In The Frame: Artists In Their Own Words

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

In the occasional video series "In the Frame: Artists in Their Own Words," Western Pennsylvania artists discuss work that is representative of their medium and their approach to art. Reporting by PG art critic Mary Thomas and videography by Nate Guidry. Click on the image to access the videos.


"I switched to watercolor and fell in love with it."

Kathleen Cochran Zimbicki

The work: Washington County native Kathleen Cochran Zimbicki grew up in a family that was musically talented and extremely competitive. Less accomplished with an instrument than her siblings, she found her niche in the visual arts, painting with oils until her young daughter drank turpentine from the grape juice can the artist kept it in (she recovered).

Ms. Zimbicki changed mediums and a local institution was born.

"I love the look of watercolor," she says, noting it is sometimes maligned by museums, thought of as a lesser medium and protected in darkened rooms.

Ms. Zimbicki creates at her charming Rennerdale home, which she shares with husband, Mike. The dining room doubles as studio where she paints, surrounded and inspired by her own work and that of other artists.

For our camera, she begins "The Monster That Ate Rennerdale" with a large blank white sheet of paper that she wets with water.

She then chooses a palette -- "you select more warm or cool" -- and the painting takes shape through her florid aqua and flamingo pink brushstrokes. "I do love color," she says as sky blue jostles fuchsia. The final touch is a sprinkle of salt to add texture and pattern: "Not too much or you're making sandpaper."

Ms. Zimbicki has been influenced by a myriad of artists. The late Henry Koerner, a local legend in his own right, was her teacher.

"He's been dead 20 years, and I still hear his voice," she says.

An artwork that affected her "more than any in the world, even though I hate honey" was the walk-in beeswax structure created by German artist Wolfgang Laib for the 1988 Carnegie International. Both the sight and the smell of the work linger. But she's her own person aesthetically, as her whimsical compositions attest: for example a large scale painting of a huge, fleshy imaginary creature given the smile-inducing title "The Tongue Has No Bones."

The artist: The name Kathleen Zimbicki is synonymous with watercolor in Pittsburgh, a medium she teaches, paints with and champions.

The vivacious redhead, a youthful 76, became known throughout the region as proprietress of Studio Z Gallery on Carson Street, South Side, from 1976 to 2003. She still misses the gallery, and muses about producing a television sitcom series that would be set in an art gallery, sort of like Studio Z, on a funky street, sort of like Carson, in a city sort of like Pittsburgh.

She is president of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh for the second time, having served in 1993 and having been drafted to guide the organization through its busy centennial year. She also occasionally curates shows for Fein Art Gallery on the North Side.

Her many honors include Pittsburgh Master Visual Artist (1997), the inaugural Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), the 2007 Pittsburgh Society of Artists annual prize and selection as one of the top 50 cultural forces in Pittsburgh by the Post-Gazette (2002). She has served on 11 boards, including those of the Three Rivers Arts Festival; Touchstone Center for Crafts, Farmington, Fayette County; Artists' Equity; and Pittsburgh Society of Artists, for which she was president from 1984-88. Her work has appeared in 40 exhibitions in 11 countries. She is the only living artist honored in a 100-year survey of American Master Watercolor Painters.


"Clay is really where my passion is. Clay is definitely an underdog in the art world, so I kind of like that. It's so versatile. I love the malleability of clay and really that you can create anything, are able to carve into the surface. There's no limitations to what you can do. You can be working on something for months and it can just blow up on you in the firing, or you drop it. It teaches you patience."

Laura Jean McLaughlin

The work: In her clay studio, Ms. McLaughlin is ceramist rather than potter. Although she makes functional ware as well as sculpture, it is hand-built and embellished with design, figure and form. Her methods include casting, sgrafitto, painting and drawing as well as glazing. Her subjects may be political, cultural, horrific, humorous -- all are indisputably her. Her pieces reflect her ongoing fascination with Surrealism and the act of automatic sculpting, she says. The "amalgamations" are formed without conscious thought, evoking confusion, multiplicity and evasion. By emptying her mind, she feels she allows her true feelings to breathe life into the forms. Thus, she taps into the zeitgeist of her surrounding communities as well as her own thoughts.

