Includes rarely seen drawings and paintings by the late Bucks County artist.

Fire Clouds by John Sears

The Rider University Art Gallery will open the 2013-14 season with an exhibit of drawings and paintings by the late Bucks County artist John Sears from September 19 through October 13.  The exhibit will open with a reception on Thursday, September 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. 

Titled “Contrast,” the exhibit will include works created before and after Sears’ 1985 near-fatal bicycling accident, which left him with a traumatic injury brain injury. One highlight will be works from his Sketchbook Series, a collection of still-life drawings and paintings centered on the sketchbook that was always at his side and significant objects in his life.  The series hasn’t been shown in 30 years.  The exhibit will also include life-drawings and self-portraits done both before and after his injury.

“The works selected for this exhibit both illustrate and symbolize John’s core belief in art and in life: Contast is the Key,” says his widow, Anne Sears.  “He emphasized to his students the importance of contrast in art.  He also recognized that life is inevitably filled with contrasting experiences, happy and sad, good and bad.  He even named his boat Contrast.  So it seemed appropriate to name this exhibit for this concept that meant so much to him.”

In conjunction with the exhibit the Rider University Art Gallery will host a panel discussion focusing on creativity in the face of challenge on Thursday, September 26 at 7 p.m.  Gallery Director Harry I. Naar, artist Cynthia Groya, Rider University Psychology Professor John Suler and Anne Sears will discuss what drives people to create despite physical, emotional or economic challenges and ways to support the creative spirit that lies in all people?

John Sears was an integral part of the art community in Bucks County, Pa. from 1970, when he moved to Newtown, Pa. from Chicago, until his death in April 2009. His work has been included in exhibits throughout the United States and has received many awards, including the Patron's Prize for Graphics at the Phillips Mill Art Exhibition, first prize for works on canvas in Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital’s 2003 Art Ability International Exhibition for Artists with Disabilities and honorable mention at the University Medical Center at Princeton’s 2003 and 2007 Art First exhibition.  His art is in both public and private collections, including those of Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Pittsburgh National Bank, Mobil Oil, Pittsburgh Copper Corporation and Moss Rehabilitation Hospital.

A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northern Illinois University, where he earned a master's degree in art education, Sears was also a dedicated and gifted art educator.  For 17 years he taught drawing and painting at George School in Newtown, Pa., and in 1983 he was recognized by Rhode Island School of Design as one of the nation's outstanding secondary art educators.

A 1985 bicycling accident left him with a traumatic brain injury and such disabilities as partial paralysis, speech disorders and double vision, as well as cognitive deficits.  Over the following 24 years he struggled to continue his work as an artist, learning to compensate for the challenges his disability presented.

“Making art has been a central part of my life since I was a child,” he said.  “After my accident, when the doctors told me that I might not be able to make art again, I was devastated.  I couldn’t imagine living without being able to create.  Using as much will and determination as I could muster, I kept on trying, so that I could again work in my studio.”

The Rider University Art Gallery is located in the Bart Luedeke Center on Rider University’s campus, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, in Lawrenceville.   It is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.