Let's talk about art: Art through a porthole

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

Art through a porthole

Here's a riddle: How does the viewer become the viewed at the exact same moment?•

"Inter-subjectivity" is a new art installation at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside that requires a little playful participation from more than one person.

It is a hanging diorama -- a large white box -- with three circular portholes in the underbelly. You notice three spotlights hitting the floor beneath the box. The light beckons you to move under it and look up. (For shorter participants, there's a block to stand on.) Each porthole leads to a miniature landscape designed by one of three local artists: Eli Blasko, Eric Charlton and Ian F. Thomas.

Yes, that's right, to see the artwork you must stick your head up inside it.

This collaborative exhibit includes and combines different mediums and ideas. There are painted sculptural elements, as well as audio elements. It's both realistic and surrealistic, with a little pop art thrown in. You'll find miniature billboards, garbage trucks, human figures and glitter-covered mountains. When considered as a whole, the installation suggests the interconnectedness of our individual experiences.

As you turn your head inside each porthole others view you, viewing. (• Answer: with a video camera.)

The three local artists, friends for years, have occasionally collaborated. They brainstormed ideas for the PCA show on a road trip to Chicago. When they returned they pulled together their concepts. "I took some components and sort of reacted to Eric's -- the beginning of a consumerist cycle -- by creating 'the end' so to speak," Mr. Blasko explains.

"During the actual construction we all moved into Ian's studio and built together. I saw both Ian and Eric's dioramas pretty much daily for a month leading up to the show," he says.

Each of the artists has a different background of artistic focus and uses his collaboration to explore each others' strengths. This goal to push one another to consider new art fits well into the larger theme of the other solo shows at PCA.

"Inter-subjectivity" is one of 10 solo and collaborative exhibits on view through April 7. For more information visit: www.pittsburgharts.org.



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