The artist: Pittsburgh native Laura McLaughlin always wanted to be an artist, drawing since she was a young child, entering art contests, and taking oil painting classes. But as one of 11 children she was encouraged by her family to study something more practical. She attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and earned a B.S. in medical technology. However, in her last semester, Ms. McLaughlin took a clay class and was hooked.

Later, while employed by a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, hospital, the instructor of the community clay class she was taking recognized her talent and helped her to apply to graduate school where she was awarded a full scholarship. She left her monetarily rewarding and secure position to earn a M.F.A. in Ceramics from West Virginia University in Morgantown. She's continued to study clay at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Newcastle, Maine, and Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina.

Ms. McLaughlin has been awarded three prestigious Arts/Industry residencies by Kohler Company, Wisconsin, one for porcelain and the others in cast iron. Each resident artist contributes two works made on site per residency to the Kohler collection, and the six by Ms. McLaughlin are displayed in the factory and the headquarters building, as well as the art center.

She and partner Bob Ziller are working on a large scale mosaic for the facade of The Bottle Works Ethnic Art Center in Johnstown. She designed and installed the facade for Gallerie Chiz, Shadyside, where her ceramic work is being exhibited through Jan. 8. Ms. McLaughlin and Mr. Ziller are most recently co-proprietors of a bookstore, Awesome Books, located in the front of their studio at 5111 Penn Ave., Garfield. They will be given an exhibition by Cohen & Grigsby Law Firm, Downtown, that opens in mid-February.


"I find the character of trees is so wonderful that I try to capture it. The wood generally directs how I proceed on a piece. Each wood has its own characteristic grain."

Artist and architect Sylvester Damianos

The work: The hand is a constant presence in Sylvester Damianos' expression, caressing the surface of a piece of wood to find its soul, placing shard against strip in composition, operating an enviable cast of tools that hang in orderly readiness in his studio to achieve the look he's after. His first tools were given him by his father, a hammer and a jack plane that Mr. Damianos proudly displays. "He's the one who taught me to rely on my own skills for every day." Add to those a collection assembled over five decades of gauges, chisels, drill presses, 200 clamps of various sizes, four sanding machines, two band saws ... each offering new possibilities, performing an added function.

Mr. Damianos favors American Black Walnut and bass wood, and doesn't stain the wood, but sometimes applies a linseed or tung oil finish. He is a gatherer as well as a recycler, and pieces of wood small and large stack in out of the way places, curing and awaiting transformation into an artwork. He makes sketches for his sculptures, but as readily breaks away from them.

His influence is mostly nature, he says, which may be reflected in formal beauty or in structural characteristics, like the Fibonacci sequences found in such things as the arrangement of sunflower seeds. His favorite shape is a cube -- "I've always been hung up on cubes" -- and we film him working on a sculpture having that form. As he completes the structure, composing the sides of interestingly shaped remnants from other projects, he also considers the interior space. "I like to consider the void as well as the solid. There is a large void in the interior, but it's a fairly strong structure -- architecture and engineering at the same time."

The artist: McKeesport native Sylvester Damianos has been both artist and architect throughout a near half-century long career. He studied architecture at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), and was a Fulbright Scholar at the Technological Institute of Delft, The Netherlands. While in school in Pittsburgh, he discovered ceramics when he chose it as an elective course, and learned about painting and design from the woman who would become his wife.

After Army service he returned to Pittsburgh in time to be juried, along with his wife Lu, into the inaugural Three Rivers Arts Festival. Shortly after, he joined the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors. In 1963, he was given a solo exhibition in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts AAP gallery, and was hooked. He committed to art making as well as architectural practice, and has experimented with painting, steel, aluminum, wood, concrete and warped canvas. Bronze casting lurks on the horizon.

He has served as national President of The American Institute of Architects, and Chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows. Mr. Damianos received the Distinguished Achievement Award from Carnegie Mellon University, has been received into the Tau Sigma Delta Honorary Fraternity of Architecture and Allied Arts, and was cited by AIA Pennsylvania with the Honor Award for Furthering Artistic Appreciation.

