Posts Tagged ‘West Liberty University Art Department


6 X 6 X 6

P1020487 - Version 2    Last week was the opening of the Art Faculty Exhibition at West Liberty University’s Nutting Gallery. This annual event, which  takes place every January, has a different theme each year. For example, last year was The Dog Show, and in 2013 it was The Meat Show. This year the exhibition was titled “6 X 6 X 6”. Work entered in the show could be any subject or media, but each piece could be no larger than six inches in any direction.

Members of the art faculty vote on the next exhibition theme about eight months in advance, so we have plenty of time to consider the theme and build a new body of work. Last September I began thinking about how I might address the theme, but I did not actually begin work until our winter break in mid-December. Since size (limit of six inches in any direction) was our only controlling factor, I felt this was a time I could playful and and just have fun with it.

I purchased a sheet of 4’x8′ finished 3/4″ plywood that was primed on one side. From this sheet I cut forty 6″x6’squares. A few days into this project I increased the number of wood squares to sixty. As I began covering the wood squares with metal, paper, paint, and other media, the process reminded me of the pages of a sketchbook

A sketchbook is a book or pad with blank pages for sketching, and is frequently used by artists for drawing or painting as a part of their creative process. The content of sketchbooks usually falls within two broad categories: Observation and Invention. Observation focuses on documentation of the external world of the artist, while invention follows the artists’ internal journeys as they develop compositional ideas.

The sketchbook I created is made up of sixty wood “pages”. Each 6”x 6” page contains images in a variety of media. Like a traditional sketchbook, many of these pages are a documentation of the world as I see it or have lived it. These pages include such things as my childhood heroes, or various stories from my life. Other pages explore the creative process, and are nothing more than rough sketches of an idea that may be developed into a larger, more refined work down the road. Here, as in any sketchbook, they all mingle into one big visual salad.


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NYC Art Trip 2014


On the Highline!

On the Highline!

On March 19th I made my 16th trip to NYC with students and faculty from the art department at West Liberty University. I was joined by faculty members Lambros Tsuhlares and Moon Jung Kang, and nine students: Brady, Abbie, Ryan, Lucas, Emma, Hanna, Josh, Richard, and Dillon. This is the second year without our buddy, colleague, and professor, Paul Padgett. He was truly with us in spirit.

The main purpose of the annual trip is to experience as much art as possible in four days, and pack it in we did! We were blessed with a safe road trip and a several days of sunshine and moderate temperatures. We arrived at our hotel around five pm, and following a short break we headed to the Garment District to visit the studio of photographer Rick Burda. Rick, a still life photographer, creates images for advertising, design and editorial clients. Rick kindly spent about two hours with us discussing his work.

Nearby Rick’s studio we stumbled upon the Last Rites Gallery, which exhibits work by artists who prefer to explore the darker side of contemporary surrealism. The gallery shares space with Paul Booth’s Last Rites Tattoo Theatre. This combination makes for a very unique gallery experience.

At Last Rites Gallery.

At Last Rites Gallery.

The remainder of our evening included a stop at Times Square and then on to the fabulous Strand Book Store. The entire second floor of the Strand is devoted to books on art, design, and photography. It’s difficult to leave the Strand without finding something to take back home.

Early Thursday morning we walked the Highline Park, a linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. This structure has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, something I always thought would be an awesome purpose for the Bellaire Bridge that spans across the Ohio River.

Cynthia Haller at Stephen Haller Gallery in Chelsea.

Cynthia Haller at Stephen Haller Gallery in Chelsea.

The Highline Park threads it’s way above the Chelsea neighborhood, which has the highest concentration of art galleries in the city. Many of the galleries begin opening at 10 AM, and we spend most of our day visiting as many as we can. While visiting the Stephen Haller Gallery, co-owner Cynthia Haller gave us a “behind the scenes” tour of the gallery and some additional insight into the work of artist Nobu Fukui.  At around 4 PM we leave the Chelsea galleries and head to OK Harris Gallery in Soho. OK Harris usually has six to seven exhibitions going on at any one time, and the work within rarely disappoints. Later that evening we visited the New Museum which is only a few blocks from our hotel.

Remembering the Padge at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Remembering the Padge at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Friday morning we joined the rush hour mob on the subway as we headed up to Central Park. Our first stop was Strawberry Fields where we took a few moments to remember Paul Padgett, aka Prof. PP. We grabbed another train to 96th Street and walked westward across the park to the Museum of the City of New York. Here we viewed the exhibition City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection.

Martin Wong, an East Village artist and collector of graffiti art, amassed a treasure trove of hundreds of works on paper and canvas—in aerosol, ink, and other mediums. The artists, including Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000, were seminal figures in an artistic movement that spawned a worldwide phenomenon, altering music, fashion, and popular visual culture. The exhibition  includes over 150 works on canvas and other media, along with photographs of graffiti writing long erased from subways and buildings.


A second exhibition within this museum was Rising Waters, Presented to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Rising Waters draws on work submitted by over a thousand photographers, both professional and amateur, who responded to an open call for images in the storm’s wake. The juried exhibition features striking before-and-after images of the hurricane’s impact on the New York region, including preparations, the storm’s destructive effects, and the ongoing rebuilding efforts.

After lunch we were off the Whitney Museum of American Art, mainly to see the Whitney Biennial 2014, the show I love to hate. This Biennial will be the last to take place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s building at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. While there were a few pieces in the Biennial I was able to connect with, most of the exhibition left me shaking my head and feeling that too much of it was dull and lifeless.


