WILKES-BARRE — Hues of blue and beige filled a portrait of a weathered man, hunched over along the shorelines of what appeared to be a desert island. Washing into the shore toward his hands was a wooden crate, with the words “Cream of Wheat” illustrated in black along the side of the box.
This 1907 ad by Walter Whitehead, along with comic clips from the likes of Charles Schultz, Ham Fisher and more, were just some of the 134 pieces that filled the Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University.
The college unveiled its latest exhibit — pieces from Dr. Andrew Sordoni’s personal collection — to hundreds Saturday evening. The exhibit, “Selections from the Sordoni Collection: Illustrations and Comic Art,” has been over two years in the making and was curated by Dr. Stanley I. Grand, said gallery director Heather Sincavage.
A fun fact Sincavage announced to attendees was that the location of the art gallery formerly belonged to Bartikowsky Jewelers. Matt Bartikowsky, she said, was the character “Little Max” in Wilkes-Barre native Fisher’s comic, Joe Palooka.
As patrons looked over a 1928 clip of Rose O’Neill’s “Kewpids,” a 1948 strip of “Tarzan” by Burne Hogarth and, of course, a 1941 strip of Palooka, Sordoni told his personal story of collecting and his eye for art.
“The impulse of the collector — once you have the collection — is to share,” he said of the desire to make the exhibit. “You really need to share it.”
One of the keynote speakers was acclaimed illustrator Chris “C.F.” Payne. Having two pieces in the exhibit himself, Payne spoke about his history and love for art, later stating the need to support all art types in educational settings.
Payne explained that everything from television and movies to computers, buildings and clothing is made by artists, thus killing the stereotype of the “starving artist.” Because of this, the need for creative artists should be brought into educational settings at an earlier time.
“It all passes through the hands of artists,” he said of those items and more. “Art is everywhere.”
As the curtain in front of the gallery rose and the glass doors opened, hundreds made their way inside to view the collection. Making their way around the exhibit, visual artist Sherry Bufano and Roy Goodman shared how wonderful it was to have the opportunity to see such precious illustrations.
“This is like the history of America in little cartoons,” Bufano said, fondly remembering her childhood days of grabbing the comics in the Sunday paper. “It’s amazing how you remember.”
In his many years of supporting the arts within Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sordoni said he’s learned to never stop learning.
“Every day is a new experience. It’s a rewarding and enriching experience,” he said. “You can see a picture 1,000 times, and on that 1,001st you see something you missed before.”
The exhibit will be on display at the gallery until May 20. Special tours headed by Grand, Sordoni and more will also be available. For more information, visit wilkes.edu/sordoniartgallery.