Pittsburgh and Laurel Highlands: Art and Architecture by Emma Krasov

Photography by Emma Krasov

Besides its steel and iron legacy, its 446 golden-yellow bridges, its contemporary eds and meds flagships, and its renowned sports teams of Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is known for preserving and developing multiple art institutions that had first arrived on the high tide of its industrial magnitude at the turn of the last century.

The city of the Golden Triangle formed by the rivers Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, and surrounded by picturesque wooded hills, carries on its reputation as a distinguished cultural metropolis, boasting an impressive number of historic and contemporary art spaces that should be high up on any city visitor’s list.

2. Carnegie Museum

Carnegie Museum of Art started collecting the “Old Masters of tomorrow” since its opening in 1896. There are more than 30 thousand pieces of painting, sculpture, photography and decorative crafts in the museum collection. Its massive Hall of Architecture, founded in 1907, remains the largest in the USA assemblage of 140 plaster casts of world-famous architectural masterpieces from the Parthenon in Athens to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The expansive wall space around the museum’s three-story grand staircase features The Crowning of Labor mural by John White Alexander, a distinguished American artist, who depicted Pittsburgh’s 19th-20th century progress through the blend of symbolic imagery and naturalistic details. The museum founder, Andrew Carnegie is shown here as a knight in shining armor, crowned with a wreath by a winged angel.

3. Clayton

At Frick Art and Historical Center, experienced guides lead tours of Clayton – a meticulously preserved 11-room home of Henry Clay Frick, Pittsburgh’s great industrialist and art collector. His daughter, the last occupant of the estate, Helen Clay Frick, who died in 1984, had established The Frick Art Museum, and opened the family home filled with the exquisite Gilded Age furnishings, art pieces, and decorative elements to the public. At the white-columned museum building, besides the collection of European masters from the 14th through 18th centuries, there’s a rotating exhibition Forbidden Fruit: Chris Antemann at Meissen, now on display through January 10, 2016.

4. The Frick Museum

This elaborate and festive show is a result of several years of collaboration between a contemporary American artist and Europe’s oldest porcelain manufactory (since 1710). In her largest project to date, Antemann created a witty parody on the 18th century Baroque culture of hedonism and decadence, fittingly displayed in the galleries featuring paintings by Fragonard, Watteau, and Boucher.

Even The Café at the Frick lives up to art lovers’ expectations of refined entertainment, serving up inspired lunch fare, like maple-smoked eggplant soup finished with cream and lemon-infused olive oil, and blue crab salad sandwich on brioche roll.

5. Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum, located in a seven-story building, explores the legacy of the most innovate and controversial contemporary artist from his confident figurative school drawings to book illustrations and commercial advertisement, to silkscreen images and pop art works that made him world-famous. It’s easy to spend an entire day in this fascinating space. Museum visitors tend to group on the first floor staring at the live cam video from Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) graveside, or taking 3-minute screen tests of themselves with a 16 mm camera, just like the artist’s friends used to do in his studio, The Factory, or playing with his inflated foil “silver clouds,” toys, and costumes. Traditional distinctions between art and consumerism continue to be challenged, and the meanings of true and fake glory continue to be diluted and redistributed by the artist’s unconventional approach to his own and others’ work and ideas in the many galleries of the museum.

6. Mattress Factory

Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary site-specific installations commissioned by the curatorial body of the institution, housed in the former factory buildings, and produced by international artists. Living Things by Jacob Douenias + Ethan Frier is a 3D piece composed of bright green live spirulina algae in glass containers, custom-made circulation- , carbon sequestration- , heating- , and lighting systems, surrounded by assorted furniture. The artists’ statement reads. “This installation reveals the phenomenological qualities of the highly beneficial micro-algae and challenges visitors to consider what the future of the domestic environment may become in the context of the precarious agricultural and energy needs of a ballooning population.” Presented in another building, Trace of Memory by a Japanese-born Chiharu Shiota consists of black yarn stapled in geometric patterns over vacated rooms in the old creaky building filled with antiquated suitcases, books, bed, chairs, sewing machine, and wedding dress. Altogether the museum collection includes 17 works created for the spaces in which they are displayed.

7. Society for contemporary craft

At the Society for the Contemporary Craft, a profoundly meaningful exhibition Mindful: Exploring Mental Health through Art is currently on display through March 12, 2016. The goal of this highly creative and artful show is to break down societal stigma associated with mental disorders. Featuring more than 30 works by 14 contemporary artists, Mindful examines not only the impact of mental illness on society, but the role of art in encouraging self-expression and offering guidance in understanding the condition and seeking effective treatment.

In his sculpture Echoes Michael Janis reflects on social interactions and complex behaviors by using pairs of images of overlapping faces in fused glass arranged to create a new, third face with its own expression. “One cannot change without leaning a little further into the shared world, and without recognizing that even in one’s solitude, one is always at some point touching someone else,” reads the artist’s statement.

8. Laurel Highlands view

Just an hour drive to the east from Pittsburgh, an art and architecture treasure trove awaits in Laurel Highlands – a region of 3000 sq. miles of dense forests, serene lakes and roaring waterfalls.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, in 1959, and extensively renovated this year, includes the 30 000 sq. ft. building and a series of landscaped gardens and outdoor terraces. The museum collection, established through a bequest from a local philanthropist Mary Marchand Woods, reflects the national and regional history and culture with a strong emphasis on American Western and modernist art, the city of Pittsburgh and its development in paintings of the early 20th century artists, the works of female artists, and others.

Not far from the museum, The Supper Club restaurant in the 100-year-old building of the Greensburg Train Station, headed by the Executive Chef Greg Andrews, serves farm-to-table seasonal fare, like heritage chicken, house-preserved vegetables, and Clover Creek cheeses.

9. Fireplace in Nemacolin

A humongous collection of art from sculptures by Alexander Calder and Fernando Botero and prints by Mucha and Norman Rockwell to Tiffany lamps, Baccarat and Waterford crystal chandeliers, and silk Hermes scarves, is amassed by Joseph A. Hardy III at his enormous estate, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, that encompasses a lavish Chateau Lafayette, modeled after the Ritz in Paris; airplane hangar; Auto Toy Store (a vintage automobile museum); spas for humans and canines; a zoo with tigers, lions, and bears (mostly rescued animals) and a Wildlife Academy; art studio for resident artists; two-story shopping gallery; golf courts; casino; pool, and Falling Rock boutique hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Write.

The Nemacolin’s Executive Chef Sean Eckman and Pastry Chef Scott Tennant leave the resort guests wishing for nothing with their upscale culinary creations based on seasonal local ingredients and creative well thought-through combinations of bold flavors and textures.

10. Fallingwater

Two most famous Frank Lloyd Write’s buildings in Laurel Highlands attract throngs of visitors from all over the world. Fallingwater, commissioned in 1935 by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., was supposed to be built with a view of a waterfall, but the visionary-architect decided to place the house on top of a 300-million-year-old basalt rock with the waterfall so its dwellers would “live with the waterfall” not just watch it from their windows.

11. Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob, the 1954 house of I. N. Hagan that was supposed to be built on top of a hill, was cut into the hill instead – in accordance with Write’s principles of organic architecture. The house is covered with a green patinated copper roof, and its bedroom windows are on the ground level to better observe the life of moles and gofers populating the hill. The house was fully designed by Write, but built by his apprentices. When the happy owners repeatedly invited the aged yet constantly busy with new projects famous architect to come and look at his own creation, he replied, “I don’t have to come see the house. I envisioned long ago what you’re observing now.”

More information at: www.visitpittsburgh.com, www.laurelhighlands.org.