Andrea Packard: Toward a Quaker Aesthetic

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Photo by Cindy Lin.

List Gallery director Andrea Packard ’85 gave a lecture discussing her work as an artist and as a curator at the LPAC Cinema on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.

With an introduction by Professor Brian Meunier, Andrea Packard’s lecture, titled “Toward a Quaker Aesthetic,” delved into the role Quakerism has played in Packard’s life, and how it has become an undefined “aesthetic” in her eyes.

Having only taken art during her senior year at Swarthmore, Packard took a leap by attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She received her MFA in 1994 with awards in Painting and Sculpture, then came to the List Gallery. As the director of the gallery for 16 years, Packard has curated over 30 shows, “taking a small teaching gallery and turning it into a prestigious venue,” according to Brian Meunier.

Looking back at attending a Montessori school and a Quaker upbringing, Packard drew a connection to her past with Quakerism, embracing its aspects that both impede and attribute to the evolving and subjective purposes of art.

Packard recalls her childhood as having little distraction, since swampy lands secluded her home. She was handed paints by her father but was given no instruction, and was both encouraged as a child and inspired as a young adult by watching her father put his career aside to experiment with being a writer. In a similar spirit, Packard followed her instincts and began her career as an artist post-Swarthmore.

Throughout the presentation, Packard introduced a series of artists and specific works that illustrate how art has changed in execution and interpretation. She drew a parallel between this change in art and the change in Quakerism. Beginning with Edward Hicks’ interpretation of the ideal version of peace, Packard moves into discussing works such as Susan Fenton’s white objects series, Daniel Heyman’s display of humanity through returning narratives to released prisoners, Patrick Dougherty’s installations engaging nature and community, and Alice Lok Cahana’s demonstration of art’s essential role in the survival of human spirit. Packard describes the “Quaker Aesthetic” not as a specific style or genre that must be adhered to, but as an aesthetic exhibiting “depth, authenticity, and connectedness to nature and community.”

Photo by Cindy Lin.

Blossoming from a background in painting and sculpture, Andrea Packard has experimented with shaped collages, cardboard, oil paints and quilting which have all influenced her interpretation and creative process. Quilting especially has found its way into her recent works. Her mixed media works featuring fabrics has brought a level of sentiment as well as collaborative differences that integrate to form a common energy.

Packard hopes to capture responses she gets from nature through the cacophony and rhythms of patterns and materials rather than their likeness. Each piece of fabric or material, like a quilt, speaks of other communities. The instability of nature brings about a troubling and exciting stir exhibited through the juxtaposition and tensions of the materials. Packard’s “Composing Nature” contains elements that are meant to speak to people and start a conversation.

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