AT THE EDGE Puts Fantastic Art in Historical Context

For Immediate Release
May 14, 2012
Media Contact:
Chris Potash
(610) 432-4333 ext. 125



                                                                     At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic runs through September 9, 2012

Contemporary fantastic art is finally positioned in its correct art-historical context in At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic. Not only is this the most comprehensive exhibition of fantastic art to date—165 classic and contemporary works ranging from a 1797 watercolor by William Blake to a work by Julie Bell created especially for the exhibit—it is also the first time that this discipline has been presented on such a large scale. And once this landmark show closes on September 9, 2012, the works will return to their loaning collections and collectors, not to be seen in this arrangement again. At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic has been drawing audiences from all over the country to the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Fantastic art, also known as imaginative realism, distinguishes itself from other art forms by portraying ancient myths and legends, modern day fantasies in the form of divine interventions, the imagination, the dream state, the grotesque, visions, and the “uncanny” as common everyday elements. While the widespread prevalence of imaginative realism is relatively recent in popular culture, this genre is a staple in art history, beginning with the rise of Romanticism in the second half of the eighteenth century as artists began to present imaginative imagery for narrative and emotional impact rather than allegorical or historical meaning. At the Edge is the first exhibition to place this genre in its correct context: as an evolution of the great realist painters of the past.

At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic was organized by guest curators Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire, founders of the Association of Fantastic Art (AFA).Nearly one-quarter of the exhibition predates 1940, with a heavy focus on the Golden Age of Illustration (1880–1930), including such luminaries as N. C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, José Segrelles, J. C. Leyendecker, Alphonse Mucha, and Frank E. Schoonover. Key nineteenth-century schools are represented by works from Gustave Doré, Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale, Gabriel Ferrier, Edmund Blair Leighton, and William Blake.

Contemporary artists featured in the exhibition run the gamut from famed Swiss surrealist and concept designer H. R. Giger to New York Times bestsellers James Gurney and Tony DiTerlizzi. Frank Frazetta, one of the most important twentieth-century figures in the field, is represented by five works in a special grouping. In all, nearly ninety contemporary artists are represented in the exhibition, including Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Donato Giancola, Paul Lehr, John Schoenherr, Frank Kelly Freas, Boris Vallejo, Michael Whelan, Michael Parkes, Daniel Merriam, Brian Froud, John Howe, David Palumbo, and John Jude Palencar.

Upcoming fantasy-art-related lectures include:

Behind the Flying Saucers: A Revealing Look into the Art of Earle K. Bergey, with Joshua David Bergey

Sunday, August 12

2 p.m.

Best known for painting tastefully brazen portraits of women and fantastical visions of space, Earle K. Bergey (1901–1952) was one of the most prolific American illustration artists of the twentieth century and an unbridled force in all genres of pulp fiction, pin-up, and paperback art. Born in Philadelphia and educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Bergey captured the country’s dreams and nightmares from the Roaring Twenties to his tragic death. This lecture presents what it was like to be an iconic image-maker in a defining era between the two great wars, using eye-popping examples of artwork, rare archival materials, and first-hand, highly personal accounts. Joshua David Bergey is the youngest grandson of Earle K. Bergey and a professional writer and artist who teaches and lectures in the field of twentieth century American illustration.

$5 members, $15 nonmembers. Register now on or by calling the Museum at 610-432-4333, ext. 110.


“A Grand and Beautiful Castle”: Howard Pyle and the Fantastic, with Mary Holahan

Sunday, September 9

2 p.m.

Artist Howard Pyle made pirates, castles, and war scenes come to life. The Father of American Illustration was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and taught and inspired generations of illustrators. Mary Holahan is the Curator of Collections (the head curator) at the Delaware Museum of Art and a specialist in historic Illustration. She has authored a book on Howard Pyle and is a specialist on the Brandywine Illustrators.

$5 members, $15 nonmembers. Register now on or by calling the Museum at 610-432-4333, ext. 110.



Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire are the guest curators for Art the Edge: Art of the Fantastic. The Wilshires’ organization, the AFA, is dedicated to the promotion, recognition and elevation of imaginative realism. It is the organization behind the annual IlluXCon symposium, which provides a meeting point for the promotion and celebration of the art and artists of this diverse field. For the past four years, IlluXCon has created a unique environment, bringing collectors, students, and artists together in an intimate setting with sixty of the top imaginative-realist painters and sculptors in the world for four days of inspiration and education. The Wilshires are co-authors of Visions of Never: The Collection of Fantastic Art (2009, Vanguard) and The Art of the Dragon, The Definitive Collection of Contemporary Dragon Paintings (2012, Vanguard). They are currently writing a critical history of imaginative realism, slated for release in the fall of 2013.


Major sponsorshipprovided by Amaranth Foundation and The Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment.
Sustaining sponsorshipprovided by The Audrey and Bernard Berman Endowment Fund; The Express-Timesand; and WDIY 88.1FM, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio.
Supporting sponsorshipprovided by The Frank Foundation, Holiday Inn Center City Allentown, ICON, Laini's Little Pocket Guide, Lehigh Valley Woman, Sands Casino Resort, Greg Obaugh, Paul and LizAnn Lizotte, The Illustrated Gallery and Barry Klugerman.