LOCALarts Issue 3

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I S S U E 3 // F A L L 2 0 1 6

JAN MYERS A Wonderful World of Quilts

CAFÉ CON LECHE Dance. Laugh. Learn.

DAY IN THE LIFE Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s Colleen Doyno

FOTO FEATURE Lauren Zurchin

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A neighborhood publication focusing on the creativity and ingenuity of the arts in Pittsburgh. For more information visit localartspgh.com or email info@localartspgh.com

PUBLISHER Jeff Rose jrose@local-pittsburgh.com EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Rodney Burrell rburrell@local-pittsburgh.com

DESIGN & PHOTOGRAPHY Jordan Mitchell | Art Director creative@local-pittsburgh.com Julie Kahlbaugh | Photo Director Kalie Berkey | Graphic Designer

As we twist and turn through our narrative, time is the only resource we can never get back. It supersedes money, fame, and power. It brings monarchies to ruin, builds champions and breeds failures. It makes and breaks us, second by second. If time is what we’re measured by, how do we match up? When I look at art in all forms, it takes a tremendous amount of time to create a vision or representation of our ethos. A painting or performance with hours upon hours of time practicing, refining and releasing a vision, so a stranger can take a glimpse into the window of an artist’s soul. Walking through an art gallery, and we think. Sitting in a theater and we weep, eating at a restaurant and we smile. The end user, me, spends my time appreciating what an other spends their lives perfecting. I spend hours upon hours honing my craft as an editor so readers can enjoy or engage in an article. Maybe it elicits joy or wonder, maybe fear and pain. I don’t know what happens after it prints. I sit back and hope it reaches someone, and then I start the process all over again. Releasing my thoughts to the world. It’s a mysterious dance of Ebb and Flow.


Questions about LOCALarts or advertising opportunities? Contact us at (412) 215-6759


In your journeys, take note of the time, not just on the clock, but the time others dedicate to doing things they love for your gratification, and maybe our collective realization will be a bit more appreciative and patient for the world of creativity. Support your local artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. Don’t insult their time and dedication by asking for a free “something.” Show up to their events, support their shows, and buy their stuff. They do this for you, for us.

Rodney Burrell, Editor-In-Chief

Cover Image by Julie Kahlbaugh

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ARTS PGH ISSUE 3 FALL 2016 22 Gallery Crawl

Get off the couch. These exhibits are awesome

24 Day in The Life 08 Art Profiles

The best and brightest in the burgh

14 Art Feature

Jan Myers and her house of quilts

17 Out on The Town

The Brewhouse Artist Lofts celebrates with kick-off event

20 Café Con Leche

Cultural awareness for all

Colleen Doyno take us on a wild ride through Pittsburgh Musical Theater

26 The Theater Guide

Where to go, what to see

29 The Vintage Connection Old school purses make a comeback

30 Everything is Art

Legend Syl Damianos at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art

32 Foto Elite

Lauren Zurchin’s world of fantastic fantasies

35 School House A book review

36 Poetry

Christopherson and Fury

38 The World Creator The filmmaker’s digest

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artist profiles

In my photos, I strive to capture the candid smiles and moments of relaxation that bring out your true inner beauty. I make everyday people feel like models. My work can best be described as a whimsical fairytale. I often photograph extraordinary headpieces mixed with vintage gowns. I began working professionally as a photographer at age 16. I was interning at Hills Studio Photography where they taught me how to run a studio but most importantly I learned that photography was something that I could transform into a career.




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After high school, I began a Communications Media degree at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. For the four years I attended college I was the Teaching Assistant of the Photography Professor. During this time, I was also beginning to run my freelance business. I finished my degree by completing a fashion photography internship in Los Angeles, California. In June of 2015, I packed my car with my most cherished belongings and my best friend and we drove across the country. It was so inspirational to see the landscape transform from coast to coast. I grew as an individual but also watched my work transform throughout the journey. Post graduation life has been spent evolving my freelance business and focusing on when I can travel back to LA for shoots. My end goal is to move into the fashion photography field completely and to work as a private contractor photographing for various companies.

My work embraces the collective memory whether real or imagined about a place, a time, or a community. “What was left behind”, the disregarded fragments I re-imagine in a new way while paying homage to the past. “What once constituted a shelter, a home, a lifestyle, is now reduced to its bare elements: wood, metal, paper.”