His largest commission to date was for the Westinghouse Electric Company's Nuclear Energy Center in Monroeville, an 85-foot long by 15-foot tall landscape of aluminum and steel that responds to the changing light from an overhead skylight. Mr. Damianos' wall-mounted black walnut sculpture, "Windspirit," captured the Tillie S. Speyer Memorial Award at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh 100th Annual Exhibition, which ran from July 24 to Sept. 19, 2010 at Carnegie Museum of Art.

Rose Clancy

"I take a site and respond to what's there -- that is where I start with the art that I'm making."

Installation artist Rose Clancy

The work: What is now The GardenLab@516 began in a roundabout way. Artist Rose Clancy, a volunteer at the Mattress Factory museum, asked co-director Michael Olijnyk whether there was any unused land nearby where she might plant some sweet potato plants. Mr. Olijnyk offered the lot adjacent to a Mattress Factory-supported installation by artist Ruth Stanford at 516 Sampsonia Way. The abandoned lot was filled with debris and as Ms. Clancy began to clean it up, she turned some of the discards into sculpture, some into planters. Neighbors began to stop by. And the garden grew. When Ms. Clancy isn't present, visitors may look through peepholes cut into the fence. The project has evolved over a half-dozen months to be "an ever-changing hybrid mix of sculpture, gardening, archaeology, art experimentation and natural occurrence," Ms. Clancy says. "This garden primarily focuses on the relationship between neglect and nurturing. [It] is a place where plants are grown as metaphors for humankind's abuse of other people and of the Earth." People now come to look and to talk. And trash is no longer thrown into the space.

The artist: Pittsburgh native and West End resident Rose Clancy began her professional life as a graphic designer after graduating from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. She was laid off Sept. 11, 2001, after 17 years working for a graphic design studio, and decided to thereafter work for herself. She continues to be an independent graphic designer. But she also decided to return to her first love. "Ever since I was a small tot I knew that I was an artist." Ms. Clancy has an interactive work, "A Fine Collection of Glass Rocks from a Polluted Stream," in the Group A exhibition "Touch Me, Please" at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts through Nov. 7. She has exhibited elsewhere in the area, including an installation, "what life gives," at the first Pittsburgh Visionary Arts Festival in 2009.

Leslie Golomb and Michelle Browne

"We've known each other since we were 18 years old. We lived on the same floor of Morewood Gardens when we attended CMU and became friends. We both majored in printmaking. We were pretty much the Michelle and Leslie show for all four years ... Michelle has her own vision. I have my own vision. We weren't thinking collaboration."

Leslie Golomb on her collaboration with Michelle Browne

The work: Leslie Golomb and Michelle Browne are shown at work on the fourth installment in a series of large fiber works, each of which begin as block prints inspired by anonymous photographs of girls. They work at Artists Image Resources (A.I.R.), a 10,000 square foot facility on the North Side that provides a venue for artists working in relief, intaglio, lithography, screenprinting, digital imaging, photography, bookbinding, papermaking, letterpress and other related arts. "We like it because it's a working studio," Ms. Golomb says. "A.I.R. ... encourages artists to explore ideas. And the work was about ideas."

The two attended a talk by Braddock printmaker/graffiti artist Swoon and learned "that printmaking was not moribund but alive and kicking," Ms. Golomb says. They decided to "join the revolution, working collaboratively." During a visit to the website Shutterstock, Ms. Golomb searched for "happy girl" and hundreds of smiling faces flashed by. "One little girl stands alone in her underwear, scowling, and is being offered as a stock photo in black and white. Click. Download. I own her for 49 cents," Ms. Golomb wrote about the project.

Ms. Browne's first impression of the photograph was less than inspired, but then the artists began to develop a story for the child. "Michelle gives her a name, Betsy. Now that she has a name there is no turning back." The resultant "Betsy in the Forest," the first large pieced and quilted work of the series, may be seen in "Fiberart International 2010" at the Society for Contemporary Craft through Aug. 22. They were among six local artists juried into the prestigious show, and their piece was awarded second place.

