Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Center for the Arts’


Lisa Platt

December 5, 2010

Lisa Platt began her artistic career in 1998 with paper mache. She also worked with sculpture, and focused on making sea creatures and mermaids. “I am a mermaid,” she says. In 1998, she took some of her work to the PCA shop and they took it on.

Yellow SubmarineMosaics are now her main focus. She creates her own tiles, fires them and paints them, then arranges the tiles, often around found objects, such as rescued wood. Her works are diverse, some focusing on sea creatures, and some showing urban landscapes. Her work “Yellow Submarine” is an example of objects integrated with her handmade tiles. In this work, her submarine is surrounded by water made of Youghiogheny stained glass.

Other pieces of hers focus on city life, such as her piece entitled “Our Town.” In it is depicted a building with “a crazy lady with a big head. That’s me.” The building also contains a transvestite couple, as well as “a single mom with four kids, a fish and a bird.” On the top of the picture is the night sky, and people dancing on the roof. “It’s Pittsburgh”

The “crazy lady” represents Lisa because she is a landlord, as well as an artist and a teacher. She has taught workshops on mosaics, as well as art camp for mosaics. This winter, she is offering a class on paper mache at the Center for the Arts.

Lisa’s work can be seen around the city. She created the mosaic that wraps around the stingray tank at the zoo. She also has a large mosaic at Children’s Hospital. This mosaic features the hospital, the countryside, the city, and the zoo. “It turned out cute.” The mosaic contains, “doctors, nurses, birds, giraffes, monkeys.”

She describes her pieces as whimsical, and this characterization can be seen in a work she made for a former fellow at CMU. He commissioned her to create a work of art to thank his colleagues. She made the pieces with CMU’s mascot the Scottie dog, as well as the CMU seal, and plaid. Each of the four parts represented a different season, and for each season the Scottie dog had on different attire. For winter he had a winter hat, and in summer sunglasses.

“A lot of artists represent themselves in different ways. My interest is to lighten it up. My intent is to make people smile and be happy. I crack myself up all the time.” Her work gets people smiling, from her large mosaics to her ornaments. She sells ornaments of fat cats with whiskers. People bring these ornaments up to the register in both hands, looking at the little faces and smiling.

Lisa was born in Pittsburgh, but moved to Florida in 1979. There she had a variety of jobs, including manager of a ship store in the marina and working on a fishing boat, on which she was the only girl. “They did challenge me,” she says of the experience. Her time in Florida is part of what inspires her love of sea creatures and mermaids.

Other factors have also influenced her art. “I grew up around a wonderful family.” Her dad was a creative writer, and friends of her family were photographers, painters, furniture makers, and people who made money with their crafts. They were “a bunch of bohemians.”

Lisa worked at the zoo for 16 years as the operations manager; she was in charge of the gift shop, restaurant, catering, and special events. She was also responsible for hiring, scheduling, and tracking 150 seasonal employees each year. “My strength is I am good with logistics.” The job was intense and rewarding. It was hard to make the transition from employee to self-employed artist. At the time she made the change, she was managing 10 buildings, working full time and making art. “I couldn’t do it all. I had to back off from something.” It took time to get “used to not going to work everyday for someone else.”

Of the PCA she says, “I love the Center. I took classes there as a kid and young adult in ceramics.” She would especially like to thank Jen Carter, the PCA Shop Manager. “She’s so devoted to the program, which features some of the nicest work I’ve seen in one place. She;s a good, strong manager, lovely person, and talented.”

Of life as an artist,“this is the best time of my life now,” she says.

Visit the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts to view Lisa’s work.


Ron Donoughe

November 27, 2010

Ron Donoughe is a Pittsburgh artist known for his plein air method. He finds outdoor locations in and around Pittsburgh, sets up shop, and paints outdoors. Once he has created his painting, he brings it into his studio to create a larger version. He began his outdoor paintings years ago because he “wanted to do work directly from life in an honest way.” He is interested in light and shadow, as well as how colors change over distance.

When he had begun painting, the work he was doing was “clever. It felt like jumping through intellectual exercises,” and did not involve “experiencing the landscape.” He refers to this as “drawing from the interior rather than the exterior.” He switched to the plein air method because the plein air works were “more honest. They felt true to who I was.”

Donoughe comes from a large family and had seven siblings, one of whom is his identical twin. They grew up in the country, surrounded by cows and chickens, “immersed in the landscape.” During his youth he had a variety of jobs, including landscaping and grave digging, which he did with his twin. The graves were hollowed out with a back hoe, but he and his brother had to climb in with shovels to even them out. “It was a crazy job, but the undertaker always tipped well.” They also had a job that involved catching chickens in the chicken coup, which Donoughe describes as “character building.”

house shadowWhen he began outdoor painting, he painted rural landscapes in all seasons. He has since “warmed up to the urban landscape.” Nowadays he paints both urban and rural landscapes. With his twin brother he owns his parents home, which he frequently visits, finding locations in the area to paint. He also paints every day in Pittsburgh. “It’s part of my routine. I go out looking for subject matter. Something will stop me and call out to be painted.” In his urban paintings, he strives to “give voice to areas of Pittsburgh that don’t get a voice visually.” These days he has been painting in Garfield, Lawrenceville, and Braddock.

