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Art & Museums

Trio of shows at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts present diverse array of works

| Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, 5:19 p.m.
Trevor King's 'Reminder of Space' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015
Trevor King's 'Reminder of Space' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015
Susan Constanse's 'Untitled (murmuration series) 2015 at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
Susan Constanse's 'Untitled (murmuration series) 2015 at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
Yelena Kukharenko's 'Urban Dreams' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec, 15 ,2015.
Yelena Kukharenko's 'Urban Dreams' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec, 15 ,2015.
Alison Helm's 'Imprint of Consumption' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015
Alison Helm's 'Imprint of Consumption' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015
Ashley Episcopo's 'Ondine' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tiuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
Ashley Episcopo's 'Ondine' at the guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tiuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
Kristen Letts Kovak's 'Monserrate' at teh guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec, 15, 2015.
Kristen Letts Kovak's 'Monserrate' at teh guild show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Tuesday, Dec, 15, 2015.

Three group exhibits by Pittsburgh area artists guilds currently fill both floors of gallery space at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside, giving Pittsburghers the opportunity to see and experience a whole lot of art in one magnificent place.

On the first floor is the largest of the exhibits, “Pittsburgh Society of Artists 50th Annual 1965-2015.” Juried by Petra Fallaux and Patricia Maurides, this non-themed exhibit has 55 pieces by 47 artist members, showing the range of art being made by the group's members.

The painting “Urban Dreams” by Yelena Kukharenko of Greenfield is a real standout piece, exploring the deep feelings that an urban landscape invokes. It features a man playing a saxophone, high atop a city building under construction.

“I based this painting off of the concept of workmen sitting on an I beam during the construction of a skyscraper,” Kukharenko says. “I took this further to explore the mind of such a worker, his ambitions and feelings.”

The exhibit is filled with sculptural works as well.

“Ondine” by Ashley Episcopo of Mt. Lebanon is the artist's idea of the complicated character (a water sprite who falls in love with a knight) in the French play by the same name. It was constructed in pieces, like a marionette.

“I created Ondine the way I did because I wanted to create something that combined interesting ways of working with porcelain (the blue and white marbling in the piece isn't painted, it's a method of slip casting with two different colors of porcelain slip) with a piece that is detailed and delicate, but also encourages interaction with whoever sees her and holds her,” Episcopo says. “I like encouraging people to get close to my work, to investigate and touch it.”

Episcopo says “Ondine” can be posed, up to and including her hair.

“I'm a musician and a dancer as well, so I'm fascinated by the human figure and the way it looks and moves,” she says. “Figure sculpture was a pretty natural thing for me to get involved in, and I've always been amazed by the artist dolls and small sculpture I've seen.”

The second exhibit visitors will come to is Group A's “Works,” which features 16 pieces selected by fellow member artist Todd Keyser.

Here, abstract pieces abound, such as the painting “Monserrate” by Kristen Letts Kovak of Regent Square, which is a jarring conglomeration drawn from actual observation and memory.

“I use the spatial fluidity of painting as a stand-in for the inconsistencies of visual perception,” she says. “Observations can seem spatially illogical, visually obstructed, or abruptly partitioned. When reconstructing such moments, I pursue representation and abstraction alongside each other — searching for pictorial resolution in spite of spatial inconsistencies.”

Another standout among “Works” is “Untitled (Murmuration Series)” by Susan Constanse of Lawrenceville, one of three abstract compositions based on Starling murmuration — when starlings flock in response to pressure from the environment.

“A flock member watches, not the movement of the bird closest to them, but the movement of the individual three places away,” Constanse says. “There's another theory: Murmurations are a form of play or practice, where the flock members demonstrate and hone their skills in flight and maneuvers. The shapes in these paintings are organized the same way, through a process of action and reaction.”

Finally, the Society of Sculptors' annual exhibit celebrates the group's 80th anniversary. Long-time member and renowned sculptor Thaddeus Mosley juried the show, which includes new works from 21 members.

Among the pieces on display, “Reminder of Space” by Trevor King of Slippery Rock is a real standout, not only for its trompe-l'oeil illusion, but also the empty space within and around it.

Inspired by the makings of a sandwich kept in his studio refrigerator, the piece consists of two bronze cast heels of bread mounted on a wall, separated a loaf's length apart.

“The simple act of making a sandwich reminded me of my own temporary and transforming state,” King says. “I decided to save these heels, and to translate them into bronze, creating a permanent memory of this experience.”

Also, the saccharine sweet mixed-media piece “Imprint of Consumption” by Alison Helm of Morgantown, W.Va., is sure to please given its candy-colored surface that oozes with crystals.

Larger than life, it illustrates “a fingerprint that has the film of an oil slick on the surface of the skin,” the artist says.

“On the opposite side there is no color or paint, only the flesh color,” Helm says. “In the front or more colorful side, the crystals are seen housed in tiny little pockets or folds of skin that carry the sugar crystals throughout the body. Sugar is another evil of consumption and addictive. Just like coal, we need to learn to live with less of these consumables for our health.”

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

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