Sunday, October 26, 2008

PodCamp in Pittsburgh

What, you may ask is a PodCamp—or more specifically, PodCamp Pittsburgh3. It is an UnConference created by and for enthusiasts and professionals, anyone interested in new media. Whether it’s a blog or a video, live or pre-recorded, all the postings from to “The Evolution of Dance” started as an idea and used technology to reach their audience. All of these are the community of PodCamp.
The first PodCamp was held in Boston in 2006 and Pittsburgh followed shortly after. Since then PodCamps have been held around the world, from California to Sweden and Ireland to South Africa. Last year’s camp was attended by about two hundred, this year’s topped three hundred. Its spirit was summed up nicely by Chris Brogan, the founder of the original PodCamp—we can learn the tools and give our city a voice. Social media is, after all, the epitome of accessibility.
Everyone at PodCamp is a rock star and there are no stupid questions. So sessions are geared to all levels of experience and expertise. And with four or five sessions being held simultaneously, the greatest challenge of the weekend was deciding which to attend. In addition to the “formal” sessions, two additional venues—the Mentoring Lounge and the Wear Pittsburgh Loungy Lounge—allowed for continuing discussions and ad hoc sessions.
In the true spirit of accessibility, PodCamp is free and open to everyone. This is possible in no small part due to generosity of sponsors as diverse as Meakem Becker, VisitPittsburgh and the Art Institute.
Last year’s PodCamp gave me the inspiration and technical knowledge to start this blog. As a friend of mine advised, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. I hope that this year’s event provides the determination to a city of new bloggers and Pittsburgh can stay on the front line of social media.
Among the sessions that caught my attention were Cynthia Closkey and Mike Woycheck’s “Blogging Best Practices” and Justin Kownacki’s panel discussion on cyber-burnout and podfading. Kownacki treated those at this session with a preview of his cyber-sitcom, “Something to be Desired” (currently starting it’s sixth season.) It was there that I decided to expand my blog beyond the gallery scene. There are many art-related events that remain under-reported, starting with PodCamp itself. In the future I intend to cover events as diverse as lectures, festivals and small venue concerts. I hope others are inspired to join—there is plenty of room on the world-wide web.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Aqueous International in Carnegie

The Pittsburgh Watercolor Annual, one of my favorite exhibits, opened recently at the Third Street Gallery, one of my favorite venues. Openings ay the Carnegie gallery are always a treat with live jazz provided by gallery owner Phil Salvato and his trio. The show, which was jurored by Linda A. Doll, has a wide range of works chosen from the vast variety of styles submitted. The juror was responsive to design and subject matter without overlooking content and concept.
The Annual is an international exhibit in which Pittsburgh area artists are well-represented. The wide range of work nicely shows off the versatility of watercolor in terms of both subject and style. Many think of watercolor in terms of the soft-focus spontaneous works of masters like Winslow Homer. This wet-in-wet technique is included but at Aqueous Open we also find the less-common dry brush painting and even impasto, a technique usually reserved for oil. And while watercolorists are predominately realists, I was delighted by the number of non-representational works, especially among the award winners. But pieces stand out in the full spectrum of objective approach.
At the close focus end of the realism scale is Marlin Rotach’s “Land of Plenty” This photo-realist piece, with its rich color and deep tones could easily be taken for oil at a casual glance. It is a good example of the precision of which watercolor is capable in the hand of a master. Leo Goode’s “Welcome Home” is representational of the more traditional handling of watercolor with its layered washes and delicate highlights and shadows. Roc Prologo takes even greater advantage of the transparent nature of the aqueous medium in his “Invisible.” The amorphous monochrome shapes deftly suggest a cityscape background and the shadowy figure of a homeless woman makes a strong social comment. In a similar vein, Terri Perpich captures the plight of society’s disenfranchised with “ Breakfast 7:15, Lunch 12:00, Dinner 5:00.” The title is drawn from a notice posted on the wall of a nursing home and the ethereal figure of a woman in a wheel chair is over-painted in white impasto as if there were an attempt to eradicate her existence.
The figures in Jeanne McGuire’s “The Occasion” are simplified low-chroma silhouettes which take on a compositional life of their own. Although still more objective in its approach, it bridges the gap between the representational and abstract portions of the show. Eileen McConomy’s “Sun-Rising” is a geometric explosion of color and light. The circles and prismatic shafts capture the lens flare one would expect to see in a photograph taken into direct sunlight. Barry Winsand’s “Planetarium” is a catalog of watercolor technique combining washes and spatters to created a fantasy of extra-terrestrial proportions.
The 62nd Annual Aqueous Open continues through October 24. And the full-color exhibition booklet is a lovely keepsake of delightful show.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Me, Myself and I in Carnegie

