Tag Archives: Art

An Unconventional Alphabet

by Kate

No one has ever described my family as conventional. While my parents didn’t believe in television, regular hair brushing, or (to be honest) a great deal of rigorous discipline, my father did teach me that it is totally appropriate to bring a toddler along as an assistant when, say, taking photos of a dancer at a fancy art opening. So last Friday evening I pulled out my trusty pleather leggings, put my toddler on my hip and my camera around my neck….

and headed downtown.

Granted, there was a bit of a tense moment with the security guard when Olympia headed with wide eyes toward some fascinating and fragile paper dancers.

In fact, that moment convinced me that next time I headed to a fancy art gallery, I would do so alone. There are limits to the toddler as photographic assistant. But overall, Olympia was extremely well behaved. She was very interested in the exhibits…

and this view from this corner of the gallery.

It is a great view of the Pittsburgh Downtown.

She hung out with us in the pre-performance backstage glamour familiar to every bellydancer, ie the ladies room….

And watched Janim’s gorgeous performance with wide eyes and complete stillness, crouched on the floor by my feet.

I am totally unfamiliar with shooting dancers, let alone taking photos in dim spaces awash with multimedia art presentations flickering on multiple screens, and I was unable to capture the startling beauty of the veil performance, but I did get this great shot which I think captures some of the great joy my good friend Jen radiates when she dances.

After the performance, we gathered up silk veils and toddler and slipped through the crowds of sophisticates and out the door.  Outside the SPACE gallery, we took time for an impromptu alphabet lesson.

I don’t let Olympia watch television at home, and so far she has missed out on the glories of Sesame Street…

…but we are definitely working on the whole alphabet thing, in our own way.

Art All Night

By Kate

Post industrial Pittsburgh is rich in space. There are cavernous warehouses, former steel mills, abandoned houses of man and God, all solidly built in a past full of prosperity and American steel.

Pittsburgh is also rich in possessing a populations of artists and dreamers eager to re-imagine those spaces, and inhabit them in a new way.

Last Saturday we attended Art All Night, a 24 hour celebration of local visual and performing art that takes place at a new location in our neighborhood every year. The event is free, and the entire community is encouraged to attend and to participate in creating art during the event.

Along with a whole host of talented professionals and amateurs from all over the region.

There was a whole section of children’s events, but this year our two year old was more interested in clinging firmly to her father and gazing at wide variety of art on display.

There was live music….

There were massive puppets…

There were robots, fitting enough considering that we were a stones throw away from the Carnegie Robotics Institute…

But Casey’s favorite piece of art was definitely this practical and attractive coffee table with a cribbage table built in.

My favorite art was the juxtaposition of the entire event within the skeleton of the factory.

It is hard to describe the sheer scope of the space that housed the event this year, but wandering through it and gazing up at the massive remnants of industry was extraordinarily interesting- particularly for a girl who spent a couple ill advised years swooning over Ayn Rand.Like the work of Ayn Rand, however, it is clear that working in this factory had a dangerous side. I thought this safety measure was appropriate for an art show.

Luckily, I had no need for an emergency eye bath. I enjoyed the work of the artists, especially those working hard on collaborative immediate pieces.

It was cold on that concrete floor, and I was shivering watching them work.

Of course I have always imagined that being a painter involves a lot of shivering. In garrets, while stained with paint in an aesthetically pleasing manner, and being gaunt and interesting. The artists at work all looked just like the artists in my imagination.

And the outfits and demeanor of the artists seemed to match the paintings, which I found fascinating.

Speaking of outfits, I am thrilled to say that this event, which involved high and low art and frigid temperatures, was a perfect opportunity to pull out the pleather pants. And what five month pregnant woman doesn’t love to wear pleather pants?

Not to mention almost every brightly colored plastic bracelet I own. That was my great contribution to the world of visual art.

