Archive for January, 2010


One Mellon Center Show

Cheryl Harshman giving my grasshopper (Kung Fu) the thumbs up at One Mellon Center.

I currently have an exhibition at One Mellon Center in Pittsburgh, a satellite space of the Society for Contemporary Craft. The exhibition runs through March 14, 2010. My friends, Cheryl and Marc Harshman, recently visited the show and sent me a few photos to “prove it!” Cheryl is a mixed media artist, fiber artist, story teller, author, and is the head honcho at West Liberty University’s Elbin Library.  Marc Harshman is a poet, children’s book author, story teller, and all around word ninja! Below are the rest of the photos that Cheryl and Marc were kind enough to share with me.

Marc Harshman along with some work in the show.

Two birds stare one another down.

22nd at Smallman (All work in this exhibit is behind glass, which explains the reflections in these photos.)

A close-up shot of You Big Baby.

Recently Wheeling designer Art Mancuso celebrated the birth of his new grandson, who’s last name is Roth. Instead of passing out cigars to mark the event, Art gave out candy bars! While these candy bars may look quite familiar, one needs to take a second look at Art’s creative touch.

Art Mancuso's slightly altered candy bar wrapper.


West Liberty University Art Faculty Exhibition 2010 (part 2)

View from Eternity, installation by Paul Padgett; in foreground is Breathe Deep by Lambros Tsuhlares.

The West Liberty University Art Faculty Exhibition opened Wednesday evening, January 20. Six full time and three adjunct faculty members responded to the theme of “buildings” with over 50 works of art. The work covers a wide range of media including installation, video, photography, digital, paining. printmaking, sculpture, collage, assemblage, and painting. The opening reception drew a large  crowd, with strong attendance by both the off-campus and campus communities.

Alberti, Palladio, and Brunelleschi by Brian Fencl.

View of the gallery showing the work of Nancy Tirone, Lambros Tsuhlares, and Robert Villamagna.

Castles in the Sky by Nancy Tirone.

Digital work by Moonjung Kang.

Retired by Robert Villamagna.

Bricks in the Wall by Lambros Tsuhlares.

Work by Paula Lucas.

Haven, a photograph by Neal Warren.

Another view of the gallery, showing works by Paul Padgett and Robert Villamagna.

Art students Joshua and Olivia view the exhibition.

Tin House by James Haizlett.

The WLU Art Faculty; from left, Nancy Tirone, Brian Fencl, Moonjung Kang, Paula Lucas, James Haizlett, Robert Villamagna, Paul Padgett, and Neal Warren. Not shown is Lambros Tsuhlares.

For more photos and info on the WLU Art Faculty Exhibition, please check out my previous blog entry.


West Liberty University Art Faculty Exhibition 2010

Tin House by Jim Haizlett (still under construction).

The annual West Liberty University Art Faculty Exhibition opens next Wednesday, January 20, with a reception from 5:30 to 7 pm.  Art faculty members participating in this years exhibition are Brian Fencl, Paula Lucas, James Haizlett, Moonjung Kang, Paul Padgett, Nancy Tirone, Lambros Tsuhlares, Nancy Tirone, Robert Villamagna, and Neal Warren.

Sunset by Paula Lucas

“Each year the Art Faculty Exhibition features a theme and this year the art faculty voted to follow the theme of “buildings”, says Robert Villamagna, Gallery Director. “The theme idea does two things. It brings a freshness to the annual exhibition, and it shows students how ten individual artists each approach a single problem or idea, each in their own unique way and in a variety of media.”

As Jim Haizlett considered the word “buildings” for the faculty show, he was drawn to the concept of simplified buildings, or the types of shelter that might be found in third world countries. For one of his pieces, he has constructed a full scale tin shack in the Nutting Gallery, similar to an actual structure that might provide shelter for a family of seven or eight people. He scrounged the tin and boards from the side of the road and from a rusty old shack on his family’s farm. His goal was to build the shack for less than $3.00, and to make it structurally sound enough to withstand the elements. After the show he will reassemble it at his home and use it to store equipment. “I admire people who can make something out of nothing,” says Haizlett. “I can’t imagine the conditions that some people live under, and yet, you see people finding bits and pieces of refuse and making a home out of it. I think everyone wants to have a building that they can call their own.” Jim Haizlett, Associate Professor of Art, teaches graphic design courses at West Liberty.

Jim Haizlett at work in wood shop

“The repetition and rhythms of windows have always intrigued me,” says Paul Padgett, Professor of Art. “My work, View from Eternity, is a series of silk screened panels that can be arranged in multiple variations to produce the effect of rows of windows in a building. The blue to white gradients create a feeling of deep atmosphere. The viewer may be looking out or in at the same time.”

