On a recent Sunday evening, a group of artists gathered to paint – like they’ve done for weeks — each creating a finished product different from the other.
The art connects them, as does the man who brought them all together. His name is Tom Mosser, and he is a well-known artist, locally and nationally. Mosser owns Tom Mosser Art and he opens his studio to anyone who wants to paint—even if they’ve never lifted a brush. He believes everyone is an artist. All one needs is an opportunity.
Mosser gave nine people he met in various capacities a chance to express themselves in paint.
They are teaming together to host an exhibit showcasing their work. It’s called “Friends Who Paint Together … Show Together.” Join them at Mosser’s studio at 448 Butler St. in Etna from 6 to 9 p.m. on Satrday for a chance to see nine artists work in one settings.
Most of the paintings will be available for sale.
There will also be opportunities for other guests to paint.
The event coincides with Mosser’s studio fall open house. Mosser currently shares his studio full time with artist Andrea Echavarria, who also will be part of the show. A fixture at the studio is Mosser’s Labrador retriever Lucas.
“Sometimes being an artist is a lonely profession,” says Mosser, who has created paintings for professional football and baseball and basketball stadiums as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins. “So I am always happy to have other people around me who love to do what I do. We listen to music, collaborate and just have fun together. This is such an amazing group of artists that I hope everyone comes and sees their work. They are truly dedicated to the craft.”
Meet the artists:
Tom Mosser, Pittsburgh’s East End
Owner of Tom Mosser Design, Mosser creates paintings using sports equipment, car tires, and shoe bottoms. His collections have been featured in several National Football League stadiums, as well as Major League Baseball venues and basketball arenas. He also was commissioned to create a piece showcasing the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup championships. Mosser is ambidextrous and is known for his museum series which came to life from a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He noticed a “rather conservative women standing mesmerized in front of a hug and violent abstract painting.” So he came up with the idea to place a figure facing a piece of art. He began the project using his dog, Lucas.
Andrea Echavarria, Sewickley
Echavarria, who is deaf, has a cochlear implant, an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and provides sound signals to the brain. It’s allowed her to explore another world when it comes to her paintings. She spends most days working alongside Mosser, who inspired her to host a show earlier this year.
The recurring shapes in her art signify the cochlear implant, which allows her to hear things after spending most of her life in silence.
She’s now hearing loud sirens, dogs barking and the calm of her mother’s voice, which has inspired her ideas for artwork to help her express what she hears.
“I am so excited for this show,” Echavarria says, through an interpreter her mother, Laurel. “It has been fun to watch and see what other artists are painting. We have fun.”
Giovanna Bologna, Morningside
Bologna has enjoyed painting since childhood.
“I wasn’t really good,” she says. “I am not a Tom Mosser, but I love to paint when I have spare time. He got me back into painting.”
Mosser is caring, Bologna says, and he is always available to discuss art and offer tips and advice to artists. Painting has been a way to alleviate stress and take her mind off of challenges in her life. They listen to music while they create.
“We are not competing with him because we are far behind him,” she says. “I am so excited about the show, and I have been enjoying time at the studio.”
She says her work represents life experiences and shows there is always a silver lining. Things aren’t only black or white and you cannot have a negative without a positive.
“This has been such a wonderful opportunity to be part of this amazing group of artists,” she says. “I feel at home when I am with them, painting in the studio.”
Lucas Marsak, Shadyside
Marsak says he is inspired by both nature and a love of athletics as an ultra marathoner and swimming coach. He expresses himself through painting landscapes, which he brings to life in an abstract way.
He uses lots of colors and vibrant hues.
“Painting helped me through an injury,” Marsak says. “The process of healing came through my art.”
Having Mosser as an inspiration has opened doors for Marsak’s work to be seen and it motivates him to love painting, even if he can’t get to the studio as much as he would like.
“Tom has such an amazing vision, and he makes things happen,” Marsak says. “He makes you feel part of the community. This has been very spontaneous for me. I get here when I can get here. But I know this is a safe space, and I like to see what other people are doing and creating. This is a wonderful way to get to know people.”
Valerie Constantino, West End
Constantino loves creating abstract art. She uses a variety of materials.
“I use pretty much whatever is at my disposal,” she says. “I have known Tom for a long time and I would come by periodically to paint. When I paint, it de-stresses me.”
She says having a creative outlet like painting makes her life better and she loves seeing how much joy others around her get from painting.
“They share a part of their heart with what they paint,” she says. “There is no pressure to produce here. Tom enjoys having us here. We can bounce ideas off of him. There are no mistakes. If a piece doesn’t go as planned, then you try it again and different way.”
Brian Forristal, Lawrenceville
A U.S. Marine, Forristal says he is appreciative that Mosser opened his space for people who want to be artists. Some of his pieces have been created with strings, sometimes snapping them onto canvasses on the floor.
“I didn’t think I was creative, but I took a chance because of Tom and his belief in me. When I heard about the show, I was all for it. You can challenge yourself through the art that binds us. I am so proud of what I have created and to be able to share our work.”
Mara Lorusso, Blawnox
Lorusso describes her art as the combination of where abstract meets openness and movement. For anyone wanting to try art, she says “go for it and see what happens.” It’s a way to relax and express one’s creativity. Lorusso says she likes to mix colors, many of them bold. She doesn’t want just a black and white painting. She wants to add a pop of a bright hue.
The individuality of the artists has been fun to see through what they express on their canvasses.
“I had never done anything like this before, so it is nice to see other artists’ perspectives,” says. “I have made friends here.”
Tanya Dovidovskaya, North Side
Dovidovskaya connected with Mosser as a volunteer for Echavarria’s exhibit earlier this year. Dovidovskaya had never painted and Mosser handed her brush and pointed her toward a blank canvas. Her paintings reflect her mood, and most of them will have a touch of red, her favorite color.
She says this will be her first show, which makes her a little nervous, but having Mosser and the group there makes it a little less intimidating.
“I just tried painting when Tom invited me to try it,” she says. “The first painting I made I didn’t like, so I painted over it trying different techniques which Tom showed me.”
Gabriela Ortiz, Beechview
Ortiz started painting to help relieve life’s stresses. She says she enjoys painting humanity, people she knows. Many of her pieces have a face to them, sometimes they reflect her as a child or other members of her family and at times, friends.
“If I can’t sleep at night, I get up and paint,” she says. “It relaxes me, and I get a painting out of it.”
Ortiz is inspired by scenes she sees when she’s traveling and often tries to re-create those images. When someone sees a painting he or she likes then that piece becomes theirs, Ortiz says.
All of the artists are talented and offer fresh ideas to each other during their painting sessions, she says.
Mosser, who is known to do self-portraits, including for a full year, inspired Ortiz to paint images of herself.
“When you look at yourself you see some things that are beautiful and some things that are not so beautiful,” she says. “It kind of depends on how you feel that day. I allow myself to embrace imperfection. What I paint is emotional to me. I love
getting messy with paint.”
Elisabeth Wheeler, Churchill
Wheeler found her painting inspiration by watching Mosser paint with balls and car tires. Her material of choice became kitchen utensils and wine bottles.
“I love pretty things,” she says. “A lot of people would never paint because they think they aren’t artists. But these individuals in this room are all really good artists.”
It is hard to always express yourself through your day job so painting is an outlet, Wheeler says.
“We are going to experience this show together,” says Wheelers. “It will be an amazing atmosphere. What an opportunity for all of us. Tom is the best sharing, not just his studio, but his love for painting and his passion for all of us to be successful.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.