"As women and mothers we connect with the subject matter," Ms. Browne says. "We know the stories of girls growing up in America. We put our own spin on who these girls may be."

Their completed project will debut at A.I.R. at a date to be determined.

The artists: Michelle Browne, a native of Mount Vernon, N.Y., earned a BFA in printmaking and painting from Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked as an art educator at Carnegie Museum of Art, The Frick Art & Historical Center and Citiparks, and has conducted artist residencies within the City of Pittsburgh Public Schools Gifted Program. Her work includes painting with dyes on silk, and, more recently incorporating printmaking and embroidery. She is a member of the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh and has served as its president and as co-director of Fiberart International 2004. She has exhibited extensively throughout the region.

Pittsburgh native Leslie Golomb comes from an artistic family. Her father Edwin Golomb was a furniture designer and maker, and noted Pittsburgh artist Aaronel de Roy Gruber is a cousin. "This made it easy for my parents to give me the permission to be an artist at a very early age, for which I am grateful." She holds a BFA from CMU and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ms. Golomb has worked in arts management, studio arts and art education for more than 25 years. She was founder and director of the American Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh for nine years. The recipient of numerous awards, including recognition by the NEA and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she has exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work will appear in a fall show, "Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition," opening in Vancouver, British Columbia, and traveling throughout western Canada. Collaborative works completed with artist Louise Silk will be exhibited at Hebrew Union College Museum, NYC, in the fall. Ms. Golomb was commissioned, along with artist Barbara Broff Goldman, to compile and illustrate an anthology of Jewish Women's Devotional Literature titled "To Speak Her Heart," and in fall of next year, Seton Hill University will show illustrations from the book. A grant to write an interfaith curriculum to go with the latter exhibition has been awarded by The Pennsylvania Humanities Council."

Diane Samuels

"A lot of my work is done out of the country. [With the Sampsonia project,] I'm looking very closely at my home."

Diane Samuels

The work: Meticulous is perhaps the word that best describes Ms. Samuels' artwork and process, the latter being integral to the finished product. We filmed her in her studio working on a phase of her ongoing Sampsonia Way project, an examination of the lane she has lived on since 1980 in Pittsburgh's North Side Mexican War Streets neighborhood. Prior to a 2005-06 exhibition at the Mattress Factory, Ms. Samuels photographed the 828-foot long street in 16-inch by 24-inch sections. These were combined in a 30-foot-long Iris print that was embellished with hand-written or engraved comments told by street residents and passers-by. "Mapping Sampsonia Way" traveled to New York, and Ms. Samuels has continued to explore her lane, making casts of potholes, interviewing residents, collecting and pressing plant life and creating exacting large drawings derived from photographs of portions of the lane that represent, if not exactly reproduce, each stone and crack. Ms. Samuels listens to audio books during the long hours her painstaking work requires, and the story of Homer's journey home in "The Odyssey" inspired her current project component. She is handwriting the entire book over a scroll-like overlay of the street. "It starts at the Monterey Street side of Sampsonia. Odysseus will return, hopefully, by the time I reach the end."

The artist: A native New Yorker, Ms. Samuels grew up in New Orleans. She moved to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees. She also holds a diploma from the Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University. Ms. Samuels was awarded a Ph.D. by Seton Hill University, in 2007. She and her husband Henry Reese co-founded City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, part of an international network that provides sanctuary to exiled writers. She was Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year in 2003, named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 2007, and her "Luminous Manuscript" is among 38 entries in Judith Dupre's book "Monuments: America's History in Art and Memory," along with the Statue of Liberty and The Alamo. "Luminous Manuscript," permanently installed at the Center for Jewish History, NYC, measures 22-by-20 feet and comprises thousands of individually formed units. Ms. Samuels won an international competition for a permanent site-specific work for Brown University, which she completed in 2006. She created "The Alphabet Garden," a commissioned memorial, in Grafeneck, Germany, at the site of the 1940 "euthanasia experiments." Ms. Samuels has been given solo exhibitions by Carnegie Museum of Art, Mattress Factory, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, and is represented by Kim Foster Gallery, New York. She has exhibited in France, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia as well. She serves on the boards of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, the Mattress Factory, and the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill University.

