Subscribe Today!

Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh


Three Rivers Arts Festival
The sunny greenhouse environment at the PPG Wintergarden, home for Best of Pittsburgh show, part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

My friend Madelyn Roehrig‘s art for some time now has been obsessed with the virtual violence that intrudes in the home via television and how that violence becomes an abusive roommate, talking nonstop about terrorism, war and human disasters and making you feel fear and feel small and unempowered. (See post for more on an earlier project she did.) Madelyn is a photographer and what she does is to set up a tripod and camera in front of her television. She keeps the tv on and snaps random shots of the footage on terrorism — which as we all know is a daily barrage of carnage in Iraq and the Mideast and school shootings — and that’s all before the gory local news at 11 pm! For her new piece — which was on view in the Three Rivers Arts Festival (June 1-17) she decided she wanted to make a montage of the still images and run it with an audio also taken from tv. She worked with artist Josh Tonies at Pittsburgh Filmmakers to meld the still images and audio into a kind of filmic montage of tv’s home invasion assault on the eyes and ears.

The piece was just finished when Madelyn was invited to be in the Best of Pittsburgh show, a show that Josh Tonies was also in and helped organize (it was through his recommendation that her piece was included). She had very little time to think about the installation and puzzled over how to show the work — on a monitor? In a full-scale living room setup? Other?

Madelyn Roehrig
Madelyn Roehrig’s dollhouse installed at the Wintergarden in the Best of Pittsburgh show.

She came up with a great solution — she put the video on a little 2″ monitor — in the living room of a doll house she bought on Ebay. She got hold of a used tiny monitor — which was broken but her husband fixed it. They then built a television box around the monitor and asked all her friends and neighbors for furniture for the dollhouse. The friends came through and the little 3-floor house is completely decked out. Because the piece comes from her experience and is a metaphor for all kinds of human emotional violence in the house, she wanted to put people in the house. She took photographs of her family and miniaturized them and made them into paper doll-like cutouts to inhabit the house.

Madelyn Roehrig
Madelyn (paper doll Madelyn) on the telephone in her dollhouse.

The house sits in the gallery space in a vitrine she found which fits it perfectly. Initially it appears to be a regular doll house. But when you see the tiny tv and hear the news bite audio you get the point about the televised intruder in the house. Everything is ghostly and make believe except what’s on the monitor.

Madelyn Roehrig
Back of the dollhouse. TV is in the bottom left room.

The show (now over, it ran June 1-17) was sited in the PPG Wintergarden, a greenhouse-like space with an average temperature on a hot sunny day of, say, 80 degrees, with a humidity of say, 90%. Needless to say, some of the pieces in the show took a beating. Madelyn’s paper doll figures got limp and fell over in conditions that are not hospitable to paper. She had to come glue them down so they’d stand up.

Jill Larson's peppermint candy covered bed which melted in the heat.
Jill Larson’s peppermint candy covered bed which melted in the heat.

Other artists had worse problems. Jill Larson, who covered a bed with peppermint candies saw her work literally melt down in the heat. Another artist who had unframed photographs affixed to the windows around a doorway saw her works completely warped by the heat and humidity. She had to tear the pieces down and put new ones up (the new ones, too, were warped when we visited).

It’s unfortunate that the show’s heat and humidity beat up on the art. They also made for uncomfortable viewing. Madelyn said the opening was very crowded and unbearably hot. It was hot the day we saw it.

Other notable works in the show were:

Josh Tonies
Josh Tonies’ floaty architectural paintings.

–Josh Tonies‘ paintings of old fashioned houses in orgasmic splashes of psychedelic wavy lines. Very cool. (Libby and I had seen some of these at Space 1026 recently. See post.

Chris Lisowski
Chris Lisowski’s piece with fierce polar bear watching you.

–Chris Lisowski’s Polar Bear/Penguin installation that had a surveillance camera in the bear’s mouth recording for posterity everyone who sat down on the bench in front of it.

Chris Lisowski
Stella captured on surveillance camera by polar bear equipped with spy equipment.

–Thad Kellstad‘s rock videos embedded in a planter filled with faux flowers and faux greenery. I especially liked the fakery since the show is sited in a real live greenhouse.

Thad Kellstad
Thad Kellstad’s rock and rock videos in the fake potted plants.

In fact, the show was full of video works and lots of installations and overall I’d have to say Pittsburgh artists are having some fun and making interesting work that looks alot like what I’m seeing here in Philadelphia and in New York!

Here’s an earlier post from this Pittsburgh trip. And there’s lots of pictures at flickr.