Want more? Read about my adventures in post-industrial Pittsburgh here:

Frumpiness and Pleather

After Atlas Shrugged

Painting Pittsburgh

A City Morning

Pittsburgh in my Paris (A Bibliophile’s Dream)

Snowstorm in July

Hot Times, Summer in the City

Fire Knives, Fountains, Steel Mills, and Spectacle

Windmill and Dreamers

by Kate

This is my friend Sia.

Sia is a potter and a painter and a mother of four. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the rocks drip with moss and the rocky land looks entirely enchanted, but her family is settled here, high on a green hill on a historic ridge deep in the Ohio hills. When you head way out, up, and over Hanover Ridge and toward her family’s homestead, the first sign you’ve reached it is a windmill high on the hill. At this time of year, it’s framed by an orchard full of apple blossoms.

Sia’s family hasn’t always lived on this high Ohio Ridge. They have deeply urban East and West Coast roots. They settled on this ridge as part of the homeschooling, homesteading, back to the lander movement. In fact, they are Catholic artist back to the landers. This is a infinitesimally small segment of the general population, but a familiar one for me as I grew up immersed in this culture as well.

Sia’s parents are artists and intellectuals, and their love of beauty is evident in the lines and light streaming through their home, built by her father and younger brother. After reading my recent post on the farmhouse chic of Anthropologie, Sia was eager to show me the real life beauty of the home her family has created. I brought my camera, so I could bring all of you along as well.

Inside the green screen door, there were many familiar elements of back to the land living, reminding me of home. In the kitchen is a beautiful wood cookstove, with the most artistic compost bucket I have ever seen perched atop it:

And a big wooden table with long benches.

Notice the bouquet of apple blossoms- simple, and beautiful.

I loved this kitchen and dining area, where the light pours in…

and there is beauty from every angle.

I especially appreciated this coat rack, which has an enviable simplicity and order to it. Remind me to tell you of my mutant rebel collapsing coat rack some time.

Sia made French press coffee….

and served it in a mug that she made, years ago.

Then, coffee in hand, we continued with our tour.

If you are a back to the lander, having a carpenter father for a home-builder is a definite plus. Check out this enviable wall of built in bookshelves.

The house is full of appealing angles.

And ingenious storage solutions.

Speaking of storage, Sia is particularly impressed with her mothers drying rack and laundry table.

There are icons and flowers tucked into corners…

Icons, homemade pottery, and apple blossoms.

And on one wall this picture, of Sia’s grandmother. Look at those eyes! It is clear where some of the great creativity and passion in this family comes from.

This is a beautiful house for dreams.

Speaking of dreams, across from the main house is a partially finished structure with a fully completed music studio, complete with a grand piano.

As we visited, the strains of Bach’s cello concerto drifted across the ridge. Sia’s siblings play the piano, violin, harp, and cello. I am in awe of Sia’s mother, who homeschooled five children and drove many of them an hour and a half into the city of Pittsburgh so that they could study and perform this music.

I am in awe, but I can’t imagine making that drive on a regular basis- which brings me to the topic of my own dreams and quandries. There is a great part of my soul that longs to be settled in an owner built home high atop a green hill. However, a greater part of me realizes that my husband is neither a carpenter nor a farmer, but instead a teacher who loves to live in the city. And living in the city is what is allowing me to spend my time learning and working as a harpist, dancer, and artist.

I visited Sia at Hanover Ridge along with my good friend Rebecca and her three children.

All three of us grew up with Catholic back to the lander parents. In fact, all of our parents read, wrote for, and worked to bring to life the words in the short lived but deeply influential magazine Caelum Et Terra. You can find out more about the history of the magazine if you follow the previous link to the website about it, or you can check out the current blog here.

These days, Sia is one of the editors of a print journal entitled Soul Gardening. Rebecca just published her first novel, and I am writing for the blog you are reading right now. At the moment, all of us live in town- although Rebecca commutes out to her organic farm on her parent’s property. We are all working on finding balance as women and wives and mothers and dreamers. And although we may not be living on a high ridge, we are all still tilting at windmills.

For more photos of my day at Hanover Ridge, view the facebook album here. Enjoy!

