Professor Wholley Retires with Multi-piece Exhibition

Photo by Steve Fallon

The Berrie Center Galleries opened two new shows on Feb. 25. The first is titled “The Piero/Leonardo Project,” which showcases the recent works of Jay Wholley, a professor of sculpture at Ramapo for 44 years. The second is “Work With Me,” and features a collection of artists who have in some way collaborated with Wholley in that time.

The show for the “Piero/Leonardo Project” represents less than half of the final work, according to Wholley. The sculptures currently on display in the Kresge Gallery were inspired by works by early Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca. Wholley claimed that he noticed the hats worn by figures in the paintings, and found them to be “symbols of hierarchical power” and “unusual in the history of painting.” That imagery would become the first set of sculptures in this show.

“I don’t know when the Piero/Leonardo Project will be exhausted. Possibly not even in my lifetime, ” said Wholley, in reference to how many more ideas he has for possible works in the project. The next phase will be based on the war machine designs of Leonardo Da Vinci, which Wholley said are “not dissimilar to the hats."

Right next door in a connected room, the Pascal Gallery is home to “Work With Me,” a show dedicated to work created by the friends and former students of Professor Jay Wholley. There is a variety of media in the gallery, mostly sculptures and paintings. One particular piece, made by former student Josh Knoblick, is a set of four waveforms of him doing impressions of his favorite “Wholley-isms” as a way to honor his mentor’s teachings. Josh claims that he took a sculpture class with Jay on a whim and ended up staying two extra years at Ramapo in order to complete a degree in the subject.

“Jay has a way of artistically coaxing things out of you,” said Knoblick, who now operates the KiloWatt Gallery in Newark, NJ.

“I thought it was epic,” said Cavanaugh Cutler, a senior, when asked about the opening reception. “It was like a huge altar to Jay’s body of work, even though it doesn’t encompass all of it.” Cutler is majoring in art with a double concentration in sculpture and drawing and painting, and has also taken five classes with Wholley.

Jay Wholley will retire at the end of this semester. On retiring, Wholley said “I will be doing more of the same. More easy to do other things without being tied down to a teaching schedule.” He mentioned that he will only leave his sculpture studio for meals.

Around 150 friends, students and colleagues were in attendance for the opening.