Employing skills gathered while working in the sign industry, I recontextualize these items in an attempt to maintain the value of the history they contain. My work takes the form of large scale installations, collage, painting, sculpture and illuminated 3-D works, all produced using reclaimed materials. I gather inspiration from typefaces, advertisements, and color palettes from the 19th to mid 20th century. Through a process of layering boards, paper, plexiglas and typography, my work is made to create an atmosphere that evokes a sense of nostalgia for a past era but is disquietingly new. I am constantly awed by the possibilities of what might unfold with the “new” materials I discover.

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My influences are based in cinema, the rich history of photography, art, design, fashion, new media, music, interior design, set and graphic design. Cinema has played a very important role in my development as an artist. There are certain directors whose work has influenced me as a photographer/new media artist. One such director is Peter Greenway. His film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is by far one of my favorites. It features rich and beautiful cinema photography, lighting, sets by French interior and product designer Andree Putman, costumes by John Paul Gaultier, soundtrack by Michael Nyman and let me not forget a powerful performance by Lady Helen Mirren. The impact of this film on my young mind of 19 years old was profound. The idea of how far are you willing to go and what are you willing to do to get there. What I love about this film from


BENJAMIN the opening of the film is that you the viewer are going to be treated to a very dark tale of a modern day opera gone very wrong. The darkness and the beauty created some of the most interesting and jarring moments in the film. Peter Greenway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover turned everything that I was learning about art and photography in NYC at the School of Visual on its head. This film made we question my role in photography. That was when I realized I wanted my photographs to have the same effect of mystery and surrealism which led me to paintings by the old masters. Photography plays a major role in my work along with collage and certain finishing processes used for furniture preservation. My process of working with a medium format camera and film is considered old school and out dated at this point in time in the digital revolution. I work within a combination of analog (film) and digital (scanned the film) to create my work. Working with film gives me a far greater advantage as an artist to be more daring and creative with the tools and process that I choose to tell my stories.


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Ashley Cecil is a Pittsburghbased artist and illustrator specializing in paintings of flora and fauna. Her love affair with all things organic and wild has blossomed as the result of studying landscapes with accomplished master painters in London, immersing herself in vast collections of floral textile prints in European museums, painting from live observation at Phipps Botanical Gardens, geeking out on plant science research, and collaborating with top-notch floral designers.



Her fervor for painting has landed her some pretty amazing opportunities including participating in internationally renowned arts festivals, launching a line of home decor and fashion accessories, creating artwork for the label of a libation consumed by millions, and talking faceto-face with President Obama. Apropos of Pittsburgh’s industrial heyday, Ashley now paints in an old mine safety appliance factory retrofitted with artist studios. From there, she continues to add to her client list, which includes Oxfam America, Early Times Bourbon, and Pittsburgh Quarterly.

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artist feature

Jan Myers-Newbury is






quilts using hand dyed fabrics, and more recently for works using shibori fabrics of her creation.She has exhibited and taught nationally and internationally, been included in fourteen QUILT NATIONAL exhibitions (more than any other exhibiting artist) and in 1993 won the Best of Show award. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Art and Design, the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, the Museum of the American Quilters Society, and the Minnesota Historical Society. Five of her quilts are in the collection of the American Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nearly 250 of Jan’s quilts are included in corporate and private collections throughout the United States. In 1999 her quilt Depth of Field: A Plane View was selected as one of the 20th Century’s 100 Best Quilts. In 2008, a suite of 5 quilts was commissioned for the new Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Jan’s workshop teaching has ranged throughout the United States, as well as Australia, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Great Britian. In 1999 she was an artist presenter at the Third International Shibori Symposium in Santiago, Chile.




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She is an active member of the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, sponsoring organization of the biennial exhibition Fiberart International, and served on the board of directors of the Surface Design Association 1999 - 2005.


ARTIST All of my work is in the form of pieced quilts, constructed from cotton fabrics that I have dyed. I began dyeing fabric to make quilts in 1976. Since 1988, I have been experimenting with various fabric manipulations prior to dyeing: bunching, folding, clamping, pole-wrapping. For two decades I have worked almost entirely with arashi shibori (pole wrap). The fluid quality of these shibori lines creates lyrical, often naturereferent work. I use somewhat cavalier methods, often layering color with two or three subsequent dyeings, or by applying dye to the fabric before it is wrapped and manipulated on the pole. Most recently I have been exploring more traditional use of string to control the patterning, giving a more architectural effect. I have always been intrigued by the possibilities of using color to create luminosity and a sense of 3-dimensional space on a flat picture plane (or in my instance, the flat surface of the

