I’m wrapping up a monthlong school residency project at Claysville, Pennsylvania. The project, a vision of Claysville art teacher Michelle Urbanek, involved experimentation and discovery in a studio atmosphere blending art and technology. Over the course of the month, I worked with eighty fourth graders as they participated in teams to build inventions. An initial challenge involved using toy motors and found materials to make gadgets that move and draw. We then introduced a library of littleBits electronics, including motion sensors, light sensors, wireless transmitters and an assortment of circuit bending sound components. Students then worked in groups to create prototypes of their ideas. Project supporters included the Sprout Fund (Spark Award) and the PCA Artists in Schools & Communities program. More images will be posted on my COMMUNITY page.
Category Archives: Art
Puppet World, a solo exhibition of my paintings, puppets, drawings and mixed media works opens with a reception (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) on Wednesday, March 25th at the Nutting Gallery of West Liberty University. The show runs through April 17th. Puppets on display will include a selection of twenty-five used in performance. The drawings, paintings and mixed media works, heavy in collage methods, juxtapose anecdotal sketches with critical views of social and environmental issues.
Contemporary Craft will be holding their annual fundraiser gala event this Saturday, March 21st. The event is one of the best of its kind in the Pittsburgh area (creative drinks, an amazing variety of art to bid on, cool crowd and fun craft activities). I’ve had work in their art auction for many years. This year it’s a dancing puppet. If you haven’t been to an arts gala, this is a good one to try (and SCC is a great organization to support)!
Sideways Museum seeking next home.
May 3rd is the final day for viewing the Sideways Museum at its current location on Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. I’d like to take the project to another gallery, window space or alternative viewing location in the Greater Pittsburgh area. I’m also thinking about traveling the project to a nearby city (Cleveland, Buffalo or Philadelphia???). Space permitting, I’d like to continue with the seven artists currently represented. Ideal locations will offer a secure place for art to be on view, with free access to the work. Please contact me if you have a space and are interested in hosting the project.
The FLUX series of late-night art parties in massive vacant industrial buildings were a major part of the Pittsburgh art scene ten years ago. Developed by Traci Jackson, the one-day events featured a mix of visual arts, films, bands, theatrical performances and lots of beer. For FLUX 12 (held in the former Art Institute of Pittsburgh facilities, Penn Avenue, Downtown) I created a junk model of the world, decorating it with illustrations of polemical issues. As I jumped from one end of the sculpture to the other, I touched on destruction of the Amazon rain forest, pre-emptive missile strikes and other current issues involving U.S. consumption and policy (and resulting ripple effects throughout the world). As I completed one side, visitors moved in to view new developments.
The Sideways Museum is officially up for viewing today. The project features the work of seven Pittsburgh artists including Jim Rettinger, Liz Hammond, the late Dorothy Williams, Steve Smith, Joann Kielar and Doug Hill. As organizer, I’ve styled the show with logo, Chartreuse green walls and a few of my own works.
I’ll be rotating work by the late Pittsburgh visionary artist Dorothy Williams through The Sideways Museum starting Friday, January 23rd. Williams (1926-2005) created dozens of works in her retirement remembering important events of her life growing up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. The works were created by gluing strands of embroidery floss, one string at a time, to various types of cardboard. Her subject matter included family and social scenes, floral arrangements, nature and abstractions. I’ve been trying to spark some interest in her works since 2001.
My latest storefront project will be unveiled on January 23rd, 2015 in the newly developed Window SPACE, a special projects/installation room of SPACE gallery in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. The project is titled The Sideways Museum. It will be viewable 24 hours a day as a window display at 812 Liberty Avenue. Interior viewing of The Sideways Museum will be limited to appointments and special occasions. The project will be up through May 3rd.
