Above, two paintings by Alteronce Gumby: Freedom Known Only Them in Whispers and Tales, 2022, gemstones, glass, and acrylic on panel, 72 x 72 inches; and What Means Red When You Talk About Velvet, 2022, gemstones, glass, and acrylic on panel, 72 x 72 inches. Both courtesy of the artist


The exhibition Alteronce Gumby: Dark Matter, now on view in our upstairs galleries, is unlike any other exhibition you may have seen here at the Allentown Art Museum. Scheller Gallery features works by NY-based artist Alteronce Gumby that incorporate gemstones, shards of tempered glass and other unconventional materials, and Fowler Gallery has been specially outfitted to show how three of Gumby’s most recent paintings fluoresce under black light. Some of the color comes from minerals in the paintings that were sourced from the Sterling Hill Mine, a former iron and zinc mine in Ogdensburg, New Jersey. The site, which was the last working underground mine in New Jersey when it closed in 1986, now houses a mining museum.

Visitor in front of Alteronce Gumby’s Color Moves in Mysterious Ways, 2022, 72 x 72 inches, gemstones, glass, and acrylic on panel. Courtesy of the artist

“The Sterling Hill Mining Museum has preserved a geological wonder containing the remnants of the world’s richest zinc deposit,” says William Kroth, president and executive director of the mining museum. “Contained in the deposit are four hundred minerals and more than ninety that fluoresce various colors under ultraviolet light. The Sterling Hill ore body has the most varied and numerous fluorescent minerals anyplace on the planet. These minerals are sought out by collectors, scientists, and artists for their incredible colors that emanate from within.”

The minerals Gumby used in his paintings in Fowler Gallery—green willemite and red calcite—emit light when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

“It’s not reflected light, this is a wavelength of emitted light,” continues Kroth. “It’s like looking at glowing embers in a fireplace. They have a magical mystique about them.”

By incorporating minerals from the Sterling Hill Mine, located just 70 miles from Allentown, Gumby’s paintings reflect the rich mining history and traditions of the region surrounding the Lehigh Valley. In only being observable under ultraviolet light—and otherwise undetectable by the human eye—these fluorescing minerals also become a metaphor for Gumby’s artistic practice, which addresses issues of visibility and invisibility and aims to challenge our assumptions about color by inviting us to think more expansively about it.

Listen to the artist talking about his fluorescing paintings by clicking HERE.

Dark Matter continues on view through April 9, 2023.