Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Round Town Winter 2006

Digging Pitt welcomes guest writers to the Digging Pitt blog on occasion. This is one of those too rare occasions when Alice Winn has graciously given us her insights into the Pittsburgh art scene.

Round Town Winter 2006
Alice Winn

Excavated from the concentrated museum of Lawrenceville's Digging Pitt's flat files, a multitude of small works sparkle with private meaning, like tiny gems from every gallery wall. Jude Vachon's good-natured critters seem stuck in limbo between a diminishing homeland of ravaged wilderness and an artificial hell wrought by human will. In one assemblage, a street-talkin' deer clings to a torn scrap of autumnal orange field cast into an expanse of faux wood paneling. In another work, a breathy stenciled subtitle is the only language left to a phantom horse, distilled to its delicate pink, spray-painted essence. Anne Patsch's faint, outlined figures peeking through the roses of sentimental wallpaper appear like accusatory apparitions in the boudoir, plotting otherworldly vengeance on untrue lovers. Susan Constanse's silhouettes of wind-swept leaves suggest gothic heroines, fading like smoke trails into the shadows of summer's last night. Jill Scipione's delicately rendered silverpoint studies of rib cages drift weightlessly like structures underlying wings. Her compositions heave heavy bones into a vast white space that seems to echo with the emptiness of death's mysteries. Kate Bazis' ecstatic, candy-colored biomorphic fantasies buzz with deep, newborn cellular intent. In John Morris' etchings, spindly lines form infinite loops, recalling the microscopic pathways taken by traveling genes as they piece together every fiber of every being. Mary Judge's linear charcoal trails lead to getting lost as a way of finding the road home, winding back on themselves and spiraling outward simultaneously, like growth rings and mandalas. Thad Kellstadt's bright RV rolls like a dazzled tumbleweed into great plains where sacred monsters tower to spacious skies, guarding grand secret truths. Maggie Aston's freshly-minted snowflakes glitter gold, falling through some ancient land that has turned to ash. A spiky, exotic flower breaks through darkness to breathe the hot red air of Gary Nichol's tazmanian landscape, luring the imagination into a state of longing for unknown wonders. Rena M. Porter fills discarded soda bottles with fearsomely cute grow-beasts tangled-up in colored string - messages cast-off from childhood's shores bound across the seas of time for an older, heart-broken world.

In the ghost town of Braddock, stirrings of life were felt at "dorothy 6", a gallery shaped by curators Lauri Mancuso and Edgar Um. Its inaugural t-shirt show featured wearable works by scores of locals. Dj Mary (Mack) Tremonte sent along her crew of feisty silk-screened squirrels to dance in multi-colors across a range of styles. Julie (madorangefool) Dyer contributed t-skirts, nice for tea parties, festooned with dragon mascot and words of team cheer. Sam Pace's tarred-and-feathered creations provoked a tension between the promise of avian-assisted warmth and the dreaded chill of public humiliation. Third Termite and crew provided charming children's drawings on tiny undershirts depicting glowing moments of simple joy shared by a girl and her wise-guy kittie.

The north side's Mattress Factory's recent "Factory Installed" exhibitions have left lingering afterimages and afterthoughts. Minimalist pieces had powerful implications. Dan Steinhilber covered a whole gallery floor with a huge blue tarp, defying that dropcloth's function as a shield against the ravages of time and the elements. Rigid air movers animated the azure expanse, making it, instead, a force of restless change, rolling it into rhythmic motion, suggestive of the sea bound-up like a bagged beast, held captive in some desolate chamber. In Karyn Olivier's small room, a low-slung chandelier set with burning candles illuminated a circular spot of bare wood floor from which years of grey paint had been sanded. This juxtaposition simultaneously achieved a shamanistic lifting of the burdens of history - the miseries and inequalities of Pittsburgh's industrial past - and an invitation to reach for a brighter present.

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