Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pittsburgh Weekend Art Events: 7/15-17/11.

c. David Grim (taken 6/21/11)

The seasonal Downtown Art Crawl has come around again, and I don't see any rain in the forecast. That gives me reason to believe it's going to be crowded.


Robert Raczka is "guest-curating" Drawn in a Day at Space Gallery. For this, Raczka has chosen 12 artists (or teams of same) to create works directly on the walls, right through the opening reception. With the crowds that these crawls attract, this has the potential to get a bit chaotic.

Garfield staple Jason Sauer is poised to roll out new work at 929 Liberty Avenue. The promotional notice I've read says that instead of demolition car parts, Jason has used bicycles to make this latest batch of mixed media works. It's being put together by the Moxie Dada folks, and it's good to see them active once again in the local scene.

Meanwhile the August Wilson Center for African American Culture has print works by dead local hero Romare Bearden and Wood Street Galleries has a collection of work by Icelandic artists. Stephanie Armbruster's paintings are at the 709 Penn Gallery. Plus you can still catch the journalistic work of one-time Pittsburgh Press photographer Alan F. Reiland (1927-96) at the Shaw Galleries (805 Liberty Ave.).

In Lawrenceville at Wildcard (4209 Butler St.), you can visit the opening reception for Insert Coin To Play: Pinball Life (6-9pm). A new neighborhood-themed pinball machine created by Andy Scott will anchor the display of a collection of pinball-themed art. There's supposed to be some kind of tournament too. Proceeds (improbably) benefit Bike Pittsburgh.

Y'now, last time they came around I missed the Pretty Things Peep Show at the Rex Theater. My general aversion to all things South Side kicked in, and I couldn't bring myself to make the trip on a Friday evening... when things in that part of town get as close to unbearable as seems possible. Still this tempts me, especially when I look at these... Anyway, it starts at 9PM and costs $15 to attend. And if you make the effort to brave Carson Street, stop in at the Brew House (2100 Mary Street) too for the opening (7PM) of a show by Jorge Luis Santana.

Or if you love birds (which I don't), go to the Mattress Factory for the "Stray Birds Sunset Full Moon Performance", with "bird musician" Michael Pestel and Butoh dancer Taketeru Kudo. It's almost guaranteed to be better and less silly than it sounds. Or it could be gruelingly pretentious. That would be a shame. I don't know when it starts because the listing I saw omitted that crucial info.

And then, of course, there's always Braddock... with its shabby-chic art offerings. A collective called BrokenDayton Art Machine appears at Unsmoke Systems. Nicholaus Arnold, Ian Breidenbach and Ashley Jonas are included, and the group plans to bury a time capsule at the closing, to be held on July 22... and if you go, you're supposed to bring something to put in there. The Opening Reception is this Friday from 6-10PM.


Stop by at Lili Cafe in Polish Hill (3138 Dobson Street) for a rare late night (6-8PM) at the shop, and a reception for "Low Key", featuring the works of a talented pair of local artists, Victoria Cessna and Laura Jean McLaughlin.


The Polish Hill Arts festival begins at NOON. There will be authentic Polish food, kids activities, artist tables, and bands... this year they include Timbeleeza (Brazillian samba drumming), The Panther Hollow String Band (old-timey country), Bridgette Perdue (singer-songwriter), Lungs Face Feet (Cumbrian-influenced brass band), FOOD (rock), and Moldies and Monsters (oldies covers).

And if you have the time, you should stop by at Morose & Macabre's House of Oddities and Miss Hush Present: The Return Of Subculture Vulture Counterculture Flea Market (Whew!). This event runs from 2-10PM at 4013 Butler Street. Its organizers are advertising "New & Used clothing and wares, art, crafts, and food from the underground". Plus there will be DJ's.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fair Play

c. David Grim (taken 7/4/11)

I don't have any specific overnight trips on my itinerary this summer, I've certainly made the effort to make the most of my leisure time. Yesterday I made my second visit to the Big Butler Fair in two days. Advertised as the largest in Western Pennsylvania, the fair provides an assortment of traditional offerings.

