Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Robot Resolution at First Night Pittsburgh

There will be more robot art at First Night, in addition to the ones by Don Jones on display at Fifth Avenue Place. In fact, there will be a whole exhibit of robotic art at 937 Liberty, 2nd Floor gallery (the former Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery).

Rossum's, a Pittsburgh-based robotic art group, will display robotic and mechatronic sculptures and installations for First Night. This event is part of the Steel City Robotic Art Project, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Technology Council. I think this nose is totally awesome.

Pittsburgh Project - Matthew Conboy and W. Eugene Smith

There is one solo exhibit that has been commissioned to be part of First Night. The exhibit belongs to photographer Matthew Conboy, who is working to rephotograph W. Eugene Smith's amazing photo essay of Pittsburgh from the 1950s. You might remember the exhibit of W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh photos at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2001... The show was called Dream Street, after one of Pittsburgh's poetic street names he had photographed (others including Love Street, and the intersection of Hamlet and Ophelia streets).

Conboy has found places that Smith had photographed, and rephotographed those places today, showing us what is there now. It is a reflection of how the city has changed and stayed the same over the past half-century. Matthew's exhibit is called Pittsburgh Project.

Shriner's Circus Parade, Sixth Street Bridge, 1965 by W. Eugene Smith

Sixth Street Bridge, 2008 by Matthew Liam Conboy

Matthew Conboy will exhibit 100 of his own photographs, as well as contact sheets of W. Eugene Smith's photographs, and three videos for Pittsburgh Project at 901 Penn Gallery (the old Watercolors Gallery space) on Dec. 31, 6-11pm.

Glass blowing in Heinz Hall Garden

Gary Guydosh of Gallery G Glass is going to demonstrate glass blowing as part of the First Night festivities. He will be bringing a portable furnace to Heinz Hall Garden (Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue). Glass blowing is one of the most exciting art forms to watch, working with molten glass, and Gary Guydosh is a master.

Wisp by Gary Guydosh

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fifth Avenue Place Window Displays

This morning, three artists each took their own 14-foot-wide window on the Penn Avenue side of the Fifth Avenue Place building downtown.

Three colorful abstract paintings by local artist Scott Hunter, several beautiful photographs by father and son photographers Alexander Patho and Alexander Patho, Jr., and a delightful display of robots by Don Jones are now on display through First Night. Don's robots include an elegant seven-foot matriarch, a mechanical mechanic wearing a hard hat and carrying oil cans, a mini robot riding an eggbeater rocket, as well as ones that light up and ones that move. They are all made of salvaged equipment like kitchen utensils and old vacuum cleaners. In the window, they are surrounded by toy robots. I think First Night goers will enjoy seeing their pretty city in photographs, brilliant colors on canvas, and futuristic robots to imagine 2010 and beyond!

Below is a picture from Don Jones' Flikr site... This robot, Maintenance Matt, is one of the robots on display at Fifth Avenue Place. Also, coincidentally, Don happens to be the one who set up the trains in PPG Winter Garden for the Gingerbread house display I blogged about earlier in the month! A very creative person.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Resolutions: Moxie DaDA and Urban Tree Forge

This is the week that the art goes up all over the Cultural District for First Night, getting Pittsburgh ready to ring in the new year.

Yesterday, Moxie DaDA and Urban Tree Forge received artwork for their show, Resolutions, at 820 Liberty Avenue, and they will start installing it this evening. Christine Whispell, founder of Moxie DaDa, developed the collaboration with Urban Tree Forge. The exhibit will be both beautiful and inspiring (which is very fitting to Christine, actually, if you have had the pleasure of meeting her).

Resolutions promotes moral courage and strength of mind. Artists have been chosen for their choice in materials and context of self-discovery, as well as their resolve to create and produce from within the urban landscape.

Moxie DaDA had a gallery on the North Side for many years, located in a charming brick firehouse. It closed its physical gallery this winter, but it is still a positive force for artists, maintaining moxbox consulting and connecting artists to the community through what the gallery refers to as "diverse and inspirational venues." Hundreds of people will enjoy the special exhibit at First Night, for example, and the exhibit will also be part of the Gallery Crawl on January 22.

Urban Tree Forge emphasizes sustainability, and their projects utilize wood from our own urban forest or recycled from within our community. They remove trees from landfills and place salvaged wood back into a productive life cycle. Not only is their process inspiring, but their work is too. Check them out on their web site:

Come see Resolutions at 820 Liberty Avenue on Dec. 31, 6-11pm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

James Tissot

Above is an example of the art of James Tissot that I have been familiar with -- Victorian paintings of elegant society women.