pieced quilt). Initially this meant manipulating small bits of solid color in systematic ways to create the illusion of luminosity and depth. Since I have begun to do shaped resist dyeing, more of the depth and luminosity appears within individual pieces of fabric, as colors and linear patterns are layered onto the fabric. What I love about this process is the evocative and sumptuous nature of the resultant fabrics. Design has become a process of finding relationships among fabrics. I very seldom have a pre-conceived notion of how a finished work will look. And while I feel that I have a certain amount of control over what goes on in the dyebath, there are always surprises, and that is what I love about it. I know that I could have more control if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. The lack of control is what has kept the work exciting for me. The quilts that I have been making in the last 20 years have been “fabric driven.” There is never any preliminary design work: experiments in the dye process produce distinct and sometimes commanding patterns and color layering. My task is to combine these fabrics in ways wherein they speak to each other, and to me.

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Con leche BRINGING


There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh is on everyone’s niche list as the big little city that has the best places eat and the most desirable neighborhoods to live in…Although, the steel city has some holes that need to be filled in the realm of cultural exposure. When Tara-Sherry Torres relocated to Pittsburgh from Brooklyn, she noticed the difference even more within the Latino population. The group clearly had no voice within Pittsburgh, and she saw a problem with that. She also saw a problem with the way communities and businesses had been ravaged by gentrification and overall cultural inequalities. It was a big problem that wasn’t going to be fixed anytime soon, but she saw an opportunity to create a welcoming dynamic that offered education to anyone interested in learning about cultural differences. In 2014, Torres, who is of Latino and Polish decent, founded Café Con Leche, an event-based marketing company geared towards culturally-rich 22

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community events. Cultural Implementation through kindness, dancing, and of course, food. Torres, who gives credit to Most Wanted Fine Art for generating the spark to step into entrepreneurial waters, produced four events in 2014 and received rave reviews for the impact they made on the community.


kindness dancing AND OF COURSE


Fast forward to 2016, and Café Con Leche is running strong, and the company has shifted its focus into the minority-owned business market by providing agency services and support. While the community event aspect drilled down into the cultural landscape of Pittsburgh, it didn’t make an impact in the way of business development, which makes

the most substantial change within any community. Torres has transitioned Café Con Leche into a fulltime, full-service agency with a mission to create sustainability for minorityowned businesses while providing a new narrative for cultural education throughout the city. Her core mission reigns true, as Café Con Leche still hosts events for community integration, but her overarching goals have grown substantially, and she is striving to change the overall cultural process within the Pittsburgh region. Café Con Leche was awarded 2015 Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group’s Community Development Award and is also one of Pittsburgh’s Technology Council’s 2016 Creator of the Year award for their Latino Artist Residency program, a fully paid 30-day residency in Pittsburgh open to artist from across the US, and locally.

For more information on Café Con Leche, visit


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An expansive collection of 43 regional artists with varying practices ranging from painters to sculptors, and everyone in between. November 18th-February 26th Free Admission


THE FRICK COLLECTS: FROM RUBENS TO MONET Peruse through the historical artwork collection of Henry Frick and his wife Helen. Show runs from October 29th-May 14th 2017 Free Admission


Ryoji Ikeda, Japan’s top visual artist and electronic composer, showcases his art through videos and strobe lighting. Show runs from September 23rd- December 31st $10.00 Admission


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YOU DOM CHUNX A collaborative installation exhibition from artists Tra Bouscaren, a post-disciplinary artist and Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and John Schlesinger, a photographer turned sculptor. November 19th- February Free Admission


OFF-ROAD BY SARAH KEELING Images and hand-made objects explore subtext within the representation of landscape scenes. Playful photographs bring the outdoors into a portrait studio and images borrow from classic portrayals of idealism and nature in relation to the female figure. November 4th- January 22nd Free Admission


In collaboration with Cirque du Soleil Theatrical and Tony Award winning Costume Designer, Paul Tazewell, FashionAFRICANA presents the world premiere of the Costumes of the Wiz Live! Show runs from September 23rd-November 30th Free Admission

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Music is in the air early for day in Colleen Doyno, the life the Executive Artistic Director of Pittsburgh Musical Theater.

