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Pittsburgh Artist Pays Tribute to SBU President

ALLEGANY, N.Y. – A Handful of Seed, an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Marie Mawe Charpentier opened Aug. 1 in The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University. Conceived as a birthday tribute to Sister Margaret Carney, OSF, the exhibition is a visual record of the people and places of her native Pittsburgh that quietly influenced the woman who would become the 20th president of the University.

Sr. Margaret and Charpentier both grew up in post-industrial Pittsburgh. In her exhibition, Charpentier presents portraits of those in the “chain of people” who made indelible impressions on the future leader, along with evocative landscapes of Pittsburgh and its environs.

The idea for the exhibition came when Margaret talked with Charpentier several years ago about the many strong women in her past who inspired her, including a sister born with special needs. Charpentier was immediately reminded of Truman Capote’s words from The Grass Harp:

“Have you ever cared about one leaf? We are speaking of love. A leaf, a handful of seed – begin with these, learn a little what it is to love. First, a leaf, a fall of rain, then someone to receive what a leaf has taught you, what a fall of rain has ripened. No easy process, understand; it could take a lifetime, it has mine, and I’ve still never mastered it… I only know how true it is: that love is a chain of love, as nature is a chain of life.”

Nostalgic and poignant, the paintings and drawings in the exhibition avoid the easy solution of a sepia-toned sentimentality, evoking a distant past keyed in the pastel colors of the present. And, while people are the artist’s favorite subjects, even her landscapes are spontaneous, but sure-footed portraits of places.

Joseph LoSchiavo, executive director of the Quick Center said, “I had been thinking of a way the Center could mark Sr. Margaret’s birthday. Then I met Marie in Pittsburgh last year, and the ‘seeds’ began to germinate.”

Charpentier studied painting with Henry Koerner, Elizabeth Meyers Castonguay and Herbert Olds. She has held solo exhibitions at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Twin Lakes Art Festival and Le Pommier in Pittsburgh. Juried exhibitions include the 2004 Westmoreland Museum of American Art Biennial, the 2004 AMP at the Andy Warhol Museum (highlighting emerging Pittsburgh artists) and the 1995 Westmoreland Art Nationals.

A Handful of Seed opened Aug. 1 and continues through Oct. 29.