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.