Friday, December 28, 2007

Art of the Week

This week's offering is from the series "Glamour Behind the Lens" by Laura Petrilla. The first edition pinup-style photos are available in a variety of sizes and price range.

Laura Petrilla (Elements on Butler Street)
"Puppy Love"

Monday, December 24, 2007

Good on Paper at Fe

Considering its central location and longevity, the Fe Gallery may very well be the anchor of the Art Community on Butler Street. The current show, "Good on Paper" is an exhibit by ten regional, national and international artists; not limited to simply a show of drawings, the pieces here incorporate a variety of mediums, styles and techniques. One of the simplest offerings, in terms of materials and style, is Karin Bergdolt's "Power Lines." Executed in ballpoint pen on fifteen sheets of notebook paper arranged in a grid, Bergdolt shows us the huge man-made drawing in the sky. That intricate play of power lines is always there, changing with weather, wind, time of day and perspective. And so rarely do we even notice it.
Bergdolt, a Munich native, has established a Pittsburgh connection with her "Topology", a map of Lawrenceville gridded with hand-written notations and note card-size sketches of everyday life. Bergdolt continues her "tour of Pittsburgh" on First Night with the presentation of "Strollology" at 709 Penn Gallery.
Deanna Mance's "Teabag Series #1—5" is reminiscent of the cartographer's art as well. The small free-hand drawings are executed with a variety of media including ink, graphite, wood, teabags and transparencies and embody a love of the little things in life—intricate lines of often overlooked details. With their delicate lines and orange-sepia washes, the series evokes the visage of the map-makers engravings found in ancient books.
Also in the show are Craig Kirby's "Presciptions: Drugstore Memories" a brightly-colored array of faux labels offering remedies ranging from protective ointments to artificial tears. And the "Encyclopedia Destructica", an art-zine inspired collection harvested from sketchbooks and journals, has a display of some dozen issues. First published in 2007, the zine started as a concept in the mind of Chris Kardambikis and is available at local bookstores and coffee houses. Several stunning drawings by Ryan Roth comprise "Time Flies." The ink on vellum portraits with their mask/headdress overlays of animals, clocks and flashlights bring to mind the fantastic paintings of Arcimboldo.
Fe Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, 12—4; "Good on Paper" continues through February 9, 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Art of the Week

I was talking the other day with a very smart friend (I know she's smart, she blogs) and discovered that she was unaware that most of the art on display around town is for sale. So, at the suggestion of another smart friend (also a blogger) I've decided to post the "Art of the Week"— an interesting piece, reasonably priced, hanginging somewhere around town. This is purely altruistic, I have no vested interest (unless I should happen to post one of my pieces.) I just think more people should buy more art. So, forego that Starbucks' latte for a couple of days, skip the sushi or just watch a movie at home.
First up—

Susan Sparks (AAP 97th Annual at the Carnegie)
Art of Noise #1
Ink, tape and magic

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blogger Show at Digging Pitt

Recently, the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York City exhibited “Artists Who Paint”, featuring the visual endeavors of such literary luminaries as Kurt Vonnegut and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The” Blogger Show” at the Digging Pitt Gallery offers work in much the same vein, but with a greater sense of immediacy and accessibility. And the exhibit covers a wider range of venues including the Agni Gallery in New York City and, of course, the web.
The “Blogger Show” features bloggers who create art, artists who create blogs and some who blur the line between the two. But this in no way implies any diminished quality of the work exhibited; each artist brings a unique perspective to the show—some are representative of their body of artwork, some reflect their musings in the blogosphere.
One of the best examples of the latter is the display by Loren Munk (James Kahm)—most entries include a parenthetical screen name. “The Kahm Report” consists of still photos ripped from his various youtube videos; each photo features a bicycle parked in front of a museum opening. With shows ranging from Mark Rothko (National Gallery) to Frank Stella (the Met), it is well-worth logging on to check out this Brooklyn-based artist.
The main room at Digging Pitt is overflowing with art: hanging on walls, stacked on shelves and stored in flat files. It even spills into the bathroom. There I discovered Jean McClung (Urban Bytes)’s “Lower Eastside Dog”, a backlit collage mounted on plexiglass—especially striking in the darkened water closet. McClung’s blog features interviews with the people that make Pittsburgh so interesting. Check out the October interview with John Morris, Digging Pitt’s owner and raconteur.
The second room at Digging Pitt is a far more spacious and open gallery space. Here the delicate smaller pieces, such as Kevin Clancy (Soft soft pink pulls through the ivory void)’s “Meditation on a Line (12.5 feet)” are able to hold their own with larger, more colorful works. Clancy’s pencil on multilayered cut paper has an Escheresque quality of time and space slightly out of phase. Here we also find an intriguing archival display by Elizabeth Perry (Woolgathering.) Enshrined in a museum display case is the record of Perry’s museum drawing project: permission slips, passes and the finished booklets of watercolors. The full range of works—a drawing a day for nine months—can be found at Woolgathering.
The Blogger Show runs through January 12th at the Butler Street gallery at which time both the show and the gallery will close. The significance of this space has been inestimable as a gallery and outlet for emerging artists and their blogs, and an online bulletin board for the artist community and a little bit of New York in Pittsburgh. With its passing, it will be sorely missed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cookie Tour in Lawrenceville

