Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's something therapeutic about watching strangers eat each other's guts, sitting there in the dark with a room full of acquaintances.

I hosted a zombie film festival at the Brillobox last night. The films were strange, predictable, clumsy, awkward, and some, utter genius. The show, poorly attended, as Pittsburgh enters a new ice age.

I really, really needed to see all those films. Zombie flicks with their seams showing. The 'hey, there's a boom mike in the shot' moments, the 'wow that makeup is bad' moments. Since most of the 32 were 3 minutes long tops, you knew it would be over quickly anyway ...

The rawness of the metaphor of 'humans devouring each other for sustenance' still gets me. I love horror like this because it extremes a subtler reality I perceive on a daily basis - people feasting on their own perceptions, feeding on their own judgements of what they imagine to be true, taking satisfaction in their own omnicient narrative voice - fuck, I'm doing it RIGHT NOW in this blog. Its part of the necessary psychology of being alive.

Best line of the night: "I think you complain just to hear the sound of your own voice." This is my inward response to the noise of other people's complaints most of the time. I hear a lot of it in my job.

Some people complain at the drop of a hat. From how they talk, crossing the street is akin to breaking a leg. Wait five minutes? Noooo, the sky's going to fall. God forbid they have to survive cancer or something. Do they realize that they're eating their own exhaust, making their own quicksand with every complaint?

Of course I am being an absolute hypocrite, complaining about the complainers. On some level I search with how to deal with what I percieve to be patterns of behavior in others, particularly customers at my job, in a way that I don't injure myself with my own response to other people's behavior.

By injure myself, I mean, respond in a way that pollutes my own consciousness (i.e. flying off the handle, judging, complaining, and otherwise making myself miserable in response to the everyday absurdities & entitlements of customer behavior). That sort of reactivity costs me valuable art production time outside of my job, not to mention peace of mind.

For the most part, I succeed. I didn't realize what an inner journey it is until I was watching the zombie films last night. Ahhh, watching consumerist fables play out in the relentless bloody devour, devour, need, need.

There's something therapeutic about watching strangers eat each others guts, sitting there in the dark, with a roomful of acquaintances. And laughing at all that fake blood, repetitive screaming, and earnest, clumsy overacting.

Oh, just break my heart

Brent Burkett is extremely excited about his first foray into curating. Really, his enthusiasm is infectious, even through the electronic stream. Mr. Burkett, who is the voice of Heart as Arena, is a supporter of the arts. He reviews exhibits in New York as well as here in Pittsburgh. It breaks my heart that I can't make it up to NYC to see this exhibit. But maybe you can.


From his Press Release --
Bad shit happens, like, constantly. Quite frankly, I'm surprised we all aren't in cardiac arrest by the time we're 8. I'm not tipping you to anything new by pointing out that most of us make it past childhood, grow up, and drag our "long black bag" of heartbreak along for the ride. There are plenty of ways to lighten the burden though, and one of them is to look at art. (Therapy also helps. LOTS of therapy.) Every once in awhile I'll come across art that reverses the damage done, at least a little bit. I knew when I was offered this show that I wanted to include artists who have provided me with those moments of "unbreaking". You know how it works. The world slows down and you can almost feel the shards coming back together (Blondie style), the sinewy shreds of tissue reconnecting (David Lynch style). We just have to keep our eyes open and our hearts on the block. It's gonna be alright. At least for this moment.

There are several posts on Heart as Arena, previewing each of the artist's work. More are planned during the run-up to the show, so check back in. It promises to be most awesome.Of the artists that have so far been previewed, I find myself particularly drawn to Beth Gilfilen's work.


Unbreak My Heart
730 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 646-894-7777
November 1, 2008 - January 18, 2009
Opening: Saturday, November 1, 6 - 9PM

Society for Photographic Education Mid-Atlantic Regional Photo Conference

November 7 & 8, 2008
Carnegie Mellon Campus, Pittsburgh, PA
Society for Photographic Education Mid-Atlantic Regional Photo Conference

Technocracy: image production/distribution/consumption
Techno-lust vs. Technophobia

In this age of postproduction, how do imagemakers and institutions respond to this shifting landscape, creating alternative models for exhibition and education? How do those involved in the making, exhibiting and selling of images respond to the eradication of the boundary between production and consumption? How does imaging technology (camera phones, webcams, photo and video blogs) affect our capacity as imagemakers to navigate through the cultural chaos extracting new forms of production a.k.a art? Or does the proliferation of technology yield a return to traditional modes of production?

