If you're a stranger to these strange and glorious lands and have time for just one cultural activity, do not hesitate to make it a visit to In the Making: 250 Years/250 Artists, at Lawrenceville's Fe Gallery. If you're lucky enough to call yourself a local, you could ask for no better introduction to creative types who share your county. And if you're a diehard supporter able to recognize the works of Rick Bach from across a gallery, and converse knowledgeably on the current crop of CMU grad students, the show is an incredible reminder of how diversely brilliant the Three Rivers artistic community is.
While "250 Artists" connotes one work per person, and "250 Years" refers to how old this magnificent city is, this exhibit isn't an overview of the region's artistic history. The majority of the works shown were created in the past few years, though the oldest — Penny Mateer's quilted piece "#2 Things We Found At Our Parent's House" — dates from 1968.
The exhibition encompasses painting, photography, sculpture, encaustics, etching, prints, woodcuts and video. Materials include papier-mâché, steel, wax, thread, staples, sheepskin, motor oil, pearls and that old standby, cat hair. Styles veer from one extreme to the other, with the whole glorious shebang in between. As much as "something for everyone" is often more warning than enticement, it's a positive here. This is as good as it gets, and that's without grading on a "412" curve.
Give yourself plenty of time, as the walls of this storefront gallery are crammed. Some highlights: David Grim's digital print "Through Your Jaundiced Eye" will likely set you twitching (in a good way) before you've even read the title. "Candle Flip Book," an artful contraption of steel, photo and wax, entrances and leads me to believe that creator Wade Kramm could actually be the man to build the better mousetrap. Paul Roden's ink-on-paper work, self-explanatorily titled "Rocks in a Canoe," finds beauty in simplicity. "Barefoot in the Kitchen," Joyce Werwie Perry's encaustic, is stirring and evocative. "Saint Emily Dickinson," Bob Ziller's portrait, is everything religious painting should be, and maybe everything religion should be as well. (Opinions expressed are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of Pittsburgh City Paper.)
More than anything, this exhibit showcases Pittsburgh as a vibrant, thriving place for art to be born in and, surrounded by an extended family of loving, caring, nurturing types, grow up strong and healthy to take over the world without filling out a change-of-address form. It will make you proud to live here and perhaps compel you to make an appointment to get a tattoo of your Zip code.
It will also make you want to buy the works of every artist represented and pay their student loans — also good ideas, but impractical for most. But the best part might be that the gallery has assembled an awesome catalogue that will allow you to feel like one of the Carnegies even if the closest kinship you can claim is frequenting their library. Get the catalogue for your own, as well as for holiday gifts for expats and out-of-towners unfamiliar with what Western Pennsylvania has to offer. Don't miss out on the limited edition. And don't, under any circumstances, miss out on the show.
In the Making: 250 Years/250 Artists continues through Jan. 10. Fe Gallery, 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-860-6028
- Sight-specific: David Grim's "Through Your Jaundiced Eye."