Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia


Making Moondog


Robert Villamagna and “Moondog” at thr Crosscurrents Exhibition, Stifel Fine Arts Center, Wheeling, WV.

My newest work is a portrait of “Moondog”, described by the residents of Wheeling, WV as an icon, a mascot, a protector, a cyclist extraordinaire, a legend, and keeper of all flags waving. The portrait is 36″x36″ and made of repurposed lithographed metal, highway signs, license plates, nails and screws on wood panel. Here are a few images to show how my portrait of Moondog came together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To view more of my work, please visit my website!


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.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.




Rogers is Bonkers on July 4th!

Selfie in the middle of the Rogers madness!

Selfie in the middle of the Rogers madness!

I had not planned to go back to Rogers only one week after my previous trip, but my son and a friend were interested in going. As sometimes happens, I ended up making the drive myself, all the time thinking I should be in the studio. However, Rogers was going gang busters and I did find tin and other materials.

Just a portion of the huge Rogers crowd.

Just a portion of the huge Rogers crowd.

I had never been to Rogers on July 4th, and what an experience! It seemed every dealer space was filled, and there were even dealers set up in grassy areas where I had never seen set-ups before. The people were shoulder to shoulder, and just walking at any more than a crawl was difficult. When you did see something you wanted to look at closer, you had to push your way in and push your way back out. Craziness!

A half dozen table into the flea market and this caught my eye.

A half dozen table into the flea market and this caught my eye.

The first thing I saw that brought me to a full stop was a West Virginia Centennial license plate topper. I looked at it, told myself I did not need it, and walked away. About 100 feet down the row I turned around, went back to the table where the WV piece was, and purchased it after a little haggeling. I knew this would not be going into any artwork, but something that would just look good on the wall.

If only all the cans were a buck!

If only all the cans were a buck!

I started finding a few tins here and there, some old, some new, but all with usable color or texture for future art pieces. Then I stumbled upon two plastic roosters in their original cartons! Oh joy! Now I think there is something funky about plastic roosters wearing their cardboard boxes. They were six bucks for the pair and ……drum roll please…… made in the USA!

What will my wife and I do with these critters? I have no idea. Coincidently, I am currently reading the book “Never Stop to Think….Do I Have a Place for This?”, by Mary Randolph Carter. This book is helping me realize that either I am not crazy, or that there are a lot of crazy people in the world just like me.

Two plastic Rocky-the-Roosters in my wagon! Ha!

Two plastic Rocky-the-Roosters in my wagon! Along with them are a few tins that will be going under the shear back at the studio.

Would you believe that while my wagon was parked in front of another dealer’s space that a woman tried to purchase them? The dealer almost seemed offended and quickly replied, “Mam, those are NOT mine!”. At another dealer’s space I was purchasing some metal and I came back to my wagon to see that one of my roosters were gone. Yes, GONE! I searched the ground quickly to see if it had fallen out. Then I notice a nearby six year old boy holding it and showing it to his mother in the hopes that she might buy it. I got my rooster back.

My regular breakfast stop at Rogers.

Now about this time I start getting hungry for breakfast and that means a stop at Paisano’s. If you read my blog with any regularity, you already know how much I like this pizza. It is the bomb! I lucked out, as it was fairly early and the line had not become too long yet. I got one slice to eat now and a slice to eat a while later. Oh yeah!

My mother taught me to always eat a proper breakfast while at the flea market!

My mother taught me to always eat a proper breakfast while at the flea market!

Deborah Butterfield knockoff?

Deborah Butterfield knockoff?

You just never know what you are going to see at the flea market. In this case, a kitschy version of a Deborah Butterfield horse. Please go to a museum and see a Butterfield piece FOR REAL!

The crowd grows bigger!

The crowd grows bigger!

I considered heading back to Wheeling after just a few hours because just getting through the crowd was getting difficult. It was actually becoming problematic to just get in and out of booths to look at things.

Waiting to be adopted.

Waiting to be adopted.

As I headed back to my truck I stopped to look at a few things, most of which I did not purchase. However, I did pick up a few highway signs from a dealer and these will find a new life back at the studio.

As I loaded the truck for the drive back home, I noticed this cute little trailer parked near by. Now, I was thinking, THAT is the way to visit flea markets!






I was 13 years old when I visited my first sideshow or “ten-in-one” at a carnival in Weirton, WV. I still recall all the acts that were in that show, and I recently decided to revisit four of those acts by creating a series of mixed media works for Oddities: The WLU Art Faculty Exhibition.

The barker was at a podium on a wooden platform in front to a huge tent. In front of him was a large spool of tickets. The tent was covered with illustrated banners showing us the wonderful oddities that we were about to see, as the barker kept repeating at the top of his lungs, “They’re ALIVE…..on the INSIDE!” Imagine, I thought, all this for only 35 cents!


To a kid, the bulldog lady did indeed look like her namesake. The barker spent several minutes telling the audience about the history of the bulldog lady. The climax came when the carnival barker removed the lady’s veil. For an extra ten cents we were invited behind a curtain to see her dog-like limbs.


The pinhead man had the most intriguing banner on the outside of the show. On the banner, his head came to a point similar to a pencil. Sharp! In person, he did have a pointed head, but it was a somewhat softer, smoother point, and a bit rounded at the top. I remember he looked sad, did not speak, and just stared into space. I felt bad for him, without really understanding why.


The world’s smallest policeman was just a little person (or “midget” as we said as kids) in a police uniform. I had my doubts that this was a real policeman, but this was the first time I had ever seen a little person outside of TV or the movies, so I thought it was still pretty damn cool.


