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Art Review: Exhibitions feature sculpture made from life's detritus

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

By Leslie Hoffman

Soft, fuzzy lint and hard, metal electrical parts might not have much in common, but they do when they both carry the weight of a story-laden history.

Cheryl Capezzuti's "remarkable" is a piece in her "Angels and Other Creatures" show a the Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery. (Rob Long)

Artist's web site

"Prospectus ONE: Wreckolections," runs through Feb. 8 at the Brew House Space 101 at 2100 Mary St. on the South Side. Space 101 is open 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. For more information, call 412-381-7767. "Angels and Other Creatures," will run at the Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery until Feb. 14, when it will close with a party and a silent auction. The closing festivities will run from 6 to 8 p.m. The gallery is at 707 Penn Ave. and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call 412-281-8723.

"Prospectus ONE: Wreckolections," found object sculpture by Akron, Ohio, resident Brett Hines at the Brew House Space 101, is composed of medium-sized sculptures consisting of found parts -- legs and arms of old wooden chairs, metal grates, rusting safety pins, old soup cans, old light bulbs and reflectors -- merged with laminated and wood-mounted photographs of old architectural features.

In his sculptures, most of which hang on the wall, Hines explores ideas of old versus new in the context of urban renewal, all the while reminding viewers of the implicit history represented in both the photographs and oddities that make up his pieces.

With "Hillcrest," the artist merges a proliferation of photographs of an old Victorian home. Two identical photographs of the home taken in black and white have been framed in old-fashioned-looking frames of black edged in gold. A black-and-white image on a clear pane of glass provides a centerpiece to the sculpture, and color cutouts of portions of the home jut upwards toward a round, cast-iron spiky wheel. Metal hinges and keyholes, doorknobs and chunks of molding -- from the home itself? -- add to the sculpture's flat, three-dimensional representation of the house. Contrast between the second and third dimension exists in the spindly twig that extends the length of the sculpture along the trunk of a tree in the photograph.

In "Urban Renewal?" Hines presents a color photograph of a sprawling, empty-windowed red brick home in the company of photographs of other abandoned buildings. The photograph of the red brick house is centered in a frame. Underneath, pieces of wooden furniture dangle, each embellished with a photograph of another vacant house or storefront that was clearly once beautiful and flourishing.

Three of Hines' standing sculptures, "Deco Tower," "Empire State" and "Key Tower" -- each is at least 5 feet tall -- have been cleverly composed to resemble skyscrapers. "Deco Tower" and "Empire State," glow from within with the help of hidden light bulbs.

In fact, all facets of Hines' sculptures are extremely well balanced, both in size and in color, and therefore maintain a peaceful quality that's surprising when one considers the inauspicious backgrounds of their parts. Their commentary on urban blight is insightful, while their compilations of seemingly unrelated parts are witty and amusing.

In much the same way, Cheryl Capezzuti brings new life to dryer lint, another medium that could also be taken for mere waste. Sculpting with lint is nothing new to the Pittsburgh artist; she has been exploring the merits of the fuzzy wads of dryer refuse since 1994, when she was in graduate school at Penn State, and has had many shows featuring her work with lint, including larger-than-life puppets at the Black Sheep Puppet Festival and an ongoing community art project at Duds 'N' Suds on Centre Avenue in Shadyside.

The sculptures featured in "Angels and Other Creatures" at the Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery represent a new direction for Capezzuti. Instead of the tiny angels and people she sculpts at the Laundromat, she has pushed the medium to sculpt giant people and solid, shape-confident angels that swoop down to the heads of gallery visitors, as well as friendly, gangly life-size sculptures of people.

As always with Capezzuti, the story behind the lint -- whom it came from and how she got it -- is important. Two large, 5-foot-long angels, "Angel of Immunity" and "Angel of Shared Strength," have been sculpted from the sterile lint from hospital laundry and have personal meaning for the artist.

The lint for gray "Ladybug"-- titled for the tiny insect that rests on the sleeping person's haunches -- came from little girls in Capezzuti's neighborhood who regularly leave lint on her doorstep.

Capezzuti's sculptures are full of life -- most likely because they are full of the lives of the people who have donated bits and pieces of themselves. Their droopy arms and legs are playful but not ridiculous, and again, as with Hines' sculpture, they couple accessibility with intelligence.

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