Self-portraits present a special challenge to artists: for, if as they say, the eyes are the window of the soul, then the artist must gaze into these portals and oft time reveal much more than the superficial likeness. This has been the case of the truly great artists who have answered this challenge—Rembrandt, van Gogh and Frida Kahlo have given us a glimpse of their joys and sorrows exposing their very character therein. It is, perhaps, why Picasso painted so few self-portraits.

Often embedded in the artist’s portrait is the artist’s statement—the philosophy that permeates his or her career. The color, the form, the medium, and the style take on greater importance when they are applied to the likeness of the creator. The dominate style of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists is realism and the genre is well-suited to this show at the Third Street Gallery. Artists who hold a mirror to nature are a natural choice to hold a mirror to themselves. Even within the narrow range of representationalism, the artists have chosen many paths. Some works depict the artist at work or with the tools of their trade. Some use photographs to show us how they were; such are the case in Sandra Ward’s Photorealistc “Then and Now” and the masterly-rendered still life, “Artist’s Reflections” by Diane White. Some artists place themselves in a montage of their interests. Ruth Richardson does this beautifully in watercolor while Martha E. Ressler is “Unabashedly Me” in an assemblage collage.
Sometimes artists go beyond the artist’s world to include universal truths. James Rettinger’s sculpture, “You Look Like You Father” reminds us that we all eventually become our parents. And sometimes the work becomes the very embodiment of the artist. Lila Hirsch Brody’s exuberant construction is Lila Hirsch Brody. But the piece that most impressed me was Amy Dimichele’s “Self –Portrait.” Simple, yet sophisticated, this delicate painting brought to mind the work of Tamara de Lempicka (although Ms Dimichele is more Cubist than Art Deco.) The artist’s intense concentration represents and effort not to simply get it right, but to get it me.

“Me, Myself and I” continues at the Third Street Gallery through June 28.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

See How It Was, See How It Is

Fein Gallery, on East Ohio Street, is currently running an interesting contribution to the Pittsburgh250 celebration. “See How It Was, See How It Is” is a then and now juxtaposition of vintage photographs (curated by Bruce Klein) and contemporary pieces selected by Kathleen Zimbicki. The photographs hang in identical frames and are arranged in a grid giving a formality one might associate with the late Victorian era. On the opposite side of the gallery pairs of artists’ work are presented in a less formal exhibit complimenting the flexibility of styles and mediums.

The first works one encounters upon entering the gallery (other than Frank Flynn’s “jagger chair” reprised under a new name) are the acrylic paintings of Anna Marie Sninsky. “Pittsburgh on a Summer Night” is an achromatic view of the city from the vantage point of the Southside. The moody earth tones reflect the working class values of the Steel City and bring to mind the “glory days” of the mills. Fittingly, Ms Sninsky has worked with Steel Valley Arts Council and the Carnegie Library of Homestead so here work has a direct connection to the socio-environmental issues facing our region. These themes are also embodied in the work of Connie Merriman who has maintained a concern for disenfranchised people who are adversely affected by economic, environmental, and political issues beyond their control. “Mt. Washington, North Side” is an aerial view of the Point rendered as a bas relief of painted Styrofoam. The resultant piece resembles a topographical map and is more aesthetically driven and less political than the other works often done in collaboration with her husband, Tom.

Also included in the show, and deviating from her more conventional style, are the works by Gloria Goldsmith Hersch. Known for her Photorealist acrylics, Ms Hersch has given us a far less literal symbolic abstraction, “Carnegie Museum.” Constructed of cut paper and watercolor, the simple repeating shapes are arranged in a line suggesting the façade of a building or a salon of paintings.

