whalen exhibit advance

JOED VIERA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Joe Whalen shows a self portrait that was recently returned to him. “Whalen: A Legacy,” a show of select works by the artist over a 75-year-period, will begin Oct. 4 at Market Street Art Studios. Fans of his work are invited submit brief written testimonials indicating how they have been influenced by Whalen; the testimonials will be displayed on a bulletin board at the show.

Joed Viera

Local artist Joseph Whalen has made a big impact on the Lockport community during his career that has spanned decades. His paintings can be found on the walls of hundreds if not thousands of homes, galleries, offices and businesses throughout the world.

To pay tribute to all Whalen has accomplished, a retrospective of his career will be on display from Oct. 4 through Nov. 14 at the Market Street Art Studios, 247 Market St. The unique exhibit will highlight his more than 75-year career and feature posters, logos, greeting cards, cartoons and various advertising pieces, along with some never-before-seen or rarely seen paintings from the private collection of Whalen, his family and friends.

Jay Krull of the Niagara Art Trail said the show will be almost museum-like, with many things on display that “he produced over the years that will be unusual for people to see.”

After going through boxes and boxes of stuff, Krull said he has come across many things “people haven’t seen” and that are “even in different styles.”

Included will be a drawing Whalen did in 1939 at the age of 11. Other early works on display will include pieces from his time at RIT.

Krull said a painting Whalen just completed this week will also be on display for the public.

This celebration of his career means a lot to Whalen.

“After 88 years, it’s quite a reflection,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of drawings. I love drawing.”

According to Krull, one thing not a lot of people have seen are Whalen’s sketches. Because Whalen has rarely worked from photograph, and would typically go to a place, sketch it, then create his paintings, on display will be several sketches next to the paintings they inspired. Krull said they will be displayed together, side-by-side, for the first time.

Krull said they are still looking for any additional items people may be willing to loan for the exhibit, such as Christmas cards — an item Whalen is known for creating and sending throughout the years. Artifacts will be displayed in cases under glass for their protection.

Whalen has created more than 4,000 paintings throughout his career. At his peak, he said, he was painting 50 pieces a month. Those paintings have been purchased by people living all across the United States, in England, Finland and Italy.  

Whalen has done many commissions, which had him painting images all around Lockport and Niagara County. He has a select group of favorite paintings from his career, including “The Pool Player” and “Jenny Light,” the painting of a woman asleep on her front porch with beer cans around her.

Born and raised in Lockport, Whalen began drawing around 8 years old as a way to pass the time while in the hospital with a bone disease. He began painting a few years later. He had a 33-year teaching career, with most of his time spent educating children at North Park Junior High School.

“As a teacher Joe’s goal above all else has been to teach students to be good citizens,” Krull said. “It is a philosophy which carries beyond the classroom to artists and non-artists alike. For those of us who have been touched by Joe, we are thankful for that part of what we have become due to his influence. It carries forth a living legacy which will continue to flourish for generations to come.”

To help celebrate Whalen’s legacy, the public is invited to submit a short testimonial as to how they have been influenced by him and why they are a piece of his living legacy. Organizers are asking for statements to be limited to just a few lines and for the author’s name to be included. These testimonials will be put on display on a bulletin board at the show.

Submissions can be mailed to The Niagara Art Trail, Attention: Whalen Legacy, P.O. Box 1164, Lockport, NY 14095.

“Whalen: A Legacy” will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and Monday.

An opening reception will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 4. At the event, the Whalen 2016 calendar will go on sale. Similar to the 2015 version, this year’s calendar will feature works from private collections. However, the pieces picked were chosen primarily from the private collections of Whalen and his family members. Also like the current year’s calendar, the 2016 version will include a personal description from Whalen and the owner with each piece.

Also being released that day will be a book of various sketches Whalen has done throughout his career. Krull said the sketches are all of people, “because Joe is famous for his people” and were done in pen and ink or pencil.

Contact reporter Rikki Cason at 439-9222, ext. 6252.

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