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Arts & Entertainment

Found objects express heavy emotions

| Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jay Del Greco has a penchant for hooks, nails, rusty tailpipes and junk parts, man-made or otherwise. In fact, even a bird wing, animal bone or a few fingernail clippings are bound to end up in one of his unique mixed-media wall sculptures.

Currently, a dozen of them are on view at Box Heart Gallery in Bloomfield in a one-man show titled "The Albatross." A fitting title considering "Everything in Flight" -- the largest work at 3 by 16 feet -- replicates the wingspan of a giant bird.

"It's a giant euphoric moment in the form of a painting," Del Greco says.

A native of Aliquippa, Beaver County, the 29-year-old artist works as a Web developer for BarkleyREI in the Strip District. That's where he says he finds most of the parts, on the streets of the neighborhood surrounding his workplace.

"I find lots of mufflers," Del Greco says. "That's one of the more common car parts that I find. And hence, one of the more common parts I use."

Case in point: A smashed muffler is the focal point of the piece "In a Different Light." Here Del Greco gives the found object much more reverence than it deserves. Surrounded by a violent splash of white, it's as if he is bathing it in an otherworldly light.

"I'm really interested in time and weight," Del Greco says. "I want to palpably express time, weight, heat, distress, solitude and loss."

Del Greco says his personal relationships, life experiences and disenfranchisement with religious beliefs have all fueled his viewpoint, and it all gets poured into his work.

Hence, a Del Greco artwork has all the quasi-religious qualities and deep, dark expression of an El Greco painting. With the major difference being that Del Greco doesn't use traditional art materials to make his point. "I use a wide variety of materials," Del Greco says. "But I don't buy anything from art supply stores."

Instead, each piece is assembled from a variety of things, generally on wood or masonite. They can involve any combination of house paint, spray paint, polyurethane, epoxy resin, burnt wood, various rusted metals, twine, string, yarn, duct tape, electrical tape, wire, cloth, permanent marker, pencil, photos and/or various found objects. Often the items are built up in layers then scorched with a propane torch.

Some pieces are inspired by the objects he discovers, like "That Woman," which is comprised of a rusted piece of sheet metal Del Greco found that had the shape of a woman's torso. Others are a combination of things he found around his home and things given to him by friends, such as "The Last to Know," which is comprised of a large meat hook someone found and a decorative support from his own rusting mailbox post.

Many of the works include woven yarn or masonry string that Del Greco has woven and placed onto the surface, sometimes coating the craftwork with polyurethane or epoxy.

The show culminates technically with "A Ghost in the Room," which is a tour de force of ingeniously combined materials and the self-designed processes he's figured out so far. Including everything from broken glass to burnt pantyhose, scorched spray paint to thick globs of epoxy resin, it is about as dark and brooding as Del Greco can possibly get.

Four smaller works stand out as being more personal. Del Greco calls them self-portraits, and though they look nothing like him they are in their own way very much about him. For example, he says "The Saint" is a reflection of his Catholic upbringing.

"It's an expression of my desire to suffer upright, to suffer with dignity."

And with "The Worst Kind of Man," which includes the word "Insane" stenciled across it, he says, "I asked my wife what my worst personality trait was. She said I tend to be obsessive. That came out immediately and unequivocally."

But most curious, not to mention most gut-wrenchingly repugnant, is "Cold Fingers," which basically is comprised of eight years worth of fingernails, toenails and clipped calluses, all frozen in resin and mounted on painted plywood.

"It's amazing how long it takes to accumulate a (large) volume of them," Del Greco says of his body's detritus, which he kept in an old glass Coke bottle till the time he felt he had enough.

That piece alone is worth stopping by to see the show. In fact, you may want to consider purchasing it. After all, this reviewer can't think of a more appropriate piece of bathroom art than that.

Additional Information:

The Albatross

What: New works by Jay Del Greco

When: Through April 26. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Admission: Free

Where: Box Heart Gallery , 4523 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield

Details: 412-687-8858

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