Nationally known Annapolis photographer Celia Pearson will mount an exhibit in the factory-turned-gallery space of Bottle Works, a non-profit arts organization in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of John E. “Jack” Sheehan, 1952 Naval Academy graduate, Johnstown native and noted entrepreneur, and to Sheehan’s legacy of public service and business leadership.
Among his other more prominent accomplishments, Sheehan was the longtime owner of Korns Galvanizing, a century-old business in Johnstown. He purchased the business in the mid-1980s from the daughter of its original 1916 founder who selected Sheehan as its buyer because she trusted him to keep the operation and its jobs in Johnstown. He did, overcoming many challenges along the way. Today Korns is the thriving employer of more than 40 individuals in its local community.
In July 2013, Pearson was invited to visit and photograph Korns’ facilities. Her experience there led to the exhibit Molten Beauty: The Soul of an American Galvanizing Plant, opening in the Johnstown gallery on May 15 and on display through Saturday, July 11. In the art of Molten Beauty, there is a striking sense of the grit, the perseverance, and the vision that were qualities of Sheehan himself, and of his lifelong commitment to work and family-sustaining jobs.
Korns’ President and Sheehan’s daughter, Kathleen Ortel, says, “When Celia approached us about her desire to turn her experience into large-scale artwork and an exhibit, we were inspired to support this effort. Impressed with the obvious high quality of this artist’s work, we saw that it would make a dynamic and imaginative statement about a larger story of the important heritage of metal working in the Johnstown community, and the vital contribution of manufacturing in America, now resurgent after years of decline.”
Molten Beauty joins more traditional prints with photo montages and works on silk hanging freely in space. It tells a layered story about an artist touched by the vital energy inside a century-old industrial workplace; about the presence of beauty in unexpected places; about the art of work.
Pearson says, “In those raw and cavernous buildings, I experienced such vitality that first day, electrifying as though I were inside one giant spark. My photographer’s eye was mesmerized by the beauty and visual patterns of molten zinc-covered objects being raised from the kettles and by the 125-year-old architecture. I was transported by the energy of men intent upon their work, requiring both brains and muscle; by the intensity of the presence of 840-degree molten zinc; by the sounds of constant activity – the clanking of metal, fork lift motors and buzzers, trucks arriving and departing.” She vowed to return and did.
A noted businessman, Fortune 500 executive, and entrepreneur, Sheehan was a Navy fighter pilot and later served as a Governor of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. Following his death in 2014, he was laid to rest on the Naval Academy grounds.
Pearson, a life-long Annapolis resident, has held a camera in her hands for 40 years. Her work as an artist has been exhibited in galleries and is in corporate, private, and museum collections. Formerly a longtime independent assignment photographer, she earned a national reputation, and her work appeared regularly in numerous national professional and lifestyle publications. She is widely known as the photographer for the book Pure Sea Glass.
Korns Galvanizing is a specialty independent hot-dip galvanizer of small and difficult parts, highly regarded for its niche expertise. Galvanizing is an industrial process that provides long lasting corrosion protection for steel and cast iron parts. The galvanizing process creates a permanently bonded coating that endures, maintenance free, for many decades in use and is fully recyclable.