She arrives at the PMT’s West End building on South Main Street around 6 in the morning to start her day; in this case, getting ready for their annual Dancing in the Streets performance to begin at noon. Doyno sits at her desk—behind her, a window with a vase of roses resting on the sill, as well as a sequined hard hat—and prepares flyers to hand to parents about to drop their children off for Saturday classes.

Written by Eric Boyd

COLLEEN DOYNO Photography by Julie Kahlbaugh

“This event is part of RADical Days, so everyone in the community is invited, but we really try to get the parents involved,” she says. At 8:30 Doyno stands in the PMT’s wet parking lot, where Dancing in the Streets will be held. One of the PMT’s employees is hitting puddles with a push broom, spreading the water along the lot to seep and dry. Weather reports say rain is likely in the afternoon, but Doyno isn’t worried. “I have a statue of Mary which I place on a window sill and turn towards the outside, she keeps good weather on days of events like this.” Parents begin rolling up in a line. For the next hour, Doyno greets them by saying “Happy Saturday!” and handing out a flyer for the day’s event. She says hello to each child exiting the cars and makes them feel special; she asks how their siblings are, congratulates them on their schoolwork, or simply gives them a hug. She seems to have a connection with each and every kid who enters the Pittsburgh Musical Theatre’s building. 26

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Between greeting parents, handing out flyers, and talking with the children, Doyno is also trying to figure out how to set up the parking lot for the upcoming event. Tables will need arranged for the sponsoring companies, some of which will not be physically present but have sent things out to be put out. However, a car is illegally parked in the lot and nobody knows whose it is, so none of this can be done until the lot is clear. By the time Doyno goes back inside and ascends the steps to her second-floor office, it’s already been a long day. Walking down the hall towards her office, one of the PMT’s students is singing. Doyno smiles. “No matter how hard the days may get, preparing for shows or fundraising, people are always singing and dancing here, and I think, ‘This is why we’re here.’” The owner of the mystery car eventually leaves (a relief to everyone since it had a bumper sticker which read, When In Doubt, Empty Your Magazine); tables and speakers are set up; the sun is shining and all of the previous evening’s rain has

dried. The smell of popcorn mingles in air with the sound of children practicing songs to be sung at the Dancing in the Streets event.

“No matter how hard the days may get, preparing for shows or fundraising, people are always singing and dancing here, and I think, ‘This is why we’re here.” A little after noon the festivities begin. State representatives and senators wear common clothes and eat pizza with parents. Students from the PMT’s Dream Team Broadway Troupe sing “Shut Up and Dance”. And the kids in the parking lot do just this. Between songs, Doyno takes to the mic to say “Happy Saturday!” and thank everyone for their hard work and to, above all else, have fun. Then, commenting on all of the people eating and laughing and dancing in the West End, a community she and the Pittsburgh Musical Theatre have been celebrating for years, Colleen Doyno says again, “This is why we’re here. This is special.” arts | Issue 3 27



a bit of culture Written by Mike Buzzelli

Pittsburgh has a thriving local arts scene (hence the name of this very magazine). We have fantastic theater with venues like The Pittsburgh Public Theater, City Theater and the Benedum, and terrific theater companies such as Quantum, PICT Classic Theater, Bricolage and more. The theater, though, can be intimidating if you have never been. Here’s a few easy tips to guide you through local theater scene. There are several types of shows to see. You can see a national tour at the Benedum or Heinz Hall, a local production or community theater. National tours are usually big budget Broadway extravaganzas that tour around the country such as Grease or Kinky Boots. They are easy-access point for beginners. They are recognizable shows with recognizable stars. Recently, John O’Hurley (Seinfeld’s J. Peterman) played Billy Flynn in the national tour of Chicago. 28

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Chicago is a satire about celebrity criminals, murderers Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, and Flynn is the big-shot lawyer who takes on the cases to gain even more fame. Whereas Kinky Boots, based on a movie of the same name, is about a down-and-out shoemaking factory and the drag queen that comes in and designs sexier new footwear. Neither show is appropriate for minors, but, luckily, Disney has a few stage versions of some of their classic stories such as Aladdin and The Lion King.

non-union guy can fit your needs better. They are cheaper (both the cousin and the theater), but by no means ‘lesser.’ You just have to be very selective of the choices.

Local theater is a little trickier to navigate. There is something out there for every palette. There are musicals, drama and everything in between.

Every year, the Pittsburgh New Works Festival premieres 18 new one-act plays produced by Pittsburgh regional theater companies. Many of the playwrights from the contest have gone on to write professionally.

