Shames: Ambridge artist emerges |
Conley, Times Staff |
||Ambridge artist Hilary Shames is
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' Emerging Artist for 2005.
Hilary is shown in a room at the Center where she has branch
scupltures and digital photo montages displayed.
/ Sally Maxson
Her work flows like
water, which is a compliment to artist Hilary Shames.
is H20, a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, a liquid that's
wonderfully able to be ice or steam, a wave, a river, a flood. And
more. It's a life necessity and life's quencher.
what water is and can be on Friday evening or whenever you're at the
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside and looking at Shames'
2005 Emerging Artist Exhibition.
The exhibit opens Friday as
part of the financially struggling center's fund-raiser, the First
Annual House Party and 60th Anniversary Bash. The evening will
feature Martha and the Vandellas as well as an exhibition by Clayton
Merrell, the center's Artist of the Year. Shames is the center's
2005 Emerging Artist of the Year.
The Ambridge resident has the uncanny talent to give nature's simple
things - a wildflower called Queen Anne's Lace, clover sprouts for
a garden salad, a jade plant, sheer curtains, the branches from a
neighbor's chopped down maple tree - depth and meaning beyond the
Shames does so with 21st century techno tools - a computer,
a monitor, a printer, a digital camera, a flatbed scanner and lots
of ink. She also uses artists' tools of old -acrylic and oil paints,
cords, block carvings, tape and photographs. She then mixes the
virtual work with the real so that it becomes unique style.
What style is that?
Shames' brown eyes widened. She
paused, then giggled like a bubbly teen. "21st Century."
Having Shames explain her work is like trying to corral a
droplet of water.
She's fluid like water naturally is. So is
this exhibit. The three rooms - the Anima Room, the Prayer Flags
Room and the Branching Room - aren't still lifes or period pieces.
"It's the overall feeling of life and being alive and
vibrating," Shames said
They are of the moment, moments she
managed to capture during this past year, and connections that she
"So much of this is about play. When I am working one
thing leads to another," she said.
What it's led to is an
exhibition that when written about may seem esoteric, but when
viewed isn't. Visitors needn't know anything about art, said Shames
who earned a master of fine arts at the University of Michigan and
teaches art classes at Carlow College and the center.
only need to feel and make a connection between themselves and their
environment, she said.
The first room, the Anima Room begins
with the clover sprouts. Always curious, Shames put the sprouts on
the scanner and used it as if it were a microscope enlarging the
sprouts to human size.
She also took close up digital photos
of the Queen Anne's lace, as the weeds bloomed and as the flowers
went to seed.
"Everything is based on the same structure,
but each one is different," Shames said. The artist in her followed
with. "They are so much like people."
From the enlarged
images Shames made prints, paintings and carvings, and a sculpture
of wood, yarn and wooden skewers depicting Queen Anne's lace at
seed. She named the sculpture the Invasive Alien, because years ago,
Queen Anne's lace was a carrot, and is now considered a weed.
She did the same with a pomegranate - photographing,
scanning, painting it in oils and then letting it mold. Shames made
her connection. "It started to look like the universe. Like a
supernova," she said.
An old pair of sheer white curtains and
a flesh-colored iris are at the core of the Prayer Flags Room,
pieces that sprung from Shames' interest in the intricate Tibetan
Mandalas and Prayer Flags Buddhist monks create.
"I like the
metaphor of curtains, because it's like something is being revealed
or veiled," she said. "Like you're seeing the surface, but there is
always something more."
Shames photographed the iris and
displayed the iris image on the computer monitor. She then taped a
piece of the curtain on the computer monitor and painted with
acrylics over the lights images of the iris that showed through.
It's her form of computer screen painting.
She did this 16
times over. Some were opaque and some were translucent. Shames hung
each painted curtain piece on a clothesline in her backyard on Pine
Street, which lead to her using a video camera to document the
curtains as they moved in the wind from morning till dusk, all of
which are part of the exhibit.
"The message that comes
through is that paint is like prayer," Shames said.
room, Branchings, is her favorite, perhaps because it is her most
recent. Its roots are in a maple tree in the home she's shared for
eight years with her daughters, Lisa Langhorst, 10, and Heidi
The tree was planted in her neighbor's yard.
This spring, the neighbor decided to have the 30-year-old tree cut
down so more light would shine into her yard, Shames said. She
remembered the many days she'd spent with her daughters on the
hammock beneath the tree. When the tree was cut down this spring,
the neighbor gave Shames its branches. .
She went to work.
She peeled the bark from the branches, then delicately carved the
wood, used a hand drill and then pieced the branches together with a
chain links. From those branches came three sculptures - Joy,
Radiance and Blooming. Underneath each is an array of mirrored
tiles. The light breaks through and creates shadows. Again, Shames
took photographs and made more digital montages. Again, she made a
"Trees are like the circulatory system of your
body," Shames said. In her catalog Shames wrote: "We are so tree
like. Nestled within the boughs are an infinitude of sacred
Perhaps others will see the connections Shames
makes. Perhaps each visitor will make their own. All will be
(Shames' Emerging Artist Exhibition runs through Nov.
6. For information about the fund-raiser and gallery hours, call
(412) 361-0813 or go online at www.pittsburgharts.org.)