Culture

The War Against Aesthetics in Contemporary Art

Often when I walk through a gallery of contemporary art, I can hear a murmuring between the works that echoes journalist Herbert Morrison’s voice describing the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937: “Oh, the humanity!” It’s as if the depiction of suffering in any form has become the criteria by which we judge art, rather …

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A Moment

While chops sizzle and onions brown,the radio intones failures, floods, and fires,and the family cries its needs, Step out the kitchen doorTrain your eyes on the clouds, rumpled on the darkening sky  How big are they, you wonder, and where is that cicada with its kazoo, and the bees that all day probed the flowers? How far is …

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Ramona Reeves wins Drue Heinz with First Collection

Take the mordant wit of Flannery O’ Connor, combine it with the stripped-down empathy of Raymond Carver, and you just might have something like It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories. This debut collection by Ramona Reeves offers a window into the entwined lives of characters in Mobile, Alabama — a politically, socially and …

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Pittsburgh Opera’s Laced/Unlaced Fashion Show

A capacity crowd of 275 recently filled the Bitz Opera Factory for Pittsburgh Opera’s ‘Laced/Unlaced’ fashion show. The event combined ‘Gothic romance’ opera fashion assembled from pieces in Pittsburgh Opera’s costume shop vault with elegant, accessible luxury fashion from Skye Douglass’ House of Couture Designs, and seductive lingerie from Pulchra Intimates. Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists and local tenor Ben Werley sang dramatic operatic …

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Pitt Stages’ “Seven Guitars” Gives Life to a Dream Deferred

It has been said that the sign of great actors is that they don’t care if you watch them perform or not – as they disdain “playing to the crowd” — and I would argue that the same can be said of great playwrights, who write in a way that invites you to listen to …

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Homewood Poem

Stranahan, steepest hill in Homewood, pulls my primary-school bones like iron filings across an etch-a-sketch from Belmar at the top to flat Apple Street running across its base near 7101, Mystery Manor. Bought by Woogie Harris, the gangster banker, in the 30’s. In rabbit fur maxi-coats, chinchilla-draped shoulders, jewel-studded t-straps, and wingtips, people stepped from …

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An Overdue Obituary – The McKeesport Daily News

When I was growing up in Elizabeth, a small town in the Mon Valley, and uncles, aunts and neighbors learned that I wanted to write for a newspaper, I would hear this common refrain: “Maybe you can work for The Daily News.” Although my sights were set elsewhere, I knew their words were less about …

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Small-town Characters Drive “Wings & Other Things”

Story endings can be famously tricky to land, with Hemingway once claiming he wrote 39 different endings to A Farewell to Arms. Yet, when the writer Chauna Craig delves into the messy lives of her female protagonists, the resolution happens so effortlessly it can feel like sleight of hand. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor’s …

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February Night

—for Hil Winter rain drummingthe pond ice beyond the gate.One light burns overthe stove, bright enough that hecan make out the easy drift of her hip slopinginto the turned-down blanket.The warm length of her.The warm length of heragainst him. Cold rains. He feeds the fire.

Pittsburgh Opera’s “Ariodante” – A Sublime Marriage of the 18th and 21st Centuries

Nearly a century ago, the iconoclastic dramatist Bertolt Brecht wrote that “Since it is precisely for its backwardness that the opera-going public adores opera, an influx of new types of listener with new appetites has to be reckoned with; and so it is.”  This is a felicitous way to describe what Pittsburgh Opera has done …

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Fitting into West Virginia

In writing, place can be both problematic and inspirational. Take James Joyce’s troubled relationship with his Irish homeland. Ireland’s Catholic, nationalist values were reasons enough for him to never enter his native land after 1912. And though he died in 1941, his masterpieces remain redolent of Dublin. In her captivating debut memoir, Another Appalachia: Coming …

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When Life Could Be a Dream

When American Bandstand dancersin Philly skipped across our TV screenson the pony, hip swiveled to the twist,jumped up and back in the locomotion,our Platter Pushin’ Papa in Pittsburgh’sroller arenas and high school gyms spun usonto slick dance floors for slow grindsto doo-wop love crush melodies highon falsetto and low blow of saxophone.Sent us us out on …

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Poem Ending With a Line from Tomas Tranströmer (via Robin Robertson)

Oh to be veeringalong Baum Boulevardto the beatus via north,where the squalls of Mercer vanish for a minute, horizon a violet knife-cut, curtainof snow throbbingat the grade’s bottom—none of which you’ll know, my dear,no matter how loudthe ringing tambourines of ice.

What About Aesthetics?

The latest iteration of the Carnegie International dropped in the era of the pandemic. What would it say about our world situation as reflected in the work of contemporary artists? How would it fit within the historic framework of the exhibition that has been instrumental in shaping the character of the Carnegie Museum of Art? …

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Remembering a Steelers Season to Forget. CARD-PITT

The fresh snow and twinkling lights had Pittsburghers in the holiday spirit, but alone in his hotel room John Grigas had spiraled into a dark place. He had played 19 games in his professional football career. His teams had lost all 19. With his soul suffering and his body battered, could he drag himself through …

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The Immaculate Reception Collection

To mark the 50 anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” Pittsburgh-based artist Dino Guarino has created a series of paintings that capture the entire play.    The famous Franco Harris catch provided the spark that ignited the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty, and Guarino’s series of seven paintings grew from a series of conversations he had with the …

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Airmen Behind Enemy Lines

As illustrated by the stories of eight Pittsburgh-area natives, downed airmen who bailed out over Yugoslavia during World War II experienced vastly different fates, from daring rescues to drowning and execution. Lost Airmen: The Epic Rescue of WWII Bomber Crews Stranded Behind Enemy Lines tells their stories and many others. Pilot Charles “Scotty” Stewart ordered …

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On a Pedestal, Fall 2022

Sculpture All AroundHats off to two local sculpture efforts. The first, by longtime design innovator Dan Droz is “The Gathering,”(above) the largest sculpture to be installed in a public setting in Pittsburgh in over 20 years. It is sited at the entrance to The Heritage Trail, at 15th Street and Waterfront Place in the Strip …

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The Studied Neglect of the Hill District

The dreariest part of a recent trip to Pittsburgh was not the memorial service I attended, but revisiting the Hill District.  I’ve always felt a connection to the place, first referred to as “Jew’s Hill” during my grandparents time. Then with the great migration of blacks coming north after the Civil War, the named changed …

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A Princess on the Bluff

On February 26, 1978, Princess Grace of Monaco presented a poetry program entitled “Birds, Beasts and Flowers” in the Carnegie Music Hall under the auspices of the International Poetry Forum. This was her first professional appearance in the United States since her marriage in 1954. This would also be her first visit to Pittsburgh. Though …

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The Power and Danger of Storytelling

Sway. for Jonathan Gottschall, author of the riveting nonfiction, The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down, this lone syllable jotted on a bar napkin while watching interactions in a tavern becomes the answer to a question: What are they actually doing? His thesis: human communication stands “to influence …

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Canton – a Great Fall Getaway

For most Pittsburghers, canton, Ohio is synonymous with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And why not? Thirty-two of the 362 enshrined members are Steeler-related. But the birthplace of the National Football League (originally the American Professional Football Association in 1920), has more to offer than football. Founded in 1963 with two rooms, the Hall …

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