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Howard Hoffman ... On Life

The Artist's Biography

Howard S. Hoffman taught experimental psychology, first at the Pennsylvania State University and later, for more than 20 years, at Bryn Mawr College. Back in 1945, after three years as a soldier in WW 2, he entered the University of Chicago intending to study physics. As he left for school his brother gave him a set of oil paints and he discovered that he greatly enjoyed working with them. Because he felt conflict between his interests in physics and in art he asked the VA to test him for his dominant abilities. Two days of testing yielded the recommendation that he was well qualified to be either a physicist, a mathematician or a portrait painter and that the VA would support his education in any of those domains. So, after a year and a half at Chicago, he went to New York and for a year, attended art school and studied painting under the artist, Moses Sawyer. Needing work to supplement his stipend from the VA, he found a part time position as a teacher's assistant in a nearby nursery school that was part of the Municipal Day Care System. His curiosity about the factors responsible for the children's behavior led him to leave art school and return to college at night where he finished his BA and subsequently pursued an MA and finally a PhD in Psychology.

At Bryn Mawr he did research into Social Attachment and into Reflexes and taught courses on Statistics as well as on Perception. As part of his courses on Perception, he developed techniques for teaching the art of drawing that tapped existing knowledge of how the eye and brain work together to enable one to visually isolate and ultimately, to identify objects. These efforts led to a book entitled Vision and the Art of Drawing.

He published extensively in the areas of his research and served as a member and then chairman of a National Institute of Mental Health Committee to peer review applications for research grants. Throughout his career he continued to paint and his portraits are part of the permanent collections at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Rosemont College and the University of Pennsylvania. He previously had one-man shows of his humorous watercolors at Bryn Mawr College and at the Tyme Gallery. One of the accompanying documents provides an account of his approach to these watercolors, the other is a copy of the VA's recommendations based on his test results at the University of Chicago. Clearly, it was all about choices.

About This Exhibit
-- by Howard S. Hoffman

The whimsical images in this exhibition represent visual interpretations of the many humorous life statements that I have collected over the years. Each statement served as the inspiration for the image it subtends - the statement always came first.

This undertaking was never meant to be taken too seriously. Rather it was intended to provide some laughs, or at least smiles as the implications of these works were apprehended.

It is my hope that imbedded in this nonsense are nuggets that will not only evoke a humorous response, but also a useful philosophy - maybe even wisdom.

As W. S. Gilbert said:

" I can trick you into learning with a laugh;
Oh winnow all my folly and you'll find
A grain or two of truth among the chaff."

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