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Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery expands media for exhibit

| Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Glen Gardner's 'Short Stack' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Glen Gardner's 'Short Stack' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
Jason Forck's 'Pastoral Field' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Jason Forck's 'Pastoral Field' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
Laura Tabakman's 'On the Trail' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Laura Tabakman's 'On the Trail' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
Brian Engel's 'Rustler Tank' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Brian Engel's 'Rustler Tank' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
Laura Tabakman's 'On the Trail' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Laura Tabakman's 'On the Trail' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
Michael Smithhammer's 'Tall Dot Box' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Michael Smithhammer's 'Tall Dot Box' on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery Friday Feb. 12, 2016 in Shadyside.

The mixed-media sculpture exhibit “3d@MGG2,” on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery, features works in various three-dimensional media, including metal, fiber, wood, ceramics and, of course, glass.

Gallery owner Amy Morgan says the impetus for this series, now in its second year, came from another longstanding exhibit series, “Teapots!,” which will return this summer in its 10th iteration.

“I really loved the mixing of the media in the teapots, and I thought, since I loved that in the teapots so much, why not show the work of mixed-media artists locally who I don't generally get to work with,” Morgan says.

This being a contemporary art-glass gallery, the exhibit has several glass pieces, like “Rustler Tank” by Brian Engel, the studio coordinator at Pittsburgh Glass Center; scale models of dinosaurs made of plate glass by Travis Rohrbaugh, who works in the glass center tech shop; and several glass orb sculptures by Jason Forck, the glass center's education and creative projects coordinator.

The works from Rohrbaugh and Engel play on the prismatic qualities of glass, while Forck uses the complex glass color-patterned cane called murrine to create thousands of fine lines that make up the horizon line that runs across the forms, as in his piece “Pastoral Field,” in which, he says, “The subtlety of color and line are a direct response to the beauty of the rural landscape.”

Likewise, “On the Trail” by Laura Tabakman of O'Hara is a direct response to landscape. Except here the artist uses polymer clay and steel wire to express notions of landscape in the form of tiny flowers atop long thin wires.

“The inspiration for this piece came to me as I was walking on a trail and looking at the weeds swaying in the breeze,” Tabakman says. “From that observation, my intention was to push the balance to the extreme. Working with polymer clay and wire, I tried to see how thin I could go with the polymer and how tall with the wire. I wanted to re-create for the viewers the feeling I experienced on the trail.”

Michael Smithhammer of Indiana, Pa., works in a range of media including painting, drawing and ceramics. In this exhibit, he concentrates on his hand-built ceramic “boxes” in white stoneware.

“I began seeing these box forms from the history of Chinese and Japanese ceramics and felt they were the smallest, most minimal cross between sculpture, painting and functional object,” Smithhammer says. “They are deceptively challenging, and it took about five years making different attempts in design, construction and materials to get to this point. Much room for improvement makes for the joy of anticipating the next batch.”

The richly textured and vibrantly colored glazes on the surfaces of Smithhammer's boxes are sure to grab visitors' attention.

Then there are the composite metal works by Glen Gardner of Highland Park. Gardner's studio is in the old Mine Safety Appliance Co. building, which these days is often referred to as the Mine Factory. But for the past eight years, he's been working in the 3-D printing industry for the ExOne Co. in Irwin.

“Direct 3-D metal printing, as done by ExOne, offers some amazing potentials for artists willing to embrace the requirements,” Gardner says.

The piece “Short Stack” is a perfect example. Gardner says it is “a response to some of my experiences within the newly emerging high-tech industry known as ‘additive manufacturing.'” The circular elements from which this piece is composed are actually scrapped bits used during the manufacture of precision machine parts.

“ ‘Short Stack' is meant as a tongue-in-cheek reminder that even when employing the latest highly automated equipment, work days still include stacks of parts,” Gardner says. “All requiring mundane, repetitive hand work — honest labor, as some might say.”

From the machine-made to the hand-hewn, several abstract wood sculptures by Kevin O'Toole of Greensburg and turned-wood vessels by Edric Florence of Bethel Park bring cool and warm elements, respectively, to the exhibit.

With their smooth surfaces and metal-leaf cladding, O'Toole's highly polished, minimalist works stand in stark contrast to Florence's more natural, flowing works lathed from spalted maple.

Finally, several brightly colored felted-wool sculptures by Rae Gold of Squirrel Hill round out the exhibit. Many were inspired by the work of famous glassblowers Dante Marioni and Lino Tagliapietra.

Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic. Reach him at tribliving@tribweb.com.

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