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Box Heart exhibit challenges viewers to see through other's eyes

| Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010

What was once a juried competition with an international open call, the annual "Art Inter/National Exhibition," on display each January at Box Heart gallery in Bloomfield, has become a well-produced invitational event.

Box Heart's owners, Nicole Capozzi and Joshua Hogan, strive to recognize that artists make art for different reasons and from different experiences. This married couple looks closely for works that convey evidence of personal creative explorations and artistic commitment that directly relate to the purpose of the exhibition.

This year's iteration represents 20 artists from around the globe. "The artwork selected for this year's 'Art Inter/National Exhibition' is unified by the concept that the viewer is called upon to determine each artist's view of the world and the space we occupy," Capozzi says.

"A large part of determining the artist's commitment to the exhibition's theme rests solely on their ability to convey this evidence through the artist statement," Capozzi says. "The execution of the artwork -- as related to the artist's intention -- is then considered. The depth to which an artist's work both reflects and enhances their vision determines a 'Best of Show' nomination."

Chinese artist Chung (Fanky) Chak received "2010 Best of Show" for his digital collage, "Girls, Hong Kong."

Chak, who now lives in New York and is an associate professor of art at the College of New Jersey, is intolerant of judging or labeling people based on prejudice and stereotypes, but uses these associations to construct compartmentalized narratives in his large-scale, digital-collage artwork. Chak then leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether or not these stereotypes are true.

Chak's artwork intends to illustrate stereotypes among people and to help him understand his new home -- the United States. As a foreigner who came to this country in his early 20s, Chak became fascinated by imagining what happens behind the beautiful windows of Broadway in New York City.

Then, while visiting Hong Kong in 2003, Chak began thinking about the nature of life in large cities, particularly in his native city. Looking out his window from the 20th floor of a high-rise building, Chak began to reflect on the compartmentalization of life in Hong Kong. This idea seemed to be reflected visually as a grid, constructed by hundreds of nearly identical windows in close proximity to each other.

For Chak, each window became representative of an individual or family. The visual grid seemed to be echoed in the rectangular shape of televisions, visible through the windows, all broadcasting the same image. Chak's childhood experience in Hong Kong and his admiration for New York City led him to believe that the chaotic and overwhelming, yet glamorous and energetic, city life was the ideal lifestyle for everyone.

As "Best of Show" recipient, Chak will have his own solo exhibit at the gallery next year following the "10th Annual Art Inter/National Exhibition."

Like Chak, many of the artists selected for participation in this year's "Art Inter/National" also are attempting to resolve a conflict in environment. For artist Stephen Marc of Tempe, Ariz., most of the history that he is invested in took place on the other side of the country. A professor of art at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, Marc views his role as an artist as a photographic "hunter and gatherer" while on the road, and digital "weaver and researcher" upon his return home. This is evidenced in "Untitled 2," a digital photomontage combining historical stereotype imagery with interior shots of a sharecropper's shed.

Painter Michele Bulatovic is an urbanophile, formerly of Pennsylvania, currently wrestling with suburban life in Texas. For Bulatovic, "living in the Lone Star State has dramatically influenced my creative process." She writes that she's been rattled to her core by her environment, particularly by three of its characteristics: the sprawling development of the town in which she lives; the sterile social, political and cultural environment; and the bland landscape. The first two radically influence the style in which Bulatovic paints, and the latter influences the subject matter. Hence, her abstract paintings "Arboreal Dream II & III" have a depth and resonance not usually associated with cold, hard abstraction.

As in year's previous, participants in this exhibit have captured an individual process of translating their thoughts through visual imagery, ordinary moments that they experience at various occasions in daily life.

Philadelphia artist Anastasia Alexandrin, for example, tries to capture the feeling and even the sounds around her and put them into an image. As she writes in her statement, "Drinking a cup of tea, thinking about a lover, or listening to the footsteps of a stranger in the apartment hallway -- as a bird sings outside," are all fodder for the work Alexandrin creates. With her charcoal drawing "The Apartment Building," she calls upon the viewer to reflect upon these moments and share with her the feeling of these everyday encounters.

Having survived cancer, three heart attacks and 27 surgeries, Austrian artist Josef Jobst appreciates the simple things in life, such as a walk in the woods. Hence his painting "Fallout," with its clean lines and reduced palette bring to mind the work of the early Impressionists, as well as the Barbazon School. For Jobst, creating art is "a meditation and an affirmation of life" that lifts him above the problems of everyday.

The remaining works are just as compelling, being informed by each artist's individual world view. "Wave Trap," a ceramic sculpture by Debra Giller of Cambridge, Mass., conveys a multitude of visual associations that relate to organic forms and man-made constructions, as in flowers and machine parts. The eastern Great Lakes region, an area of clouds, rain and snow, informs the work of Jane Notides-Benzing of Rochester, N.Y., as evidenced in her ethereal abstract painting "Showers of Flowers." And quiltmaker Joan Sowada of Gillette, Wyo., utilizes photographs from her travels as subject matter for her remarkably detailed quilts. Sowada received first place for her textile work, "Navigation," which features folks wizzing by a bus stop on motor scooters.

These are but a few of the many wonderful examples that make up one of the most inspirational "Art Inter/National Exhibitions" to date.

Additional Information:

'9th Annual Art Inter/National Exhibition'

'The 9th Annual Art Inter/National Exhibition'

When: Through Jan. 30. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays

Admission: Free

Where: Box Heart gallery, 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield

Details: 412-687-8858 or online

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