I really wanted my son to experience this phenomenon before it's gone forever. Certainly these shindigs are still well-attended, but in this fast-changing world nothing is a certainty. Kids today seem much more interested in playing video games online against their friends than milling about the fairgrounds on the edge of town. And I do think that E. enjoyed himself. In the petting zoo, he'd run up and touch the animals and shrink back. I don't think that he particularly loves animals, but he does like to challenge himself.

He also likes the duck pond, pizza, and ice cream, and he sampled all of those. But I hope the highlight of his trip (besides riding on Daddy's shoulders, of course) was the sideshow. I was "shocked and amazed" to find this attraction off the midway, with its large banners advertising the wonders inside the tent. There was a bally platform, a talker, and a gathering tip. Awesome!- even more so because it was unexpected. This show is owned by Ward Hall, and is one of the last traveling side shows in the United States. I was positively pleased to discover it so close to home.

Upon entrance, the onlooker encounters a series of museum style cases (looking a bit rough from the road, no doubt) with wax mock-ups of some of the coolest human oddities ever displayed- Grace McDaniels the "Mule-faced woman", Percilla the Monkey Girl, Johnny Eck, and (of course) John Merrick. There was also an assortment of furry-friend freaks including an array of two-headed mammals.

Obviously the main draw would be the performing acts, of which there were a number of in this particular grind show. The fire-eating hottie, the "elderly" sword swallower clad in a kilt, and the buxom broad with a bullwhip were all featured. It was good wholesome fun for me and my son. And the BEST part of all? They let me take LOTS of pictures, and even catered their performances to my camera. You just can't ask for that type of individualized attention from a Playstation (OK... well maybe that's not quite accurate, but you know what I mean).

Finally there wasn't just one, BUT TWO (!) Bozos to knock into their tanks. One was apparently on the AAA circuit, but the provocateur just inside the entrance of the West Gate (where we entered) was definitely a professional. He was more low-key than the one I saw as a kid (and the one Gary Busey seemed to model in Carny), but he had a great goofy little laugh, and a bit more edge than the young guy down the midway.

I enjoyed everything so much with E. that I felt compelled to return the next day with a friend for the Demolition Derby. While seating was less than desirable in the hot sun, it was an essential piece of Americana not to be missed and I wouldn't have been able to resist its pull, even if I had meant to.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Day Among the "Madding Crowds".

c. David Grim (taken 6/26/11)

Even though I have little to no interest in baseball, my friends recently talked me into going to a Pirates game. I grew up with a father and brother that venerated sports, and I spent time collecting baseball cards and following the exploits of my favorite players. But after college I lost any interest in spectator sports that I had once had. Although I'm generally aware of updates to The Philadelphia Flyers (hockey), I find watching the stuff tiresome.

But my friends were going to PNC park with "Standing Room Only" tickets. This prospect appealed to me because I'd get the chance to walk around and explore the stadium with my camera. And the added benefit of this option was the price ($12 after fees). For awhile I tried to help claim the space in front of a rail in Section 130 with my physical presence, but I got bored and didn't really want to watch the game. I took a few action shots of the players and moved on in search of interesting ballpark food. Good luck with that.

There are lots of concessions throughout the stadium, but most of them offer conventional fare that you'd expect, and thus it's not very enticing. I selected one of the contenders for the "hometown sandwich"-- pulled pork on a roll with two boiled pierogies situated on top. There was some brown substance adhering to the top bun in the hands of the consumer in front of me, and I requested mine without the mystery sauce (I later found out it was a "mushroom marmalade", and discovered that I'm not nearly as adventurous as I believe myself to be).

I spent more than an hour wandering around snapping photos. The crowd was extremely homogenous- white, suburban, and wearing the trappings of athletic activity. When I got tired I sat out in an open air concrete section with picnic tables overlooking the river and the bike path that runs along the north bank of the Allegheny. The lax security guy (middle aged and slumped) was keeping an eye on me. I guess it's not so common to see a man sitting out there taking the sun alone.

My friends wanted to stay until the last pitch was thrown. I prayed to avoid extra innings (Ok... that's an exaggeration- I don't pray, I beseech the fates). And then it was over and things were as they should be. I was walking in the city with the anticipation of seeing my shots from the day, and enjoying being away from the madding crowds.