It was a surprise to discover in a recent article in the New York Times that the same James Tissot also created an astounding 700 images illustrating the entire New Testament, and the start of the Old Testament. (He died before he finished illustrating the Old Testament.) These were created over the span of a decade, following a dream he had in which he saw a vision of Jesus administering to people within a ruined building. The dream inspired him to leave Paris and journey to Palestine to research and begin this massive project.

124 of these paintings are now on display at the Brooklyn Museum, which owns 500 drawings, watercolors, and oils from the series.

Here is a link to the article in the New York Times describing the exhibit, which includes a slide show of several of the images:

And here is a link to the catalog, if, like me unfortunately, you won't get to Brooklyn by January 17 to see it in person:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole's series The Voyage of Life at the National Gallery of Art has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, frequenting the museum with my family. The series depicts a voyager, accompanied by a guardian angel, as he rides the River of Life through childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.

In Childhood, the infant enters a lush summer landscape. In Youth, the boy takes the helm and rides toward a palace in the clouds. Manhood is depicted as treacherous and stormy, the voyager praying to help guide him through the tumultuous rapids of the River. Finally, in the fourth picture, the voyager is an old man and the landscape is dark and tranquil while a bright light and an angel descend toward him. The guardian angel guides him toward heaven, faith having carried him through his voyage.

It was such a treat when my friend Mary sent me links to both a movie about Thomas Cole, and an excellent web site about him, too! (Links are at the bottom of this post.) Cole was the founder of the Hudson River School, and his paintings of the American landscape are awe-inspiring. The movie portrays Cole as an early environmentalist, concerned about man's ravages of nature, where he had found so much beauty.

Cool web site:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Within Range by Carolyn Clayton @ FE Gallery

Tonight we went to the opening of SMALL is the new big: 25 Squared, an exhibition of 625 pieces of small art by 25 atrists at FE Gallery in Lawrenceville.

The show is delightful, made up of groupings of small works, no larger than 5" x 5". Each artist's grouping is distinct in style, media, and expression, with one thing in common-- You want to get close to them, really look closely to see the details, and this way, they offer an intimate experience.

While there was a lot I liked, I bought a glossy, sky blue ceramic cast of a walkie talkie made by artist Carolyn Clayton, whom I had the pleasure of being introduced to tonight. The walkie talkie is a piece of a larger artwork made up of multiple ceramic walkie talkies of many colors, titled "Within Range."

Having bought this piece, I am taking part in an anonymous communication game. This sky blue ceramic walkie talkie is one in a pair, and whoever buys the other sky blue one will receive a postcard from me, and I will receive one from them.

My "message" isn't much, simply a list of walkie talkie related events I experience every summer while running the Three Rivers Arts Festival's Artists' Market. Regardless of my silly note, it is a fun thing to take part in, and this ceramic walkie talkie is quite cute and will look spiffy on the wall above my desk I think!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


oil on wood

Click image to enlarge.

4 Lydia Model City and some spaceships by Ryder Henry

I'm working on coordinating the visual art for First Night, Pittsburgh's New Year's Eve celebration of the arts.

On Friday, artist Ryder Henry installed the first window display for First Night, featuring his imaginative paintings, drawings, space ships, and incredible model city. It looks terrific!

4 Lydia Model City and some spaceships by local artist, Ryder Henry is on display in the Culinary Institute Window at 526 Penn Avenue (across the street from Fifth Avenue Place, one block up). It has already attracted excitement from passers by!

See more of Ryder Henry's work on his web site, here:

Gingerbread Houses at PPG

(photo of PPG Place by Derek Jensen, above)

My favorite part of the Pittsburgh skyline (and the favorite of many) is the beautiful complex PPG Place, made up of six buildings within three blocks. You can read about its unique architecture on its web site:

Before I got around to learning this was called PPG Place, I just called it The Glass Castle.

PPG is most beautiful around the holidays, when a giant Christmas tree is raised in the center of a seasonal skating rink in the outdoor plaza. Above is a lovely photo of PPG during the kick-off to the holiday season on Light Up Night (from PPG's web site).

The other day on my lunch hour, I walked through the plaza and took great delight in the wonderful display of gingerbread houses made by Pittsburgh children that filled numerous display windows within the plaza. Created by students, brownie troops, and many other groups of creative children, the display is created to encourage donations for Pittsburgh Children's Hospital's Free Care Program. The display continues in PPG's beautiful Wintergardens, where the houses create a large, snowy, gingerbread village with trains zipping through, surrounding a Christmas tree. I took some photos of some of my favorites...

Gingerbread and candy carousel (above)

The Grinch (above)
(Hogwarts, above. I love the tree eating the car in the yard!)
Check out the lights of PNC Park (above). Nice.

