Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pittsburgh Weekend Art Events: 4/1-2/11.

c. David Grim (taken 3/19/11)

I almost can't believe that we've made it to another First Friday this fast. Naturally Unblurred is the focus of art-related activity this weekend, but as always during this time of the month- there is a lot to see and do.


The Geek Art/Green Innovators Festival will be held for the second time ever. One destination among many is the Union Project in Highland Park, and the open house they are holding all weekend to highlight the potential of its physical facilities. Check out their site for a full schedule of events.

The aforementioned festival is apparently a big part of Unblurred this go round. Visit the various venues up-and-down Penn to see all kinds of works and events. As far as Unblurrred is concerned, Steve Ehret has "Buried by Daisies" at Modern Formations (4919 Penn), and he is joined by assemblage artist Ron Copeland. Unfortunately I couldn't find any listings for the rest of the venues.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself downtown, stop by to see the Shaw Galleries' "Beauty-Strength-Reflection" (805 Liberty Ave.). The show features "five perspectives on the female form", and its reception runs from 5:30-9PM. And Jim Shearer is presenting his Pirates-themed work with "Opening Day: Yinz Luv 'Da Buccos", and a reception at Wildcard (4209 Butler St) from 8-10PM.


Shervin Iranshahr, an iranian-born artist born in Pittsburgh, will have a reception for his gothic realist paintings at Gallery 4 in Shadyside (206 South Highland Ave). "Demons and Deities" will start at 7PM.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Of True Sacrifice.

c. David Grim (taken 3/19/11)

Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Rioting in the streets. Oil spills. Escalating national debt. A continuing assault on the Middle Class. Welcome to 21st Century life... and the big question is how to deal with it all. If you don't already have kids, you might want to think about forgoing the pleasure. Personally I'm grateful for the my son's presence in my life. But it keeps things simpler if you don't have any dependents. Pure hedonism is only an ethical option if you have not forged close relationships that you aren't willing to sacrifice.

Apparently though, there are lots of folks willing to hunker down and look after their own at the expense of everyone else. That seems to be the predominant strategy among our nation's wealthy and corporate class. I suspect that if you could see into the minds of the people that have benefited most from the political organization of our country (and by extension, the world), you would learn that they have no hope (and really, little desire) that things can get better for the "masses". And that's just the type of impersonal outlook they have cultivated to justify their lack of concern for the plight of their fellow man.

Most of us are too busy trying to figure out how to ensure the continued existence of ourselves and our loved ones to have a choice. We don't have the option of quietly blaming the inherited system as we luxuriate among our many possessions. So many of us seek to direct our resentments and bitterness toward individuals, whether they be Wall Street manipulators, oil barons, CEO's of media conglomerates, or simply the very rich. After all it's a natural impulse to try to find the responsible parties and seek redress from them. Unfortunately the law is not on the side of the victims when the gears of society are co-opted by moneyed interests.

So here we are, post-Citizens United, and things are looking increasingly bleak. It's easy to see how the millenarians are divining the "end of the world" as they look around and see the current state of affairs. At least the faithful have the reassurance of a heaven, whatever that entails. For those without the received confidence inherent in divine intervention, our path is less clear. What we have is what we get. We have to make the best of it as we stumble along. We are minuscule in the face of large, impersonal forces, perpetuated by specific individuals who would never accept credit for the current conditions. Whatever we contribute, in the face of such adversity, is true sacrifice.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pittsburgh Weekend Art Events: 3/25-26/11.

c. David Grim (taken 3/19/11)

Sure. You could be forgiven for hibernating at home for one more weekend. After all, it is going to be unseasonably cold. But that's just the thing- it's "unseasonable" because it is indeed officially Spring! So get into the spirit and see what the local arts scene has to offer...


The Mattress Factory has had Gestures shows for years now. The North Side museum gives over space to mostly local artists and their installations. The 15th exhibition in this series (7-10PM) includes work by Will Giannotti, Wendy Osher, Garry Pyles, and others. It does cost $10 to get in, but likely includes access to a free beer or two.

Meanwhile, Melwood Filmmakers (4700 Melwood Avenue, Oakland) is showing the photography of Annie O'Neill from 6-8PM. Her series of 30 images documents folks who have worked in their profession for at least 50 years, and presents them in uniform. This reception is free (and recommended).

If you have a strong taste for photography, you can check out Silver Eye's very first Juried Member Exhibition (6:30-8PM). Curator Darren Ching looked at 1000 images from 100 artists working all over the world and chose work from six of them- Susan A. Barnett (New York, NY); Hope Guzzo (Laurel, MD); Nic Lyons (San Francisco, CA); Leigh Merrill (Dallas, TX); Monika Merva (Brooklyn, NY); and Stephen Strom (Sonoita, AZ). The gallery is located at 1015 East Carson Street.

And stop by Modern Formations (4919 Penn Ave.) on either Friday (7-10PM) or Saturday (8-11PM) to see the creative work of artisans from Specter Studios (located in Sharpsburg) . They were given raw latex masks and invited to come up with original designs.


"Ladies' Choice" is opening at Artform Gallery & Tattoo (2603 Leechburg Rd., Lower Burrell). The show is meant to celebrate "Support Women Artist Now Day", and features female creators from all over Western PA, including Terri Perpich, Vanessa German, Lauren Toohey, Steph Scullio, Laura Petrilla, Lauren Musulin, Sam Thorp, Tamra Jutting, Tiffany Babinsack, Mia Donna Maneer, Christiane D, Jen Spisak, Mahala McWilliams, Anne Michelle Lyons, Masha Fikhman, Katie Moran. Stop in between 7 and 11PM.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Charles McNair, "Land O' Goshen".

c. David Grim (taken 2/19/11)

So you're wondering what it's going to look like when the Christian Reformation is established in the United States? For one possible depiction of this possibility you need look no further than Charles McNair's "Land O' Goshen". The author has created a world where roadhouses serve tall glasses of milk instead of alcohol, and women learn their place once again. It's every Christian fundamentalist's dream, wherein all individuality is finally stripped away and compulsion is utilized to get everyone ready for the Kingdom of God.

Fourteen-year old Budd, is our tour guide through this nightmarish milieu. He's an orphan who has decided to shake up the new order by donning an outfit made out of roadkill fur in order to scare the living daylights out of the bullies that have taken over. Obviously McNair is not overly preoccupied with realism. If you are going to be put off by demands for suspension of disbelief, then you should give this a pass.

But if you are looking for a surprisingly lively romp through a hellish, fanatically-inspired, dystopia, look no further than "Land O' Goshen". It certainly delivers. McNair's descriptions of life on the margins during truly trying times are both entertaining and fascinating. Buddy spends a lot of his time off the beaten path in the wilderness, hoping to avoid confrontation with the hyper-violent Christian Soldiers who actively seek to cleanse their Earthly domain of non-believers. Still the fervor and repression of the new regime seeks him out, and eventually find him. I guess it's inevitable that our narrator finds and loses paradise, but Buddy's time in the woods with a new girlfriend sparkles with with wonder and sweet light.

This is a short, fast-paced ride, and regardless of how you respond to the author's philosophical outlook- you are not going to be bored. McNair's power of description invites the reader into this dangerous environment, and his skills as a storyteller enable a genuinely immersive experience. While it's true that at the end of it all I had a slightly unfulfilled feeling, I do believe that's it's preferable to leave 'em wanting more, rather than bludgeoning the audience with tedious exposition that aims to edify at the expense of entertainment. After all, this is a form of fantasy, no matter how bleak its surface.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pittsburgh Weekend Art Events: 3/4/5/11.

c. David Grim (2/18/11)


Yay. Not only is Unblurred this weekend, but it's the last one of the cold season. That makes me happy.

"Worlds Away" is billed as a photographic series featuring Robert Eisenberg and Lindy Hazel. It's at Modern Formations (4919 Penn) starting at 7PM. Eisenberg offers photojournalism, while Hazel makes Gothic-inspired imagery.

ImageBox (4933 Penn) has the collage work of Richard Schnapp, while Lauren Toohey & Steph Scullio show their bird images at Most Wanted Fine Art (5015 Penn), and are accompanied by music courtesy of Grand Snafu. And if you are in the mood for a reading, stop in (6PM) at Awesome Books (5111 Penn) to hear Amir Rashidd read from his book "Blood Call".

Or if music is more your thing, you can catch the Celtic-inspired Sgt. Early's Dream at the Pittsburgh Beautification Project (7-9PM), while you see artwork by Dean Cercone, Bob Ziller, and James Shipman. At 9PM, you'll hear the acoustic stylings of Ivory Weeds.

Meanwhile Gallery Chiz (5831 Ellsworth Ave.) will show a retrospective of the work of Shadyside-based artist Peter Calaboyias. Apparently he has a notorious wall sculpture at the Pittsburgh International Airport. I don't recall it, however, as I haven't flown in an airplane since 2000. Check out the full range of his work from 5:30-8:30 PM.

And some of the galleries downtown (Future Tenant, Space Gallery, and 709 Penn) are once again scheduling their openings to compete with Unblurred. Go down there and struggle for parking, if you will.


I always have the best intentions to go to the Annual Black Maria Film Festival at Melwood Filmmakers. But every year I find a good excuse not to attend. This year is no different. I'm going to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Kelly Strayhorn (it's sold out, so don't get any ideas). Well, this cutting edge traveling film series is in its 30th year, so won't someone please plan to show up on my behalf? It starts at 7:30PM.

And the Brew House in the South Side (2100 Mary Street) is having its first opening in many moons from 6-9PM. It has been shut down for awhile due to building code violations. But thanks to a small grant it will be featuring an opening for participants in the Distillery 5 program. The work of Aimee Manion, Meghan Olson, Jaci Rice, Kara Skylling and Ryan Woodring will be included.

Oldtime Digging Pitt alumnus Deanna Mance is having an exhibition of her work at Boxheart (4523 Liberty Ave.) in Bloomfield. Show up for "The Dead Engineer" between 5 and 8PM for the reception. And if you find yourself in Squirrell Hill during that time slot instead, stop by the Christina Frechard Gallery (5871 Forbes Ave.) for the work of Annette Poitau.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thinking Out Loud.

c. David Grim (taken 2/12/11)

I've been relatively inactive on here lately. But I have a good reason to be down to only a few updates a week... I'm addressing professional continuing education requirements. I found myself about sixty hours short of where I need to be, so I enrolled in a cyber course. I'm taking a class in storytelling. By that I mean "the oral tradition". In other words I'm learning how to tell a tale out loud in an engaging way. It seems counter-intuitive to believe this could be taught effectively online, but what are you going to do? I was very curious, so I paid the $250 and got underway.

So far... so good. I'm actually having fun with the writing prompts. That was one of my positive expectations for this course, so I'm glad I haven't been disappointed. It's been both extremely easy and entertaining. I guess I have been exercising the parts of my mind that the material requires to be done well. Sure, it feels good to know that I've developed a skill.

Perhaps I'll post some of my work here. I'll just have to review it first and determine how well it stands up online, and do any editing that needs to be done. As I've said, I enjoy this kind of work. I wish I had a clear idea of what that meant for any potential career I might choose to pursue. Because if I did, I'd have started that particular journey. I'm ready to do a lot more writing. It would certainly be motivating to be able to figure out a way to get paid in the process.