The Pittsburgh Public and The City Theater take some plays and produce them locally. The City Theatre recently held the Pittsburgh premiere of Hand to God, a Broadway show about timid teen and the obnoxious puppet on his arm. Whereas the Public recently put on one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals, The Fantastick’s in its 2016-2017 season. The Fantastick’s is about two parents who try to trick their children into falling in love by pretending to feud. Both theaters will cast national Equity actors and local Equity actors. Side note: What are Equity and Non-Equity shows? Equity is the Actor’s Equity Association. It’s the union for professional actors, singer and dancers. An Equity show should be held to a higher standard. They should be performers who are perfecting their craft. Just as you would expect a quality job from a professional plumber over your cousin Frankie to fix your sink, so too goes professional theater. Just like your kitchen sink, though, sometimes a

Pittsburgh has plenty of original works here as well. In September, Timothy Ruppert’s play The Consorts was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The play was workshopped at Duquesne University and had its world premiere there.

Bricolage hosts Midnight Radio locally written shows based around a theme and performed as a radio show. Their take on A Christmas Carol had a distinct Pittsburgh flavor (one of the ghosts was Mr. Rogers). They have performed adaptations of War of the Worlds and 1984. Some shows were humorous, others were much more dramatic. This season, Bricolage is teamed up with The Scare House, a haunted house themed attraction in Millvale, and creating an interactive work, Enter the Imaginarium. In immersive theater, you are part of the action. In some, you simply follow the actors around; in others, characters will speak directly to you. It’s a fascinating experience you aren’t likely to forget. If you’re looking for good time, read the reviews, or ask your friends and co-workers if they have any recommendations. The most important lesson about going to the theatre is simple: Show up, sit down, turn off your cell phone and enjoy the show.

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f fashion

V I N TA G E C O N N E CT I O N Written and Photographed by Julie Kahlbaugh

Decoding The Eclectic Vintage Purse Market

From as early as 1500 A.D., both men and women have sported leather pouches and small drawstring purses. However, in those simpler times, sizes were much more functional, only accommodating the necessities. Since then, the purse market has revolutionized. Brands and designers all over the world have made their mark by creating artistic and sometimes atypical pieces. From 5-dollar store finds to the complete insanity of $3 Million, there’s something for everyone.

With this evolution in the handbag industry, the importance of preserving vintage purses has become quite the hobby for collectors like Laura Currens. She became infatuated with collecting Victorian purses years ago and hasn’t stopped her Tomb Raider-esque search for unique bags. With the help of her husband, Robert, she’s been able to collect dozens of vintage finds which are displayed in their family’s jewelry business.

Collectors Robert and Laura Currens You can now join online purse preservation clubs, educate yourself on purses from all time periods, and become a part of the selling and buying community through the magic of the interwebs. Here are a few we think you may find interesting: www.collectorsweekly.com/bags/handbags-and-purses www.antiquepursecollectorssociety.com www.pursecollector.com/

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Sylvester Damianos has built an interesting life. Born in McKeesport above the shop of his father (Jim Damianos of West Mifflin’s Jim’s Hot Dogs, a business Sylvester still helps run today); Syl began his long career as an architect, studying at what is now Carnegie Mellon University. During this time he became interested in ceramics after taking an elective course; there he met his future wife, a painter who introduced him to the world of art. By the early 1960s Damianos had a solo exhibition in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

different methods of art; his focus on architecture lent itself to sculpture, which became his primary style.

“It’s been a journey,” he says proudly with a laugh.

Damianos uses an engineering approach to art which values structure and design, as well as the space which the artwork affects (this aspect of Damianos’s work can be traced to a study he collaborated on with Jonas Salk concerning the impact of living environments on humans). One of his better-known works, Cubed Tension, has rested in the North Side’s Allegheny Square since 1969 and recently received a full restoration.

While working on several architecture projects over the years, from rehabilitations of city libraries to rebuilding a troubledyouth house in his hometown, Damianos also played with several

His most recent artworks have been pieces fabricated from recycled wood, starting with scraps he took from his friend, famous furniture-maker George Nakashima.