Vanessa German
Sculptor and performance artist Vanessa German of Homewood creates her version of "Tar Babies" of early 20th-century advertising iconography.

"As a sculptor, I always work on the things that I love, create things that rise out of that place of ethnic clarity for me."

Vanessa German

The work: We visit artist Vanessa German in her Homewood studio, where she creates sculpture that is figural but also symbolic, composed of found objects but also constructed, shaped by her interventions both physical and contemplative. Ms. German is simultaneously gentle and forceful as she explores issues such as race, gender and culture, exemplified in her "Tar Babies" series, wherein she blends the iconography of African power figures and derogatory imagery applied to African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her American Girl series, similarly, points out disparities between societal ideals and the way such constructions may be exclusionary.

The artist: Sculptor, photographer, performance artist, poet ... Vanessa German is a true multi-disciplinary artist, as well known in performance circles as in visual arts. She's been making sculpture since high school where she was voted "most artistic kid." As a Los Angeles resident, she began performing earlier than that. She's acted in, for example, every Gilbert and Sullivan play, but says, "The switch for me in performance was when I began doing my own words." On May 20, she performed her original work "Root" for "First Voice: A Pittsburgh International Black Arts Festival" at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown. With the support of a Wilson Center fellowship, Ms. German created "Root," which she describes as a "spoken word opera," a genre that she's established. Look for one of her sculptures in the Art of the State exhibition at The State Museum in Harrisburg in June and for works from the American Girl series at Mendelson Gallery, Shadyside in July. She will be given a solo exhibition comprising installation and performance, "Tar Baby and Doowop: Everything You Need For Your Modern Household Mercantile," in the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's 709 Penn Gallery, 709 Penn Avenue, Downtown, July 9 to Aug. 30.

"I've never really been fashionable, with the exception of that brief period in California. I've never been part of a movement. I've never really tried to be. I lacked the ambition of someone like Andy Warhol. It felt better for me to stay here. And so I did."

Robert Qualters

The work: Robert Qualters is a quintessential Pittsburgh artist, as reflected in his statement above. However, tug of place, not his modestly stated lack of ambition, is what pulled him back to his home turf and kept him here, to record and interpret the sights and people that he grew up with and knows so well. He does this in a color-filled expressionist style that emphasizes the life coursing beneath imagery of mill and museum, model and pedestrian. When visited, Mr. Qualters was working in his spacious, window lined West Homestead studio on two series of paintings. One, appropriate to an artist with an acute sense of community, is a commission for the architectural firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative. It comprises 9 panels, each 5-feet square, depicting the history of Braddock as told by residents and former residents. The paintings will hang on the outside of a new senior citizens apartment building at the corner of Braddock and Fourth streets. Mr. Qualters is also interpreting the Four Seasons through figures drawn from Greek mythology sprinkled with a little Bruegel here, Botticelli there.

The artist: Robert Qualters grew up in the smoky, energized mill towns of McKeesport and Clairton. After graduating from Clairton High School, he attended Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, leaving to join the Army. Later, he followed the sun to the California College of Arts and Crafts, Berkeley, in the late 1950s, where he studied, and exhibited, with noted late abstractionist Richard Diebenkorn. The magnetism that pulls on many natives drew Mr. Qualters back to Pittsburgh. He is a frequent mentor to younger artists, including collaborations with high school students on mural projects. Quite possibly the most literary of the area's visual artists, he is quick with a quote, frequently includes words in his paintings and has collaborated with poets. Mr. Qualters taught studio art at the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University and elsewhere. He is past president of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and of Artists Equity of Pittsburgh. He was the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 1985 Artist of the Year, was named a Pittsburgh Master Artist in 1996, was deemed one of Pittsburgh's Top 50 Cultural Power Brokers by the Post-Gazette, and has been given solo exhibitions at Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Most recently, Mr. Qualters co-organized "Exchange: Emerging and Experienced Artists Come Together," the launch exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh centennial year, at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Gallery, Downtown. A solo exhibition was given him by Borelli-Edwards Galleries, Lawrenceville, last year.

