Sun, 06/03/2012 – Sun, 09/09/2012

Scheller Gallery, Rodale Gallery, Fowler Gallery

“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy.  What right have we then to depreciate imagination?”  –Carl Jung

The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley was pleased to showcase an exhibition that introduces contemporary fantastic art to the museum setting. At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic was not only the most comprehensive exhibition of fantastic art to date, it was also the first time that this discipline has been presented on such a large scale. The exhibition was organized by guest curators Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire, founders of the Association of Fantastic Art (AFA).

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 was the first exhibition to place this genre in its correct art-historical context as an evolution of the great realist painters of the past.

At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic showcases included more than 160 original works of art ranging from 1797 to the present day. Nearly one-quarter of the exhibition predated 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, was represented by five works. In all, nearly ninety contemporary artists were 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.



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.

Learn more about IlluXCon HERE.

Major sponsorship provided by Amaranth Foundation and The Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment.
Sustaining sponsorship provided by The Audrey and Bernard Berman Endowment Fund; The Express-Times and; and WDIY 88.1FM, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio.
Supporting sponsorship provided 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.

Frank Frazetta (1928–2010), Eerie #8 (The Brain), 1967, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions ( Copyright©2012 Frazetta Properties LLC.