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Review: Five artists at Gallerie Chiz 'Primitive Chic' exhibit

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The exhibit “Primitive Chic” at Gallerie Chiz in Shadyside presents the works of five artists who think outside the box when it comes to making their art. None was formally trained, meaning the work has an outsider quality that gives each body of work a distinguishable edge.

Take, for example, the work of Daniel Belardinelli of New York City. His works on paper and particleboard have been painted with gesso and nail polish, giving them a decidedly primitive quality.

Each was conceived as part of a daily journal in which the artist records something he was thinking, feeling or experiencing on a particular day. “Lately, I have been inspired by birds, boxers and ballerinas,” he says.

Case in point: The piece “I'm Tired of Fighting” depicts a crudely painted boxer as a warrior who “no longer wants to be a warrior,” the artist says. “I feel that we are all ‘warriors' in some way in our own lives, and we all have times when we just do not want to be part of the everyday struggle of our own lives.”

Beneath the paintings, a low pedestal holds a gathering of rocks painted with further ruminations, again scrawled in nail polish. “The rock series was inspired last year out of sheer frustration,” Belardinelli says. “I was mentally tapped out from painting for various shows and had to produce a series of new work for a show I was having. … Not feeling inspired to paint, I randomly painted a word on a rock that I found laying outside my studio door.”

The word led to phrases, based on all sorts of random thoughts. “I am particularly fond of words, phrases and ideas. I consider the rocks as ‘excited utterances.' In law, an excited utterance is one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule. It is basically a statement made by a declarant to a startling event or condition when it is in the process of occurring. I make the rocks in the same way.”

Shadyside artist Cheryl Towers shows a variety of dolls made from found objects and bits of yarn and thread. As one of nearly 2,000 volunteer artists that worked on the Knit the Bridge Project last summer, in which the Andy Warhol Bridge was covered in colorful yarn, Towers had access to an abundance of scrap materials after the project was completed.

“At the end of the project, there were leftover bits and pieces of things that they weren't able to give to the homeless, so I used them to make into the pieces you see here,” she says.

In the center of the gallery, an upside-down umbrella wrapped in yarn serves as a carousel of sorts, from which hang the various small dolls she has created. And on the floor beneath are a few life-size figures she made from yarn and other found objects, such as “Lorraine,” a lounge-lizard-type character with multicolored hair made from bits of yarn.

“The hair on her head was made by covering the top in glue and dipping it in a bag full of leftover scraps of yarn,” Towers explains.

Also mining the craft world to make art is Teresa Martuccio of Garfield, who took to the craft of wood-burning after finding a wood-burning kit in a craft store. Her wood-burned placards are filled with wry and witty images that are pure flights of fancy — some literally, like the ones that feature birds, and especially famed lost aviator Amelia Earhart, a personal hero for the artist who is featured in the piece “Queen of Adventure.”

“She's just my female aviator favorite,” Martuccio says. So much so, Martuccio has written a musical about the aviator and will perform in it on Valentine's Day at the Three Rivers Village School at 4721 Stanton Ave. in Stanton Heights.

Jeffrey Hovis of Edgewater, N.J., is showing his work publicly for the first time with this exhibit. An Erie native, he says his works on paper, cardboard and canvas are influenced by the artists of the COBRA art movement of the 1950s, as well as the works of artists Paul Klee and Joan Miro.

His piece “Welcome Friends” features a cartoon ant, snake and reindeer greeting each other between two dimensions. “I was thinking about friends reconnecting in the afterlife,” he says in regard to this painting. “It's about friendship, basically.”

Then there is the work of Brooklyn artist Charlie Green, which explores what he calls “Totemism,” or “the idea that all species are sacred and that they possess valuable insight and lessons for humanity.”

“I strive to connect viewers to the planet and the precious life we live here on Earth, through our connection with animals,” he says.

In the early 2000s, Green began making art in the form of post-graffiti, that is via tags, stickers, posters and murals. His work is reflective of his ideas and ideals that the individual can create change, and that there is a need for alternative messages to large-budget advertising.

“I am also an advocate and living example of the value of the working artist in a healthy society, and all realms of daily life — public, home, Web, institutions, etc.,” he says.

His “Bamboo Peace Bee” may be perfect representation of his philosophy.

“A small work from my series ‘Petite Monstres,' the ‘Peace Bee' is one of my favorite symbols as it holds the peace sign in its antennae and communicates both of my ultimate ideals — world peace and protection of biodiversity,” he says.

Green says that setting all of his ideas and ideals aside, “I really create to bring beauty, joy, humor and fun into the world. I hope that viewers experience pleasure from my work and that this may add to the awe and mystery of their journey.”

The same can be said of all of the works in this remarkable exhibit.

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

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