At the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Donoughe is currently selling his smaller Melt linepaintings that he completed while outdoors. His winter paintings are some of his most famous for the way they show the play of light, shadow and color on snow. He has paintings from every season in both rural and urban environments.

For more of his work visit his website at : or go to the PCA shop.



June 30, 2010

Interplay, a collaborative exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and eight affiliated guilds, is open to the public at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until August 22nd.  It contains 49 works by 45 artists working in a variety of media, from paint, to film, to metal, to found objects. The central theme of the exhibit, interplay, has been interpreted by the artists in a variety of ways. Some explore the interplay of societal elements, some the intersection of opposite ideas, some the visual interplay between colors, words, objects, and images, and some strive to uncover cognitive dissonance.


Artists have a certain ability to expose unexpected dualities. There are the bright hues of domestic banality, seen through the door and window of a house at nighttime in a video by Lizzy De Vita. In Alan Byrne’s “Crime and Punishment,” there is the glamour of crime set opposite the electric chair, that most brutal, grimy, and barbaric object of correction.  Interplay juror Eric Shiner refers to these as “binarisms and juxtapositions.” They are thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, combing nature and urbanity, wealth and poverty, sentimentality and scientific profundity, and even the crushing sadness of homelessness with the Barbie-dream life gaiety.

wormhole schematicSome artists focused on a visual interplay. Daniel Brickman’s ”Wormhole Schematic” is made of straight lines of thread which yield the illusion of curved space. The crossing of angles and lines creates a sense of roundness.

Christina Zaris, in her video Kaleyedoscope, looks backwards through a kaleidoscope at an eye,  turning it into an element of an ever-changing pattern. It is a creepily fascinating mosaic, in which eyelashes, veins, and the iris and pupil rise and subside, form stars, ovals, and cross hatches, and occasionally flash out of view for a moment due to a blink.

Nature vs. NurtureHisham Youssef’s “Nature vs. Nurture” consists of barbed wire around a tree, as well as some pesticide and fungicide. It creates a radically different interpretation of the word versus in that eternal psychological debate. It does not ask which one is more prominent, but rather which one is capable of destroying the other.

Continental DriftWendy Osher’s  “Continental Drift” is a map of the world made of clothing labels. Each nation is the size of the labels that make it up, causing Hong Kong to be the size of China, Mexico to be larger than the USA, and altogether causing a general bulge around the equator, that part of the Earth where hot climates and industrial slavery intersect.

James Maszle’s  “Perfect Night” is a mixed media piece with glow in the dark, disassembled mannequins, a small glowing Jesus standing prayerful next to a severed plastic hand, owls, flowers, a fence, and various other staples of suburban society. It reminds me of a summer night in the suburbs, when, in an attempt to stave off ennui, we would vacillate between staying in our black-light lit basements filled with our parents’ old broken objects and our glow-in-the-dark posters, and being outside on the vast lawns that passed for nature.

Each of the 49 pieces exposes a different contradiction, explores a different dichotomy, or rightly fractures what is often considered a unity.


Shifting Panoramas: by Elizabeth Mooney at the PCA

May 24, 2010

I hate to admit this, but I should be honest. I come from the suburbs. I’m not even from the pastoral, semi-wild Western Pennsylvania suburbs, but the New England suburbs. It’s the type of place with hyper-green grass, where nature is out beyond the window, or between the lattices of the screen porch, or behind a strip mall parking lot, visible but remote.

Elizabeth Mooney’s Shifting Panoramas, on display at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until June 13th, has two major themes. One is the speed and energy of a landscape; the other is the effect of the medium of perception on the viewer. The speed is apparent in her paintings, done on wood panels, which contain collections of lines and figures evoking super-colored grasses, trees, hectic spaces, and hints of meadows and skies behind the mix. Everything is active and moving, almost-but-not-quite-overstimulating. There are chunks of hard color interspersed with with patches of blending. The paintings contrast our pixelated with our natural view.

Shifting Panorama

The effect of the medium is present primarily in the two kinetic installations. One is a reflective ball surrounded by a picket fence. When you look into the ball you see yourself fenced in by something lovely but suffocating, which represents exactly how it feels to be in the suburbs.

