Artists and Friends Return to Chatham for Alumna’s Art Exhibition

Attendees and VIPs at the Gialamas exhibition. Artist Fran Gialamas is in red; her subject Lesley Wells is in stripes.
Photo: Angela Billanti

Author: Angela Billanti


Artist and alumna Fran Gialamas returned to Chatham University in September to present her art exhibition, “The Chronicles of a Chatham Art Major.”

The collection derives from her 1958 solo exhibition proposed by her art professor Charles Le Clair.  “I took it very seriously and it was considered a professional exhibit at that time, even though I was a student,” Gialamas said.

The 28 pieces available for purchase are in a range of media including drawings, encaustic, watercolor, oil painting and photo assemblage.  Most of the oil paintings are portraits.  One is a depiction of hands, one is a steel mill and another is a contemporary painting.  The photo assemblages feature scenes that range from the mills of Pittsburgh to workers in the mill to old black and white photos, often depicting families and subjects supporting women’s rights and artists.

Gialamas wanted to include many works from the 1958 exhibition.  She still owned, or knew who owned, many of the works.  This made her art easily attainable.  

She does not have a favorite work in this exhibition, and said, “I’ve been too close to it for a long time, so I can’t be objective.”  Gialamas’ favorite personal work of her career is “She Worked in The Mill.”   It is a photo series focused on women who worked in the mill industry.

She has shown exhibits for the past 20 years in New York and feels welcomed there. “I take the Pittsburgh industrial scenes to New York and they absolutely love it,” Gialamas said.

Professor Elizabeth Roark and Nichole Greene organized Gialamas’ art display. Roark is an Art professor here at Chatham, and Greene is an Art History major as well as a Museum Studies minor intern. “We’ve been meeting for close to two years now, but over the last six months more intensively,” Roark said.

Roark first met Gialamas 15 years ago when Gialamas had a piece in the Art and Design Center on Chatham’s campus.  “I have always loved her work,” Roark said.  “Particularly the feminist orientation and the labor related things, and her interest in her own family history, too.”

Jessie Ramey, the Director the Women’s Institute, was proud to see what Gialamas was able to do with her career.  “Fran’s work really shows us women really had to struggle to make it in their fields, and yet they’ve done amazing things,” Ramey said. “I think that Fran’s work demonstrates to us that we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that everybody has equal opportunities and be as successful as she is (sic).”

Lesley Wells, Chatham College ‘59, attended the opening of the exhibit.  A subject of one of Gialamas’s 1958 portraits on display, Wells is a former federal judge for the Northern District of Ohio.  “It’s lovely to be able to see it, because I saw it once after she finished it,” Wells said.

“The Chronicles of a Chatham Art Major” will be open until Oct. 16 in Chatham University’s art gallery in Woodland Hall.

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