‘Westmoreland Juried Biennial’ again gathers range of talent |
Art & Museums

‘Westmoreland Juried Biennial’ again gathers range of talent

Biff Rendar of Greensburg, 'The Door,' (2010), Photograph Westmorleand Museum of American Art Juried Biennial
Darryl Audia Jr. of Greensburg, 'Odds and Ends,' (2011-2012), Oil on canvas. Westmoreland Museum of American Art Juried Biennial.
Daniel Bolick of Export, 'Clarence Elkins: Sentenced to Life in Prision for a Murder He Did Not Commit,' (2011), Acrylic paint, latex and spray paint on canvas Westmoreland Museum of American Art Juried Biennial
Lynn Deppen of Canonsburg, 'Grove of Trees,' (2012), Acrylic Westmoreland Museum of American Art Juried Biennial
Robin Grass of Everett, 'In Memory of Larry Desmedt,' (2011), Acrylic Westmoreland Museum of American Art Juried Biennial
Kenneth Nicholson of Norvelt, 'Anders' (2011) Oil on wood Westmoreland Museum of American Art Juried Biennial

Now in its 10th year, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s “Juried Biennial” becomes larger and more diverse with each iteration.

And that’s a good thing, says the museum’s curator Barbara Jones. “There are a lot of new artists, a lot of new names,” she says of the current exhibit. “And it’s always interesting to see work by artists I am not familiar with.”

The juror for the 2012 Biennial — Kerry Oliver-Smith, curator of contemporary art at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville — gave the exhibit “a fresh set of eyes,” Jones says. It was Oliver-Smith’s job to select the 113 works on display by 101 artists from within a 150-mile radius of the Greensburg museum.

“This exhibition provides a rich opportunity to see the world in a different and refreshing way,” she wrote in her statement.

There are works in every imaginable medium, as well as encompassing a variety of subject matter. But even so, many pieces fall into familiar categories. For, as Oliver-Smith puts it, “Landscape provides the subject for an impressive body of work in the exhibition.”

Canonsburg artist Lynn Deppen’s “Grove of Trees” is a real standout. An imaginary landscape featuring a forest path winding around a grove of trees, it is painted in vibrant swirls of blue, orange and green. Deppen says the painting was inspired by her memories of “the shade and manicured area under the big old trees of a picnic grove as a kid.”

Portraiture is another subject that is the show’s strong suit. With its vibrant colors and splashy painting technique, the larger-than-life portrait “Robert McClendon” by Export artist Dan Bolick is a real eye-catcher.

The painting is of a man sentenced to life in prison for rape, from a series of 26 portraits of 13 different individuals Bolick created called “Resurrected: The Innocence Portraits.”

“These unfortunate people have served a total of 203 years in prison — 71 on death row — for crimes they did not commit,” Bolick says.

Another portrait on display represents many people in one face. “Anders” by Kenneth Nicholson of Norvelt is from his series “Brouhaha,” which consists of paintings of people from his community, especially those that frequent the local bar scene.

Nicholson says the portrait is actually “a composite of faces.” It’s an idea he says that came from “the idea of satire, where the main character becomes unimportant next to the underlying theme of the story.”

“Anders is smirking with a fat lip, unapologetic, he’s not hiding his black eye, yet, he’s dressed as if he came to impress everyone around him,” Nicholson says. “I would go to bars and see these false airs people had on in an attempt to cover up their insecurities and, at the same time, they put them on display for everyone.”

Nicholson says Anders represents the crowd “at their best and worst at the same time.”

Not a portrait per se, but the painting “In Memory of Larry Desmedt” by Robin Grass of Everett is a homage to “Indian Larry,” who was a biker, motorcycle builder and sculptor from New York who made elaborate sculptures from steel, brass and chrome.

“His work created classic iconic images of the American iron horse,” Grass says. “He adopted as his signature a question mark, which he felt was emblematic of both his life and his philosophy. His sculpture conveys both his sense of aesthetics and his philosophy into an image of raw power coupled with a sense of freedom. He died Aug. 30, 2004, and the world is diminished by his passing.”

There’s also a great deal of abstract work, especially in regard to painting. The nonobjective abstract painting “Odds and Ends” by Darryl Audia Jr. is of note for its strong composition.

Audia, who has been an art teacher at Greensburg Salem Middle School for the past eight years (right across the street from the museum), says of the piece, “I attempted to give the work both spatial calmness and internal tension. I also wanted the geometric parts to appear as though they belong together, even though they are separate and dispersed throughout the piece.”

Finally, photography is another medium well represented. Many are of the landscape variety, abstract or otherwise. One piece is unique for its incorporation of object and landscape. “The Door” by Biff Rendar of Hempfield is unique in that it looks like a Photoshopped composite image of a door superimposed on a field, but was literally made by propping up an old door in a field on the artist’s farm.

Also interesting to note, like many artists in this exhibit, this is Rendar’s first foray into exhibiting his work in a large group show like this.

“Other than my wife and a few friends, no one had ever really seen anything that I’ve done until October of last year,” Rendar says. “This is the first juried show that I have ever entered.”

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.