Let's talk about art: No place like home
Photographer Stephen Chalmers explores people living in the Southwest in RVs in the exhibit "Transience," now on display at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
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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.
Like the tree falling in the woods, no location is complete until someone is there to experience it. This relationship between people and location is evident in two exhibits on view at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside.
"Public Lives" is a series of rich watercolors by artist William McAllister. In some of the paintings, old men populate a Dublin pub sipping dark stouts. In another, several people are having a lively conversation by a restaurant window. All of his subjects look like regulars. They seem settled, comfortable -- at home.
Mr. McAllister uses watercolors instead of oils, he says, to avoid the glossy finish that gives even the darkest oils a shine. As a result, his dark-matte renderings create a cozy, friendly atmosphere.
He began painting at 9 years old. As an adult he became a set designer, then art director and production designer, for movies and television. After 37 years in the business, he retired to focus on painting full time.
In the other exhibit, there are people whose homes move from place to place.
"Transience," a series of color photos by Stephen Chalmers, explores people living in the Southwest desert, and, as he says "off the grid." There are the locals who live in mobile homes for their affordability, and "snowbirds," the retirees who travel to warm climates in the winter. Either way, the homes leave with the people. Many of the photos show the subjects sitting on folding chairs outside their RVs. We also see some of the items left behind -- becoming symbols of this transient lifestyle.
Mr. Chalmers, a professor of photography and digital media at Youngstown State University, is also a trained social worker and a former emergency medical technician. He sometimes treads on sensitive ground in his work, as in a previous photo series where he explored the locations of untimely and tragic deaths.
"Public Lives" and "Transience" are on view through April 7 at PCA. Both shows examine our relationship with the places we live our lives and how -- even temporarily -- those places become home. For more information visit: www.pittsburgharts.org.
First Published March 5, 2013 12:00 am