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Payne Gallery Exhibit Highlights Perception of Beauty in American Society

Exhibit includes The Breck Girl Collection from Smithsonian and African Barbershop Signs

The Breck Girl CollectionBethlehem, Pa., December 10, 2004 —Payne Gallery at Moravian College is currently exhibiting, “The Beauty Show,” featuring The Breck Girl Collection from the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The show is the first major exhibition featuring the new holdings, which illustrates the evolution of America’s concept of female beauty over the past half-century.

Breck Shampoo, whose advertisers were among the first to use illustrations over words, have presented many beautiful women over the course of the product’s fifty-year ad campaign. Females such as Cheryl Tiegs, Kim Basinger, and even a very young Brooke Shields have appeared in Breck Shampoo ads representing the contemporary “wholesome beauty” ideal, a conception that clearly changed from the beginning of the campaign to the end.

On the main floor are paintings by Charles Sheldon and Ralph William Williams from the series they created for Breck shampoo. Their “Breck Girls” come from a collection acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, which regards the art of popular culture and commerce a valuable a barometer of American history.

Sheldon painted the first Breck girl in 1937; Williams took over in the late ’40s and continued the portraits into the ’70s. All the Breck girls are real women, as curator Mimi Minnick discovered from a museum colleague, Nance Briscoe, whose mother was one of the original Breck girls.

Also on display in the Gallery is a complimentary exhibition of african barbershop signs, a showcase of contemporary beauty from the collection of Gregory Warmack, a.k.a Mr. Imagination. He is a Southside Bethlehem “outsider artist” who makes art from every kind of everyday object including bottlecaps and other scrap material. One of his collections is of Bonsa’s hair salon and barbershop signs. In Benin, a country too poor for day spas, itinerant barbers and hair stylists stroll into towns, set up shop on a box or under a tree, and wait for customers. These signs are their only advertisements. Nicole Casola '04 and art history honors graduate is the curator for the exhibit.

Diane Radycki, director of Payne Gallery, had wanted to call this exhibit “Beauty in Black and White.” When she took students to look at Mr. Imagination’s art, which fills his house on Fourth Street in South Bethlehem, she saw the Bonsa signs and realized they would complement the Breck girls nicely.

“The Beauty Collection” opened Thursday, December 9 and will be on display until February 6, 2005.

Payne Gallery is located on the Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus of Moravian College, in Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Gallery is open 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The gallery is closed Mondays, major holidays and during school breaks. Admission and parking are free, and the Gallery is wheelchair accessible. For more information, please contact Moravian College’s art department at 610-861-1680.