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Washington Neighborhoods
The Arts: New Members Show opens at Artists Co-Op

Sunday, August 11, 2002

By Dave Zuchowski

The New Members Show, opening at the Artists Co-Op Friday, certainly will showcase a mixed bag of artistic media. The lineup of works includes stained glass, fabric art, photography, porcelain pieces, works in colored pencil and acrylic paint, basket art, pottery and pieces that are a unique blend of pottery and cane, all of which will be available for purchase.

Although most of the seven featured artists joined the Co-Op within the past year (hence the name of the show), they all have extensive careers.

Karen Howell of Trafford, Westmoreland County, has been a full-time potter since 1972 and has participated in so many shows and exhibits that her curriculum vitae is five pages long. Inspired by a Japanese legend, her beautiful hand-painted porcelain pieces often incorporate a rabbit-in-the-moon motif into her designs of coasters, lamps, plates and ornamental objects.

Scott Manko, the show's coordinator, graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1989 with a degree in graphic design but four years ago decided to switch his career to photography.

"Although I had been taking photos since high school, I only got into the commercial aspects of photography when I sold my work at the Covered Bridge Festival in 1998," said Manko of Eighty Four.

Using a 35mm system with a few lenses and flashes, and with a vintage antique camera, Manko creates note cards, black-and-white and color photos; and Polaroid SX-70s capture on film old barns, the region's covered bridges, farm settings, local rodeos and mountain bike races.

Trinity High School art teacher Lisa Jenkins joined the Artists Co-Op a year ago on the urging of fellow member and photographer Mark Marietta. "I've been exhibiting and selling my art ever since I joined the Co-Op," said Jenkins, a Bethel Park resident who plans to include more than 10 of her colored pencil and acrylic works in the show.

Recently, Jenkins began adding text to her portraiture of the colorful personalities she encounters, often on a serendipitous basis. "With color, you can convey emotion, but with words, you can drive the message home even further," said the art education graduate of Indiana University of Pa.

Canonsburg fiber artist Linda Listing learned to weave more than 25 years ago on a loom she purchased from a catalog. Along the way, she learned tablet weaving, used by ancient societies such as the Egyptians and Vikings, which led to an interest in historical pieces.

While working as an assistant naturalist at a local nature center, she learned to identify wild plants that she used to dye her fibers. She still uses this knowledge in making her wearables, such as scarves and shawls, and other fiber art pieces.

While he was a child, Tim Roth of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, learned the almost-lost art of caning from his mother. A physicist by profession, he later developed an interest in pottery.

Six or seven years ago, Roth decided to combine the two art forms, thereby creating a unique product, pieces that are functional and decorative. Some can find a niche as a wall hanging, but his fruit bowls, trays and platters can be used to hold food and drinks.

In 1985, McMurray stained-glass artist Andra Hartz completed her first professional leaded glass panels -- a pair of beveled inserts for a curio cabinet's doors. Before moving to southwestern Pennsylvania, Hartz fabricated and installed more than 625 commissions in Newburgh, Ind., including a whole-church window series.

"I like to produce smaller, exquisite, more-or-less traditional' pieces," she said. "But Prairie style and contemporary provide an occasional change of pace. When painting on glass is essential to the design, I tend to like very tiny, detailed painting, reminiscent of the Swiss Renaissance quatrefoils and panels of the 1500s."

James Tomasek of Hopwood, Fayette County, put himself through college at California University of Pa. by making and selling baskets and refinishing furniture. Completely self-taught, Tomasek first bought a basket-making kit and books and has been involved in his "cottage industry" endeavors since.

A park ranger at Fort Necessity National Battlefield near Chalk Hill, Tomasek creates historic reproductions patterned after items he's seen. He particularly is attracted to Nantucket Lightship designs. The latter were developed off the coast of Massachusetts by sailors aboard ships, anchored off the shoals, used to warn passing vessels of nearby sandbars.

To make his Nantucket pieces, Tomasek uses oak and cherry wood for the bases and handles and rattan as his weaving material. Some of his work at the New Members Show will include wine baskets, wool drying baskets and Shaker cheese baskets.

The New Member Show at the Artists Co-Op at the Washington Mall runs from Friday through Sept. 13. An opening-night reception, free and open to the public, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. The show can be viewed from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Call 724-229-0365.

Dave Zuchowski is a free-lance writer who covers arts and entertainment for Washington Sunday. He can be reached by e-mail at: owlscribe@yahoo.com

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