KINGSTON — When Herbert Simon says, “there’s so much decay in this area,” he admits it doesn’t sound very complimentary.
Yet the retired professor, still working on his art at age 90, admires the “stark, gritty, post-industrial character” he sees around the region.
He celebrates it in sketches and etchings that are on display at Mainstreet Galleries in an exhibit titled “Herbert Simon, A Retrospective of Works on Paper.”
“This is on the Dallas highway,” he said, pointing to an image of a less-than-spiffy structure. “It’s a ruin … These are old company houses … this is the old Sterling Hotel.
“I like this industrial subject matter, urban subject matter, houses and buildings,” said Simon, who retired in 1993 after 23 years teaching in Wilkes University’s art department.
“It’s less physically taxing to make etching than to do sculpture,” he said, explaining why he no longer concentrates on the latter, but still enjoys the former.
Simon, of Shavertown, who will take part in a meet-the-artist reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Mainstreet Galleries, 370 Pierce St., also admits a fondness for traffic scenes, and has created an eye-catching graphite sketch of a jeep whose driver seems to be swerving to avoid a deer.
Other images on display focus on headlights, curves in a roadway, menacing birds above a cityscape and the Market Street Bridge as you’ve probably never imagined it before — with the eagle columns distorted like a fun house reflection.
Simon has also crafted a self-portrait that gives his face a zig-zag effect, and he’s made digital print collages in which you can recognize famous paintings by Picasso and Renoir.
His former hometown of New York City shows up as well, showcased in images of skyscrapers and other Big Apple scenes.
“This is a tribute to Hart Crane. His most famous poem was about the Brooklyn Bridge,” Simon said, pointing to an image that includes the iconic span over the East River.
In another tribute, this one a nod to artist Edward Hopper’s image of a house near railroad tracks, Simon sketched his own similar scene.
While some of his works pay homage to other artists, the exhibit overall is a tribute to the consistently creative Simon, who returned to Wilkes’ campus about a decade after he retired from teaching there and began to study print-making with associate professor of art Sharon Bowar Cosgrove.
“Of all the artists who call Northeastern Pennsylvania their home, Herbert Simon is unquestionably one of the region’s most prolific, significant and respected,” Cosgrove has described him. “His works-on-paper form an extraordinary body of work that is reflective of his acclaimed intelligence, insight and wit.”