Considering the range and talent on display, the curators could have filled the gallery several times over. Among the other almost two dozen artists exhibiting are Ron Donoughe (oil), Rick Byerly (photography), Alan Byrne (digital painting) and Sherrie Plonski (watercolor.) “See How It Was…” continues through June 6.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Celebrate Sewickley at Sweetwater

“Celebrate Sewickley!” partners the Sweetwater Center for the Arts, the Sewickley Valley Historical Society and the Old Sewickley Post Office Corporation for and exhibit and auction of works of art. All of the artists represented in the exhibition either reside in Sewickley or create work that is depictive of the area. Artists range from well-known established professionals to students who take classes at Sweetwater and the instructors who teach them.
Among the instructors represented are Deborah McLaren, Joyce Werie Perry and Lisa Rasmussen. It is always encouraging to see instructors exhibiting—it’s a inspiration to their students and may even lead to future enrollment. Sweetwater offers a wide variety of classes (including cooking and yoga!) for all ages.

“Celebrate!” reflects the diversity of Sweetwater’s academic schedule and includes traditional arts, crafts and state-of-the-art computerized work. Will C. White’s “Broad and Beaver Streets” falls into the traditional category. This colorful watercolor captures the hustle and bustle of a crowded street and it’s energy reminds one of such urban painters as Isabel Bishop and Paul Cadmus. The inclusion of a famous “Pittsburgher” in the multitude adds a touch of local whimsy. Many of the pieces on display will be included in a silent auction; Proceeds from this event will benefit the Sewickley Valley Cultural Center. Some works have been donated by the artists others by local businesses. The latter is the case with the hand-knit sweater created by Sasha Kagen for Yarns Unlimited.

Richard Thompson’s “Allegheny Country Club” is a panoramic “giclee” print on canvas. This form of digital photography has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Another form of computer art is to be seen in the work of Elizabeth Douglas. Her digital paintings are done without the benefit of a photographic image and the resulting pieces more closely resemble traditional painting (and stained glass.)
The Auction will be held on Saturday, April 26 (5:00-8:00pm) and will feature delicious food, drink and live piano jazz by Howie Alexander.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Graphica at the Butler Art Center

We’ve all heard—a picture is worth a thousand words—but for truly effective graphics the reciprocal can also be true. If the words and the images are mutually dependent then the combined effect will be greater than the sum of the individual parts. This is the case and the underlying theme at “Graphica”, the current show at the Art Center in Butler. Several years ago one of the guilds at the PCA hosted a similar exhibit—words and images—the Butler holds up very well in comparison.
The exhibitors in Butler range from high school students to seasoned professionals, the works from photographs and paintings to computer graphic design. Since the message and the media are so completely integrated in this type of show, I took special notice of those pieces that had an important and relevant theme and conveyed it in bold manner.
Louise Pappageorge’s “Flawed Logic” is a collage piece and makes a statement on many levels. The subtext--that society sets unrealistic goals for young girls in the standard that it sets for physical appearance. The use of glossy fashion magazines as a source for visual material only tends to reinforce this premise. The woman’s face, composed in a jigsaw puzzle effect is sadly reminiscent of the work of the plastic surgeon. And the captions further reveal the tragically unattainable ideal. “Think Before You Drink” is an advocacy poster by Joanie Wilson. The psychedelic imagery has the aura of the impaired perception brought on by alcohol. This is carried through in the style of type and even the bottle brings to mind the Absolut campaign.
Bill Perry is an accomplished watercolorist and a regular exhibitor at the Art Center. His Operation Iraqi Freedom trilogy grewout of his habit of working while watching news reports. The images he saw on the small screen gradually worked their way into his paintings. “The Combatants” is a multicultural montage

that takes us back several years and helps us reflect on the aftermath of those events. David (Bowman X) Wintermute has several pieces in the show that blend ideas of ethics and aesthetics with modern technology. His portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein includes the quote: “The facts that the elements of a picture are related to one another in a determinate way represents that things are related to one another in the same way.” I hadn’t been to the Art Center for almost a year and I was impressed by the changes they’ve made. The physical changes—remodeling and improvements to the exhibition space were immediately recognizable. More importantly, the quality of the art and the professionalism of the organization represent great strides forward. As artists we all contribute and support our culture and society. I believe “Graphica” is an important step for the Butler Arts Center in acknowledging a creative art climate through education, exhibition and promotion of freedom of expression.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Art of the Week

Kathleen Zimbicki's work is everywhere, but most of it is watercolor. This enigmatic piece is in "Through the Eyes of AAP" at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Kathleen Zimbicki
"Pittsburgh Moon"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Second Floor at PCA

The second floor of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts offers several shows that are both whimsical and inspirational. While the works in each separate gallery are created within a narrow range, each piece offers a depth of interest and subtext. An exhibit of the works of Dorothy Williams and Doug Hill seems an unlikely combination at first glance. Curator Tom Sarver (of Tom’s Museum) has brought together two artists who use non-traditional, even amateurish, materials and techniques. The resultant exhibition could easily be mistaken for the science and craft display at a local grade school. But on closer scrutiny we find that these works embody the genius of simplicity. The machines of Doug Hill, fashioned from paper, cardboard and string, are masterpieces of engineering. Each machine performs a modest task and is modestly priced. One might also label the as “modest’ the embroidery paintings of Dorothy Williams. Here the yarn is glued to cardboard rather than sewn as one would expect in traditional needlework. The small scenes are largely innocent of sophisticated trapping such as perspective and, as with the best of naïve art, are based on memories of a rich lifetime. Ms Williams, who passed away in 2005, was a social worker and a cornerstone of the African-American community.

A second gallery displays the collaboration of Mark and Jeff Zets. Calling to mind the seminal work of Richard Hamilton, these large collages reflect the contemporary updating of Pop Art imagery. Here Britney Spears and Arnold Schwarzenegger take their place along side the Pop icons of Warhol—Elvis and Marilyn. The images have a the flavor of an earlier, innocent time. Marilyn Monroe is portrayed as the happy homemaker and Michael Jackson predates the tabloid feeding frenzy of recent years.
The centerpiece of the galleries is the Regional Student Juried Exhibition presented by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference. The show includes a wide variety of works ranging from traditional pottery to ceramic sculpture to installations. The familiar objects of “Garage Days” by Vijay Paniker are wonders of the “trompe l’oeil.” Installations vary from the quirky “PS 106” of Laura Thompson to the ecologically-inspired “Evolution” of Jo Watco. Perhaps the most poignant is a piece from Northern Illinois University student Scott Ziegler. “Interrogation” is an enigmatic, multi-eyed vessel that invites us to examine recent events in an entirely new context.

The closing dates on these (and a few other offerings at the PCA) vary from late March to mid-April. Details are available at

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ceramics in Sewickley

This is the “Year of Ceramics” in Pittsburgh so it is fitting that the Sweetwater Center for the Arts is hosting a Ceramics Open Studio this Sunday, February 24 from 1:30-3:30. Artists, children and adult, are invited to participate in this charitable event and create bowls for the Empty Bowls Dinner. A studio assistant will be there to help aspiring potters with a variety of methods and techniques; the bowls will be glazed and fired by the center’s staff.
Empty Bowls is a unique family-friendly event presented annually by Just Harvest and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to remind us of those whose bowls go empty. Enjoy a simple meal of soup and bread and every ticket holder chooses an original handmade ceramic bowl donated by schools, community arts, programs, and potters from across the community. The event also features music, kids' activities, and a silent auction of selected ceramic art. For more information and tickets visit

