Flags Of A Different Fiber

Gallery To Explore Apolitical Theme, but Controversial Medium

June is set out to be a month of exciting art events with fiber art and artists in the spotlight as Pittsburgh hosts the Fiber Arts International starting Saturday, June 3rd. Concurrently, local Lawrenceville art space Vestige Concept Gallery will be hosting the opening reception of their latest exhibit “On Neutral Ground;” featuring a fiber artist whose work explores the deeper meaning of a controversial fiber: flags. 

Kevin Clancy, is a self-described patriot and MFA graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, who has dedicated untold hours deconstructing American flags into piles of colored threads, as an exploration of their deeper meaning. In some works, he goes further by reconstructing the pieces and threads into new objects, often resembling the original but with altered symbolic elements. 

Though Clancy’s process may seem anti-patriotic at first impression, his motives are far from it. “I’m the son of a veteran, nephew of a veteran, grandson of a veteran–I’m the first person in my family who didn’t join the military,” he explains. The dissection of the flag is Clancy’s way of understanding and revealing the complex fabric of America. In its reconstruction, he prefers to use the word “suturing” meaning to fix, or to heal; his own way of mending the country back together.

“I really love this symbol. But it also is just a symbol, and if it stands for freedom and we don’t have the freedom to look critically at it and think about what it means and what we do in its name, then where are we?”

Clancy’s artwork “No. 34, Skinned,” will be on display as part of Vestige Concept Gallery’s “On Neutral Ground” Exhibit running from June 4th through July 1st.  A bleached, upside-down flag strung up using sinew, Clancy points out the upside-down flag is “a sign of distress.” Through bleaching, some of the pink tones still show faintly through the all-white flag that he equates to a fleshy, corporeal form.  He adds, “When in this position, the flag only reaches out to you when it either needs you (in distress) or when reversed towards danger, wants to use you for a purpose (to march in).” On its own, he says, it remains an object that is “calcified, unmoving,  unchanging, and is open to greater dialogue”.   

“On Neutral Ground” opens Saturday, June 4th at 6PM.  Vestige Concept Gallery, 5417 Butler Street, 15201. 

Photo courtesy of Kevin Clancy

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A Q&A with Pittsburgh’s Vestige Concept Gallery

RQ: How did you make the decision to do a storefront gallery?
Kelsey Dennis, co-owner and media director: Opening a storefront gallery was a convergence of both luck and the external environment. My partner and business owner Alexander Sands, an artist who used to exhibit regularly, grew frustrated with the lack of display opportunities after the fallout from the pandemic. In an attempt to create an opportunity, he was going to show works at a local pub, but it got cancelled due to city gathering restrictions enacted in December 2020. Around the same time, we found out that our friend had been trying to rent his vacant retail space, so we got to talking and hosted a one-time pop-up exhibition of Alex’s work. The show was well-received by those who attended, we had a lot of fun, and fell in love with the space. We just ended up staying and turned it into a gallery business. …

Our business model is a lot different, with a 30-day exhibit turnaround time—usually 30 or more artists per month—and it keeps the art fresh and the competition guessing. Our hope is that our determination inspires others to get out and start a business, but it’s hard work. 

Ultimately, our goal is to bring more cultural awareness to our area. Another gallery or two in the neighborhood, and we could become something more akin to an “arts district.”  //

For full text and images, consider reading RQ in print, on a Sunday afternoon, sun streaming through your window, coffee in hand, and nary a phone alert within sight or in earshot… just fine words, fine design, and the opportunity to make a stitch in time. // Subscribe or buy a single issue today. // Print is dead. Long live print. //


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 vestigegallery.com

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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. vestigegallery.com

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

10+ New Businesses Open in Lawrenceville Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has been a challenging time for small businesses communities like Lawrenceville. Many businesses were forced to close completely for a few months in 2020, opening again in the summer at smaller capacities with a nervous customer base. Many had to continue to flip flop business practices to make it 2021 with the rise and fall of COVID case numbers in Allegheny County. Business owners had to pivot, and pivot quickly, from increased sanitation standards to taking their business outside on the sidewalks, and the future became increasingly hard to predict. Despite the circumstances, dozens of new neighbors came to Lawrenceville, opening at the most taxing time in recent memory to be a business owner. As summer 2021 is on the horizon, and cautious optimism returns to our country as case numbers go down and the vaccinated population goes up, supporting small businesses is more crucial than ever. Take a look at the newest storefronts to come to Butler Street and Penn Avenue and give them some extra love for defeating the odds and bringing their passion to our community.

1. Iron City Boulders

Iron City Boulders is a 27,000 square foot warehouse in Lawrenceville set to become Pittsburgh’s first bouldering only gym. Opened January 21st, the updated warehouse offers 11,000- sq/ft of bouldering walls, specialty espresso, coffee and tea, and a training area featuring climbing specific training equipment, free weights, and cardio equipment. The gym is excited to participate in the areas continuing development and look forward to offering Pittsburgh climbers of all levels an unforgettable rock climbing and fitness experience. Get in your workout, then tour the scenic views and day/night life of Pittsburgh’s historic Lawrenceville! More information at ironcityboulders.com.

