475-2404 or jleugs@rit.edu.