Phillip Adams: Leave No Trace (and “Wild Ride” Mural)

Phillip Adams, Sunny Day, detail, 2022, Charcoal and acrylic on panel, 48” x 24”, Courtesy of the artist
September 28, 2023 - January 7, 2024

Artist Statement

In Leave No Trace, I explore ideas related to nature and our impulses to control, reshape, and even destroy the landscapes and environments we play stewards of. Embedded in the work is a paradox of the desire to leave our mark while simultaneously seeking out the pristine, remote, and idyllic. With overtures to the climate crisis humanity faces, this work straddles the weight of rapidly changing environments with playful moments of seeming whimsy. While shrouded in a fragile balance between play and responsibility, these works are intended to inspire the complexity of emotions facing our way forward, as playful elements float, fly, or inhabit these landscapes giving rise to feelings as varying as loss to wonder.

This work is inspired in part by early theories of the Sublime. As the romantic grandeur of these landscapes and atmospheres evoke a sense of beauty and terror, they are recontextualized into moments of levity, playgrounds, or amusement parks. I work from photographs I take while personally exploring some of these vistas, whether it be in the mountains hiking and climbing or kayaking rivers and lakes. I also collect source material that ranges from found images and postcards to photographs dating back to the late 1800s. I then construct compositions that are based on real places. The work in Leave No Trace expands this body of work, which has primarily been focused on mountainous landscapes, by including compositions that explore themes around water and air.

The materials that I use are primarily charcoal, graphite, and acrylic on wood panels. The use of charcoal and graphite links the materiality of carbon to the imagery, further connecting my work in an elemental and fragile way, while the plasticity of acrylic becomes a distinct voice. The work is created meticulously and carefully by building layers of small mark-making that reverberate the care, anxiety, and enormity I feel about the subject matter.

Phillip Adams, Sunny Day, 2022, Charcoal and acrylic on panel, 48” x 24”, Courtesy of the artist

About the Wild Ride Public Art Mural

The South Branch of the Raritan River, which flows directly behind the museum’s retaining wall, inspired Phillip Adams’s mural, Wild Ride. The mural presents a river that cascades gently and follows a natural pathway downstream, linking us to a time before the mills and before the manmade dam. It recalls how humankind’s ingenuity has changed our surroundings, our environment and our lives. It also reminds us of our responsibilities as we alter and adapt to these changes. 

Water is a source of energy.  It encourages reflection and serves as a symbol of healing, rebirth, power and life.  These ideas can also be synonymous with how we approach viewing or creating art. 

In the mural, a fleet of origami boats floats downstream. Serving as symbols of creativity, curiosity, and wonder, they recall the Museum’s mission to educate, challenge, and inspire community through the arts. The color of the boats relates to the spectrum of the rainbow.  Violet, the innermost color, is closest to the Museum and red, the color of the outer arch, is furthest away, representing the radiating outward of the Museum’s activities into the community. 


About Phillip Adams

Phillip Adams is a visual artist and muralist based out of Philadelphia, PA. For over 25 years, his studio work has been exhibited at a range of venues including Woodmere Museum (Philadelphia, PA), Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA), Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), Arcadia University (Philadelphia, PA), Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia, PA), West Chester University (West Chester, PA), and Moore College of Art (Philadelphia, PA). His most recent show opened in October, 2022 at Schmidt Dean Gallery in Cherry Hill, NJ. He was a 2020-21 fellow with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (Philadelphia, PA), and his work is in private collections spanning New York, Arkansas, California to Tokyo. He has been featured or reviewed in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, La Presse (Montréal), and Dolce Vita Magazine (Canada) among other publications.

Adams’ public art practice has spanned over 20 years, focusing on a range of artist driven projects to community based art processes. His murals are featured nationally and internationally including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Memphis, Salt Lake City, and Montréal. He has worked with clients including Starbucks, Rag and Bone, Domain Companies, and U.S. Federal Government, and has collaborated with arts organizations including Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, ArtWorks (Cincinnati), and MU (Montréal).

Adams received a BFA from the University of Georgia and an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania.

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In addition to inspiring people with our classes, we spark imaginations with world-class art installed on our terrace and in our galleries. We maintain the beautiful stone mill that deepens your ties with the past and provide a gathering place for your family and friends on the Toshiko Takaezu Terrace. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation so that we may continue educating, challenging, and inspiring community through the arts.

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