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Art & Museums

'Artist's Choice Exhibition' at Panza Gallery shows variety of concept, media

| Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Ben Yokel's 'Clairvoyance of the Earthly Realm'
Ben Yokel's 'Clairvoyance of the Earthly Realm'
Mark Neuherz's 'Last Winter'
Mark Neuherz's 'Last Winter'
Lucas Pointon's 'Mink Toes'
Lucas Pointon's 'Mink Toes'
Marc Snyder's 'Dress Rehearsal'
Marc Snyder's 'Dress Rehearsal'
Kirsti Adkins' 'Sin Hombre (without a name)'
Kirsti Adkins' 'Sin Hombre (without a name)'

With more than 360 artist members living within a 150-mile radius of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Society of Artists, founded in 1965, has grown to become one of the largest visual-art groups in our region.

So, when the group mounts an exhibition, choosing among all the art they create can be quite a challenge.

With 80 pieces by as many artists, the “Artist's Choice Exhibition,” at Panza Gallery in Millvale, is one of the most varied on display at the moment in terms of concept and media. Works range from a colored pencil study of a forest floor, “Last Winter” by Mark Neuherz of Fineview, to a mysterious work in wax, “Sin Hombre (without man)” by Kirsti Adkins of Squirrel Hill.

“This was a chance to put in a piece that normally wouldn't be juried into a show,” says gallery owner Mark Panza, who also is a member of the group and has a piece of his own on display — “Gods In Green Paradigm,” a dual-layer digital photo on glass panels.

“Some people never get juried into a show,” Panza says, “and this is their chance to get their work shown.”

That's not to say that the works are substandard, as visitors will see.

As with any Pittsburgh Society of Artists exhibit, there are plenty of paintings. And they range in subject and style greatly, from semi-abstract pieces like “Payne's Poppies” by Lyn Ferlo of Bloomfield to hyper-realistic works, such as “Yeah, It's That Good” by Kait Schoeb of Rochester.

Of course, the most intriguing works combine compelling concepts with skillful execution.

Inspired by video games and movies, the acrylic painting “Clairvoyance of The Earthly Realm” by Ben Yockel of Gibsonia is a real standout piece in this regard.

“My work is designed to instill the viewer with a unique story,” Yockel says. “Like most of my work, the piece is inspired by my fellow contemporaries working in the gaming and movie industries. Both the color and use of scale with two small figures gives some the feeling of loneliness but for others a sense of adventure in willing to explore the vast world before them.”

Also strong in concept and execution, “Dress Rehearsal” by Marc Snyder of Greensburg is a more polished version of several miniature paper theaters he has made recently, with numerous characters made from linocuts, drawings or photographs.

“I like watching people interact with the piece — you need to bend down a bit and look into the little theater to make it ‘work,' and it seems that people really respond to the playful aspect of the piece,” says the artist. “I'm really enjoying taking my work in printmaking and introducing a sculptural element to it.”

Snyder says that being the father of two little girls has influenced his work a lot in recent years. “I'm very interested in the paper theaters that were produced as toys in the 19th century, and part of the inspiration for this piece comes from making theaters and puppets with my girls,” he says.

Several pieces of jewelry are displayed on a ledge of a passthrough between the two galleries. Among them, the pendant “Mink Toes” by Lucas Pointon, also of Gibsonia, will likely grab attention, because, true to its title, it contains two toes from a mink dangling on chains at the bottom.

“I guess you could say I wanted to entomb a memory,” Pointon says of the piece. “I want the work to remind me of my childhood and the relationship I had with nature. Since then, it feels like I don't appreciate the woods like I did when I was younger. My work helps me rediscover that appreciation.”

This being an artist's choice exhibit, the group has set up a place for the public to vote for a Viewer's Choice Award. The yet-undetermined cash award will be presented at a closing reception from 6 to 8 p.m. July 24, which is free and open to the public.

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

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