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BoxHeart Gallery exhibit considers what is sacred

| Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009

Featuring the works of 20 artists from five countries, the 13th installment of BoxHeart's annual Sacred Art Exhibition is a tour de force of various styles, methods and mediums of art making. Each, in its own way, represents something sacred, either to the artists who created them or to the public at large.

As gallery owner Nicole Capozzi says, "What is sacred is always right before us."

"The artwork selected for this year's Sacred Art Exhibition asks how science creates meaning as a background of ideas and stories, which sets us against our day-to-day lives," Capozzi says.

At first glance, it may not seem that all is holy. For example, Dublin, N.H., artist David Nelson's painting "God's Appointment Book" seems first and foremost like an austere abstraction, nothing more.

It's from a series of paintings Nelson created that explores balanced opposites. In the painting, red, yellow and blue paint is spattered on the canvas, but, as Nelson was creating it, each color fell through a random gridwork that determined which parts of the canvas got spattered.

The resulting image depends on the balances of intention and accident, systems and deviation, pattern and randomness. Here, idea and medium, mechanical grid and organic spatter, theme and improvisation, fuse together as an extension of the creator and the act of creating, not to mention unseen influences that end up in the visible result.

Nelson hopes the viewer, whose eye mixes the colors, forms a response independent of his, yet undeniably linked.

"These images aim to provide an open door for the artist and viewer to contemplate the dynamic paradoxes that define our reality," he says, "and allow a peek into what the pages of God's appointment book might look like."

Likewise, New York City painter Merrill Steiger's "Jewel Tree of Life" might not seem sacred at first glance, but the artist views her painting of a tree as a literal depiction of gods and goddesses, as well as a semi-abstract rendering of a tree that connote sacredness through micro and macroscopic perspectives of nature and the cosmos.

Thus the idea of "sacred" in Steiger's paintings operates on both literal and figurative levels, conscious and sub consciousness. In her composition, Steiger aims to juxtapose these two perspectives of tradition and non-tradition. She maintains that while these perspectives are wildly different from one another, the main objective of self-reflection can be achieved through both.

"In this world of sacred things, where ancient religious icons and events exist in an invisible, all-important space shared by many minds," Steiger says. The goal, says Steiger, is to provoke a sense of wonder and exploration that allows the viewer to ask his or herself: "What do I consider sacred?"

Conversely, Liz Rundorff Smith of Greenville, S.C., wants to make visible the intangible presence of loss. Her paintings "Reap" and "Savor" look like simple place settings, but in reality they allude to loss and abandonment. Through the process of painting, Smith is compelled to capture the traces that are left behind when a tangible presence is lost.

Beginning with source photographs, as Smith paints, she moves farther and farther away from the moment captured in the camera. She works to abstract the photographed image until the painting left behind is a "death mask" of the original and a representation of a loss in stability.

Other works on display are more overt. Alex Lobus' assemblage sculpture resembling Heinz Chapel is a perfect example. Lobus, who hails from the South Hills, primarily works with salvaged house parts, paying particular attention to exposing the beauty of time and weathering. Finishing each piece of wood is like excavating an archaeological site, Lobus says.

Scott Davidson of Portersville shows light infused photographs of cyprus trees that reminds us that many objects we hold to be sacred are all around us. These beautiful cypress trees, highlighted here via infrared film, were photographed on the peninsula of Point Reyes, California.

Davidson says that, whether a person is sanctified or heathen, an intimate connection with the sacred is usually a transitory event.

"These sacred moments are, however, our windows into the larger picture of our place in the universe and the bonds we share with all around us," he says.

A fitting comment that relates to many works in this remarkable show.

Additional Information:

'The Sacred Art Exhibition'

When: Through Sept. 12. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays

Where: BoxHeart Gallery , 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield

Details: 412-687-8858

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