Arts festival: Full weekend ahead
Juried exhibit spotlights regional artists
A perennial favorite for visitors to the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, the “Juried Visual Art Exhibition” is a must-see component of the festival every year. And this year is no different; with 50 exceptional works by 38 regional artists, you will want to make it an important stop among the many other exhibits and performances that make up the annual festival.
Altogether, the exhibit reflects solid choices by jurors Cecile Shellman, curator of the August Wilson Center; Adam Welch, curator of Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; and Lauren Wetmore, curatorial assistant to the 2013 Carnegie International.
This year, the best-in-show and $2,500 award went to Matty Davis of Cranberry for his piece, “Amidst Endless Repetition Lies Equally Endless Variability.”
Composed of five broken hammers, as many anvils and a pile of flattened nails, it's more an artifact than an installation piece. A deeply repetitive three-month process yielded the hammers, which the artist says, “according to their respective warranties, are supposed to outlive you and me, or least as long as you and me.”
And, oh, yeah, people should feel free to touch that 500-plus pile of hammer-flattened nails in the gallery, Davis says.
“The piece, the materials — it has a lot of tactile power, I think, and I deeply believe in the intellectual and emotional transformations that can take place via a tactile relationship with an object, or a living-with-an-object-type relationship, etc.”
Put another way, Davis' piece focuses on the notion of growth through depletion, or, as he says, “the way in which loss is intimately conjoined with growth.”
Oddly, there is another hammer-themed work in the show, which is a grouping of cast ceramic vases by Terry Hritz of Lawrenceville titled “HAMMERZ.”
“The concept for the vases began with the sledgehammer form, which I have used a real sledgehammer numerous times while (demolishing) and renovating my house in Lawrenceville,” says Hritz, who is a technician at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Art, an instructor at TechShop Pittsburgh and runs his design and fabrication business he calls TeHr. “I thought about turning this instrument of destruction upside-down and make it into something that could grow something beautiful, such as a flower or plant.”
Hritz says the other three mallet forms followed after watching a student carving wood and remembering some of his earlier sculptural furniture work utilizing the same tools.
“Turning them upside-down created natural vase forms,” he says. “I have a number of other product ideas utilizing various other common tools/products in a different way.”
“Happy Couple” by Daniel Shapiro of Squirrel Hill also takes on the theme of repurposing something, but, in this case, it's repurposing the materials themselves. An assemblage piece made from pieces of scrap wood, doll furniture and a bride-and-groom cake topper, it takes on the shape of a house, which Shapiro says can be symbolic in more ways than one.
“One of the things that I was thinking about when I created this piece is the common American expectation of marriage and wedded life,” he says. “We place too much weight on the wedding and getting married that the relationship's foundation has been ignored, or we get lost in the excess of the party and setting up a home that it becomes a trap.
“So many of us are groomed to think and act a certain way that there doesn't always seem to be an alternative,” he says. “I think some people will look at this work and think, ‘How cute, a happy married couple! How wonderful!' and then some will look at it and recoil, thinking, ‘This is the last thing that would make me happy.' But, I like that duality and find humor in it.”
Also contemplative about relationships and the impact they have on life is the piece “Love Ya' — From an Impersonal Distance” by Amber Niedomys of North Oakland.
An installation piece, it is composed of several small houses made from greeting cards Niedomys has received throughout her life, including the first card she received when she was just 4 years old.
“I have some conflict about greeting cards, because, in some way, they seem impersonal through being a massed-produced expression of emotion. Yet, in the end, I value the intentions of the persons who have sent them to me and their choice of expression,” she says. “The fact that they thought of me makes me appreciative and grateful to have such supportive people in my life.”
Finally, if realism is your thing, then you're sure to take delight in the painting “Miami Harbor” by John C. Hubbard of Wellsburg, W.Va., which depicts a harbor filled with beautiful yachts beneath an expansive blue sky.
A commercial artist all of his life, Hubbard turned to painting after retiring from the field.
“My style of painting is of a graphic artist: instead of taking a brush and laying one swoop of color, I have to paint every single grass blade,” he says. “It takes months to finish a painting, and I still don't feel like an artist, but a technician.”
This highly detailed piece, as realistic as it is, is nonetheless evocative of the artist's love of color, water and clouds. As to why he painted it, Hubbard says, “Since we bought a house in Florida, to get away from the winters, I would go to these boat harbors and take pictures of these gorgeous yachts and was mesmerized by the shadows in the water.”
And as for the exhibit, he says, “I saw the show, and I am wondering why I am in it. ... I'm not artsy.”
Artsy or not, there is no denying that Hubbard's piece is proof of real talent, and a real showstopper to boot.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's the deal with band names that don't just fit improperly, but seem actively misleading? The name Lucius makes you think of a big, hairy dude who has possibly done a little time. On second thought, this sounds like it should belong to some kind of pseudo-hippie jam-band. Nope, instead it's two ladies in vintage dresses, with a penchant for perfect (almost Andrews Sisters-like) harmonies, with the requisite bearded Brooklyn dudes playing old-timey acoustic instruments backing them up. They'll be performing at 7:30 p.m. June 13 on the Dollar Bank Stage. Bronze Radio Return opens at 6:30 p.m.
If you think Indian music is all Ravi Shankar sitars, Bollywood musicals and/or electronic bhangra beats — well, have you heard that it's really, really big country?
Indian music also includes the super-funky, insanely danceable brass band Red Baraat, which sounds like a cross between some kind of wild Gypsy/Balkan wedding band, New Orleans second-line brass (and jazz) and crazy North Indian bhangra rhythms.
This Brooklyn-based, five-horn-and-percussion band is swiftly becoming one of the best party bands on the planet, and they'll be on the Dollar Bank Stage at 7:30 p.m. June 14 as part of World Music Day.
Airborne Toxic Event
Los Angeles-based Airborne Toxic Event is an indie-rock group made up of bandmates Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen, Noah Harmon, Daren Taylor and Anna Bulbrook. The band released its self-titled debut album in 2008 and has been circulating the alternative-music circuit ever since, with hits like “Sometime Around Midnight,” “Changing” and “Timeless.” Jollett, co-founder and creative driver of the group, says, “I mean, I want to do music because I want to do music, right? We all do. Because we like to jump around and play songs.” Airborne Toxic Event will perform at 8 p.m. June 15 on the Dollar Bank Stage.
Blind Boys of Alabama
If there's a “house band” for the arts festival, it's the Blind Boys of Alabama. This soulful gospel band with all-live instrumentation seems to be here every year — and it's hard to complain, because they're pretty great. Their sound harks back to the raw, blues and soul-inflected gospel of the '60s, when the Staples Singers and Mahalia Jackson were the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement, and the churches weren't standing on the sidelines. For a little perspective, when the first Blind Boys of Alabama got started, they were kids from the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. June 16 on the Dollar Bank Stage. Curtis Lewis and Friends Gospel Choir open at 6:30 p.m.
The arts festival's often-forgotten but excellent film series continues this week with “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” at the Harris Theater, Downtown. Filmmaking legend (and onetime Duquesne student) Werner Herzog spelunks into the almost totally inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, where some of the oldest paintings done by man are located. These 30,000-year-old murals are miraculously preserved and are brought to life by Herzog's camera. Shows are at 8:15 p.m. June 14 and 7:15 p.m. June 15.
Another film legend, Andrei Tarkovsky (“Stalker,” “Solaris”), is profiled in the film “One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich,” screening at 7 p.m. June 14, also at the Harris.
Admission is free for both films.
• Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley will feature established artists in specialized crafts this weekend at the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone. On June 14, there will be jewelry-making and a painting demonstration. Start your day June 15 with a pottery demonstration and hand-building techniques. The center will present a painting demonstration by its “Paint and Sip” class. Younger participants can create pipe-cleaner pets. On June 16, all are invited to help paint the children's mural. The day will end with more pottery and hand-building skills. Hours are from noon to 6 p.m. June 14 to 16.
• Also at the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone, members of the Calligraphy Guild of Pittsburgh will demonstrate their art. The guild provides an arena in which calligraphers of all levels, beginners to professionals, share experiences, ideas and technical insights. Hours are from noon to 6 p.m. June 14 to 16.
• If you find yourself with some free time at the festival, check out “Instabiles,” an open-air interactive installation where participants can generate a virtual kinetic construction in front of a camera, simply by moving. This construction, or “mobile,” is invisible until the projected shadow is simulated upward along the side of a building. To create the mobile, participants enter the capture area where they see a silhouette of themselves projected alongside a building and a shadow of the mobile alongside their silhouettes. Standing still creates motion from the hand joints, while motion allows the participant to make different shapes in a new location. The shapes are then connected with an armature that tracks one's skeletal silhouette from the torso. Once the shapes are collected, the projected shadow of the mobile takes off and spins up the building. The goal is to create the mobile that will travel the furthest vertical distance. The mobile that reaches the highest remains projected on the building as the newest “high score” to beat. Find “Instabiles” behind the Benedum Center, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. June 14 to 16.
• The Drift is a floating hexagonal platform that hosts creative projects exploring the rivers and waterfronts within the city of Pittsburgh. It debuted last year as a giant iceberg floating outside PNC Park on opening day for the Pittsburgh Pirates season. Subsequent projects transformed the platform into “Drift by Drag,” where drag performers interrupted and entertained audiences at the Pittsburgh Regatta, and “More Barn,” a live concert of Neil Young covers. Come to the arts festival June 15 and 16 to see what floats by next.
• A collaboration between WQED and “Saturday Light Brigade,” iQ Kids Radio leaves the broadcast booth to offer a variety of storytelling-based performances created and performed by kids for families with children age 10 and younger. iQ Kids Radio will give various performances from noon to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 3 p.m. June 15 and from noon to 1 p.m. June 16 on the Family Stage at Giant Eagle Creativity Zone, Point State Park.
• Pockets On Empty, a Pittsburgh-based street-dance collective, will be bboying (aka breakdancing) to hip-hop, house and funk music from 5 to 6 p.m. June 13 at the Second Stage at Gateway Center.
• Continuum Dance Theater will present excerpts from its latest work, “Objects of Desire,” from noon to 1 p.m. June 15 at the Second Stage at Gateway Center.