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20-year-old artist from Hempfield gains momentum in the art world; has piece in Kennedy Center show

Intelligencer Journal - 2/20/2020

A local 20-year-old artist has a lot of things to say. He just doesn’t always use words to say them.

When he was a child, Malcolm Corley was diagnosed with a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum called pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, or PDD-NOS. It’s a term that, according to his mother Maria Corley, isn’t really used anymore. PDD-NOS means he struggles with social cues and has limited verbal expression. But when Malcolm Corley is at his art easel, the ways in which he expresses himself are limitless.

A recent painting, “Untitled #1,” was selected by the Kennedy Center for its 2019 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program and featured in its traveling exhibit called “Connected.” The exhibit features a wide range of work by 15 artists with disabilities at the beginning of their careers. Malcolm Corley, who has met the graduation requirements at Hempfield High School but is finishing an extra year of instruction, is the youngest of the group.

Maria Corley reached out to the Lancaster Museum of Art to bring in the exhibit.

“It’s wonderful to see him getting some recognition,” she says.

Malcolm Corley had a solo show with the Lancaster-based nonprofit Emerald Foundation through a connection with Barry Kornhauser, Millersville University’s assistant director of Campus & Community Engagement with the Office of Visual & Performing Arts. Malcolm Corley’s work has been featured in past events at the Ware Center.

“I’m not at all surprised that his work is being recognized on a national level,” Kornhauser says. “I’m just delighted that he chose to share it locally with us, as well.”

The “Connected” exhibit will expose Malcolm Corley’s work to a much larger audience. “Untitled #1” is an example of how he communicates deeply personal feelings — feelings that would be difficult for anyone to express verbally — through a painted image.

The painting is based off two photographs of Malcolm Corley taken by his teacher Brian Lehman at Hempfield, which are juxtaposed with images of plants.

"His work has a uniqueness and style that many artists work a lifetime to create," says Lehman. "I am anxious to see where Malcolm takes his gift as one so young has so much potential for the future."

The photographs were then made into a collage, which Malcolm Corley used as the basis for his painting. He depicts shadows with his dynamic faces, using blotches of different colors. The two representations of Malcolm Corley — one with almost cubist-style eyes that look up at another, calmer, face with its eyes closed — seem to suggest inner and outer lives.

“Two Malcolms, yes,” Malcolm Corley says.

“I like this green color,” he adds of the bright green on the tree that springs up and around the figures.

The fronds of a parlor palm with its brilliant green tones juxtaposed against darker hues suggest space and light.

“I saw him mixing the colors. He’s very meticulous,” Maria Corley says. “It’s a painstaking process.”

She points out that, as a child, Malcolm Corley often would enjoy doing paint-by-numbers. He still begins by sketching out his subjects and filling in the shapes with different colors. “Untitled #1” goes beyond simply filling in colors. He leaves some of his canvas unpainted, and other times he allows paint to drip and play with perspective.

Selection for the esteemed exhibit came with a monetary prize as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., where the artists were able to meet one another as well as attend some professional development classes.

Meeting the other artists and the train ride were highlights of his trip to D.C. He put some of the prize money into a savings account. The rest was invested back into his business. While he might be the youngest of the group (and the only artist without any post-secondary artistic training), Malcolm Corley has already built something of an art career. With some help from his family members, he sells prints and hand-painted tiles on his website He’s currently working on a commission piece memorializing a beloved pet.

His biggest cheerleader is without a doubt his mother, who is enthralled and mystified by her son’s art.

“I just think it’s dramatic and very beautiful,” Maria says of “Untitled #1.” “The painting never stops fascinating me, partially because I can’t get a complete answer about his choices in painting it.”

Crédito: MIKE ANDRELCZYK | Staff Writer


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