The White House (above)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Remembering Jeanne-Claude

Cover of the book about Jeanne-Claude and Christo's project for Central Park, titled On The Way To The Gates

Jeanne-Claude, half of the Jeanne-Claude and Christo artist-partnership, known for creating environmental installations such as The Gates in Central Park, passed away last week at the age of seventy-four.

In addition to The Gates, their past works include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, and a 24-mile-long artwork called Running Fence in California.

Christo will continue their current project, Over The River, an installation that will canopy the Arkansas River in Colorado. See the work that they began together on the project’s web site, here:
Their partnership is described in this touching article on Art Beast with a wonderful image gallery featuring many of their beautiful installation works:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Old King

The Carnegie Museum of Art is fortunate to have Georges Rouault's most significant expressionist painting in its collection, The Old King. The identity of the king is unspecified, but it is suspected to be King Herod.

When Georges Rouault was a young man, he had an apprenticeship in a glazier's shop restoring medieval stained glass. This experience influenced his later expressionist painting style using luminous colors and strong black outlines, similar in appearance to stained glass. This style is epitomized in the painting of The Old King.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

This painting by Norman Rockwell has become a very familiar image of Thanksgiving. The painting is titled Freedom From Want and is part of Rockwell's Four Freedoms Series. The series is based on the four freedoms described in a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as inspiring as ever. Excerpt:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

Listen to audio of Roosevelt and read the whole inspiring speech here:

P.S. Here is a photo I took a few years ago of Norman Rockwell's studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, when we went to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum:

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Dr. Elaine King's lecture following the tour of the exhibit Likeness: Transformations of Portrayal After Warhol at the Mattress Factory was very interesting and enriching! (See the description of this exhibit in my previous post.) She dicussed the evolution of portraiture over art history, and new ways contemporary artists are exploring the genre. At the end of her lecture, where the first slide was a self-portrait of Rembrandt and she had taken us step by step through Warhol, through postmodernism up to today, she predicted that new inventions within the genre would come from artists using new technologies.

If you missed the curator's lecture and still go to see the exhibit, be sure to pick up the exhibit guide at the front desk. It includes an introduction to the exhibit by Elaine King, as well as her thoughtful descriptions of the artists and their works.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

LIKENESS @ the Mattress Factory

LIKENESS is a group exhibition that examines human depiction during a post-Warholian era in which new technology has played an influential role. It includes the work of artists Jim Campbell, Paul DeMarinis, Jonn Herschend, Nikki Lee, Joseph Mannino, Greta Pratt and Tony Oursler. Elaine A. King, who is a freelance critic and curator as well as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University teaching Art History/Theory/Museum Studies, guest-curates the exhibition.

Tonight I am attending a tour and curator's talk at the Mattress Factory about this exhibit. I am particularly excited because Dr. Elaine King, the curator, was one of my most influential professors at Carnegie Mellon University. I had an independent study with her about portraiture, and she really opened my mind to contemporary artists exploring portraiture in new ways. I am thrilled to get to see this exhibit tonight, and listen to her discussion!

CURATOR TALK: Elaine A. King
Human Portrayal: A Shifting Conglomerate of Media & Social Values
Thursday, November 19, 2009
7:00 PM (Guided tour of LIKENESS at 6:00 PM)$10
(MF members, PIT + CMU FREE w/ I.D.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nests, Rhizomes, Seeds

709 Penn Gallery

Nests, Rhizomes, Seeds encompasses the work of four women artists and educators living and working in the Pittsburgh area: JoAnna Commandaros, Anna Divinsky, Karen Page and Holland Williams. In this exhibit they examine nests and root formations through drawing, painting, and manipulating a tactile surface. Each piece is a testament to each artist’s personal sensitivity to nature, color, and texture.

The exhibit also focuses on an interactive, public art installation created with students from the University of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock University and CAPA High School. The audience is invited to select varied organic linoleum carvings produced by the students to create root drawings through planting seeds in the beds of the carvings. These wheat grass seeds will be overlaid with cheesecloth and watered, in turn, producing unusual shapes that mimic the pattern of the carved linoleum. The resulting rhizome growth drawings will then be added to the ever-growing installation.

Nests, Rhizomes, Seeds weaves the symbiotic relationship of natural processes with visual language, demonstrating the creative bond between four women artists and educators, their students, and the Pittsburgh community. Come to the gallery and contribute to the installation by planting some seeds.

November 13 through December 31, 2009 (First Night Pittsburgh)
Reception: Friday, December 4, 2009, 6-8 pm
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 12-8pm & Saturday, 12-6pm
709 Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh