Ligonier exhibition promotes artists from 19 Southwestern Pa. counties
Featuring 62 works in a variety of media created by as many artists, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Council for the Arts 21st annual Regional Juried Art Exhibition offers visitors to the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Ligonier a chance to take the creative pulse of the region at the moment.
The group held its first exhibit in 1996 in an effort to promote and support visual artists living within the 19 counties that make up southwestern Pennsylvania. Since then, the exhibit has become known for featuring a vast array of talent from the area in a variety of mediums.
The works on display, as well as most of the award winners, were chosen by West Virginia artist and West Liberty University art professor Robert Villamagna, who says he chose works that were “well crafted in their execution and presentation.”
To that end, the best of show prize went to Joseph Schildkamp of Greensburg for his landscape painting “Chroma Passage.”
“I enjoy taking whatever is my selected subject and treating it with an arbitrary approach that might reinterpret color, space, texture, and other elements of design,” Schildkamp says of the piece. “This acrylic piece is based on a photo I took while on a bike trail ride along the Youghiogheny River. I’ve taken stylized liberties with the physical nature of the picture elements to create an interplay of color and imagery that is truly subjective.”
As subjective as it may be, most viewers will likely react positively to the vibrant colors that comprise the piece.
Likewise, the same can be said of “City Streets,” a vibrant abstract pencil drawing in primary colors of red, blue and yellow by Kathleen Kase Burk of Ebensburg, Cambria County.
“I’ve been working with grids and geometric patterns for a while now,” Kase Burk says. “I called this piece ‘City Streets’ because it reminds me of European cities, where none of the streets are regular grids because they just grew organically. And the colors remind me of Scandinavia.”
Also going off the grid, so to speak, an untitled sculptural work by Duncan Everhart of Alum Bank, Bedford County, commands attention in the center of the main gallery.
Resembling a seed pod, the piece is made of yellow pine plywood, which, as Everhart is quick to point out, was a challenging organic form to create out of flat sheets of plywood.
“Woodworking tends toward square corners,” Everhart says. “The challenge of working with different angles and trying to represent organic forms like a seed pod is intriguing. I explored the space between square and organic, experimenting with different shapes at a large scale.”
From large works like that, to small intimate pieces, such as “Bridges on the Mon,” an etching by Tom Norulak, this show is long on variety.
Norulak, who lives in Forest Hills, has been creating etchings of Pittsburgh for several years now and “Bridges on the Mon” is one of his most recent.
“It is a photo transfer etching on a zinc plate and comes from a photograph I took while hiking on the bike trail on the South Side,” Norulak says. “What impressed me most was the alignment of the bridges looking downriver on the Monongahela River.”
Etched with nitric acid, the piece was printed in sepia ink on buff paper to give it an “old-time photograph look,” Norulak says.
“My Girl, Gone” by Kim Curinga of Nottingham Township, Washington County, is a real standout piece, not only because it was created digitally, as a photo manipulation, but also because of its sentimental value.
“The reason for the piece ‘My Girl Gone’ was the loss of my 15-year-old German shepherd, Kelsey, last August to cancer,” Curinga says.
“Walking in the woods was something we did daily for hours, and was the best times we had together,” she says, which is why the artist is depicted holding a black and white photo of Kelsey, with a forest behind her.
Curinga says the piece symbolically moves from color to black and white for a reason. “It (symbolizes) her leaving,” she says of the piece that is “my tribute to my best friend.”
Children are a favorite subject for portrait painter Diana Williams of New Florence, but since they aren’t inclined to sit still for very long, she says she is always snapping photos, hoping for the perfect composition.
About her oil painting “Cousins” she says, “I captured this moment on a sunny day when my granddaughter and her cousin were looking out at the wooded area beyond them. The sunshine backlit their golden hair as I called them to look at me. It seemed like the type of image viewers would enjoy.”
The remaining works are just as enjoyable in the expansive exhibit, making it well worth seeking out.
Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic.