Whimsical touch: New Kensington artist's work invokes humor and imagination

| Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

The truth in life, believes Bruce Pipman, lies beneath the surface.

Through his paintings, the New Kensington resident whose first major exhibit is under way through Aug. 30 at Penn State, New Kensington's art gallery, says he tries to scratch at that surface.

“The surface of people is usually guarded,” he says. “Art tends to get beneath the viewer's outer shell and allows him or her to explore without having a lot of guards up.”

Pipman, 65, who took up painting seriously only six years ago when he retired, is making that exploration with a whimsical touch that slyly invites commentary on the nature of man.

His colorful creations in acrylic and ink of fish, birds, women, abstractions, faces and self-portraits can be seen as metaphors for that commentary.

“I think the nature of man is humorous and that the human mind is very creative,” he says. “We tend to be optimists and seeing the world on the lighter side is a way of avoiding the darker side, which, of course, is still there.”

Art allows Pipman's imagination to soar. He enjoys combining colors to create shapes and forms to express himself. Formerly a professional photographer, Pipman feels he was able to translate his aesthetics from photography to painting.

In that translation, he has become quite prolific, completing more than 150 pieces to date, including 50-plus for this exhibit.

“People will see a body of work that contains a lot of humor, color and written observations on the canvas. I hope my work will stimulate their interest in art,” he says.

Pipman says the writing, found on some of the work, comes naturally to him. He tries to create a more focused experience for the viewer with it. “In my works, the written observation or statement creates the beginning of a story that I want the viewer to finish,” he says.

In a painting of an isolated figure looking into an empty park, for example, he has written, “There is no cure for love.” “I wanted to direct the viewer to insert himself in the figure's mind and not guess what that person was thinking in that scene,” he explains.

He says his work tends to focus on the emotions of desire, romance and love.

“It's because I believe that love is the strongest thing of all and that people are always searching for this in many different ways. My paintings try to reflect this search,” Pipman says.

His note, “Kiss me now or never sleep again,” on another painting, tries to reflect on lost opportunities “that you can never make up in your life again.”

Pipman senses that being a novice artist allows him to explore in different ways than a trained artist might. He believes there is an innocence, a rawness and a color scheme associated with his work.

“Bruce is excited about his work, and that gets my attention. I want the community and Penn State students to get excited, too,” says art professor Bud Gibbons, gallery director.

The writing makes his art more than painting, he adds. “His written phrases that are humorous or filled with meaning are earned over a lifetime of insights,” he says. “He finds a character or motif and charges that image with new meaning by use of language within the art.”

Pipman credits his sister-in-law Liz Pipman of New Jersey for encouraging him to share his work with the public.

“Living in a world where we're bombarded with newer versions of the same old thing, it's refreshing to see something so unique and whimsical,” she says.

Artist-musician Sue Hartford of Allegheny Township, who composed the music and designed the sound for the national independent film “The Bread, My Sweet” (since retitled “A Wedding for Bella”) starring Scott Baio and filmed in Pittsburgh, is a major fan of Pipman's creativity.

“I feel a kinship to anyone who expresses their inner self through art, music, cooking, literature, etc.,” she says. She and her husband, Kevin, own two of his pieces. One, which she calls “The Muses, “ is an image of two women with Medusa-like hair “with great expressions on their faces.”

“I love this picture and was actually thinking of using it on my Web site to represent me as a woman in audio production,” she says. “I love Bruce's use of color and his unique perspective of life's everyday subjects. But my favorite thing is to see how happy he gets when someone enjoys his art. That's special.”

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or rrutkoski@tribweb.com.

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