The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Tour features cookies from around the world accompanied by recipes and a potpourri of arts and crafts, entertainment and a bite to eat. This year’s tour is the seventh and is dedicated to Jay Bernard, the tour’s founder who died last May.
Bernard, who owned Jay’s Designs, was involved with many activities in Lawrenceville and will be sorely missed. But the Cookie Tour will live on.
There were twenty-five stops on the Cookie Tour which ran from Thursday November 29 through Sunday December 2 and traversed almost twenty blocks on Butler Street. I limited myself to a cross-section of participants partly due to time constraints and partly due to the fact that I shouldn’t eat too many cookies. Starting “up town” the Zombo Art Gallery (actually on Hatfield Street) is billed as a “fun art gallery” and features t-shirts, computer-generated art and kitschy collectables. Much of the merchandise has a ’50s retro-look with a strong Cartoon Network influence. One special gift package featured a Fiesta ware teapot.
The Trinity Gallery, a little further down Hatfield, exhibits fine art black and white photography and included several craft-oriented tables for the tour. The silver-gelatin photos by gallery owner Dan Gaser are predominately of Pittsburgh cityscapes and are hand-printed using the same process that photographers have used for over a hundred years.
Several boutiques featured on the tour offer fashion, furnishings and accessories from the past and present. Elements is showcasing the work of three local artists: Laura Petrilla (photography), John Repko (jewelry) and Joktan Faulk (fashion.) Especially interesting is Petrilla’s “Glamour Behind the Lens”, a series of pin-up photos that captures the spirit of the classic calendar art with a Twenty-first Century approach. Accezzorize is a chic accessory boutique offering the latest in jewelry, shoes and handbags all with a heavy doze of glitz and bling. Both establishments feature pieces by local designers, but in contrast to the overflowing merchandise at Elements, Accezzorize has an airy, open display floor.
The Borelli-Edwards Gallery has been featuring local and international artists for over twenty-eight years. The selected works on display by Mary Mazziotti include the “cowgirl series”, miniature watercolors based on Medieval illuminations and acrylic paintings of local interest.
While the cookies may be gone (at least for this year) the art and the fashion remain up and down Butler Street for all to enjoy. I'm sure they will return next season.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Alumni Show at Art Institute

The gallery at the Art Institute (located on the Boulevard of the Allies) is a comfortable, innovative space well suited for a group show. The current Alumni Show, curated by Dave DiBella, offers pieces which range from the familiar and comfortable to the new and innovative. As with most every group show, one finds the traditional painting, drawing and photography ; hanging by their side are commercially printed pieces, book designs and video games. Much of this can be credited to DiBella, the Alumni Coordinator, who has managed to secure and display important works from Pittsburgh’s often-overlooked artists.
Perhaps the most traditional pieces fall in the realm of illustration. Thomas Fluharty’s satirical political caricatures (“Hillary” and “Bushie the Kid”) have been featured in major publications such as the “Village Voice.” Ron Thurston’s several watercolors include a tribute to long-time instructor Henry Koerner. Charles A. Smith III is a relative new comer who creates portraits in a variety of media. From his Loft 9 Contemporary Art Studio on Penn Avenue Charles has immortalized heroes from Heinz Field to South Africa.
Stig Asmussen, this years featured alum, has a job to drool for–he makes video games. Considering himself “among luckiest dudes on the planet,” Asmussen has contributed several pieces he created for Sony Playstation including a limited edition action figure. Game aficionados will recognize his “God of War” and “God of War II.” Also representing the world of gaming is Miguel Lleras of 7 Studios. His atmospheric backgrounds for “Pirates of the Caribbean” are curiously ominous and romantic.
One delightful aspect of the show is the discovery of the familiar, including pieces you’ve probably seen promotingLawrenceville or the Pittsburgh Grand Prix. Seen now in a gallery setting, they take on a special significance where before they were only part of the commercial landscape. Even something as ubiquitous as a point-of-purchase display (and where but at the AI show would you see a POP) can be appreciated for its artistic quality.
The Alumni Show continues through January 12 and the gallery is open Monday through Thursday 9:00 am–8:00 pm, Fridays until 5, and Saturday until 4.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shows at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

The second floor of the PF/PCA offers several diverse shows of wide-ranging interest. The small galleries succeed in isolating works which, if presented side by side might otherwise tend to compete for attention.


