Archive for November, 2009


Art Department Field Trip

West Liberty University art students and faculty at AIR.

A few weeks back some of the WLU art faculty and students took a field trip to Pittsburgh. Our first stop was Artists Image Resource on Pittsburgh’s North Side. AIR creates learning environments for artists, students and the community primarily through Its Open Studio/Open House/Open Study Initiative. AIR’s educational programs and artists’ projects come together to create a platform for the community to engage in all aspects of the art process. Through various innovative events and exhibitions AIR provides many opportunities for the community to be part of the creative process. By inviting visitors to take part in art making, art viewing and collaborating in the hands-on creation of work, AIR supports the community while engaging and challenging its members.

AIR has a 10,000 square foot facility includes an Intaglio (etching) shop, a Lithography shop, a Screenprinting shop, a Digital Imaging lab, exhibition and archive spaces. AIR provides a resource for work in relief, intaglio, lithography, screenprinting, digital imaging, photography, bookbinding, papermaking, letterpress and other related arts.

Examples of work created at AIR.

Another work example at AIR.

WLU students screen printing at AIR.

Wall of prints at AIR.

WLU art crew in front of Shepherd Fairey print outside of AIR.

Detail of Shepherd Fairey print.

Following our tour at AIR we headed to the Andy Warhol Museum to view the exhibition, Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand. Also at the Warhol was the exhibition SuperTrash, which showcases a selection of sensational movie memorabilia, giving viewers the opportunity to explore depths of meaning through an unpredictable fermenting of images, symbols, and designs. It is an art exhibition comprised of more than 200 carefully-chosen posters in varying format and scale from the 1930s through the 1980s, that mills together classic cinema, predatory grindhouse, and X-rated exploitation.

Reflections in a window across from the Warhol Museum.

Fairey print across from the Warhol.

Padgett shows off his souvenir from the field trip.


Catherine Butler

Loose by Catherine Butler

It was my  pleasure recently to bring artist Catherine Butler to the Nutting Gallery at West Liberty University. Catherine’s show, titled Curious Sightings, was an installation of 82 individual jewelry pieces. Catherine created a series of brooches that were mounted in groupings on the walls of the gallery.  As a viewer entered the gallery they were greeted by what looked like small specks on the wall.  Upon closer inspection, the viewer discovers small worlds or scenes, mostly figurative in nature, but others abstract. The gallery had four distinct wall sections on each long side, and one section at each end, each section contained its own thematic grouping.  Some groupings were scattered across the wall section, others were more regimented and linearly arranged.  Catherine worked with the ideas of microcosms and also vast endless dream space depicted on a small scale.  The individual brooches were in the approximate size range of 2” – 6”.  She made all the wall mounts for the pieces, and these were painted to match the walls making them as invisible as possible.

The work was a continuation and melding of several recent directions in Catherine’s work, including mikromegas, collage wall brooches, micro-macros, and botanical works. The pieces were made of combinations of metals, incorporating paint, colored epoxy. pearls, and other materials.

Catherine talks with a couple of West Liberty University students at her exhibition opening.

Catherine is an Ohio artist and studio jeweler who mixes humor and beauty in her interpretations of figures, flora and fauna.  Her work can be found in the collections of Die Neue Sammlung, Staatliches Museum fur angewandte Kunst, Design in Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, on permanent loan from the Danner Foundation, Munich, Germany; and of The Ohio Craft Museum in Columbus.  She is the recipient of two Individual Artist’s Fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, and various other awards.  Her work has been shown in exhibitions and galleries around the world and featured in magazines, and in books including: THE ART OF JEWELRY DESIGN by Deborah Krupenia, and in a virtual exhibition at  She has taught as Adjunct Faculty in Metals in the Art Department at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and given workshops in a variety of venues including the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh.  Catherine currently teaches art at Laurel School for Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio and works in her studio in Cleveland Heights.

Transfixed by Catherine Butler

Transfixed (silver and copper).

A portion of Catherine Butler's installation in the Nutting Gallery

Catherine was great to work with and she has a great laugh! That wonderful laugh became a part of the exhibition each day as a Catherine discussed her work via a five minute video.

Falling Awake by Catherine Butler

Catherine greets gallery visitors with her signature cheese & veggie tray.


Assemblage Workshop


Stephen working on his assemblage at SCC.

    This past weekend I taught a two-day assemblage workshop at Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh. Presenting contemporary art in craft media by international, national and regional artists since 1971, the Society for Contemporary Craft offers cutting edge exhibitions focused on multicultural diversity and non-mainstream art, as well as a range of classes, community outreach programs and a fine retail store. SCC is located at 2100 Smallman Street in Pittsburgh, PA’s Strip District.


Lisa adding "shoulders" to her assemblage doll made of a potato ricer, watering can, and a 1940's era cloth "head".


Sydney, the youngest member of the class, working on an assemblage version of herself using a variety of recycled materials.

    Pittsburgh’s Strip District, located on the Allegheny River at the north-east corner of the Golden Triangle,  was formerly occupied by warehouses and railroad installations. It is now the city’s wholesale market center and is a scene of lively activity in the early morning and forenoon, especially on the weekends. The Strip contains a variety of restaurants, shops, and street vendors, as well as the Wholesale Produce Terminal, the largest wholesale vegetable market in western Pennsylvania.

