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Arts & Entertainment

Touch of glass

| Thursday, March 8, 2007

If you haven't yet heard that 2007 is "The Year of Glass" in Pittsburgh, then you'd better take note.

That's not only because the Glass Arts Society will hold its 37th annual conference in the city June 7-9. Like last year's citywide effort "Pittsburgh Roars," "The Year of Glass" promises to usher in an equal amount of art exhibitions and related activities. And it's already begun.

At Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, in Shadyside, the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh has on display "Vitreous," the first related exhibition.

With 53 works by 49 artists, the exhibition that fills the back of the center's second-floor galleries should whet the appetite for what's to come. All of the pieces relate to glass in some way, either made of the material or representing its qualities.

Surprisingly, few works are made of glass entirely. But of those that are, Judi Charleson's "Extreme Makeover," which features a cast glass portrait in relief, is a real standout. So, too, is Marjorie Shipe's "Phantom City," which is basically a large glass cube made of layers of etched glass in which the internal views change as you walk around it -- yet it never fully reveals what is inside.

As to be expected, a number of mixed-media works include glass.

For example, Daniel Melaney's piece "Calamity" is made from an old window pane in which he has replaced the once-clear glass with mirror. Paula Weiner's piece "Nosehair" is a small comical face made from a rusted piece of found metal that forms the basic shape of the face, to which a shock of hair on top and shard of glass for a nose has been added to complete it.

Dafna Rehavia-Hanauer uses found materials as well in her triptych titled "Ticking." Here, soup can lids with pull-tabs and shards of glass fill three frames, beneath each of which is a silhouette of a cat attached to wire mesh. In "The Alchemist," Robert Villamagna has included a small antique medicine bottle in an assemblage sculpture built around a vintage baby doll.

Likewise, Elaine Morris' assemblage piece "No Change" also contains an old baby doll. But here, the doll sits in one of three antique cut-glass wine goblets, the other two filled with halves of a broken Easter egg.

Other than these works, much of what is left interprets the qualities of glass without actually using it.

For example, Steve Boksenbaum's ultra-realistic watercolor painting "Henry's Door" focuses on the reflective quality of glass with a close-up interpretation of a window in a diner door. And "Is This a Skull I See Before Me?" by Alan Byrne approaches reflection as a subject almost entirely unto itself, using the chromed surface of a tin can to reflect a skewed painting in proper proportions.

Then, there are the many photographic works on display that delight in the refracting qualities of glass. Some were done with traditional means, such as Dorothy de Groat's "Autumn Window" and Richard Stoner's "Bathroom Window," which each look at flowers and foliage respectively through pressed-glass window panes.

Others use digital approaches, such as Lucienne Wald's "Distortion," which features "The Star-Spangled Banner" as viewed through water, and Betty Elias' "Flowers in water," which is pretty much the same concept, but with flowers.

Also on display in conjunction with the exhibition is the installation project "Artists + Industry Pilot Project #1 Dielectric Solutions" in a gallery next to the "Vitreous" show.

Utilizing fiberglass material supplied by Dielectric Solutions, a Kittanning manufacturer of woven fiberglass-based products, participating artists Ken Beer, Adrienne Heinrich, Hilary Shames, Jane Ogren, Anna Marie Sninsky and Pati Beachley each created works from the material in their own studios, then combined them in the space to create a complete environment.

It's worth noting here that Beer is the vice president of Dielectric Solutions -- hence the ease of access to the material -- as well as the outgoing president of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. He is being replaced by Beachley, an assistant professor of art at Seton Hill University, who was recently elected to succeed Beer as president of the association.

The only downside to all of this is that, in a way, the exhibition and installation jump the gun by closing on March 18, many months before the Glass Arts Society conference. And the show closes before "Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens and Glass," an incredible, one-of-a-kind exhibit that will be featured at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, opening on May 12 and continuing through the end of the year.

Now, if Dale Chihuly's work doesn't whet one's appetite for glass art, nothing will.

Additional Information:

'Vitreous'

What: Artworks relating to, derived from, or consisting of glass, by members of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh

Also on display in conjunction: 'Artists + Industry Pilot Project #1 Dielectric Solutions'

When: Through March 18. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $5

Where: Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside

Details: 412-361-0873 or www.pittsburgharts.org

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