Now it was on to the MOMA where we fought the heavy “free night” crowd. Overall, students were pumped about seeing so many heavy-hitter artworks close up and in person. We gave the MOMA thunbs up as we headed to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner, a great wrap up to an art-packed day!

Saturday has come to be referred to as “do-what-you-want” day on our annual trip. Students and faculty broke off into small groups, each heading off to various adventures throughout the city. Lambros and I, along with a few students, walked across the Manhattan Bridge over to Dumbo in Brooklyn. Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a Brooklyn neighborhood tucked between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Tradition is to begin our Dumbo morning at Jacques Torres for a rich hot chocolate or mocha, and then onto several galleries and book stores. As luck would have it, many of the galleries were not open or between exhibitions. In addition, Powerhouse Arena, one of our book stops, had a clothing show event and there were no books to be had. Bummer!

On the Manhattan Bridge.

On the Manhattan Bridge.

After a super grilled cheese sandwich at Little Muenster, Lambros and I caught the train back across the East River to our hotel. We decided to check out a Red Grooms installation in a gallery on Bowery, and we discovered six more galleries in the neighborhood. This was a pleasant way to spend our last evening in NYC before heading back to WV in the morning. It was another great art trip to NYC, and with a four day window of good weather! Here are some more images from our visit:



The Dog Show


This past week the Nutting Gallery at West Liberty University opened the annual Art Faculty Exhibition. This exhibition is one I have always felt privileged to be a part of ever since I began teaching at WLU. This year’s exhibition runs January 22 through February 13, 2014. Art faculty members exhibiting are Sarah Davis, Brian Fencl, James Haizlett, Martyna Matusiak, Moon Jung Kang, Nancy Tirone, Lambros Tsuhlares, Neal Warren, and myself, Robert Villamagna.
Each year the Art Faculty Exhibition features a theme and this year the art faculty selected the theme of “dogs”. The dictionary defines dog as a domesticated carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, and a barking, howling, or whining voice. The works in The Dog Show cover a wide range of media including drawing, painting, mixed media, digital, construction, printmaking, photography, and installation. The art faculty worked their fingers to the bone in preparing for this exhibition, and it has proven to be a doggone good show that is worth barking about.
Having a new theme for the exhibition each year does a number of things. It brings a freshness to the annual exhibition, it challenges the members of the art faculty, and it shows students how a diverse group of artists each approach a single problem or idea, each in their own unique way and in a variety of media. Below, I have attached a series of photographs of the exhibition and opening reception. For additional information about The Dog Show or other exhibitions at the Nutting Gallery, you may contact me, Robert Villamagna at 304-336-8370 or at


The Ann Weber Project

In 2009, Chris and I spent 8 days in San Francisco. We had a wonderful visit, and for me it was my first return after having lived there as a pre-schooler. We stayed at the Parc 55 Hotel, near Union Square. Just off the elevator were two large basket-like sculptures. Chris asked me one day if I had looked at them, and I assured her I had. “Did you see what they are made of?”, Chris asked. “Ratan….. or some kind of basket  material,” I replied. “No”, Chris replied, “Cardboard!” NOW she had my attention! I suddenly took a new interest in these ‘baskets’!

We took several photographs of these sculptures, with the  possibility of creating a project for my Design II. or Sculpture classes at West Liberty University. For some reason I let the whole idea get pushed to the back burner, and forgot about it.

Then this past December I was planning projects for my spring Design II.class, and I ran across the photos of the cardboard sculptures. I decided that the first thing I needed to do was see if I could find out the name of the artist who created these pieces. After just a short time Googling various key words, I found the creator! California artist Ann Weber! Here are a few words describing Ann and her work, from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on line:

Artist Ann Weber, a delicate woman, relies on some indelicate tools: a $25 Arrow P-22 stapler from Ace Hardware, a box cutter, shellac and loads of cardboard pulled from trash bins. Weber cuts cardboard into strips and staples pieces together until forms take shape. Sometimes the shapes are primal, looking like pods and seeds. Sometimes they are woven or coiled abstract figures. Sometimes they are smooth, elegant and towering shapes, resembling members of a wedding party awaiting a portrait.

“I was drawn to the challenge of making beauty from something so common and ubiquitous as cardboard,” said Weber, whose path to creating sculptures from cardboard began with her first pottery class in the 1970s, “I’m from the Midwest, where the saying is we can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Weber’s works range in size from 12 inches high to 16 feet tall. While some of her pieces are finished in bronze or fiberglass, most are plain cardboard preserved and strengthened with shellac. She fishes around trash bins near her Emeryville loft for much of the cardboard, she said. She has come to see the difference in cardboard made in different countries, and looks for cardboard faded in uneven ways by the sun.

I shared Ann Weber’s story with my Design II. class, along with images of her sculptures. After planting that seed, the students put pencil to paper and worked out their ideas. From that point on the studio was a flurry of cut cardboard, and the air was filled with the sound of clicking staplers. While most of the students did use staplers, a handful did the project using a hot glue gun. On behalf of the Design II. classes, and myself, I would like to thank Ann Weber for both her inspiring sculptures and her words of encouragement regarding this project. Here are the results:

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The Big Head Project

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In early October, my Sculpture I. class and I embarked on what came to be known as the “Big Head Project”, aka The Headline. Each student picked a celebrity and based on that character, created a large, paper mache head that would be worn in the annual Fantasy in Lights Parade in downtown Wheeling, WV. We had six weeks in which to design, build, and paint our heads. The students did a great job on a project that took a lot of time, sweat, and energy. Here is a slide show of our project from it’s start and right up to the parade. This project was created at West Liberty University.


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.