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“I’d see these boards—mostly walnut—and to this day I might look a piece of wood for two of three years until it finally tells me to cut it open and see what’s inside...The results are always extraordinary.” The mix of painstaking precision and naturalism is striking; while the wood in Damianos’s artworks are cut and shaped, rearranged and sanded, the overriding aesthetic of the work comes from the wood’s own characteristics. He respects not only the object itself, but the space around it, inside it. The effect is one of pure emotion. “The way the knots relate to the knotholes, the burl and the grain. That’s exciting as hell to me… A professor once told me to look at everything and find the beauty in it. The way light filters through layers of leaves on a tree or a pile of garbage. All of it is art as long as it elicits an emotional response.”

Damianos’s latest show, Opposites Attract, (also featuring work by fellow local artist Kathleen Mulcahy), will open at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in November. It will feature more than just the latest wood sculptures. “The show will have three phases: my early works of cement casing, inspired by Japanese boats, then my minimalist works from the Sixties, and finally the wood pieces. All pretty different, but all of them, over the years, have been based around structure and mathematics and space.” It is difficult to imagine such a vast career being summed up in one exhibit, but Opposites Attract will do its best. Running through February, As Syl Damianos says as we end our interview: “You’re getting more than you bargained for.”

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pg photo graphy


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Many of us share a myopic view of the reality we live in, never breaking the mold and seeing what’s on the other side of the green grass. We’re often critical of those who live in a “fantasy world,” but a Bellevue area photographer found that her fantasy could actually provide a life she always wanted. In the clouds she was no more, and Lauren Zurchin is now one of Pittsburgh’s most sought after fantasy photographers. In the early 2000’s, Zurchin developed an interest in Film Photography and began organizing fantasy-styled photo shoots with her friends. Although a great creative outlet, her budding photography muse fell by the wayside. However, in 2009 Zurchin got the itch to pick up the camera again. After shooting a wedding for fun, the bride (and friend of Lauren’s) was impressed with the images and encouraged her to pursue a full-time photography career. “I was like huh? That’s an idea. That could be a lot of fun,” said Zurchin. Her hobby soon turned into something bigger. By the end of 2009, she was consumed with photography, and launched her photography business. There was no turning back. Zurchin primarily photographed weddings up until a few years ago when she decided that she wanted to take a new direction. ‘’Fantasy and beauty always inspired me in all its forms,’’ said Zurchin. She began producing projects that showcased her love for fantasy and ethereal imagery. One project in particular was life changing for Zurchin. She was able to raise enough money through Kickstarter to pursue a charity project called Beyond Words where she’s had the opportunity to photograph some of New York’s Best Selling fantasy authors. The images were used to create calendars with the proceeds going to various charities. A self-admitted “super bird nerd,” Zurchin founded a charity to raise awareness on Vultures and the danger they are in. She photographs the misaligned avian in various locations to showcase the beauty and relevance they have in our ecosystem, even though they’re often looked at as ugly creatures. With this, she hopes to collaborate with different zoos around the United States. “Vultures are my favorite birds, so this is pretty much my dream project,” exclaimed Zurchin. For more information, visit www.laurenzurchinstudios.com

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B books

A book review brought to you by Arlan Hess www.citybookspgh.com



How refreshing to encounter a memoir so full of nuance and self-awareness that the writer emerges as a compelling protagonist in his own narrative. With an emotional setting triangulated among Iowa City, New York City, and Venice, Marc Nieson’s memoir Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love and Landscape (Ice Cube Press, 2016) forges a path through the complex topographies of family, community, and love. A combination of surgical objectivity and obsessive self-examination, Schoolhouse reads like a novel with intertwining plotlines. Struggling to end a decade-long love affair with an older woman, Nieson rents a 19th-century school house on the outskirts of Iowa City while he attends the acclaimed Iowa Writers Workshop. As he learns to engage in the emotional lives of his characters, the budding writer tries to make authentic connections with, and sometimes the necessary separation from, the complicated relationships in his own life: Sibyl, the lover he leaves behind; the specter of his grandfather, whose suicide has left generations unable to communicate their feelings; and friend Alessandro who, suffering from AIDS, returns to Venice to die with his family.

