"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."
In the Frame is an occasional Post-Gazette video series by Post-Gazette videographer Nate Guidry and art critic Mary Thomas on artists and the arts scene in Pittsburgh.
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."
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1925.