By Donovan Levine
From rosettes to barn symbols to 20-pointed stars, the Hexhibition at Kutztown’s Eckhaus Gallery personifies the lively culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch and the history of the Lehigh Valley as a whole.
KU’s Anthropology Club’s cross-cultural event, partnered with the Cultural Heritage Center, launched by Erica Cohen, featured dozens of hex signs, barn stars, landscape paintings and photography all dedicated to the heritage of the Pennsylvania Dutch with featured artists as young as 3rd graders and as old as senior citizens. This art exhibition will keep you walking for hours discovering something traditional from the world of art through its sense of symbolism and use of geometry.
For those who aren’t familiar, hex signs are stars and/or circles (often painted on the exterior of barns) that often use geometric concepts like arcs, curves, balance, vertices and circular art styles in their unique designs.
“It’s all symbolic. It’s all positive superstition to help benefit the fertility of crops and that sort of idea. The 8-pointed star represents marriage and family, the 12-pointed star represents the 12 apostles,” says Eric Claypoole, a featured artist at the Hexhibition. Claypoole also gave a lesson to the middle schoolers from Kutztown School District to teach them about the geometric nature of Hex Signs and how they’re drawn. The kids followed suit and drew a few of their own, which are featured at the gallery also Claypoole also mentioned the styles behind the rosette “flower-shaped” stars that the culture is famous for are “deeply rooted in mysticism and superstition.”
What makes the art so appealing and worth the viewership of onlookers is how solely unique it is to just this small area in backwoods Pennsylvania where an entire culture can be found again if you look in the right places. Its uniqueness comes from the spiritual roots behind them since originally they were thought to ward off evil, but the youth found the art fascinating and decided to become artists themselves to keep the tradition alive.
As Erica Cohen, the event coordinator, described to me, “The more people come to support this event, the more we’ll be able to provide more cultural-collaborative events in the future.” She mentioned her central goal was to recycle culture and make sure people get the chance to see the art for its real meaning. Anyone unfamiliar to Kutztown and the Mennonite culture, in general, has a view from the outside looking in and has the opportunity to learn a lot from this showcase.
Cohen also heavily encouraged people to come for the raffle prizes, art vendors and live entertainment all featured during the events, even post-opening night. The live entertainment even features instruments known solely to Pennsylvania Dutch folk alone, and some of the Hex Signs are up for vending so long as people continue to stop in. Refreshments and snacks are aplenty, as well as a donation jar for the Anthropology club.
There’s still time to catch the Hexhibition until Nov. 16, so don’t miss out. Gallery hours are posted on their Facebook page.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment