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, www.gigapan.org, is dominated by Pittsburgh with over fifty postings by the MCG students.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
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 www.sweetwatercenter.com.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
Bellevue, famous for the “Live, Worship, Shop” sign, offers several unique and interesting establishments. The Creative TreeHouse and Affogato (the big red a) are regular stops on the blogosphere—enough so to attract several attendees of last year’s Pod Camp 2 to this sleepy little community in the North Boroughs. Also to be found here in the main business district is Matthew Arts.
If there is such a thing as the art version of the general store, Matthews is it. Local residents sit and discuss politics, provincial news and “what ever happened to…” All that’s missing is the potbellied stove. The offerings at the art center are as varied and colorful as its denizens. The lower level is reserved for studio classes; the main level offers an eclectic gallery interdisbursed with displays of art supplies, racks of postcards and bins of reproductions.
Matthews Art features a different artist every month exhibited in a salon style. The featured artist for January is Thomas Smith, aka Behon. Smith is a slightly eccentric (witness his unusual pricing scale) primitive artist who specializes in landscape painting. His naivety is less John Kane and more the stuff of Albert Pinkham Ryder. “Southern Maine” (oil on canvas) perhaps exemplifies this best with its dark and light striations. Its eerie, surrealistic mood is reinforced (as are several other works) by the delicate balance of a low chroma scheme. Included in Smith’s show are several pencil portraits of pop culture icons. His technical handling of this medium is superb and his draughtsmanship is outstanding.
Matthews Art is located on Balph off Lincoln and is open Tuesday through Saturday. The Art of Thomas Smith continues through the 29th of January.