Keynote Speaker Douglas Fogle, curator of The Carnegie International.

Panel Discussion with Rhizome, Eyebeam and Perpetual Art Machine moderated by Thomas Sokolowski, Director for the Andy Warhol Museum.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Orange Balloons - open studio this Sunday!


Susan Constanse, Christine Bethea and guests

Susan Constanse and Christine Bethea have been sharing a studio space in Bloomfield for the last year. The studio, generally not open to the public, will host other artists in the space for the day. This is a rare opportunity to view new work by local artists.

Susan Constanse is a painter. Her studio presentation will include a range of works from early series as well as new paintings and works on paper. Christine Bethea works primarily with salvaged materials. Some of her masks will be available during the open studio.

Joining us for the day --
Amy Kerlin
Christiane D
Laurenty Sweich

How do you find us? We are near the Bloomfield end of the Bloomfield Bridge, next door to Iron Eden and across the street from Paul Lumber. Look for the orange balloons!

Also, for those artists out there that are looking for shared studio space, this is the perfect opportunity for you to take a look at the studio. We would happily talk to you about temporary or permanent arrangements.


What: Orange Balloons, an open studio event
Where: Bloomfield, 4073 Liberty Ave – 2nd floor
When: October 26, 2008: 12PM – 6PM

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brooklyn Fundraiser For Braddock Project

This was the week, I finally got around to taking a tour of the "Points of Interest" tour of collaborative murals and other projects done by local and international artists and the kids in the Braddock and North Braddock area. I will try to post on that later since me and my freind saw almost all the remaining works by great artists like Swoon, Lady Pink, Maya Hayuk and Mary Tremont.

The whole thing, brought me around to thinking about Braddock again. As you might know, Swoon and a group of other artists have been involved in forming something called Braddock Active arts which I think will be centered around a church in North Braddock. I still am not sure where this place is yet, which reflects both the free form, open collaborative nature of the project, it's early stage of life, and just how out of the loop I am. Coursing through this little known and neglected area are little groups of artists, working on the Braddock Farm, rehabbing a small number of homes and involving themselves in a range of floating creative projects.

So anyway, one of them seems to be called -- The Transformazium, and they are held a series of events to support the project last week in Brooklyn, one of which was an auction of art by a long list of internationally known artists like Swoon, Barry McGee, Paper Rad, Lady Pink and Kiki Smith as well as a long list of locally known folks like Mary Tremont, Josh Tonies and Thad Kellstadt. Larger Poster -- Here

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eggs, Rocks, Pearls @Boxheart


October 14 – November 8, 2008
Eggs, Rocks, Pearls
Ink Drawings, Mixed Media, and Assemblage Sculpture by Brenda Stumpf
Saturday, October 18th, 5 pm – 8 pm
Public reception: Free and open to the public.

The works that Brenda Stumpf has created in this new series are lovely. (Click on the above image for a slightly larger version) The works that I found most striking were the ink drawings. Several of her sculptures are on display in this exhibit. But the drawings are what I found resonated for me. They are very meticulous but still have a sense of intuition about them.

Works from an earlier series are on display also. These works are substantially different from the current drawings, although there is a more apparent connection to the sculptures.

The exhibit is already in place, with the artist's reception on Saturday. Stop in; well worth the trip.

4523 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
P. 412.687.8858
F. 412.687.6338

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And when you sleep, may you dream of large women ... (Samson & Dalila)

Caught the final dress rehearsal of Camille Saint-Saens' opera, Samson & Delila tonight at the Benedum. Oh the rear-screen projected shifting moon, oh the glorious thick tresses of our bewigged Samson, oh the stage violence.

I wondered at what our dangerous seductress would look like. I winced at the lithe fat-free dancers who proclaimed her eventual entrance. Please no.

When Delila drifted on to stage and began to sing, my jaw dropped. This woman who pulled down the leader of the Israelites, this honey-voiced beauty with the most delicate control of each gesture, who moves with quiet dignity ...

Stephanie Blythe is gorgeous and strong and stunning and as I listened to her sing her first piece, a seduction, I cried. I cried because this Delilah is fat. She is gorgeous. I cried for all my own small insecurities.

How few and far between are these role models, these powerful women with dimpled elbows and heated looks, women who know the difficulties of the world, women who are strong and centered and carry themselves so artfully each gesture is sublime.