Lisa, Stephen, and myself having lunch at Enrico's Biscotti. The pumpkin linguini is delicious!

Lisa, Stephen, and myself taking a lunch break at Enrico Bicotti in the Strip.

    Two of the students and I grabbed lunch at Enrico Biscotti Company. We shared pumpkin linguini, greens and beans, and veggie marinara. Wow! Sooooo delicious! And on the way out we had to buy a few pastries. Hey, working on assemblages takes a lot of calories.


Renae, mother of Sydney, forming an armature for her bottle cap scarecrow.

    On a recent trip to Africa, Renae had taken photos of a large figure covered in plastic beverage bottle caps. She decided that she wanted to do something similiar (although a bit smaller) and use the finished work as a scarecrow in her backyard to hopefully ward off ground hogs.

    SCC has an arrangement with The Priory Hotel, enabling Chris and I to spend the night. A remodeled Benedictine monastery, The Priory Hotel is a boutique  hotel  located on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. The Priory has 24 rooms and business suites. Complimentary evening beverages are served, and continental breakfast and free parking are provided. The hotel is conveniently located near shopping, museums, and parks. That evening, Chris and I walked about six blocks to Legends North Shore, a small restaurant with great food and wonderful service.


The Priory, a Benedictine monastery turned into a hotel.


Entrance to the Priory.


Day II: Sydney and her "mini me", two-thirds complete.


Lisa's "doll" gives a new life to a variety of household items.


Stephen with his completed "mobile home".


The other side of Stephen's "mobile home".



Big Rocks and Deer Crossings

raising ken's stone

Setting one of the stones into place.

    Two of my friends, artists Priscilla Roggenkamp and Keith McMahon, recently completed an installation for Galion Community Hospital in Galion, Ohio. Priscilla and Keith worked with artist Ken Arthur to create a garden space titled Body, Mind and Spirit.  Each of the three artists played a part in the design of the work: Priscilla created body (cast bronze), Keith created mind (steel),  and Ken, spirit (copper).  This was a new venture for the three of them.  Though Keith and Priscilla have collaborated (without doing serious harm to each other), having Ken Arthur) as a collaborator brought a fresh perspective to the mix and lots of technical know-how.  

    The stone is sandstone from the Killbuck, Ohio area. Atop the three stones are the three individual works. The proposal was accepted in August of 2008, and they spent nearly a year designing and creating the work. Below are two of the artists standing proudly next to their work.

Priscilla with

Priscilla with her sculpture, Body.

Keith and piece

Keith and his piece, Mind.

Body Mind Spirit #001

The completed installation.

    I was excited to receive word from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History that my piece, Deer Crossing, was awarded a Governor’s Award in the 2009 West Virginia Juried Exhibition at the Huntington Museum of Art. The exhibit features art works in the areas of painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, mixed media and crafts by 74 artists. The exhibition will remain on display through Jan. 17, 2010. 


Deer Crossing, by Robert Villamagna, printed metal, plastic, nails, MDF.

    The 89 pieces of art in the exhibit, including the award winners, were chosen by jurors Julie Taggart, professor, dean, fine arts and foundation studies at Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio, and Vince Torano, professor at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich. They also selected six non-monetary Honorary Mention awards. Taggart and Torano viewed more than 375 submissions to select the show. The awards money is made available through the West Virginia Commission on the Arts (WVCA) of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History from funds appropriated by the West Virginia Legislature. The awards constitute one of the largest endowments for any single juried exhibition in the country.

There are three Governor’s Awards of $5,000, one of which is designated as the D. Gene Jordon Memorial Award, after the former chairman of the West Virginia Commission on the Arts who died in 1989. There also are seven Awards of Excellence of $2,000, all of which are purchase awards, as are the Governor’s Awards, and at the close of the exhibition these works will become part of the West Virginia State Museum contemporary art collection. In addition, there are eight Merit Awards of $500 which do not become part of the museum’s collection. 

     From its inception in 1979 until 2005, the West Virginia Juried Exhibition was presented at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. In 2007, Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner of the WVDCH, decided to have the exhibition travel to Parkersburg, sharing the best in art with yet another community in the Mountain State. “One of my goals has been to touch every part of our state with outstanding cultural events. We are delighted to have the opportunity to expand our outreach to the community by placing the West Virginia Juried Exhibition 2009 in Huntington,” he said.

    “The Huntington Museum of Art has enjoyed working with the outstanding leadership at the Division of Culture and History to bring this exciting exhibit to the Huntington area,” added Layne.  The Huntington Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Tuesday; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. 

    The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state.

    And since I am on the topic of deer crossings, I could not help but notice a graphic in today’s USA Today. It listed the five states with the highest chances of hitting a deer with an automobile. And they are:

#5….Montana….1 in 104

#4….Iowa….1 in 104

#3….Pennsylvania….1 in 94

#2….Michigan….1 in 78

and #1

(Drum roll please!)