The PF/PCA Memeber Show exemplifies this "artistic coexistence." By dividing the show among three rooms, installations, photographs and fiber arts can fill their space without infringing on their neighbors. The show was selected by Rob Long in collaboration with Laura Domencic (PCA) and George Davis (FM) and strives to stimulate dialogue and build upon Pittsburgh's vibrant cultural network.
Sure to stimulate controversy is Wendy Osher's installation of hand-knit wool and cotton tapestries. Subjects explored in this multi-piece offering include scientific knowledge, evolution and the war in Iraq. The individual forms are deceivingly simple
(as in "Slim Evidence" which examines the range of measureable reality in the universe) but open a world of inquiry and debate.
Cheryl Capezzuti is a well-known puppet maker whose work has been featured on "Good Morning America" and "First Night Pittsburgh." The dust mop puppets featured in the Members Show are reminiscent of the Wayang Golek of Indonesia. Even the faces, which are constructed of dryer lint, have the stylized look of the Javanese rod puppets. The individual puppets are outfitted in cleaning supplies (latex gloves, dish towels) and hit us with the double-ecological whammy of recycling and cleaning up.
Also not to be missed in the show are the gelatin silver prints of Charlotte Toal and the wearable art of Leslie Golomb. The latter will be among those presenting an artist talk on January 17 at 6 pm.


As Pittsburgh's "Year of Glass" winds down, the Craftsmen's Guild offers "A Tryst With Glass." This exhibit features the interpretation of glass in its many forms by both independent and collaborative artists working to meld glass with other mediums and disciplines. Ken Beer and Terri Perpich combine efforts to produce several monotype prints on fiberglass. Joanne Baxter's whimsical sea creatures unite "papier mache" and glass. And Elizabeth Asche Douglas incorporates lighting in her "Wippen Works I & II." Reflections and shadows combine with wood and glass to create a stunning effect.


Sandy Kessler Kaminski's solo show stems from the diagnosis of her daughter's heart ailment and the limitation of medical science. Using medical documents and family snapshots she has integrated the experiences of anxious medical tests and uncertain diagnosis with the happy, wonder-filled world of a small child. Kaminski has created powerful images and speak about her work on December 6 at 7pm.
All three shows continue through January 27 at PF/PCA.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tis the season, and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts has opened its Holiday Show and Sale--a wonderful cornucopia of decorations and gifts and a great way to support local artists and craftsmen. But while you're picking out your trinkets and goodies, take a few moments to check out the PCA galleries--several independent shows offer an array of worthwhile exhibitions. First up: the Watercolor Society's "Aquous Open" (I'll save the second floor for a later post.)
Watercolorists tend to work in a narrow range both in terms of technique and subject matter. Most every piece is executed in transparent watercolor and objective realism dominates the show. Within the scale of representationalism, however, there is a full range of works from Photorealism to abstract.
At the high end of verisimilitude are the works of Charles Pitcher and Marlin Rotach. Pitcher's "The Dance" (Best of Show) depicts the familiar tree trunks which never cease to astound and amaze. Rotach's "Sign of the Times" gives us a Gulf Coast harbor scene in deep, lush color. By contrast, the white roofs in the background create a layered depth of field and make the foreground seem all the more vibrant.
There aren't many non-representational pieces, but Denise Athanas's "The Red Balloon" stands out visually and intellectually. Although apparently based on at least the idea of an object, Athanas' piece is reminiscent of the Russian Constructivism of the early Twentieth Century. The bold shapes and powerful lines create a sense of tension and unresolved conflict.
The juror, Eric Wiegardt, chose works that, in his opinion, exemplified good design and exhibited honest self-expression. All the pieces in the show do this admirably but the diversity of expression may be its strongest feature. Among the most expressive are Steven Kleier's "Hawthorne Street" with its sumi-like brush work and Terri Perpich's "Rose, White and Very Blue."

Aquous Open is dedicated to Linda Fruhwald, Past President of the Watercolor Society, and runs through January 28th of next year.

Monday, November 12, 2007


One of the lesser-known art shows in the Pittsburgh area is the Native American Heritage Committee Arts Exhibition. But for seventeen years, under the guidance of Lee and Earl Dingus, the NAHC has endeavored to improve the awareness and understanding of Native Americans and Native American culture. Entry in the show is open to all artists and the current exhibition, "Our Land is Our Life" celebrates the environment and Our Mother the Earth. It runs through November 20 at the Carnegie Mellon University Center Art Gallery; hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 4.
The NAHC show is as much about education as it is about art. To this end, each artist has submitted a statement that explains their research and how each piece connects to the theme of the show. In the past years themes have included "Keeper of the Harvest", "The Native American Rainbow" and "Daughters of the Turtle Island." This year's theme encourages us to learn respect and reciprocity as realated to the land and all our relations.
Works in the show are divided into three categories: two-dimensional art, three-dimensional art and wearable art. Each category has brought together an assortment of entries in a variety of styles and mediums. Visually, artists artists have drawn their inspiration from sources as diverse as Cherokee mythology, the photography of Edwin Curtis and Baha'i iconography. Each piece is exhibited with the artist's statement.
Several pieces are noteworthy for both their form and content. Judith Gentile's "Picture Jasper" is an elegant wire-wrapped necklace which draws its inspiration from a Crow tale, "Old Man Coyote Makes the World." The myth relates not only the creation story, but also explains the division of the peoples of the earth into tribes.