To a transplanted city boy, the rural schoolhouse proposes straightforward life lessons. Nieson dedicates each chapter to an academic subject (Geography, Civics, Spelling) which broadly corresponds to his personal development; he also punctuates each unit with detailed recollections from the diary he kept at the time. Not surprisingly, experiential learning takes supremacy over theoretical study. Early in his stay, Nieson rejoices after finding the Italian phrase “Dolce Far Niente” (Doing Nothing is Sweet) embedded in the stone beneath the schoolhouse mantle – only later realizing that unshakable passivity leads to bitter consequences. Nieson’s tutorials are steady and controlled in Schoolhouse, but the final tests are organic and liberating. When Beth enters Nieson’s social circle, their attraction is sincere, if not passionate. Paralyzed at the thought of emotional commitment to the young woman, the author removes himself to Venice and the bedside of his ailing friend. It is through fraternal devotion to Alessandro that Nieson makes peace with his past without renouncing it entirely. Once Nieson realizes that the past need not dictate the future, he is free to graduate to the next stage of his life. Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love and Landscape, therefore, is an eloquent and sympathetic primer of love, uncertainty, and change.


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P poetry


CHARD BOXES I sit in myself, wanting connection but not bad enough to go out of my comfort zones to find it I have a plan and because I aim to stick to it I am bound by it Break the plan and break the want I am safe here but that is no reason to fear escaping the box Burn the box Burn it hot and fast Burn it for good Burn it for your own good Burn it for your joy For your mother For your coworkers For your future Burn it for the love you have yet to find Burn it for the students you have yet to teach Burn it for the children you have yet to have Burn it for the present For the past For regret Burn your box for your possible soul For inspiration Burn it for the man that will sit in your skin 30 years from now and thank you with the kind understanding only he can know.

SHOW ME Show me, The ever expanding odyssey of instability in the incarnation of the irrefutable good nature inside mankind. Show me raw power, stabilizing the masses into a complete cohabiting peace riddled piece of a perfectly sculpted creative and futuristic culture. Show me faithful wisdom, Not fear driven selfish indecent individuals fighting for diminishing resources on a planet doomed to warm past the habitable limits of all but the extremophiles. Show me progress, Where the only war is apoptosis, and death becomes a meaningful end instead of a stigmatic statistic. 38

arts | Issue 3



Instead of the names we both carry, let my brother and I be two wolves. A massive field of green laid between us. Let his short dark hair grow long, cover his shoulders, his four strong limbs. Let his teeth swell white, edged like the straight razor of silence we use to cut each other. Let his heart pulse like the moon in his chest, sing sweet songs to his children not yet mangled by the night sky. I wonder if you’ve told them you have cancer. Even though I can’t see you, I know you are there. I am a wolf. Let’s say the massive filed of green laid between us is our mother. The thunder we both hear our father. Even though I can’t see you, I know you are there. May the rain about to fall from the darkening clouds above be all the things I never said: Love. Promise. You. May something grow from that. When the bright yellow bulldozers come and raze the field between us, when people build their homes here, and our mother is sold by life to death, we’ll meet under the branches of a tree. Maybe then I can take your children to the river. Watch the fish mouth their hymns. A language spoken in water.

God was lonesome, Uncle George said to the police after dousing his wife with kerosene & setting the house on fire. God was lonesome. Lives spent indebted. The new fridge will outlast me, my mother says. I want you to have it. The television too. Somewhere outside this window is a war, everything migrated to the knuckles— or more precisely the push of a button. Pull of a trigger. Somewhere outside this window, two hungry black birds take to the air, land in a tree by a river. Weeds gasp like prayers. These things will outlast me. I want you to have them.

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F film



O R L D arts | Issue 3

Written By Filmmaker Michael Anton Nestled in a dark corner of a corporate-less coffee shop, face buried behind a laptop, keys striking vigorously, loudly, hoping to drown out the conversations of tourists, fair weather vegans, and hot topic hipsters. (You know who you are.) Riddled by nothing, not the errands of the day, nor the politics, nor the complacency of life mundane. A world in chaos, yet none of that matters now. For it’s in these moments, my attention remains encapsulated by the world from which I have chosen to be a part of, the world from which I have chosen to create. This is the life of an independent filmmaker. I was nineteen years of age when I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a filmmaker. A freshman attendee of Auburn University, and member of its resident meathead club, otherwise known as the football team. I spent that first year fulfilling what was left of my high school small town ambitions of going D -1. All the while sluggishly participating in my academics as a means to no end. Clarity for an artist can come in many forms. Mine occurred through self-reflection and at a time in which most young men my age were focused on burying their cerebral cortexes between the thighs of the willing. As the year progressed, I would find myself, further limiting my nocturnal ventures substituting my need for prototypical adolescent stimuli, for one of a more intellectual nature. Basically, I fell in love with movies. I was enamored by the storytelling process and by years end, I made the decision that college life was not the life for me. I was going to move to Los Angeles. I was going to write screenplays, and I was going to be the greatest filmmaker the world has ever seen. (I was 19.)


