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Art & Museums

'Teapots!' take spotlight in Shadyside exhibit

| Saturday, April 23, 2016, 8:06 p.m.
Keith Belles' 'Model T'
Keith Belles' 'Model T'
Marlene Kawalez's 'High Tea'
Marlene Kawalez's 'High Tea'
Andy Paiko's 'Stoup #1'
Andy Paiko's 'Stoup #1'
Holly Dobkin's 'Titania's Royal Tea'
Holly Dobkin's 'Titania's Royal Tea'
Hubert Landri's 'T for Friends'
Hubert Landri's 'T for Friends'

Other than salt and pepper shakers, few kitchenware items have taken on as many forms throughout history than the teapot. Which is why teapot collecting, like collecting salt and pepper shakers, has grown to become wildly popular worldwide. So, it's not surprising to find an exhibit of teapots right here in Pittsburgh at the moment.

Featuring a wide range of media, from glass to silver and everything in between, “Teapots!” — on display at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery in Shadyside — captures the versatility of the teapot form.

More than 60 national and international artists were invited to participate in this 10th annual invitational exhibition, says gallery owner Amy Morgan. All were challenged to explore the teapot form literally, metaphorically, narratively or abstractly, while keeping true to their own aesthetics.

“We asked that their pieces be representative of their work — and bear some resemblance to a teapot form,” Morgan says. “Many of these artists have never made teapots, so we never quite know what we'll get.”

That was certainly the case with glass artist Andy Paiko of Portland, Ore., whose piece “Stoup #1” is made of blown-, etched-, lacquered- and mirrored-glass elements, combined with bits of brass and leather.

“I wanted to continue with my current investigations into the varying optic densities and distortions of the solid, sculpted clear-glass elements, the form-defining surface of the matte-black glass and the surface-denying qualities of the mirrored elements,” Paiko says. “These qualities, applied to the teapot format, along with a little brass for a highlight effect, and I ended up with my first ‘teapot.' ”

Paiko says he was a bit apprehensive when Morgan asked him to create a teapot, as “I've never made a teapot, functional or otherwise,” he says. “The teapot is such a traditional format and very well explored, so it had never attracted me greatly; but, on further contemplation, I enjoyed the functional or even the implied-functional aspects of many of the examples from past years.”

Though Morgan met Paiko last November at SOFA Chicago (Sculptures Objects Functional Art and Design Fair), she didn't have to go so far to find artists to contribute to this show.

There are works by several locals among those on view. For example, “Model T” was made by Keith Belles, a jeweler whose business, Wax Jewelry Design Studio, is right up the street. “Model T” is cobbled together from various found objects, from model globe parts to billiard balls.

One of the tiniest entries is by another local, Holly Dobkin of Point Breeze. “I love crowns and always have,” says Dobkin, when asked about her piece “Titania's Royal Tea,” which is a floral-themed crown made of fine silver and set stones of tourmaline, aquamarine and garnet.

“I've been toying with doing a crown teapot for a couple of years, but I am also heavily devoted to botanicals,” she says. “I was sketching and playing and decided to see what would happen if I ‘married' the two. Adding my obsession with little things paved the way for a floral crown just right for ‘Midsummer Night's Dream's' Titania, queen of the fairies.”

Also having a regal flair, “High Tea” by Marlene Kawalez of Cedar Valley in Ontario, Canada, was inspired by reading about Queen Victoria indulging in a tea party, outside, in the height of winter.

“Her opulence and eccentricities were elements that I was drawn to and tried to introduce into the piece,” Kawalez says. “As a connoisseur of a good cup of the brew myself, I can relate to this.”

Hailing from Provence, France, Hubert Landri made a teapot from turned woods titled “T for Friends.” Though, he says, his goal was to “create illusion of oxidized metal or oxidized bronze.”

“The illusion takes us toward attractive dreams,” writes the artist, from the small town he lives in, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. “I like the natural superimposing of the materials. These small details make me dream.”

Landri writes that he likes to think that these objects had a life before they were found. “Often, as I make my piece, I imagine how and who would have found them. By whom and why they were abandoned.”

As visitors will see in the remaining works, imaginations running wild are a common theme.

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

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