The sword swallower started his act with a small sword not much bigger than a hunting knife. He demonstrated his abilities by using a series of swords, each one longer than the previous one. Before putting each sword into his mouth, the man would bang the tip of the sword on the wood platform to show us that it was real. To close his act, and as a way to quiet those in the audience who doubted his abilities, he put a long, yellow florescent tube down his throat. I still remember how his chest glowed.

Working with collage and paint was a nice switch from my usual studio work in cut tin and assemblage. I have been thinking of ways to combine my tin work with paint and mixed media, so perhaps this process was actually warming me up to go in that direction.


Altered Photo Workshop at MAD Festival

The 2012 West Virginia MAD (Media Arts and Design) Festival was held at West Liberty University on Friday April 27, 2012. As part of this annual, full day celebration of media arts, I taught three 0ne-hour mixed media workshops based on altered photographs. My inspiration for this workshop is the work of artist Alex Gross. I recently had saw the exhibition, Product Placement, at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea. As part of that exhibition, Gross included a series of altered cabinet photos, which were most excellent! Once workshop participants got into their work (play?), I was able to participate as well.

 Here is a slide show of the workshop in progress, and some of the resutlts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Meat Show

"If You're Happy and You Know It, Clamp Your Hams", by Robert Villamagna


Nutting Gallery at West Liberty State College is showing the annual Art Faculty Exhibition, “The Meat Show”, January 18 through February 19, 2012.. Art faculty members participating in this years exhibition are Brian Fencl, James Haizlett, Moonjung Kang, Paul Padgett, Nancy Tirone, Lambros Tsuhlares, Robert Villamagna, and Neal Warren.

Each year the Art Faculty Exhibition features a theme and this year the art faculty voted to follow the theme of “meat”. In this exhibition we are primarily focusing on meat as the edible flesh of animals, especially that of mammals. For the most part, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues. The result can be anything from images of meat to images of the Burger King and the musician, Meatloaf, or visual statements about the consumption of meat and vegetarianism.

The consumption of meat has various traditions and rituals associated with it in different cultures, which one may find among these works. The ethical issues regarding the consumption of meat, as well as objections to the act of killing animals, is also touched upon in this exhibition. However, the exhibition is not a “carnivores vs. vegetarians” debate, but rather eight artists exploring the theme of meat, each in his or her own way. The works in the Meat Show cover a wide range of media including drawing, painting, mixed media, digital, construction, photography, and video.

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.

Here is a slide show of the opening and some of the works in the exhibition.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Tunnel Books

In 2010 I visited the  exhibition Slash: Paper Under the Knife, at the Museum of Art & Design in NYC. The exhibition was wonderful and all the work was…. well, mind blowing! However, it was the work of Romanian artist Andrea Dezsö that really struck a cord with me. Her work contained thirty multi-layered painted and illuminated paper theaters, and she referred to these as “tunnel books”. Ms. Dezsö stated, “cut-paper scenes are arranged in expandable layers, creating a miniature theatre stage for presenting the narratives inside. My tunnel books reveal imagined worlds; scenarios arising from the subconscious, based on my personal experience—physical, psychological, spiritual, and the strange in-betweens; living in my body, in my mind, dreams, memories, and anxieties, hopes, obsessions.” You can see some examples of Ms. Dezsö’s work at at her website!

When I returned home to West Virginia, I thought about introducing these theater-like artworks into one of my future classes at West Liberty University. Tunnel books are made up of  a series of paper or cardboard sheets which stand parallel to one another and are viewed from one end. This “tunnel” or “peephole” book with a set of pages bound with accordions on two sides and viewed through a central opening. Openings are cut in all but the last sheet so that the viewer looks through the layers while seeing parts of each of them.

This past weekend I finally got around to creating my first two tunnel books. Book A is done in acrylics on Strathmore bristol; book B is collage on Strathmore bristol. (I plan to try 140# watercolor paper with my next tunnel book.) The photos that follow are not a step-by-step documentation of my procedure, but I did photograph a few of my steps, as well as my final results.

Drawing and cutting.

I began by cutting bristol board into eight 10″x 11″ sheets, four for each book. I believe Ms. Dezsö’s tunnel books were approximately 8″x 8″. I sketched my design on each sheet, and then cut out the negative space of each of the designs (but not the last page, which remains uncut).

This is page #1 of book A, cut and painted using acrylics.

Page #2 of book A, cut out but painting is unfinished.

Page #3 of book A, cut and painted.

Page #4 of book A, painted. Notice that the last page remains uncut. I eventually added a water tower to this scene.

Once my four pages were completed, I began to create the accordion connectors that would go in between each page.

I attached two accordion pieces to each page of the tunnel book. I made these by cutting 4″x 10″ sheets, folding it, and attaching the 1/2″ folded ends to each page. I used hot glue as a way to save time (I wanted to get these examples done in time for a Monday class), but Elmer’s white glue or an acrylic gel medium would work well.

Starting with the last page, I began attaching the accordion pieces to the left and right edges of the page.

Here is a closer look of one of the accordion connectors.

Here I am adding page #3 to page #4.

Here is the nearly complete tunnel book.

Book A complete!

I decided to make my second tunnel book using a collage approach. I began book B by cutting out a diver from an old swimming suit magazine ad.

Swimmer cut from vintage magazine.

Here is page #2 of book B, pre-cut, edges painted, and awaiting the attachment of the swimmer.

Book B, almost complete.

Book B, collage on bristol board.

I had to experiment with the accordion sections that go between each page. My first accordions were cut from paper that was too light, and unable to keep my book open. I used chip board the second time, but that proved to be too thick and heavy. For my third try, I cut up some old paintings done on 140# watercolor paper, and these seemed to work.

(WLU Crafts class students: these are the tunnel books I presented for discussion this past Monday. I hope to post YOUR results in the next couple weeks.)