The Peoples Choice Award was won by Pat Blackbird Laughlin's "Chief", a large stained glass in the tradition of Western Art. By stark contrast, Ms Laughlin's "Mask" is an interpretation of a Zuni burial mask and symbolically embodies the four directions of the earth.
Earl Dingus has several stunning pieces in the show. "We are the Land-the Land is Us" is a hand-hammered silver sculpture which celebrates the Earth our Mother and all that is on her. Essential to the work are the four colors of the Cherokee medicine wheel which represent (among other things) the four seasons, the four stages of life and the four living worlds.
Brad Migyanka's "Mitakuye Oyasin" is a sweat lodge ladle constructed from buffalo horn, pipe stone dust, epoxy and turquoise pebbles. The artist has drawn inspiration from Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux holy man, and symbolizes the balance and harmony of the natural world.
There are many lessons we can take from this show. We cannot separate ourselves from our earth and all that exist upon her. Above all, the show is about respect--respect for cultures and ways of life that may differ from our own; respect for art and expression.

Monday, November 5, 2007

AAP at the Carnegie

Pittsburgh is unique among major cities in that it's museums offer local artists the opportunity to exhibit along with the Old Masters and Modern Icons. This year the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh have the honor of holding its 97th Annual at the Holy Grail of venues, the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibition was jurored by Polly Apfelbaum, a delightful (albeit slightly eccentric) New York artist. She has chosen a show which is wide in its diversity but still has a depth of insight representative of the Pittsburgh Art Scene. Pieces run the range from from digital video to installation to found art. Mixed in along the way is a rich variety of painting and sculpture, fiber arts and photography. So many styles and techniques—surely something for every taste.

Many pieces celebrate the rich heritage of Pittsburgh Art. Or at very least, they seem to draw inspiration from the region's past, present and future. Gary Zak's "PhotoSHOPPING the Pop Legend's Epitaph" is a whimsical installation that captures the spirit of Pop Art without imitating the '60s style. Ripe with puns and "Warholisms" this piece is well-deserving of its award-winning status.
The stark, almost brutal paintings of Daniel Bolick are most commanding. The vibrant color and strong brushstokes give the appearance of Photorealism gone mad. Socially and artistically "Portrait #24" and "Angry Youth" are powerful pieces with an important message.
Mark Panza's color photo panels are impressive in their scale and technical proficiency. The subdued color range and subtle multi-layered imagery create a fantasy-like world from familiar Pittsburgh locations.
"Archive XX" by Adrienne Heinrich is cast silicone with inclusions and conveys a time capsule-like view of then and now. A Daguerreotype frame set in the silicone has a Victorian feel, while the hand and manuscript gives a futuristic impression to the piece.
Matthew Forrest's "Icon Line Sheep I &II" reflect the juror's desire to "(let) the viewer see more of the work and thinking of each artist." Executed in silverpoint (a drawing medium that predates graphite pencils) the "Icons" are ghost-like in their subtlety and restraint. And yet, even with their traditional technique the pieces have a look as modern as any digital work.

The crowd attending the opening was as varied and interesting as the exhibition. They virtually exploded with exuberance and their excitement contributed to an evening of celebration of the Art and History of AAP. The 97th Annual runs through January 21, 2008 and includes the "Popular Salon of the People"—a show-within-a-show that celebrates the rich tradition of AAP in Southwest Pennsylvania. But the review of that show will have to wait for another day.

Monday, October 29, 2007

For many years I worked in the theatre. From that former life I discovered a distinct advantage that performing artists have over visual artists--immediate feedback from the audience. If an audience enjoys a performance they applaud. If they find something funny, they laugh. And if they don't like the show, they boo. Or throw things. Or walk out. The visual artist doesn't have the opportunity to enjoy (or avoid) an audience reaction. I've never seen a gallery patron move from painting to painting politely applauding the artists' effort.

This site is designed to fill that void. Reviews will be posted and you, the audience, will be able to express your opinions, reactions and critiques of various exhibits in and around Pittsburgh. Just stay on point and keep the comments constructive.
First up: the Associated Artists at the Carnegie. Stay tuned.