Bovey Lee work
"Little Crimes I," rice paper cutout 19x19 inches, 2008
"When you do calligraphy, there's a sense of immediacy and precision. When you touch the paper, it's forever. That's how I started. I did calligraphy all my life. It was good preparation for this."

Bovey Lee

The work: Artist Bovey Lee works in a sunlit studio atop Mount Washington and looks out upon hills and water that remind her of the topography of her native Hong Kong. Although trained as a painter, Ms. Lee receives inspiration for her intricate work from the traditional Chinese art of paper cutting. Her expression, however, is contemporary, drawn from current events and 21st-century global culture, the complex imagery painstakingly cut from rice paper. Her signature motif derives from the open form of chain link fences, at one time harboring a bird, at another expanding into the curves of a cathedral rose window. Her concerns are how the mind defines time and the part played by memory, which she ties into the theme of survival that she says is central to her work.

The artist: Ms. Lee completed a BA in fine arts in 1991 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she was exposed to both Eastern and Western art traditions. She earned a MFA in painting at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1995, and a second MFA in digital arts at the Pratt Institute, New York. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2000, and now serves on the board of directors of the Society for Contemporary Craft, Strip District. Ms. Lee has exhibited internationally, in Europe and Asia. She is represented in the permanent collections of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University, United Kingdom, and the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Ms. Lee is exhibiting a large work, "Falling Water," in "Paper" at Artist Image Resource April 2 through May 23, 2010. She also is exhibiting in Zurich, Switzerland. In May, her work will appear in the Hong Kong International Art Fair and the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennial at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Among other venues, she will be represented this year in the Holland Paper Biennial 2010 in Rijswijk, The Netherlands, and Art Asia Miami, Fla.

"The physicality of glass, the excitement that comes with the molten material and the heat, a little danger involved ... once I started it was pretty obvious I wanted to do it."

Jason Forck

The work: Artist Jason Forck uses as his studio the Pittsburgh Glass Center, where he is also an instructor. The state-of-the-art, environmentally green studio, exhibition and educational facility is a practical alternative to maintaining a continually running furnace in a private studio, and it offers the benefit of community. Mr. Forck uses glass as a sculptural medium creating pieces that reflect his interest in nature. He was raised on a small Kansas farm where he learned the values of respecting the land, working hard and using one's hands to accomplish tasks. In the video, he is shown working with assistant Steve Stens.

The artist: After completing a BFA in glass and painting at Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, in 2005, Jason Forck moved to Pittsburg to work at the Pittsburgh Glass Center as a Tech Apprentice. Since 2008, he has been the Center's Youth Education Coordinator, working with high school students at the Center and giving presentations in area high schools. He also teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced classes in the hot glass studio. Mr. Forck has exhibited in solo and in group exhibitions in Emporia; Kansas City, Missouri; and Pittsburgh. His work is included in the exhibition "From the Earth to the Fire and Back" at the Glass Center through June 13, 2010.

Danny Bracken

"I love it here. It's a great medium-sized city where there's so much opportunity for things to happen." After traveling and recording as part of a music ensemble for a number of years, "a lot of us realized we had done the things we had dreamed of doing, and there were other things we wanted to do." Settling here, he can "be in one place, be part of a community of people, be a better friend to people."

Danny Bracken, who moved to Pittsburgh two years ago

The work: For installation artists, the studio often becomes the space of the artwork itself, as a vision takes place and a corner, a stairway or a room is transformed. Danny Bracken is shown in the process of piecing together "What You Can See From the Light," part of the exhibition "Gestures 14: An Exhibition of Small, Site-Specific Works." The exhibition opened May 8 at the Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side, and continues through June 20. The installation comprises a high-definition video projection of two hands, hiding and revealing an overpowering light that glows behind them. As these hands interact, textures of sound envelope the viewer and crescendo in relationship with these movements. The grains in a floor-to-ceiling wooden wall, into which an enlarged fingerprint has been subtly cut, echo the intricacies and imagery of the projection, the light of which filters through the print's swirls.