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What's "Hot" at Fein Art

It’s always a pleasure to discover new galleries in new neighborhoods—one recent addition to the Pittsburgh art scene can be found on the Northside’s East Ohio Street (two doors down from Bernies.) Here, a baker’s dozen of (mostly) young artists are featured at Fein Art Gallery’s “Hot.” Curator Kathleen Zimbicki has assembled a conglomeration of painters, sculptures and photographers. The works are skillfully grouped by artist and the mix is not unlike a fine banquet that permits you to savor each course to the fullest. Styles ranging from the traditional to the avant-garde represent some familiar faces as well as some newcomers.
Ron Gallagher works with dyed silk—his one-of-a-kind scarves and furnishing accessories are available the Ronnie G. Originals. His latest work, exhibited here, is created on suede, the typical dyes replaced with soft pastels. This combination of materials allows a deliberate rendering and the works tend to be more representational while retaining the abstract nature of the serendipitous dyes. By contrast, Peggi Habets’ watercolors are highly realistic and technically precise. The richly rendered portraits incorporate deep color and shadows with dry brush highlight to create a powerful sense of chiaroscuro. Douglas Wynn uses the palette of the Impressionists in his oils, but his method of working more closely parallels Cezanne. He carefully considers his subject before embarking on the painting process; and that process a permits the accumulation of necessary information over a span of seasons. Carolyn Wenning captures and records more transitory moments. Photography provides a reference to the real world and the moments, psychological and physical, are imprisoned viscerally in the raw materials of wax, tar and resin. Steven Douglas has been working with metal from an early age, but his interest in Medieval reenactments prompted the application of the armorer’s trade to his artwork. His fantasty creation. “ArchAngel Michael”, holds a dominate position at the center of the gallery, standing elegantly, as much the spectator as the exhibit.
I was favorably impressed with the reasonable pricing of the work at the Fein Art Gallery. This, along with the wide range of style and technique, allows for something for every taste and pocketbook. “Hot” continues through April 12.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Seven Shows at PCA

Occasionally the schedule at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts align, like the stars in some astrological chart, and all the galleries celebrate an opening on the same day. Last week the heavenly bodies were in alignment and seven exhibits appeared at the PCA. The evening had much of the feeling of an indoor gallery crawl and the scope and depth of the art on display demand more than one blog entry.
“Pittsburgh Through the Eyes of AAP” is, perhaps, the preeminent offering and the first of many events highlighting the Pittsburgh 250 celebration. Curated by Barbara Jones of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, the pieces have been selected with the discerning eye of an impartial, yet informed, outsider. There are the requisite steel mills and bridges for which the city is renowned, but one also finds the hidden treasures and inside jokes that are sure to delight the true Pittsburgher. Foremost in the latter category is Rita Lee Spalding’s “Pittsburgh Speaks” which may be indecipherable to the outsider, but will bring a smile to the face of a native. Some pieces work on several levels, as in the case of “Pierogi Lounge” by David Watts. This delightful ethnic cuisine is not only good enough to eat (or sleep on) but calls to mind the region’s strong connection to the Pop Art movement.

The Pittsburgh landscape is well represented in photo, collage and paint. None is more striking that Robert Qualters’ “Penn Station, January1, 1954.” The color and light in this tapestry-like acrylic collage lift the status of the railroad terminal to that of the Pantheon or Medieval cathedral. In a truly historical vein, Adrienne Heinrich’s “Follow the Drinking Gourd” celebrates Pittsburgh’s connection to the Underground Railroad. Still the cast silicone piece calls to mind the racism that survived Emancipation. Some pieces, steeped in history are also clouded by obscurity so the Pittsburgh connection is not as obvious. Joyce Werie-Perry’s encaustic painting “Uncommon Faces Familiar Souls” is based on an early photograph of the Carnegie Museum’s directors. Frank Flynn is represented by two works, both of which have a wicked sense of irony. “Art Heroes: Memorial to G. David Thompson” is a Brancusi-like sculpture to the memory of an important collector of art. And “Margaret Morrison’s Endowed Chair” encrusted with “jaggers” is a tribute to an educational institution that no longer exists.
Each piece in this show will have a special appeal for the local patron and is sure to conjure up a wealth of memories and dreams. “Through the Eyes…” continues to March 9.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Gallery Crawl (Part 2)

