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2 artists blend their works in Westmoreland exhibit |
Art & Museums

2 artists blend their works in Westmoreland exhibit

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Opposites Attract: Kathleen Mulcahy & Sylvester Damianos at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art on Nov. 1123, 2016.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
“Tidal” by Kathleen Mulcahy on display for Opposites Attract: Kathleen Mulcahy & Sylvester Damianos at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art on Nov. 1123, 2016.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
“Urbanscape Four” by Sylvester Damianos on display for Opposites Attract: Kathleen Mulcahy & Sylvester Damianos at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art on Nov. 1123, 2016.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art is closed today, March 21, due to inclement weather. Shown here is “Forest Vision” by Sylvester Damianos from a 2016 exhibition in the museum.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
“Vapors” by Kathleen Mulcahy on display for Opposites Attract: Kathleen Mulcahy & Sylvester Damianos at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art on Nov. 1123, 2016.

“Opposites Attract,” currently on display at Westmoreland Museum of American Art, is a complimentary display of two distinctly disparate bodies of work by two seasoned artists from our region, Kathleen Mulcahy and Sylvester Damianos.

Mulcahy, who lives in Oakdale, creates sculptures in glass and metal, while Damianos, of Edgewood, prefers wood as his primary medium.

Though the materials may have their obvious contrasts, the works flow together seamlessly in this magnificent exhibition.

Mulcahy agrees. “Syl’s and my work look great together,” she says. “I liked working with Syl very much. From the first moment we met and started working together to create an exhibition with flow.”

Whereas Mulcahy has always been a glass artist — she has been creating works of art from glass and mixed media for five decades — Damianos has had a dual career in art and architecture since the 1960s.

“He made it fun,” Mulcahy says about working with Damianos on this exhibition. “He made a precise model with windows and asked me to print out some tiny photos of work to slip into his model so we could arrange walls and figure out where each artist should have their work.”

Both artists allowed themselves the chance to play with the right arrangements.

“We picked colors together for the long walls,” Mulcahy says. “I like the deep gray and he complimented it with the lighter gray. Then Lou, his wife, picked the vibrant panel colors and they really gave the show a kick. So much so that I had the painters change the facing panel in my space to the cinnamon so it would marry his exhibition to mine.”

“Each of us have works we will never part with that are here,” Mulcahy says. “And we spent several years making work specifically for this show.”

Having a masters of fine arts in glass sculpture and three-dimensional design from Alfred University in Western New York, Mulcahy directed glass studio programs at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh then went on to develop the Pittsburgh Glass Center with her husband and partner, artist Ron Desmett.

Her work in this exhibition ranges from a selection of pieces from her “Vapors” series from 1992, all the way to works from the present day, such as “Murmur II” and “Eclipse II,” which were completed this year, specifically for this exhibition.

For his part, Damianos says of the overall display, “The balance of transparencies and solids was a great opportunity to reveal how we both interpret and reflect our interest in nature.

“Reflections, shadows, layers, subtle shapes and natural images are common in our works,” he says. “Although Kathleen and I have known each other on a casual basis for years, we were looking forward to this rare opportunity. … We eagerly shared ideas, conceptualized the space, selected colors — and certainly agreed on all matters.”

From early pieces, such as a small concrete model he once created for a public sculpture placed in Uniontown, to shadow-inspired wood works, like “Forest Vision” which was thoughtfully installed in this exhibition, Damianos’ works reveal a dynamic range.

“I would hope that visitors make the connection with the evolution of my work,” Damianos says.

Damianos received a bachelor’s in architecture, with honors, from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and was a Fulbright Scholar at the Technological Institute of Delft, the Netherlands. Following his internship and association with Celli-Flynn, Architects and Engineers, he co-founded his first firm, Damianos+Pedone, in 1967; it transitioned, over the years, to become Damianosgroup.

“My architectural, construction and mathematical background allows me to experiment, problem solve and create without limits.” Damianos says. “Because my home studio/shop is quite limited in size, all sculptures must be developed in small units; the connections between units are critical design parameters as the frames, interlocks and supporting structures are vital parts incorporated into each piece.”

This is most evident in “Winterscape x 100,” a massive work from 1976 constructed of 100 pieces of white enameled wood that typically hangs behind the couch in the Damianos’ living room, but has been reconstructed here on a gallery wall.

Damianos says he chose works that reflected a personal evolution of design and materials; from reinforced cement, enameled and lacquered wood, shaped canvas, aluminum, steel to his current preference of working in hard woods such as American black walnut, cherry, mahogany, oak and poplar.

“Working with wood, especially walnut, has been most exciting since it is suspenseful, surprising and satisfying to, as George Nakashima (Japanese-American furniture maker, 1905-90) put it so eloquently, ‘give new life to a tree.’ ”

It’s worth noting that both artists were selected as Westmoreland Museum of American Art Exhibition Award Winners from Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual Exhibitions in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Barbara Jones, chief curator at the museum, says she held off until now to display their works together.

“This is really the first time we’ve been able to show large work in here, and this exhibit really shows what this gallery was designed for,” says Jones, in regard to the newly built cantilevered gallery where this exhibition is housed, which is part of a $20 million renovation completed a year ago.

Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic.

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