Nowhere in recent memory have I seen a heavy woman carrying herself with such inner dignity and grace as I have Ms. Blythe. Too often I have seen the wear and tear of years of cattiness, of the skinny girl getting all the attention, of fat girl jokes. Too often I have listened to my friends release their sore vulnerability of having always been the "big girl with the pretty face".

What bullshit. Stephanie proved to me what I've known for years. First, those vaguely anorexic cookie cutters - the notion of a single paradigm of beauty - strip all women of access to their unique beauty. Second, the daily refusal to submit to the small slights of everyday reduction of to appearance will cultivate in onesself the beauty our mass culture blinds itself to.

Even before she opened her mouth she had the spotlight (and not because the lighting designer lit her). Such diginity, such power, such grace. She had no match on that stage, all those around her stood in her shadow, funny cardboard cutouts with long robes on.

Ah, opera, the place where all the violence and heated passions of human affairs meet. We should all go to the opera more regularly. It reminds us to watch the drama happen around us, in everyday life, let that unfold with its own necessity, and simply love our need for those stories to happen.

Go see the divine Stephanie Blythe as Delilah. She's considered the world's best mezzo-soprano for a reason. She'll use Samson's passion against him, and it is an absolute time-stopping joy to watch (and listen) to her do it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lesson for who, now?

Got this in my email today. I've seen other hussles like this, yanno. I certainly don't need this lesson. How 'bout you?



I have a new email address!

You can now email me at:

FROM: Precious Garcia

- Hello,I am Precious Garcia,My son is coming for an holiday in your area,His name is Andre,14 years.I want him to be busy in the day. I have decided to let him attend your lesson for 1 hours in a day in the morning or time that you will be chance. i want you to calculate the cost of 1 hours each day for Mon, Wed & Fri for the whole 1 Month and send me the total cost,i will be paying you with Certified check ,so get back to me with your cost.I have someone that will always drive him down to your house or lesson venue.Kindly get back to me with.1.YOUR CHARGE FOR 1 HOUR. 2.TOTAL CHARGES FOR 1 MONTH THAT HE WILL BE TAUGHT 3 TIMES PER WEEK.3. FULL NAME AND ADDRESS WITH ZIP CODE.4.YOUR PHONE NUMBER.Don't hesitate to e-mail with your total charges.Thanks and looking to hearing from you soon. With Best Regards.Precious Garcia

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In the Making; 250 Years/250 Artists @Fe Gallery

This is a pretty enormous exhibit. The exhibit, as the title suggests, encompasses the work of 250 regional artists. While I have always considered the Fe Gallery to be a nice-sized space, it is certainly not large enough to comfortably hold this exhibit. Immediately below is an image of the back left of the gallery.


The thumbnails below are, from left, the front-left, back-right and middle-right images. Clik on the thumbnails for a larger view.


This was a pretty ambitious undertaking. Conducting the jurying process and installation were probably harrowing. I find these salon shows difficult to view as I get older. My eyes are not as sharp as they used to be and a lot of the show was hung outside of my visual range.

With that said, it was still very representative of Pittsburgh arts. Not every artist in Pittsburgh is in the exhibit, but no matter what type of art you produce, I can absolutely guarantee that you will find a familiar face in the crowd. As a survey show, it makes a good overview of the breadth of the local art scene.

As with any show of this nature, you come away with a few favorites, pieces that will make it worthwhile to go back and view the work again. Following are images of some of the works that I found had that draw for me. Given the length of the exhibit, there is still plenty of time to get back to Fe Gallery and visit with old and new friends.

Crystala Aragost

I just really liked the layering in the above work.

Michelle Browne

There were a few fiber works in the exhibit. Although this is mixed,I really liked its simplicity and the combining of the materials.

Ruth Levine

I've been a fan of Ruth Levine's work for a few years now. There is always this austere beauty to her work. Also a nice touch with materials.

Debra Tomson

Another mixed material fiber piece. This one is a little spooky-creepy, mainly because of the staples. Maybe I would feel differently if the piee were larger. The staples, in proportion to the substrate, are just a little threatening.

Danielle Brannigan

The textures in this work are just wonderful. If it was a little lower on the wall, I probably would have been tempted to explore those textures. Good thing it was hung high!

Terri Bradley

There is a terrible hot glare on the middle right of this work. Please, take the time to go to the exhibit to see some of these works. This one is well worth going in to see. It is eerie but beautiful.

Akiko Kotani

I almost didn't catch this work. It was installed fairly low on the wall. I didn't catch it until I was on my way out of the door. Really nice small work.