The second leg of the Gallery Crawl takes us to Liberty Avenue, the Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery and SPACE. These venues offer group shows with a wider variety of works and noticeably larger crowds.
The Three Rivers Gallery is home to two exhibits this season both of which are fairly heavy on installation art. The second floor features “Deliciously Disposable Earth”, a critical look at the impact of mining through the eyes of artists. Curated by Carolina Loyola-Garcia, “DDE” is an international show with both figurative and literal connections. Clayton Merrell embodies this duality. Raised in Pittsburgh and Puerto Orday, Venezuela, Merrell’s studies have taken him around the country and eventually back to the Steel City. “Six Copper Mines” represents his experiences in Arizona and New Mexico. Each is painted on scrap copper and depicts a particular copper mine in that area; they are at once exquisitely beautiful and mindful of the environmental destruction of this industry. Much in the same vein are Janet Rainwater’s charm bracelets, “Miner’s Peril” and “Enslavement.” The beauty and value of these gold objects is obvious, but as we dig deeper we find the darker association of greed, enslavement, war and death. The delicate charms—coffins, slave ship, hangman’s noose—are suspended from shackle-like links and serve to remind us that we cannot escape the legacy of our precious objects. Itamar Jobami’s video/sculptural installation, “Blood, Men, Earth” depicts a young man opening a wound in his torso from which blood flows into a rocky pool. The stream is a video projection—a wonderful piece of “trompe l’oeil” which causes the viewer to momentarily wonder how the liquid drains and recycles. The figure and pool are constructed much like a topographical map and the underpinning implication is the destruction of both man and his environment.
The third floor of Three Rivers showcases works from the staff of the Mattress Factory. (Unfortunately, the Crawl was closing night.) Mixed media pieces by Katherine Young (Pandora’s Boxes) and Susan Sparks (Ink, Tape and Magic) were impressively arrayed as multi-piece series. And one end of the gallery was dominated by an untitled installation by Lindsay O’Leary. This cotton candy confection is something straight out of Aristophanes replete with Mylar balls and silver sharks.

The final stop on my crawl was SPACE, the large glass-front gallery on Liberty Avenue. Here “Hot Metal”, curated by Ed Parrish, Jr., offers a potpourri of sculpture and assemblages. Various metallic materials are welded, cast, filigreed and crumpled to create a myriad of interpretations. In the latter category Gary Smith’s “Aluminum Foil Warriors” could be called “kitchen kitsch”—cyborgs whose construction is a parody of both subject and material. Michael Dominick’s “104-39 116th Street, Queens” has the added dimension of the skills of a plumber. The functional boiler and radiator take the “hot metal” theme seriously, as several patrons discovered when they placed a hand on the artwork. At the opposite end of the gallery stand the richly detailed sculptures of Oleh Bonkovikyy. His “Eagle” with its wings spread and perched on a sphere has the folk art feeling of a Nineteenth Century weathervane. By contrast, the individually fashioned feathers and menacing talons proclaim the hand of a skilled artist. And by the window, against the backdrop of the nocturnal city, stands “Glass Sun.” The weight and symbolic majesty of the piece could easily cause one to mistake it for a shrine from some ancient mystic civilization.
There were many other events on the Crawl some with refreshments and entertainment. And an after hours party on Sixth Street. But the best part is there will be another one in a few months.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gallery Crawl (Part I)

