Distilled showcases the best of Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Distilled showcases the best of Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media

The exhibition includes 82 juried works by 42 center members, teaching artists, and staff

click to enlarge “Nasty Woman” Heather Heitzenrater
“Nasty Woman” Heather Heitzenrater
A distinct sense of whimsy characterizes Distilled, the latest exhibition at the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media (formerly Pittsburgh Center for the Arts). Woven throughout 82 works by 42 members, teaching artists, and staff are touches meant to delight and surprise. Visitors are greeted by the candy-colored, ribbon-y text of This Magic Moment, a mural by Danny Devine spanning a back wall of the downstairs gallery area. Crocheted footprints (Self Portrait by Mary Towner) pull the room together as they spread out across the floor in the upstairs gallery, waiting to be tromped upon by those too busy eyeing the wall hangings to notice the artwork beneath their feet.

In a show where one would expect to find mostly amateur still life paintings, nature photography, and collage work (and those are here, believe me) it’s refreshing to see plenty of offbeat pieces with a sense of humor or, at least, a lack of pretension. There are brightly framed cameo portraits by Jessica Alpern Brown, a ceramic jug that takes a cue from folk art by staring back at the viewer with a comically exaggerated face (My Head Is Swimming by Melissa Sullivan), and jewelry decked with a silver manta ray and bejeweled turtle (Pat Falbo and Debra Bober, respectively). 
click to enlarge “Keeper of the Secrets (Raven)” and “Change (Chameleon)” Kara Zuzu
“Keeper of the Secrets (Raven)” and “Change (Chameleon)” Kara Zuzu
Artist Kara Zuzu makes a mark with a variety of nature-inspired ceramic and clay pieces, including the mounted animal heads of Ambition (Goat) and Guide (Hare) and the posed faux-taxidermy of Keeper of the Secrets (Raven) and Change (Chameleon), all of which call attention to the often bizarre, morbid trophy art of hunting culture.

Taking the dark playfulness a step further is Climate Change Crankie by Katy DeMent, an interactive installation with an entertaining approach to addressing environmental destruction. In a dark room, a decorated panoramic scroll unfurls along three different walls. Sticks poke out from backlit panels, allowing visitors to manipulate simple shadowy puppets of tractors, cars, cats, and beavers with gardening tools. While I appreciate the clever concept, I wished it had been better executed, as the sometimes unwieldy puppets diminished the intended effect. 
click to enlarge “TL;DR” Seth LeDonne
“TL;DR” Seth LeDonne
Taking up another room is TL; DR, a mural installation by Seth LeDonne. The work invites visitors into a simulated webscape with four walls covered in crudely painted gridlines and paintings that serve as ominous pop-up ads with messages like “Your Data Will Be Lost When The World Ends” and “How To Keep Paying Your Web Hosting Platform After You Die.” While TL; DR attempts to put into perspective the ephemeral, dehumanizing nature of internet life, it lacks the immersive impact and sophistication necessary to warrant taking up an entire room.

Not to be ignored are the paintings of Heather Heitzenrater and Evy Rodgers. From Heitzenrater, Nasty Woman and Poised Instinct convey palpable, complex ideas of female vulnerability, as nude women become lost in environments dominated by reflective cellophane balloons. The acrylic works from Rodgers experiment with textures and color, recalling geological and urban spaces with veiny, tectonic seams, splashes of gold and turquoise, and geometric figures.
click to enlarge “Fortune (Rat)” Kara Zuzu; (in background) “This Magic Moment” Danny Devine
“Fortune (Rat)” Kara Zuzu; (in background) “This Magic Moment” Danny Devine
Also featured are works by Amy Burke, Amy Butlefir, Andrew Baumeister, Audra Clayton, Carolyn Carson, Cathy Trzeciak, Christianna Kreiss, Christopher Stetser, Danny Devine, Emily Eckel, Ginny Caliguiri, Jack Trzeciak, Juliet Zavon, Justin Louis Murrell, Leslie Mitchell, Linda Price-Sneddon, Lisa Bergant Koi, Lisa Haabestad, Lorraine Free, Margot Dermody, Olena Abakumova, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, Rachel Oliver, Robert Kirschner, Robert Raczka, Stefano Ceccarelli, SuSu Kanemoto, Suzanne Werder, Tess Allard, Thomas Norulak, Tressa Jones, and Yue-Fang Chang.

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