Six months later, I would find myself crouched over my broken Ikea bed in a garage/apartment I was paying 800 a month to live in, writing a screenplay for a friend of my mother’s who wanted to capitalize on the SARS epidemic. That’s right, it took me just shy of 24 weeks to dilute my ambitions of greatness, and sell my soul because hey, Mikey’s got to eat. Shortly after completing the script, the SARS epidemic was no longer an epidemic, which meant there was no longer a movie. Another feather in a cap of bullshit. When a painter paints a painting, or an author writes a book, no matter what happens, they will always be acknowledged by the extension of their audience for having painted a painting, or having written a book. It is not the same for a screenwriter. At twenty, I had written five films. Some optioned, some destined for the pine casket of creative death which was my bottom drawer, and none were made into a feature. The result was as if I had never written them. “He’s written several screenplays” just doesn’t sound as sexy as “he’s written several books.” It’s that overdose of reality that callused my senses. I was a creator of nothing, even if there were over five hundred pages to the contrary. My first reaction like most young writer/filmmakers was to blanket my bitterness with a false sense of entitlement. This was not the worst idea; you would be surprised how much confidence sells in Hollywood, and why not? Arrogance in the face of immense ignorance plays well in modern society, just look at that guy running for president. You know, the orange one. It’s easier to invest in a leader who won’t quiver at the first sign of their own incompetence, than it is to follow a competent one that is afraid of their own failure. So now, I found myself 21 years of age, seven scripts deep, my only accomplishment to date, being the coffee shop companions I had acquired in the likes of Howie Mandell, Linden Ashby, John Mendoza, and Greg Grunberg. I would sit, listen, learn and envy. They all had something

It’s that overdose of reality that callused my senses. I was a creator of


even if there were over five hundred pages to the

contrary. that I had not yet achieved and every conversation was a reminder of how truly unaccomplished I really was. That same year, I would finally see a film I had written come to fruition with the no budget star studded comedy Potheads; a film High Times would refer to as the 21st Century answer to Monty Python, the high version. High Times was wrong. The movie was terrible. Until this day, I still have not spoken with some of the original cast, the casualties of turning a great concept into a terrible film.

There are many pitfalls for those of the creative persuasion, walls that we tend to build ourselves, and those built by others not named after a duck. The latter will never end; no matter how successful you become, you will always find catalysts to the detraction of your own self-belief. Five years of literal abstinence would pass before I would write a single creative word. The reasons for this would evolve year after year from discontent for my inability to create something of substance, to a better understanding of who I was as a person, hence I had come full circle from my freshman year of college and found myself back in self reflection mode. The result was a deeper understanding of what it takes to carry the mantle of world creator. The responsibility one has, not only to his or her audience, but also to themselves. To provide moments of clarity amongst the chaos and without pre conceived notions of cinematic grandeur. One can still be confidant yet humble, it is not how many films you have written, or had distributed, it is what you have written, and what you were willing to have distributed, that defines you. We live in a world that for generations, survival has bled it’s way into our sub conscious, so much so that we are willing to risk our own artistic integrity for the sake of calling ourselves what we are not, but want to be. Being a filmmaker is a privilege, an artistic medium that encompasses all forms of art, because of this, I caution all filmmakers young and old, to not compromise who they are for what the market wants them to be. Work your nine to fives, your watering jobs, your Ubers. There will always be a dark corner of a corporate less coffee shop, waiting to embrace a world from which you will create.

I would write, and direct two films after, but the pain of failure from that first film had scarred my confidence, as well as my bank account. I would return home, less than a year later. Another rags to rags story, worthy of a fireside conversation, or two, but only if you were into stories without a happy ending. arts | Issue 3 41

Sus pended Beauty


arts | Issue 3

Congratulations Kathleen & Syl! OppOsites AttrAct: Kathleen Mulcahy & sylvester Damianos November 5, 2016 – February 5, 2017 the Westmoreland Museum of American Art thewestmoreland.org

from your friends at

100 Years of Pittsburgh art The Heinz History Center presents a Centennial Exhibition of the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ collection of fine art by Pennsylvania artists.

Exhibition Begins November 16, 2016 • www.heinzhistorycenter.org

Artworks purchased for the children of Pittsburgh by the Friends of Art.