“Thought provoking, mysterious, and sometimes humorous.” These are the words that Bob Villamagna uses to describe his work. His assemblage and collage pieces will be displayed in the Studio Gallery of Artworks Around Town during the month of March, with the exhibit opening Friday, March 2nd, from 5:00 to 8:00 at the monthly Gallery Hop.
Artworks Around Town is located in the north end of the historic Centre Market at 2200 Market St., Wheeling. The Hop is free and open to all. Visitors will enjoy refreshments and music as well as the artwork, and have an opportunity to meet the visiting artist and the artist members of the Gallery.
Bob Villamagna grew up in the Ohio River rust belt, and the themes in his work come from his own life experience as well as from stories or feelings that the found objects he uses might suggest.
Assemblage and collage make up the majority of his works at present. In his words, ” I have been drawing and painting since age 5, but for the past 20 years I have focused on creating work using found objects and non-traditional materials. I love working with found materials, especially those items that show use, wear, rust; stuff with character. I wonder about the person who made these materials, who used them, who held them. I like to think that a part of the soul or energy of that person is still contained in these things and now is transferred into the artwork. I am giving that old piece of metal or that broken toy a new life, a different life. These various materials are every bit as much my palette as is a tray of oils for a painter. For me, walking through a flea market is like walking through a well stocked art materials store. The flea market is my palette.”
Bob Villamagna is an Asst. Professor of art at West Liberty University, and is also director of the University’s Nutting Gallery. He teaches workshops in assemblage and metal collage at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, and will be teaching a metals collage workshop at Touchstone Center for Crafts this coming spring.
His work is shown at the Gallery on 43rd St. and the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, and has also been displayed at the Carnegie Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory, The Erie Museum of Art, The Ohio Craft Museum and the ARC Gallery in Chicago, among others. Two of his works are presently on exhibition at the Dairy Barn Center in Athens, Ohio.
His awards and honors would be too extensive to list, but, when asked if anything very special came to mind, he recalled the Penn State University New Year’s Eve celebration. Each year, the University chooses an artist to produce a piece of installation art which will be set up on the campus the day of New Year’s Eve and will remain through New Year’s Day. It must be sturdy but easy to assemble and disassemble, and it must be interactive with the visiting public. Meeting all of these requirements was no small task, but being selected as the visiting artist was a high honor, so Bob agreed to undertake the project.
He came up with an inspired idea. Recalling the back yards of his childhood when people had clotheslines and billowing laundry drying in the wind and sun, he designed a miniature back yard. With solid stanchions to hold the clotheslines, he placed them at a reachable height and decorated the lines with small lights. Available nearby were note papers, white on one side for messages and silver on the back to catch the light as they moved in the wind. Holes were punched in the papers, and visitors were to write their New Year’s resolutions and attach the note to the clotheslines. The messages were anonymous, so not only did people have the pleasure of writing their own messages but the fun of reading others’ notes.
Upon removal, the pieces are stored, and each one is reassembled for 2 more years, so there are always 3 installations, one new and 2 from previous years . . . except for Bob’s! His display was so popular that it has been reassembled for 5 years. This year, he was asked to do the new installation for the celebration. He reluctantly declined due to other commitments, so the clothes line may wave again in 2012.
One of Bob’s art students, Victoria Lavorini, has discovered her own passion for assemblage art as well as absorbing some of his philosophy. She will be joining him in the Studio Gallery with a display of some of her pieces. Speaking of her work, she said, “Growing up in the small traditional town of St. Clairsville, I have always been surrounded by antiques and objects with rich histories, but it wasn’t until I studied with Robert Villamagna that I realized that I could turn these items into meaningful artworks of my own. Unlike other art forms, assemblages provide a way for the artist to give objects a second chance at life. Some items have a well understood past, while others possess a past that has been lost throughout its journey to my hands. Either way, I make it my personal goal to place these wonderful objects together in a way that asks viewers to look upon them with a newfound reverence.”
Artwork in the North Gallery will come from the Sexual Assault Help Group.
For further information, go to www.artworksaroundtown.org or call (304)232-7540.