2. Tonic Coffee

Tonic Coffee is opening in April 2021 at 3410 Penn Avenue. Tonic Coffee will be the first coffee and mocktail bar in Pittsburgh. This women-owned business seeks to open the minds of all who enjoy good coffee and for those who don’t, the non-alcoholic concept of crafted mocktails. For many years, the shop’s owner, Stephanie Nicolas, wanted the opportunity to build a coffee bar that embodies her experiences while traveling the world: a welcoming, elegant space in the community that will seek to elevate the coffee experience, an inclusive place that allows you to slow down and appreciate the process and intention given to your daily cup. For more information, visit toniccoffee.co.

3.Vestige Art Gallery

Vestige Concept Gallery is an art display space and store located in Upper Lawrenceville at 5417 Butler Street. The gallery exists to promote local and regional artists through sales, and special events. They also feature some of the most up-and-coming avant-garde performances in today’s music. The name “Vestige” was chosen as a harkening to things from our collective past, while “Concept” lends itself to a future of endless possibilities.

In addition to works for sale, the shop features fun, vintage, and retro/chic, art and other items reasonably priced for the budget-minded consumer. Visit the gallery today to see what’s new and happening! They honor walk-in’s as well as private appointments. For more information, visit vestigegallery.com

4. Open Up Pittsburgh

Open Up Pittsburgh is a nonprofit organization that opened in 2020 at 3711 Butler Street. Open Up’s mission is to teach mindfulness tools and movement practices, centering people living with disabilities. They seek to encourage the development of joy, interconnectivity, and deeper self understanding through inclusive, engaging, enjoyable activities, such as yoga, movement, breath work, dance, games, and more, participants learn and explore new tools to help navigate social settings. For more information, visit openuppittsburgh.com.

5. Contemporary Craft

Contemporary Craft is a nonprofit arts organization that presents contemporary art in craft materials by international, national, and regional artists. Since 1971, Contemporary Craft has offered innovative exhibitions focused on multicultural diversity and contemporary art, as well as a range of hands-on workshopscommunity outreach programs, and a store. Contemporary Craft has relocated to its new, permanent home in the Upper Lawrenceville neighborhood at 5645 Butler Street and opened its doors to the public on September 3, 2020. Through its mission of engaging the public in creative experiences through contemporary craft, the organization offers meaningful art opportunities through four core values: providing vital support for artists, filling critical gaps in public education, sharing cross-cultural perspective, and using art to build community. For more information, visit contemporarycraft.org.

6. Sanctuary Pittsburgh

Sanctuary Pittsburgh is an antique, vintage, yoga and tattoo shop newly opened at 3533 Butler Street. At Sanctuary, they offer a warm and inviting space for tattooing. Their mission is to reclaim our bodies as sacred spaces while creating art and self-love by offering a safe, private environment for anyone regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Sanctuary will never stop working toward a better representation in the tattoo industry. Everyone is welcome to find inner peace and healing on a physical, mental, and spiritual level by reclaiming our bodies as sacred spaces whether it is through tattooing, fashion, art, or yoga. Sanctuary offers refuge to anyone who wants to better their life. For more information, visit sanctuarypittsburgh.com

7. Mosaic Leaf Tea Bar

Mosaic Leaf Tea Bar is home to Ultra Matcha and located at 3511 Butler Street, the main mixing lab where all the magic happens. Here they create and test new matcha blends and experiment with wellness inspired botanical infusions. The bar provides a space for you to experience a variety of matcha offerings from traditional preparation to modern matcha lattes along with a rotating selection of in-house tea “cocktails”. Come sip on some magic while you browse our artisan matcha blends and tools for your home ritual. For more information, visit ultramatcha.com.

8. Le Via Trattoria

LeVia Trattoria is a new Italian restaurant open at 5336 Butler Street. They opened in March 2021 and will be open for take-out service. LeVia is an unique scratch kitchen takeout concept, with a comfortable atmosphere, with foods just like you’d expect at Grandma’s house. They are run by Chef Anthony and the Castine family.

The focus at LeVia is on fresh, quality ingredients, and a convenient and friendly atmosphere. They strive to source the best products and ingredients from local farms and purveyors when possible and believe in supporting small businesses and farmers in the local and regional community. For more information, visit leviapgh.com.

9. Pusadee’s Garden (Re-Opening)

After much anticipation, Pusadee’s Garden, a beloved Upper Lawrenceville staple restaurant, re-opened at 5319 Butler Street. They are currently operating with dine-in only, at a limited capacity. Visit their website at pusadeesgarden.com for reservations and menu options.

10. Mi Empanada

Mi Empanada has been nestled in the Pittsburgh area ever since 2020. This empanada house highlights their passion for Argentine Cuisine, honest cooking, and a fun atmosphere. The menu features a selection of empanadas, sandwiches, locally sourced South American pastries and sides all made in-house by our talented team. With some of the most delicious combinations of ingredients, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Loved by locals and traveling foodies alike, now is the perfect time for you to join us today at Mi Empanada at 4034 Butler Street. For more information, visit miempanada.com.

11. Rolling Pepperoni

Rolling Pepperoni opened at 6140 Butler Street in August 2020. Rolling Pepperoni is breaking bread across Appalachia to unite rural and urban communities. The savory bakery, known for its pepperoni rolls and collection of Appalachian stories, currently has breakfast and lunch options for meat-eaters and vegans like. For more information, visit rollingpepperoni.com.


Original article

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