David Grim

I thought that this digital print was very striking. There is a certain controlled violence to the work.

Well, that's it. Try to make it in to the exhibit; you won't be disappointed. There is a special Catalog Launch Party coming up pretty quickly. The exhibit has a long run and will be in place until mid-January 2009

In the Making 250 Years/250 Artists
Exhibition Dates: September 12, 2008 – January 10, 2009
Catalog Launch Party
Saturday October 18, 2008
from 5-7:30 pm.
Catalogs can be purchased for $40 each.
Fe Gallery
4102 Butler Street, Lawrenceville
Pittsburgh PA 15201
Gallery Hours: Wed-Sat 12 - 4

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Seductive Suggestions @ Wizard of Oddities

I was wandering around on Butler Street yesterday with my good friend Laurenty. It wasn't exactly aimless; we had coffee and then peeked in at a couple galleries along the street. One ofmy regular stops, Wizard of Oddities, was in the process of installing a new show. Mia Donna Maneer is the artist whose solo Seductive Suggestions opens this Friday.

The works are very fun and of course extremely reasonably priced. They are quite a kicky little collection of photographs. The opening promises to be a multi-sensory affair, with body painting and music.




So on Friday October 10, 7-11PM, hie you to:

Wizard of Oddities
4314 Butler Street
Pittsburgh PA 15201

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New curator position at CMoA

From the Carnegie Museum of Art Press Release --

Carnegie Museum of Art announced today the creation of a new curatorial department of photography and has appointed its first head, Linda Benedict-Jones. Benedict-Jones has been the executive director of Silver Eye Center for Photography on Pittsburgh’s south side since 1999 and will assume her position at Carnegie Museum of Art on December 15, 2008. ...

... Carnegie Museum of Art’s connection with photography dates to the early 20th century, when its annual exhibitions of the Pittsburgh Photographic Salon included the works of local and international photographers. At the heart of its collection are works by Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania photographers from the 1860s to the present, bolstered by acquisitions of classic photography. Recent acquisitions include a gift of more than 150 vintage and contemporary photographs from the George H. Ebbs collection; the archive of the complete works of renowned photographer Duane Michals (a native of McKeesport, Pennsylvania); and the Pine Flat Portrait Studio collection of artist Sharon Lockhart, whose work is included in the 2008 Carnegie International.

Linda Benedict-Jones has been the Executive Director at Silver Eye Center for Photography since 1999. Silver Eye, located on E Carson St in Southside, is a wonderful, small venue. It packs quite punch for its size. The shows are consistently good. It is difficult to manage a venue whose exhibits have national appeal and yet still promotes local and regional artists. Ms. Benedict-Jones fills the post admirably. She is also very approachable. The CMoA has brought a real gem into their stff. I am looking forward to what the new curatorial efforts will bring to the museum.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Transport Center Links Us to the Outside World

Saturday afternoon, Alina and I met at the new Grant Street Transportation Center (on Liberty and 12th) to check it out from both a city dweller’s and a tourist’s POV. Perhaps I mean a combination of both: as an armchair urban planner, I wanted to see what the facility (particularly the Greyhound Station) was offering the travelers, passers-through, potential tourists, and even potential future residents. Remember, this is not merely one more random downtown building or 1000 new parking spaces. This is the small, daily chance for Pittsburgh to meet and greet outsiders and either reinforce, or overhaul, its stereotype of being a has-been, isolated, post-industrial town.

Let me put that another way. In Pittsburgh, we hear a lot of boosterism about the city. We hear a lot about winning The Most Liveable City Poll. But what do people outside the city hear, and what do they absorb? When I still lived in New York and I told my boss that I would be quitting in a few months to move to Pittsburgh, he looked at me in utter disbelief and genuine disgust and said, “PITTSburgh?” He could not believe it. This is only to point out that many, many people outside Allegheny County have heard nothing about the reinvention of Pittsburgh, and if they’ve heard it, they don’t believe it. If they believe it, they don’t yet understand it. (I don’t want to get all Philosophy of Branding on us here, but I do have a headline from the Pitt News hanging on my office wall that says, “City Lacks a Reputation.”)

The first time I ever came to Pittsburgh was, in fact, as a long layover on a Greyhound bus trip in 2000; the old bus station stood where the new bus station now stands again. Looking out at the canyons of Downtown, and later, when we drove up to Mt Washington or Mt Oliver and I could look down at the fabulous view of the bridges, skyline, and rivers, I was fascinated with Pittsburgh—my imagination was piqued. But there was nothing, nothing, to connect me from the Greyhound station to the city. The only place I wandered to was the Amtrak station, which still lived in its original, grand building—since privatized for condos and offices. It was one of the most beautiful train stations I’d ever seen.