The Sideways Museum will feature a collection of works by Pittsburgh-based artists exploring folk and visionary art traditions. Artists include Doug Hill, Joann Kielar, Jim Rettinger, Steve Smith, Liz Hammond and Dorothy Williams. I will also have some of my own works in the mix. Works will be arranged salon-style with a numbered chart for identification of paintings, sculptures, puppets and other art objects. As organizer, I will arrange and maintain the project. Alterations will be made to the display periodically and new works will be added, keeping the display in a state of flux.
The Sideways Museum focuses on artists who often go unnoticed by art-world institutions. These artists have developed styles that are inspired by the Pittsburgh region as well as by daily life in the specific communities in which they live. Rather than reacting to trends in the art world, these artists pursue depth of meaning and invention, creating work on their own terms.
The Sideways Museum is an extension of my community-based projects. It begins as a window display at SPACE. It has the potential to grow legs and become a long-term project, in a site of its own. Below are a list of artists who will be featured in the initial presentation of the museum. As the project grows, more artists may be be added.
Interdisciplinary artist Liz Hammond has been active in music, performance art, sculpture, and theater. In the 1990s she was a member of the Industrial Arts Co-op, the team of salvage artists that created the monumental Carrie Deer sculpture at the abandoned Carrie Furnace industrial site in Rankin, Pennsylvania. Recently, Hammond has been creating a collection of soft sculpture fiber work she calls Simple Cells. These abstract works, exploring form and materials, suggest ideas for larger structures.
East Pittsburgh artist Doug Hill creates simple machines out of cardboard. Hill’s inspiration for these sculptures comes from the gadgets of everyday life. He closely observes everything from bus doors to clocks and Venetian blinds. Hill’s work was featured in an exhibition at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in 2008. His work has also been shown at The Brew House and The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination.
Joann Kielar is a Pittsburgh artist, puppeteer, and storyteller. As an educator, she promotes the art of puppetry with projects in schools and at community events. In her work she explores the interaction of words and images. Her handcrafted glove puppets, rod puppets, and doll-like characters are designed in visual accompaniment to the stories that she writes.
Jim Rettinger has been active in the arts in Western Pennsylvania for many years, and he was a public school art teacher for 38 years. His sculptural assemblages fuse decaying wood, obscure antique objects, and hand-formed clay. The resulting creations are expressive creatures, symbolic constructions, and surrealist visions. In one of his works, Rettinger comments on the passage of time by stacking and gluing together many clock radios, all plugged in with flashing displays.
Tom Sarver is a Pittsburgh puppeteer, artist, and curator. His projects with Pittsburgh visionary artists include curating a 2008 exhibition at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, titled Binding Forces, and a 2004 show at The Brew House, titled From the Inside. From September 2006 through May 2008, Sarver included work by local self-taught and professional artists in his live-in project at the Mattress Factory, The Tom Museum.
Steve Smith’s paintings are inspired by personal experience, world events, and news broadcasts. His style is influenced by ancient and primitive cultures. As a teenage art student in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Smith was fascinated by the early cultures of Egypt, Africa, and the Americas. Although health issues challenged his career dreams, Smith pushed ahead and continued to make art. Today, Smith has a collection of drawings, sketches, and paintings that document the events of his lifetime. His bold, patterned works have been shown in Pittsburgh hospitals, shops, and neighborhood art galleries.
Dorothy Williams (1926–2005), from the Hill District and later East Liberty, had a professional career as counselor for women in prison. Later in life, she began creating images made by gluing colored embroidery floss, one string at a time, to pieces of cardboard. The works document rich memories of her African-American heritage, and they also reveal themes of racial equality and integration. Her many string painting images include an integrated dance party, a fishing outing, and running home from school in the rain. Her work has been exhibited in shows at Top Notch Art Centre, The Tom Museum, The Brew House, and Pittsburgh Center for The Arts.
SPACE is located at 812 Liberty Avenue. Gallery Hours: Wed & Thurs: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Fri & Sat: 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. The gallery is free and open to the public. SPACE is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. For more information about all gallery exhibitions featured in the Cultural District, please visit TrustArts.org.