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Pittsburgh Society of Artists exhibit gives smaller works a platform

Most in the know about visual art in Pittsburgh are well aware of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the region’s oldest — not to mention, the country’s second-oldest — visual art organization. But many still don’t know there are several other similar groups in the region, including the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.

The Pittsburgh Society of Artists has been in existence for 45 years. Currently, it is the largest art guild under the umbrella of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. There are approximately 300 member artists, whose work reflects all visual-arts media, and a variety of artistic levels, and like the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, it is an organization that celebrates regional art and artists.

“A main goal of the PSA is to facilitate its artists with exhibition opportunities as well as educational opportunities in and around the Pittsburgh region,” says the group’s exhibition chair, Eva Trout. “In the past few years, the guild has undergone change, as a variety of new artists have joined, and interest has surged.”

Reflecting that change, the show “Small Art Works,” a Pittsburgh Society of Artists sponsored exhibit, is currently on display at Borelli-Edwards Galleries in Lawrenceville.

This exhibit was open to all regional artists living within 150 miles of Pittsburgh. Joy Borelli-Edwards, owner of the galleries, juried the exhibit, choosing award winners among the 55 artists who are exhibiting, many of whom have two works of art in the show. The exhibit had no other criteria except a maximum size limitation of 14 inches in any dimension.

Like Trout’s own works “Transcend” and “Staccato,” encaustic and mixed media pieces respectively, much of the pieces on display incorporate several mediums.

Trout views encaustic, an ancient hot-wax painting technique, as a medium that opens doors for new ideas in combining paint with collaged elements.

“I love the layering and qualities of color that the medium offers, which allude to realities that are not physical but spiritual or emotional,” she says. “Transcend” is particularly spiritual and illusive, much like a dream. And “Staccato” is more related to rhythm and dance.

Like Trout, Carol Skinger combined mediums to produce two collage-like pieces to great effect. So much so that one of her two pieces in the exhibit — “August Wilson Homage” — received an honorable mention and both pieces were purchased at the opening.

“In the August Wilson piece, I included the building where he grew up as the primary image, and the Carnegie Library in Oakland as the secondary image,” Skinger says regarding the photomontage-like piece. “He went to that library to read and read after dropping out of high school when he was wrongly accused of plagiarizing a 20-page paper on Napoleon. Eventually, the Carnegie Library in Oakland gave him his high school diploma, and he is the only one to ever have received a high school diploma from the library.”

In her other piece, “Rachel Carson Homage,” Skinger incorporated an image of Rachel Carson’s homestead in Springdale with images of coal burning smoke stacks there. The piece addresses a current environmental battle involving new scrubbers proposed by owners of the RRI Energy plant in Springdale that would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions but increase lead and mercury emissions.

“High school students, among others in the region, in Springdale have even gotten into the act and have mobilized to demand a better solution — so that is a current news story that I have to think Rachel Carson would have to be proud of,” Skinger says.

The remaining works are not as pointed, but just as compelling. First-prize winner Robin Richards’ “Earth Mother,” a hand-colored photograph of a figurine, offers an intriguing image of the female form. Another photograph, George Kollar’s “Thorn II,” a sepia-toned photograph of a thorn-covered stem, presents nature in its most raw form.

Others used traditional mediums in unique ways, such as Daniel Kuhn’s “Brackenridge Avenue Ceramic,” porcelain “rock” emblazoned with a photo decal of a decaying steel mill. And Duane Cacali offers up a piece in a whole new medium. His “Shooting Star” is an abstract “digital painting” that proves there are new horizons for painting.

There are many more interesting and exciting works on display. But you’d better act quickly to see them. The show closes Saturday.

Additional Information:

‘Small Art Works’

What: Artworks no larger than 14 inches in any dimension by members of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists

When: Through Saturday. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays

Where: Borelli-Edwards Galleries, 3583 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Details: 412-321-6816 or Web site


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