Last Friday was the year’s first Gallery Crawl and was for me oddly like John Cheever’s "The Swimmer." I had the first gallery on my journey entirely to myself; by the time I reached SPACE on Liberty I was hemmed in by wall-to-wall patrons. But this just seems to confirm that the Gallery Crawl is as much about the people as it is about the art.
The Gallery at 707 Penn features "Totally Maybe" an exhibit of new works by Ladyboy. The small iridescent silkscreen paintings are illuminated by ultraviolet light which tends to obscure as much about the works as it reveals. There is a strong commercial graphic art influence in the use of transparencies and half-tone dots. Most of the works are non-objective pattern although a few representational pieces have a cat theme running oddly through them. This cat motif culminates in a sculpture isolated in a fluorescent cage. Ladyboy’s exhibit continues through March 1.
Next door at 709, the photography of Colter Harper documents the "Celebration of Life and Death in West Africa." These mostly black and white images depict the relationship between music and the funerals of the region. Many photos are reminiscent of "The Family of Man" in the representation of multigenerational inheritance of an ancient tradition. "Young Xylophonist" (from the Northwestern region of Ghana) shows a boy practicing the songs he has heard at the festivals, no doubt in anticipation of assuming his position in the celebration. Other photos, such as "Black Prophet’s Band", draw attention to the modernization of the urban areas where popular music is replacing the traditional. The evening’s entertainment featureed some of the same instruments seen in the photos, including the "gyil", a framed xylophone. Harper’s photographs will be on exhibit until February 22.
"Taste Matters" at Future Tenant is certainly the most unusual stop on the Cultural District’s tour—possibly the most unusual of the season. Curated by Robert Raczka, the exhibit features over fifty pieces found at thrift stores (for about twenty dollars a piece) and elevated to a gallery setting. Bordering dangerously close to kitsch, works are grouped by subjects ranging from clowns to dogs and seascapes to the cabin in the woods. While most of the works were done by enthusiastic amateurs, some are the uninspired efforts of professional artists. One that falls into the latter category (and crosses into kitsch) is F. A. Fazio’s "Clown". One can imagine this piece, replete with its ornate gilt frame, hanging in the foyer of some tract home surrounded by martinis and Montavani records. A particularly endearing touch for the show is the gallery’s knotty pine paneling which bring backs memories of the Levitt houses of my youth. (In all honesty, this is pure coincidence—the knotty pine was there when Future Tenant moved in.) The deposition of the exhibit is something quite unique as well. On the final day of the show, the works will be given away on a first come, first serve basis.
The final stop on this week’s tour was the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild space on Penn Avenue. Here crawlers were treated to a demonstration of MCG student work using Gigapan, a robot developed by Carnegie Mellon University and NASA's Ames Intelligent Robot Group. This attachment will turn any modest-resolution digital compact camera into a high-resolution super panoramic image capture device. Gigipan can automatically shoot up to three hundred photographs over ten minutes to a half-hour on a tripod-mounted camera, taking focal length into account. Special software stitches the images together for high-resolution panoramic images and the results are spectacular. The website,, is dominated by Pittsburgh with over fifty postings by the MCG students.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Art of the Week

You can usually catch Barry Winsand and his work at the Watercolor Gallery on Penn.

Barry Winsand
"Mahogany Meadow"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Open House at Sweetwater

Sweetwater Center for the Arts is a little further down Ohio River Boulevard than Bellevue, but the drive is well worth the fifteen minute investment. Located in the old Sewickley Post Office, the center seeks to stimulate broad-based interest in and support for those who create and appreciate the arts of all cultures. The recent open house does that very well exemplifying the center’s dual mission of education and exhibition.
The exhibition portion of the evening, featured in the gallery’s balcony, combined student work with that of their instructors. Some of those same instructors were demonstrating their technique on the large, open ground floor. Visitors could preview and enroll in classes taught by such well-known artists as Joyce Perry (oil), Ron Thurston (watercolor) and Celena Yussen (anime.) Brandon Jennings, who teaches cartooning (a perennial favorite), created on-the-spot caricatures and Kathy Shomo conducted a mini-class in beading. The center’s lower level (the location of several studios) featured animal art with Cindy Shaffer and ceramics with Megan Shane and Charlotte Tolliver.

The exhibition certainly provides a boost of confidence to the budding artist who get to see their work side-by-side with that of their instructors. But it is also a testament to the quality of that instruction—the students proudly hold their own in the gallery space. Catherine Brown’s untitled oil adventurously ventures into the realm of non-objective painting, a genre usually reserved for the most sophisticated artists. “Village Street” by Joseph C. Cirelli is an imaginative little landscape with bright clean color and a strong sense of compositional movement. Mayota Hill’s “Simply Fun and Fancy Free” is a fiber/mixed media piece that incorporates a variety of whimsical materials and techniques. Its title is most apropos.

Throughout the evening the entertainment was provided by Shelly Long (flute) and Jeffery Ellsworth (guitar), each of who teach their respective instruments at Sweetwater. There are many other offerings–far too many to recount. Check out the complete schedule, as well as future activities at