Gallerie Chiz brings together art and artists from around the world

Kurt Shaw
| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 5:44 p.m.

It's been a year since Gallerie Chiz in Shadyside expanded its changing monthly exhibits to explore an international scope with the exhibit “Crossing Borders,” and now, a year later, comes another internationally themed exhibit that is just as exhilarating as the first.

Dubbed “A Magical Mirror of International Cultures Combining Real and Imaginary Worlds,” this exhibit with a long-winded titled has fewer artists than before — only four, as opposed to 18 last year — but the work is top-notch.

Case in point, Masha Archer's over-the-top necklaces are filled with beads, bones and bits from all over the world.

Take, for example, her “Painted Coins Mask,” one of the first pieces visitors will come to when visiting the exhibit. An eight-strand, ascot-style collar necklace, it is made of stained lotus pods from China, pieces of small, round, golden coral from the Philippines and eight hand-hammered silver and brass-alloy cylinders from Tibet that have raised depictions of animal figures, birds, insects and reptiles.

On the fringe are nine similar ornaments made of brass, also from Tibet, vintage red satin glass drops from Czechoslovakia, and vintage red, pressed, American acrylic discs with stars-and-moon motifs from the 1940s.

All of this surrounds an adaptation of a hand-painted, carved wooden mask from Indonesia that features a crown embellished with an arc of seven coins, including two American Indianhead buffalo nickels from the 1930s, a scalloped-edge Burmese pyas Chinthe-lion coin, kopeks from the Ukraine and Russia and pre-euro German and French coins.

Though Archer currently lives in San Francisco, as a child, she emigrated from Kiev, Ukraine, in 1949 with her parents, both artists and teachers of painting and sculpture. She studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., majoring in painting and graphic design, then worked as a restorer at the Museo National de Mexico, Mexico City. She went on to design clothing before devoting her talents to jewelry design, her most-enduring and most-lauded vocation.

The “Painted Coins Mask” is sold, but, says Gallerie Chiz owner Ellen Chisdes Neuberg, “She just sent me 18 pieces for this show. So, these are 18 pieces that I didn't have before.”

Archer's remaining works are just as interesting, combining such disparate materials as Moroccan amber, Chinese cobalt, water-buffalo horn and 24-karat gold-plated bronze “puffy discs” made by the Baoule tribe of Cameroon.

“She has a coin on the back of every piece that's from different places,” says Chisdes Neuberg, which adds even more of an international flair.

Romanian artist Manuela Holban has returned to the gallery with paintings similar to what she showed in last year's internationally themed exhibit. Born and educated in Bucharest, Romania, Holban has lived and worked in the United States since 1987 and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

In the gallery, a total of 32 works take up one wall. Nearly all portraits, they are arranged like a chessboard where real figures from the past, like “Duquesa (Duchess) of Alba,” are arranged among some imaginary, such as “Salome.”

“There's a lot of influence with Flemish and Spanish artists from the past,” Chisdes Neuberg says. That's obvious in works like “Goya Painting the Duchess of Alba,” but also with more lighthearted pieces like “Vanity (3),” in which a lady in full court dress poses with her pup.

“They're very deep pieces to me, but they're also very light in the same way,” Chisdes Neuberg says. “They're fun to look at.”

The paintings of Venezuelan artist Salvador Di Quinzio offer quite the contrast. Whereas Holban prefers to work in oil paint and pastel, Di Quinzio uses acrylic paint with aplomb. “They look so rich. They don't look like acrylics,” Chisdes Neuberg says.

The paintings include allegorical scenes bordering on the surreal. In works like “Birds Watching” and “Boy Hunter,” Di Quinzio turns the notion of bird watching back on the birdwatchers he depicts so innocent and strange.

Finally, Irwin artist Mitzi Hall completes the show with a decidedly American contribution in the form of pop culture-influenced, mosaic-covered violins, shoes and mannequins.

Each of the shoes was inspired by pop singers, such as Dolly Parton, Cher, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Patsy Cline, while two mannequin torsos, one male titled “Thor” and another female titled “Aglaea,” are covered with bits and pieces of glass, mirror and ceramic.

“The torsos always sell well,” says Chisdes Neuberg, pointing out that “Thor” and “Aglaea” are still available. “But they won't be for long.”

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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