Caffe Mona

by Kate

There are benefits to setting out on foot to pound the pavement hanging posters all over town. I have been flyering for rock shows and Shakespearean productions and dance performances and bellydance classes for years now, and have come to love the work. It’s a great way to learn a neighborhood, and to discover where to find everything from an amazing bookshop to a great cup of coffee.

Yesterday I was hanging flyers for the  grand Gala Bellydance Show featuring Sherena happening Saturday here in Pittsburgh. It is going to be a great show, and if you are in the area you should come. Live band, great dancing, Turkish food available for purchase, beautiful space, family friendly, kids under 12 get in free. In the course of my ceaseless promotions, I stopped to hang a flyer at the Caffe Mona.

The Caffe Mona is located just across the street from the gargantuan and internationally renowned Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. As coffeeshops often do, it has recently undergone a change of ownership. By all accounts, the former owner was a bit… aggressively friendly, particularly with female customers. Perhaps as a result, the new owner is distinctively courteous and respectful.

He is also Turkish, which means I heavily encouraged him to attend the upcoming bellydance show, and also that the menu at Caffe Mona is extremely enticing. The Caffe does catering as well as a full line of breakfast including sweet and savory seasonal crepes of all sorts and salads and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. My flyering companion had a pumpkin stuffed crepe, and I was torn between the Caprese Bagel or a Steak Omelet. I had the Omelet, but I’ll definitely head back for the bagel. The coffee is very good.

And the general atmosphere is warm, welcoming, and calm. I imagine that it would be a welcome respite for the staff and visitors at the UPMC Children’s Hospital across the street.

It was also a great place to have breakfast with a friend and a wiggling, ululating toddler. Meaning that perhaps during our stay there it wasn’t as great a spot as usual to get some work done in a contemplative manner.

If you’re near the Children’s Hospital or looking for a new coffeshop or lunch experience in Bloomfield or Lawrenceville any time soon, check out the Caffe Mona.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off. I have some flyers to hang.

Painting Pittsburgh

by Kate

Saturday was the seventh annual Lawrenceville Artists’ Studio Tour in my neighborhood.

The Studio Tour is a great chance to walk down familiar streets and open doors into houses full of painters, potters, metalworkers, sculptors, and weavers. Of course this is precisely the point of the tour. It is amazing to realize the vitality of the art community living and working in Lawrenceville. It is also fascinating to see what these people are doing with the spaces they inhabit. I particularly wanted Casey to see the studio of the painter Ron Donoughe. The space is worth seeing- his studio takes up the entire second floor of a huge brick building on Butler Street. A tightly winding staircase opens into a space full of scaffolding and light. The air feels alive with history.

Layers of wallpaper from the past hundred years are preserved next to exposed brick.

I think it is a beautiful studio.

I wanted Casey to see the space, but I also really wanted him to see the paintings.

I love them.

They are strong and striking and capture the past and present Pittsburgh so powerfully.

I am glad his work is out there.

Actually I am glad to know that he is working right here, around the corner from me, only a couple blocks away.

I am grateful to Ron Donoughe and the artists of Lawrenceville for welcoming the public in for an intimate glimpse of studio space and creative process.

I am also grateful to my long suffering husband for reluctantly accompanying me on my artistic adventure. He would like me to document the fact that he does, indeed “do things like this” with me. Here he is, looking artistically glum.

I am pretty sure his reluctance was due in part to the fact that after the Studio Tour, the rest of the day included hauling me and my harp to play for a wedding reception, taking care of the baby, then waiting until I applied false eyelashes and finally picking up the baby in one arm and a drum in the other and playing Drum Solo for me at a bellydance show that night. The solo actually turned into more of a duet with Olympia, but that’s another story. Casey is an amazing husband, is what I am trying to say.

If you are interested in seeing more of the work of Ron Donoughe- and you should be, because it is great stuff- check out his website here:

www.rondonoughe.blogspot.com

And don’t forget that history and mystery and beauty and great art are often just around the corner.