So, the point I want to make here is that it’s a shame to waste the chance to welcome and re-educate a newcomer or a passer-through: Let the transit stations be a gateway to a Pittsburgh of the imagination, at the very least; and at best, a smooth gateway into the physical city itself. That long layover I had between Chicago and New York back in 2000 lasted something like five hours. I could have gone to The Warhol, I could have wandered the Strip District, I could have gone to the downtown library branch. (This is a luxury, for example, that airplane riders don’t usually get—the airports being located so inconveniently on the outskirts of their cities.) But there was nothing to inform me, nothing inviting me in. And doesn’t that seem more like the Old Pittsburgh than the New Pittsburgh? In this age of revitalized downtowns and networked everything, don’t we, Pittsburgh, care about being physically networked as well? Under Mayor Tom Murphy, for example, this Transportation Center was to be a true hub, with a T station, the Amtrak Station, and city bus stops all under one roof.

What’s right with the Pittsburgh Greyhound Station?

*It's right next to the Amtrak station, again after 3 years.

*Alina was the first to point out that they had installed bilingual signage, in Spanish and English. Impressive indeed.

*The signage is fairly well placed, though it’s slightly more visible walking through from the 11th street entrance than the 12th street side.

*Though it took us a long time, we finally found them: The last three pay phones in America. They were even installed at a low height, presumably to accommodate the wheelchair-bound. On the opposing wall, there’s a vending machine for phone cards.

*There's a Recharging Station for your laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, etc.

*There’s a modest snack shop that sells some hot food and some cold.

*There’s an office inside the station called Travelers Aid, or, Ayuda De los Viajeros.

*The interior is a pleasant blue and white tile, with a serpentine shape.

What would we like David Onorato and friends to know, in terms of changes or improvements to the Grant Street Transportation Center?

*Change the name? As a BikePgh blogger posted (December 25), the station is surrounded by 4 streets, none of them Grant Street.

*Add bike racks. Alina had to cross two streets to tie up.

*Fix the broken crosswalk light (!!) at Liberty Avenue, the only “connection” to the Amtrak station. This was a dangerous guessing game, getting across this busy street. Imagine if you didn’t already know that Pittsburgh drivers like to gamble with your life.

*Add signage that announces Amtrak’s location and proximity. You wouldn’t know it was there if you didn’t know. Even the “You Are Here” map on the wall inside Greyhound doesn’t mark the train station.

*Ditto for some of the closest bus stops. I still have no idea where to pick up the East Busway, though I know it's very near.

*Hopefully, in the not too distant future the links between transportation modes will be even smoother—a skywalk to Amtrak? A T station inside the Transportation Center? A stop for city busses, including the 28X?

*Stock city bus schedules on an indoor rack. (To be fair, a brochure rack is there, it’s just blatantly empty.)

*Install signs with cab companies’ names and phone numbers above the pay phones.

*Stock more newspapers than just USA Today at the gift shop. At least the Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune, and what about the City Paper and the Trib PM? Pittsburgh Quarterly?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

So Much Better Than eBay

I just found this website that can help everyone out. If you made a bad purchase, just list your stuff on this site at the price you would like to recieve for it and wammo, your saved. No questions will ever be asked about why you bought this shit who sold this shit or WHO PROTECTED THEM. That's what government is there for, kind of like a really huge rug to sweep messes under.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Christine @drink & draw

Christine was last night's model at drink & draw. It was a great session, naturally. Christine trained as an actor and she really develops great characters for these sessions. I liked the poses she did with the cleaver; very effective!


Everbody seemed to get good stuff from last night's session --

We'll be back on the last Tuesday in October with a gesture intensive, something that we haven't done for a while.


drink & draw is moving to once a month! We will be meeting on the last Tuesday of each month. Sessions will start at 6:30pm.

Drink and Draw
is an open studio live model drawing session that meets every other Tuesday on the second floor of brillobox, located at 4104 penn ave, pittsburgh, pa. This session is relaxed, surprising, and inspiring. amazing models dressed in various themes, old timey music, great company, and decor. All mediums, except oils, welcome.

Drink & Draw
Upstairs @ 6:30PM | $10

get on our mailing list. email us at
4104 penn ave