ART Pop art exhibit at Hoyt speaks about modernity

One former lawyer began to paint at 40 to fill a creative void.
The Hoyt Art Center in New Castle just opened their latest exhibit, "Snap, Crackle, Pop," and while it isn't about breakfast cereal, consumer products do play an important role. Four well-known Pop Artists from four different states have their works on solo display in different galleries, each with their own twist on popular culture.
The Pop Art movement began in Britain in the '50s, in rebellion against Abstract Expressionism and its seriousness. Andy Warhol is probably the most recognized name associated with the Pop movement.
Though there is often humor in Pop Art, Isabella Natale of New York City, is quick to point out that her works are still serious. "All the elements of serious art are there: composition, colors, relationship, just like in landscapes or figures," says Natale. "I was influenced by Pop Artists and use humor because it is a good way to communicate, then I make a social commentary."
Contemporary statements
Natale's acrylic paintings, displayed in the East Main Gallery, leave no doubt as to where she stands on political or social issues. Patricia McLatchy, exhibition coordinator at The Hoyt describes her works as "humorously intense." One painting, called "Warbucks Coffers," alludes to the money going into the war, and includes flavors such as Buttered Rumsfeld, Grainy Cheney and Jiva Bush. Others comment on the religious views of the current administration. "White House Bible" is a picture of a Holy Bible copyrighted by the White House. Another painting resembling "Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing" is "Hidden Tally" Crawford Ranch Dressing (the president's ranch in Texas), stating "Your vote for taste won't go to waste," and pictures a hanging chad on one of the letters.
Not all of Natale's works are political. Smoking is another big issue for her. "My father died in 1970 of lung cancer, and my mother a few years ago, due to smoking," says Natale. One of her paintings is called "Lucky Stroke."
"On the Lucky Strike box, it actually says the tobacco is toasted," Natale says. "So this painting, in the place of the warning found on cigarette boxes, says, 'Roses are red, violets are blue, this tobacco is toasted and so shall be you.'"
Natale expresses her views on social issues in a painting that looks like a monopoly board, but with Uncle Sam as the little man in the center. It is called "Monop-holy II," and boxes include "stem cell research banned, go directly to Hospice" and "abortion upheld, go directly to bomb shelter." Another painting "Enronzoni" combines the Enron scandal with a box of Ronzoni pasta, with shredded paper in place of pasta.
Art schooling
Natale says that she really has had no formal training in art. "I practiced law for 19 years, and on my 40th birthday, I bought myself some paints and brushes," she said. "I began to teach myself painting to fill a creative void. I read, watched instructional videos and made numerous trips to galleries and museums. Then I started entering juried shows and was accepted and encouraged. I quit law all together in 1998."
At first Natale painted cityscapes and more conventional pieces, and was influenced by the works of Edward Hopper, especially his use of light. Her first "Pop" painting combined the Quaker Oats box with Richard Nixon (who was a Quaker). She also says she is interested in different types of fonts to evoke a certain image.
Natale has now done more than 100 shows in the U.S. and Europe. This is her first solo show.
Other featured artists
Other artists in the Hoyt exhibit include Elizabeth Morisette of Maryland, a fiber artist who has created 3-D weavings and some sculptures, based on objects found on eBay. "Her works are witty and humorous," says McLatchy.
Fanky Chak, assistant professor of art at the College of New Jersey, photographer and graphic designer, has created three series now on display at the Hoyt: "Misplacement," "Way Out" and "Boxes."
"'Boxes' is a sense of how Americans, or the whole world, have become compartmentalized," says McLatchy. "It is a system of grids representing our living conditions, what we have become."
Paul LeRoy Gehres has a degree in fashion illustration from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and is pursuing his MFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has works exhibited in the U.S. and abroad, and also has an illustration business under the name LeRoy "King of Art." His exhibit at the Hoyt is called "Collectible Superstar Shoes," sketches of celebrities' shoes.
XThis exhibit runs through Sept. 16. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's closed Sundays and Mondays. (724) 652-2882.

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