Gallery display shows life of a coal miner using charcoal as medium
SHAMOKIN - The scenes in the Northumberland County Fine Art Gallery were familiar: the men and the boys who made their livelihood in the region's coal mines.
Many of Joe Evanousky's prints were drawn with a substance that resembles coal - charcoal, and those attending the opening reception for the Barnesville artist's "Coal Region Art" exhibit were transported back to a time not seen in the area for many years.
"I love capturing the emotion that I see in the faces of these miners and breaker boys," the artist said Friday. "The charcoal really brings that out."
Born and raised in Shenandoah, Evanousky learned drawing from his father, and his early works combined his two loves: drawing and football. He continued to study art in college, studying at Kutztown State College.
When going for his master's degree, he first began to work with the medium that would become his trademark.
"My master's assignment from my art professors was to do three pieces I've never done before. Coming from the coal region, I began working on mining art in pencil," Evanousky said.
The professor was impressed, but thought his work would stand out more in charcoal, so he switched and never looked back.
These days, Evanousky travels throughout the coal region, displaying and selling his art and miners apparel. He often jokes that he should have a tape recorder with him when he travels to capture the emotion when the public sees his work.
"I was doing an Irish festival at the Lakeside Ballroom, when a lady began to cry, then she walked away and went inside the ballroom," Evanousky said.
Puzzled, Evanousky watched while she returned with a gentleman and showed him the drawing of the old miner sitting on the bench - the gentleman began to cry as well.
"I wondered what was going on and asked. They told me that was their Grandpa Nubby, one of the oldest miners depicted in the Molly Maguires movie," Evanousky said.
These days, Evanousky uses oils and acrylics in some pieces as well, but his medium of choice will always be charcoal, not only for the mining prints, but sports prints as well.
"I played three sports in high school, so I have a kinship with sports. I love doing pictures of the old leather-helmet days of the sports and the charcoal really brings that out," he said.
Evanousky has been bringing his prints to the Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts in Shamokin for several years.
He hopes to being exploring the images of bituminous coal in future pieces.
Evanousky's exhibit is sponsored by the Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities. It will run at the gallery until Aug. 9. The gallery, located on the first floor of the art center, Arch and Eighth streets, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.