Another perspective-changing mechanism is and upside down orange traffic cone retooled to be a kaleidoscope. Through it you see a portion of a landscape spinning, repeatedly and fragmentedly reflected.

Mooney’s images are fast and yet distant, showing the landscape with great energy and vim, but always keeping it slightly away from us, seen not directly, but through a medium.

Shifting Panoramas is currently on display at Gallery 6 in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.


Recall: by Ben Hernstrom and Frank Ferraro at the PCA

May 11, 2010


My memory works as follows: I collect a series of experiences and feelings, what I could essentially call data. This data rumbles around in my head until my brain finds a meaningful pattern. Once that pattern is recognized, I form an abstraction, a theory, or a system, and then all the data vanishes from my mind. The problem with this method is, when asked how I arrived at a conclusion, I have no occurrences nor string of logical reasoning to support my view.

In Recall, Hernstrom and Ferraro collect all the pieces that make up the abstraction, playing them on a loop simultaneously on 3 screens that wrap around a room. Alone, each image is a visual memory, a scene of a woman sleeping, a snowy tree, missing tiles on a bathroom floor, streetlights passing rhythmically as seen through a car window. But together these scenes enable the viewer to form an abstraction, to articulate the mood and aesthetic of the year represented without losing the information that allowed that abstraction to emerge.

Recall is currently on display in Gallery 7 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. It will remain there until June 13th.


Pastoral Deluxe by Elin Lennox

April 23, 2010

Elin Lennox’s works, which are currently on display at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, consist of photographs of constructions she builds, with slight color adjustment. The theme is biological, and she states that her work stems from “a perverse biophilia.”


Each piece has the feeling of an ecosystem with many small bubbles, beads and bobbers, some medium-sized bulbs, and a few larger ones. Each element interacts with the others, creating an abstract scene that is altogether lifelike.

Her pictures contain recognizable objects as well as mysterious ones. There are egg yolks, whipped cream , glass bottles, and soap foam. There are objects that might or might not be blueberries, shells, fish eggs.

Her photo entitled Exhibit B has the feeling of a birth from ooze. The background imagery is somewhere between melting plastic film and a seafood dish, all with the aesthetic of a German kitchen circa 1982.

Exhibit G has clearly definable glass bottles and soap foam, as well as warm, glowing green and yellow circles. There is a background color that is a soft pink, over which objects are positioned that appear to be the outer skins of seashells . There are fractal lines in the soap and in the sand which look a bit like finger-painting, but are wholly organic.

Each piece is biological, and contains both the notion that we are looking at foods we eat, and that we are looking at biomes in all their activity, color, and life.

Pastoral Deluxe will be on display in Gallery 5 of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until June 13th.


Fiberart at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

April 20, 2010

The purpose of Fiberart exhibition at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is to display innovative works of art using a variety of fabrics. The exhibition is “rooted in traditional fiber materials, structure, processes and history,” but has taken the craft in many directions.

As life complexifies, we create more metaphors to describe it. A common metaphor that has arisen is that of fabric. We talk about the social fabric of a city or nation, or the fabric of space-time. Fabric is never something of note in-and-of itself; It is what you do with the fabric, how you cut and reshape it, that is noteworthy. Each thread in our metaphorical fabric is an idea, a synecdoche for something larger, and the fabric itself, once finished, is the totality thus created. And with a little cutting and sewing, a new element can emerge.

In Fiberart, Leisa Rich‘s No Sense Crying Over Spilled Milk is interactive; there are pieces of embroidered vinyl that can be Velcroed onto a larger backdrop. Each image is iconic of modern society, so you can create your own social fabric out of the images you select.

There are a variety of works that look like paintings from afar, but when approached, are clearly made of fabric and thread. They have not just the illusion of depth, but actual depth. Indeed, Jayne GaskinsAs You Find It, Leave It, is a a pair of legs walking out of the canvas, and popping a few inches out of the wall.

As you fond it leave it

One work that particularly caught my attention was Hannah Streefkerk‘s fixing the landscape, a series of photographs of rocks in which apparent crevices are sewn together. It gives the rocks a patchwork feel, making them look fragile and old.

Ayelet Linderstrauss Larson, in Embroidered Scribbles on a Page in my Notebook, took a page filled with some serious group theory and embroidered the inevitable margin art into the page.

Craft and fine art have been merging in recent years, due in part to a do-it-yourself ethos and a commitment by many artists to use found objects and environmentally sustainable mediums. The medium of fiber is broad, and contains not only thread and fabric, but also teabags. In Garden Variations, Ruth Tabancay fused hundreds of dyed teabags to make a tapestry. Other artists used nylon, wool, recycled plastic, pine needles and coffee straws.

A fabric can be made of anything, so long as, once made, it can be reformed or re-purposed.

The Fiberart exhibition, presented by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, will be on display until August 22nd.