West Virgina

1 in 39!

     Yes, ladies and gentlemen, West Virginia is once again “numero uno”! And honestly, based on the number of deer I see on my drive to and from the college each day, it is no surprise that we are leading the nation in deer strikes. I try to drive carefully, because it is so dangerous both for the driver and the deer. Sometimes you see them walking out onto the highway, but other times they seem to dart out from nowhere.                                                                                                                         . Watching deer from our back deck is a lot less stressful than viewing them through one’s windshield.   Each evening, and again in early morning, about a half dozen deer stroll through our back yard and I continue to be awe struck by their gracefulness and beauty.




Pittsburgh Public Schools Friends of Art


The students made me feel like a rock star!

    On October 30th I met with a group of Pittsburgh public school students at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The young ladies were there to to interview me regarding a piece of my work that is part of the Pittsburgh Public School collection. The students asked in-depth questions and really probed me about my work. In addition to the piece in the collection, we also discussed my current work in the AAP Exhibition which is in it’s final weeks at the Carnegie. These artist interviews are a project of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Friends of Art. Here is a questionnaire that I was asked to complete prior to my interview.

Questionnaire for Pittsburgh Public Schools Friends of Art Collection

  1. What inspired you to make the work in the collection?

Each year I attempt to create works for specific exhibitions such as the AAP Exhibition. In 2008 I had created a work titled Union Leader, a piece based on Abraham Lincoln, to enter into the AAP show. Since artists are invited to enter two works, I started sketching a few cartoon-like heads in my sketchbook as a basis for a second entry. Through the magic of several pounds of flattened product containers and several hundred nails, one of those sketches morphed into Laughing Man with Green Hat. It’s funny how things work out in the art world, because Fearless Leader did not make the cut for the AAP show, but Laughing Man did. So I guess what really “inspired” me to create this work was a combination of my constant desire to make new work and my wanting to be a part of the AAP show at the Warhol.

  1. Why did you choose this media for the work?

I love working with metal cans, found objects and materials. There is something about taking this stuff and giving it a new life, a different life, than the one for which it was originally intended. In this piece I used printed metal from various product containers (“tin cans”), metal signs, and metal doll houses. I divide these materials up into groups based on color and value, similar to what a painter does with a palette. In addition to the great colors that the metal provides, I love the various textures that are the result of text, patterns, and images that might printed on the surface of the metal. This gives my finished work additional depth, and at the same challenges me to make good visual decisions. I love that challenge.

  1. Do you work in other media at other times? Why?

When I am not working with cut metal or found objects, I may  be found working in collage. On occasion I also work in various paint media, drawing  media, and hand built clay. Working in a variety of media keeps me on my toes, keeps my creative juices fresh.

  1. Can you put the message of the work in the collection into words?

The message is have fun, be creative, laugh, and reflect on the past occasionally.

  1. Do you generally have a particular focus to your work?

I must say that about 50% of the time I do have a particular focus, while the rest of the time I work in such a way to give the piece an opportunity to “design itself”.

  1. Do you have another occupation to support making your artwork?

Yes, I am an Assistant Professor of Art at West Liberty University in West Virginia. I teach 2D and 3D design; sculpture; painting; and crafts. I often say that I teach for 8 months so that I may make art for 4 months.

  1. What would you tell young students about being a professional artist?

I am not sure if you mean “being” as in one becoming an artist, but I will answer it that way first. Make as much art as you can. Draw, draw, draw! Regardless of the direction of your art or media, I feel drawing is the foundation, the core of making visual images. Keep paper, a sketchbook, a journal nearby at all times. Get your ideas down on paper even if you work digitally. For every minute you spend text messaging, spend equal time drawing and you will be GREAT! Look at a lot of stuff, not just art, but eveyrthing. Really look at your surroundings. Look at the world. Pretend you have arrived here from another planet and you are seeing this world for the very first time. Go to art exhibits, zoos, galleries, small towns, museums, big cities, woods, rivers, and places where artists work. And keep making art. As for me being an artist, I will refer to a quote I love by Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs. Artists just show up everyday and work.” It is the second part of that quote that I am really referring to here.

  1. Why are you an artist?

Good grief! How could I be anything else? It seems to be in my blood. Seriously, I feel I have been an artist all my life even though I have had to do many “non-art” jobs. During those periods when I was working at other occupations, I still kept art making an active part of my life. I worked for 13 years in a steel mill, but I was always drawing, always making some kind of art when and where I could. I painted steelworkers helmets sometimes. During lunch breaks I used spray paint to create a series of huge portraits in a mill building called the stock house. The portraits were of my fellow workers, and that part of the building became known as “the hall of laborers”. It was this kind of activity that kept me sane in an environment that was not conducive to creativity. Making art is so satisfying. I love making art, seeing art, looking at books about art, talking about art making with other artists. I still get excited walking into a gallery, art museum, an artist’s studio or even an art materials store. These places pump me up. My exposure to them makes me want to go back into the studio and make MORE ART!

Green Hat 08

Laughing Man With Green Hat by Robert Villamagna, purchased for the Pittsburgh Public Schools Friends of Art collection in 2008