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Terence Boyd's oversized, archery-needlework at the Tri-Main Building

Pittsburgh’s Distillery Program artists as Buffalo Arts Studio

The bad news, if you’re heading to the Distillery Program at the Brew House Association exhibit at Buffalo Arts Studio in the Tri-Main Building thinking you’re going to have a few drinks there, is it’s just an art exhibit. (I shouldn’t say just, but you know what I mean.) The good news is that the Central Park Grill—where you can get a drink—is right around the corner.

The Distillery Program at the Brew House Association comprises a group of artists that work in a space in Pittsburgh that formerly was a brewery. Some Buffalo Arts Studio artists went there a few weeks ago to show their work, and now the Pennsylvania artists are showing here.

The artwork includes paintings and drawings and prints and a number of fabrication works, literally, that is, involving fabric. Fabric is a kind of theme of the show, whether consciously or inadvertently.

The most spectacular works—including a performance piece and variety of artifacts—are by Terence Boyd, who makes art sometimes with a fine drawing pen, sometimes with a sewing machine, sometimes with an 80-pound hunting bow. Relating and interrelating ideas of fabric-making, sewing, stitching, embroidery, pattern-making, and image-making. And the rote, repetitious, semi-cerebral activity of sewing, stitching, whether by hand or machine, as a possible avoidance strategy to dealing—that is to say, not dealing—with more poignant realities.

The hand-drawn works consist of a screen-like array of a zillion delicate vertical parallel lines out of which emerge two figural elements, a blank, absence area below, in the shape of a coffin, and above, a little flying figure that the artist will tell you is meant to represent the children’s classic literary character Peter Pan, consummate strategist of avoidance. Boyd said these works relate to a time a few years back when his father passed away, and for whatever reason, he failed to fully come to grips with the event, and sufficiently and properly mourn.

The Peter Pan works, in addition to the hand-drawn elements, feature several narrow horizontal bands of sewing-machine embroidery. Meanwhile, during the performance piece, a programmed sewing machine turned out an embroidery copy of a pen-and-ink abstract landscape drawing displayed nearby (the rapid up-and-down needle action of the sewing machine a present kinetic reference to the drawing technique evidenced in the zillion little vertical lines of the Peter Pan works). Instructions to the sewing machine were via a scanned digital photo of the original landscape artwork.

While as the main feature of the performance piece, the artist, using his hunting bow, shot arrows, with string or yarn attached, through a huge hanging canvas in the center of the room, back and forth, from one side and the other, to create a super-scale artifact in principle if not in finesse technique of needlework art. Sewing as an extreme sport. After passing through the canvas, the arrows still had sufficient force to pierce backdrop gallery walls an inch or two deep.

Among the other artists on display, Kate Hansen has a large-scale knitwork piece on two wooden frames, the knitwork stretching between the frames to create a topology figure resembling a tunnel with flare openings either end. Reminiscent of a spider hole. She calls the work Black Hole. Her other piece is a kind of playhouse tent construction of blankets, and inside the tent, a couple of TV sets. It’s called Think about the Horse You Never Had as a Child and the Woman that You will Never Become.

Alexis Roberto has a variety of works in different media, from an artist’s book to photos and prints on paper and wood, largely about textural two-dimensionality. Two dimensions edging into three. Gauze and string as imagery and in actuality, collaged into casual configurations that range from doodles to what look like precise geographical terrain maps, charts of wind and water deposition and erosion effects.

More geographical reference in Elizabeth Brophy’s Wyoming, consisting of four little box frames containing prints largely of rocks, boulders, overlain in parts with paraffin.

There are paintings of unmade beds and rumpled bedding in black and white by Josh Mitchell, and in color, candid situation multi-portraits by Cara Livorio. And Crystala Armogast has three screen prints “with iron and patina.” They look like they were painted with rust. One is of an elephant, or parts of an elephant, one is of a tower apparatus, on clouds, and one is of a industrial trestle of some sort.

The Distillery Program at the Brew House Association show continues through August 24.

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