Jerry Caplan (1923-2004) was a Pittsburgh native and a beloved artists in the community. His art career begin in the US Army as a member of the 84th Engineer Battalion where he and other artists constructed dummy boats, planes, and tanks as military camouflage. After the war he was employed in the pipe industry, manufacturing large clay pipes. Here Caplan gained inspiration for pipe sculptures and ceramics, which led to the creation of some of his seminal works. Such works include Metamorphosis, a sculpture on the Chatham University campus located outside Mellon Hall.
Caplan greatly contributed to the Chatham community. He was a well-loved art professor who inspired students and faculty alike. He believed “the purpose of teaching…should be to help the student first, to think creatively, second, to see rather than just to look, third.”
Professor Jerry Caplan’s life and achievements are currently featured in a University Archives display on the first floor of the Jennie King Mellon Library. The display includes one case devoted to a sketchbook and photographs of Caplan with Chatham students. A second case focuses on Caplan’s military experiences and includes photographs and an excerpt from his unpublished memoir. The final case highlights publications that discuss Caplan’s devotion to teaching and his creative work.
This display complements the current exhibition in the Chatham Art Gallery, Jerry Caplan and Donna Hollen Bolmgren: Partners in Art. The exhibition opens tomorrow, June 5th, for Reunion Weekend and runs through August 22nd. Featured are works of art in the Chatham University Art Collection, including self-portraits and other subjects in oil, drawings in charcoal and pastel, handmade paper, and sculpture in ceramic and plaster.
Following the close of the exhibit, materials from the collection will remain accessible through the Chatham University Archives & Special Collections. A full finding aid for the collection is accessible here and here. The Chatham University Archives & Special Collections welcomes researchers and research visits by the general public, artists, students, and faculty.