Another work by Padgett is titled Frank Gehry’s Cocktail. “This digital collage was inspired by the Architect Frank Gehry’s Disney Center in Los Angeles,” states Padgett. “Here it is transformed into a whimsical concept for the interior of his Kitchen, complete with a counter top for a summer cocktail.”

Photographer Neal Warren is an adjunct faculty member. One of his photogrphs is titled Forgotten, and that title also becomes an underlying theme of Warren’s work. “My work will focus on aspects of buildings/architecture that typically go unnoticed, or may be looked at in a new way,” says Warren. “In much of my personal fine art photography, I try to challenge viewers to see the world just a bit differently. Still photography is uniquely suited to this end because it forces us to stop and examine a scene or moment in time in detail. This is something we tend not to do in the hustle of everyday life.”

Forgotten by Neal Warren.

“The theme started me thinking about Architecture,” states Brian Fencl, Associate Professor of Art, “and Architecture is the “Science of Building.” This started me thinking about the history of buildings, the tools needed, the teamwork involved and the toys we first build with. What has been enjoyable for me with this group of paintings is that I was able to use the theme to expand what I normally do. Often times we repeat ourselves as artists and using a theme is a way of injecting new ideas into our work,” says Fencl.

Brian Fencl working on a painting.

“I don’t always like the theme we come up with, but I do like the theme concept itself,” says Robert Villamagna, Assistant Professor of Art, “A theme causes me to narrow my focus by setting limits, and in turn, forces me to be more creative.” One of Villamagna’s pieces is an assemblage of a winged house on wheels titled The House Isn’t There Anymore. “I was thinking about houses that have been  torn down to make way for public works projects. These are houses that were once filled with energy, people, and pets; where families grew, friends were entertained, and holidays were celebrated. This piece is a kind of shrine to those houses that no longer exist, and the people who lived in them.”

The Bird in My Uncles Garage by Robert Villamagna

The Art Faculty Exhibition runs through February 11. All exhibitions at the Nutting Gallery are free and open to the public. The Nutting Gallery is open 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM weekdays; evenings and weekends by arrangement. For additional information contact Robert Villamagna at 304-336-8370 or at  More photos of the WLU Art Faculty Exhibition will be posted after the January 20th opening.


Whatever Works

The kitchen turns into a photo studio.

Sometimes you’ve just got to make things work even though you may not have the ideal conditions. I just finished some new works for our upcoming faculty exhibition at West Liberty University (it opens January 20) and I needed to shoot them for my website. I usually shoot my pieces outside or at school. My studio is a bit small, plus it is not heated. So yesterday  it was time to turn the kitchen into a temporary photo studio. It is not the best space for photographing one’s work, and all cooking comes to a halt, but for a few hours it works for a photo shoot. The piece on the table above can be seen in the photos below:

The House Isn't There Anymore, front view.

The House Isn't There Anymore, back view.

Like I said, the kitchen is not the ideal space for shooting artwork, but sometimes you just got to do whatever works. As artists we can get caught up in waiting for the ideal studio, the perfect materials, or the right equipment. All that does is prevent us from doing our work, which is making art. I believe photographer Jay Stock told me once that when he was first starting out he did not have a studio and had to turn his kitchen into a darkroom, and he made it work!

Our annual faculty exhibition usually has a theme, and this year’s theme is “buildings”. Faculty members submitted ideas and then we voted. (I voted for “meat”.) The buildings theme won. Below are two more of my building pieces, and the rest are on my website.

Dream House by Robert Villamagna

Turning On the House Lights, by Robert Villamagna


Did You Make Art Today?

A piece of mail art I made for my son, Jeremy, this morning.

My son, Jeremy, and his wife, Stacy, moved to Arizona this past August. I was kind of bummed out when they left. My wife suggested that I use my sadness about Jeremy having moved away and turn it into something positive, like creating mail art. It was a great idea! I have always loved making and sending pieces of correspondence art, but had done little of  it in recent years. I now try to send at least three pieces of mail art to him each week. I use some of the pieces to encourage him to make art himself, whether that be in the form of mail art, sketching in his journal, taking some photographs, or playing his guitar. The piece of mail art shown above is sitting on the mailbox now waiting for our postal carrier to pick it up.

Perhaps that is something we all need from time to time….. encouragement! I wonder how much more time we would spend on our own art if on occasion we received a piece of mail that said, “Did YOU make ART today?”.  And yes, I know we could send these messages of encouragement vie e-mail, but isn’t still fun (and rare) to find a real hand written letter, or better, a piece of hand made art, in your mailbox, encouraging you to keep pushing you own art? Hmmmm….. perhaps I should spread this around and send this same message to some art friends of mine.

