Sharpsburg’s Alexander Sands draws national attention with Lawrenceville art gallery

By Tawnya Panizzi
Fox Chapel Herald

Fox Chapel Area graduate Alexander Sands opened his Lawrenceville art gallery in February and has been blown away by the number of requests he gets from artists to display their work, from as far as Alaska and beyond.

But Sands, a Sharpsburg resident, is staying true to his focus to bolster local and regional artists at his Vestige Concept Gallery.

“It’s better for business and we enjoy meeting people, hosting events and creating a culturally relevant experience for our friends and visitors,” said Sands, who graduated from FCA in 2002.

For people who can’t attend in-person at his location at 5417 Butler St., there are online tours that Sands said might appeal to “virtual folks, national artists and for posterity.”

Sands launched his art gallery after being underwhelmed by the lack of local opportunity for creative types like himself.

Vestige Concept Gallery has quickly gained popularity, Sands said, for its non-pretentious vibe that belies the rigid quality standards for display and sale.

Sands and media Director Kelsey Dennis create themed exhibits each month that feature 35 artists with one or two headliners.

“Diverse, short and fun” exhibits pique patrons’ interest more than slow solo shows, Sands said.

“There is an abundance of great art out there but we have to be able to group, market and sell that work,” he said.

Having shown more than 240 works since opening the Butler Street doors, Dennis said “we work very hard to keep the exhibits fresh and the audiences love it.”

Guest curators create added appeal, including the recent spring show which featured Kyle Houser, director of Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media, and “Hot Summer City” by Rafael Fuchs, an internationally recognized photographer based in Brooklyn, NY.

In July, the gallery featured rare works from photojournalist Ron Haviv, and in August, Robert Andy Coombs.

In addition to art openings, other monthly events include small music performances and film screenings.

The gallery also carries casual gifts along with collector-grade works of art.

“If you don’t see it on the walls, we can get it or create it for you,” Dennis said.

“We want people to realize that starting an art collection is something that is personally enriching and important for your well-being, especially now,” Dennis said.

Next up is “Art In The Fast Lane” which opens on Sept. 11 and “Primal Disposition” on Oct. 16.

For more information and for gallery hours and events, visit

Continue ReadingSharpsburg’s Alexander Sands draws national attention with Lawrenceville art gallery

Vestige Concept Gallery to explore intersections of disability and sexuality with photography exhibition The Tropic of Color

By Amanda Waltz
Pittsburgh City Paper

In 2009, artist Robert Coombs sustained a spinal cord injury after a trampoline accident. As a result, he became what’s described in the medical community as a C4-C5 quadriplegic — paralyzed in his legs, torso, and hands. Despite being unable to hold a camera — one review describes how he uses a wheelchair and controls his digital camera with a joystick operated by his mouth — Coombs continued his photographic practice and has since become celebrated for exploring the intersections of disability and sexuality.

Coombs will show in Pittsburgh for the first time with The Tropic of Color, an exhibition at Vestige Concept Gallery in Lawrenceville. The displayed works — on view Sat., Aug. 7-Sun., Aug. 29 — will draw from a series called Bobby’s Boys, described in a press release as featuring Coombs’ friends and lovers, and “exploring what it means for a gay disabled man to photograph able-bodied and disabled people.”

Overall, The Tropic of Color will include 30 artists of different backgrounds and disciplines. It also celebrates “the various influences of tropical ambiance, landscape, and culture in art,” with Coombs, who lives in Miami, posing his subjects against a warm, conventionally sexy, beachy backdrop.

Kelsey Dennis, media director for Vestige, says the gallery team discovered Coombs through NY Magazine senior art critic Jerry Saltz, who called the photographer “one of the most radically original and convincing new artists to emerge in some time.” She adds that they “became interested in his art, activism, and breaking of boundaries.”

“We chose to highlight Coombs because we believe his work is compelling, important, and needs to be seen,” says Dennis. “His unapologetic, sex-positive photographs are breaking ‘taboo’ by depicting people with disabilities as sexual beings with feelings, desires, and fantasies.”

A press release says that through his “photographic examinations of relationships, caregiving, fetish, and sex,” Coombs is “changing the narrative revolving around a community historically plagued by stigma, limited representation, and inadequate resources in relation to sexuality.”

Dennis says the gallery decided to continue a focus on photography since closing its July show, the Hot Summer City: Street Photography Exhibition with guest curator Rafael Fuchs.

“During this exhibit, we were learning a lot about the lengths photographers will go to for an image. In a sense, we were searching for photography at the edge: pushing boundaries in how the photography was shot, and the images that were being captured,” says Dennis.

Vestige, a fairly new, artist-run gallery opened by owner Alexander Sands in January 2020, works to promote artists through monthly exhibitions, sales, and special events. The gallery website says it also sells “fun, vintage, and retro/chic, art and other items reasonably priced for the budget-minded consumer.”

The Tropic of Color kicks off on Sat., Aug. 7 with a reception and dance after-party at Cobra Lounge in Bloomfield.
The Tropic of Color at Vestige Concept Gallery. Sat., Aug. 7-Sun., Aug. 29. 5417 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Walk-in or by appointment.

Continue ReadingVestige Concept Gallery to explore intersections of disability and sexuality with photography exhibition The Tropic of Color