The artist: Michigan native Bracken is a musician, graphic designer and visual artist who resides in the Mexican War Streets of the North Side, not far from the Mattress Factory. He moved here a couple of years ago from Chicago, where he attended school and lived for five years. Although his academic background is in the visual arts, he has written, recorded and toured extensively in North America, Europe and Japan with the Chicago-based music ensemble Anathallo. His work often explores interactions with video and sound.

John Kelly
Detail from one of the stained glass windows at Sacred Heart Church in Shadyside that are being restored at Kelly Art Glass in Millvale.
"The reason for establishing artwork like this is primarily during the Middle Ages there weren't many books available for people and people where largely illiterate. So by painting these pictorial images, people could come to the church and ... study the Bible by looking at the windows. That tradition is carried on today."

John W. Kelly Jr.

John W. Kelly Jr. has devoted much of the past three decades to refurbishing old windows and creating new works from pieces of colored, painted and kiln-fired glass. His latest challenge is the restoration of three Gothic-style stained-glass windows from Sacred Heart Church in Shadyside. Read more about his work and his efforts in this PG North profile.

"While my goal of one long act of preserving mid-20th-century signage has continued intact, the means to achieve that goal have come and gone, some within my control and just as many beyond it. Currently, a work begins with travel to discover a surviving subject. The signs have become fewer and farther between since I began documenting them."

Charles Biddle

The work: Artist Charles Biddle is among seven artists in the exhibition "Process: How Art Gets Made" at Concept Art Gallery, 1031 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square. Mr. Biddle begins a project by photographing a neon sign that interests him historically and aesthetically, and then uses that as a starting point for intensely worked drawings that are realist without being copies. He exhibits a working photograph of the Pet-O-Mine sign in Omaha and a palette of pencil colors used in his finished work, to illustrate his process. The two resultant finished works, a 40-by-52-inch colored-pencil drawing and a 24-by-30-inch digital C-print, are also in the exhibition.

The artist: Pittsburgh artist Charles Biddle, a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, participated in the 1997, 1998 and 2000 "East End Events," a grass roots celebration of the arts that was so popular it outgrew itself. He has exhibited frequently with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, including in several Annuals at Carnegie Museum of Art; was given a solo exhibition at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, in 1996; and was part of "An Exhibition of Five Contemporary Artists" at Hammer Galleries, New York, in 1993. Mr. Biddle was also included in the 1995 "American Diner" at the Museum of Our National Heritage, Lexington, Mass., and in "See the USA" at The National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., in 1999-2000. His work is in the collections of the Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art; the Westmoreland Museum of American Art; the Pittsburgh Public Schools; and the Howard Heinz Endowment, among others.

Sculptor Adrienne Heinrich, co-curator of Four Perspectives on Fifty Years at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

"I want to create work, which is intensely personal, in the hope of coming close to the truth in myself and in others."

Sculptor Adrienne Heinrich

The work: Artist Adrienne Heinrich was among four individuals invited to be guest curators for the exhibition "Four Perspectives on Fifty Years" at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg. At the museum's suggestion, Heinrich included two of her "Prophet Messenger" sculptures, one of wood and the other of cast silicone, in an exhibition of works by women artists that she selected from the Westmoreland collection.

The artist: In her more than three-decade career, Adrienne Heinrich of Murrysville has painted, sculpted and created installation and public artworks. She was the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2002 Artist of the Year, and the inaugural Westmoreland Museum of American Art Exhibition Award winner, selected from the 1996 Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual. She was designated a Pittsburgh Master Artist in 1996. A Pennsylvania school district Artist in Residence for 19 years, she has also been an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Seton Hill University and has taught at Touchstone Center for Crafts. Her work is in the collections of, among others, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, the Heinz Endowments and the Contemporary Art Museum of Montecatini, Italy.


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?