Charlyne Yi (photo by Phil Konstantin)

With the extremely cold temperatures the past ten days, Chris and I have been catching up on films at the theatre and on DVD. On the big screen we have seen Avatar, Up in the Air, and Sherlock Holmes. Our latest Netflix DVD came in the other day, a mockumentary (also refered to as hybrid documentary) titled Paper Heart. In this film, Charlyne Yi embarks on a quest across America to make a documentary about the one subject she doesn’t fully understand: Love. Michael Cera becomes the object of her affection. (I first saw Cera when Chris got into watching the tv sitcom Arrested Development. We later enjoyed his performances in the films Superbad and Juno.)  Weaving together reality and fantasy, Paper Heart combines elements of documentary and traditional storytelling to get at modern romance. Paper Heart follows Nick and Charlyne on a cross-country journey as she interviews ministers, happily married couples, chemists, romance novelists, divorce lawyers, a group of children, etc.

Chris and I both enjoyed Paper Heart, even though we agreed that Ms. Yi was just plain irritating. Her reactions to  her interviewees comments on love were more like that of a uncomfortable seventh grader. However, Ms. Yi is in her early twenties, so her junior high-like responses got old quick. Otherwise, Chris and I found the film to be quirky, fun, and entertaining. I was curious about Ms. Yi and how she came to be a part of this film, so that evening it was off to the internet.

I read a few internet pieces on Ms. Yi, but the one I actually found interesting was her blog. In this particular entry Ms. Yi answers all those people who ask her advice on “making it”. She goes on to tell her story and you discover that this young lady has determination and guts. I was impressed with what she had to say about believing in herself and dealing with a truck load of rejection. Yi got little encouragement, but she was persitant. Although her words are directed towards acting and stand-up, one could easily see her statements crossing over to  the visual arts. If you are interested in what she has to say, check it out here. Now if only I had that kind of determination and belief in myself when I was her age. And while I still find the “film version” of Ms. Yi to be somewhat irritating, she has earned my respect for her focus and determination to do her own “art”.

Ms. Yi’s “advice” in her blog reminds me just a bit of the old Calvin Coolidge quote: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

And talking about persistence, did you make any art today?


Building a Rocket for the Cave of Lost Toys

Midway into the fall semester I was approached by John Hennen, adjunct professor/director in the theatre department at West Liberty University. John and his students were writing and directing a play called The Cave of Lost Toys. The play centers on a nefarious plot to hold captive all the old-fashioned toys and create a shortage and subsequent black market. The villain and his henchmen have threatened Christmas, and only a revolt can save the day. John asked if my sculpture class could create a group of large toys to use on the set. I presented the idea to my class and they were quite interested in taking this project on. We met with John, and set designer Meta Lasch, and discussed possible “big toys” that we could create.

We decided that we would design and build five circa-1950’s toys: a rocket, jack-in-the-box, rocking horse, robot, and a “plastic” toy soldier. Our budget was…. well, there actually wasn’t a budget. The theatre department did buy us some glue and tape, but about everything else we scrounged from either the theatre or the back of the sculpture studio. The sculpture class was divided into 5 “teams” of one or two students each. Here I will show you how one of the toys, the rocket, came to be.

Students Ryan and Cayla began with a sketch of the rocket and enlarged the sketch on a 4'x8' sheet of plywood.

Ryan begins cutting out one of the two rocket halves.

Finishing the first of two rocket shapes.

Cayla and Ryan have joined the two halves of the rocket, and now circular supports to strengthen and give form to the armature.

The quarter circles begin to give the armature shape.

Cutting and adding the quarter-circles is a slow process.

Additional quarter rounds are cut and installed.

Ryan begins attaching the wire mesh.

Wire mesh is placed over the entire armature to give the fuselage shape.

Old bed sheets are torn into strips, dipped in an Elmer's glue and water mix, and placed over the wire mesh.

Old bed sheets are torn into strips, dipped into a mix of Elmer's glue and water, and placed over the wire mesh.

Once the bed sheet covering is dry, Cayla and Ryan cover the form with paper mache.

Newspaper is torn into strips, dipped into the glue mix, and added one piece at a time.

After the paper mache is dry, the rocket is painted with a couple coats of latex paint.

Ryan begins giving the rocket a second coat of latex paint.

After several coats of acrylic paint, the rocket is ready to head to the stage.

I will add some photos of the other toys in a future blog. My thanks to all my Sculpture I/Art 260 students who put the time and energy into a great project: Ryan, Cayla, Tabetha, Yvonne, Courtney, Jenn, John, and Joshua.