Author Archives: Ian Finch, Associate Editor of Publications

Cyberpunk Apocalypse & the Alternative Academic Space


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The Cyberpunk Apocalypse is a one-of-a-kind close-quarters residency and MFA alternative for writers in Pittsburgh, a household centered around literature where 36 writers from across the US and Canada have lived and worked over the last five years. When it began it was the only zine residency in the US and continues to be the only writer’s residency that puts comic artists, zinesters, novelists, journalists, poets, translators, and any kind of writer on the same competitive level. Writers come to the Cyberpunk Apocalypse with very different skill sets and overlapping interests, which makes each creator a resource for their fellow residents and creates room for rapid growth and collaboration. Each resident has personal goals connected to every new project they take on, while the goal of Cyberpunk is twofold: to support the residents in their pursuits and to advance literature through exploring and building alternative non-academic routes for writers.

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Photo: Sonel Breslay

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Join Cyberpunk Apocalypse on Sept. 20 at Artists Image Resource for the next 2013 Carnegie International event!
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So much about the literary world today is defined by the conveniences of academia. The genre of “literary fiction” as separate from “popular fiction” feels born of professors struggling to justify their position as master when so few of them have books that sell. The common literary practice of group critique known as “the workshop” can seem more valuable as a way to occupy 15 writers’ time in a tidy time slot than as a way to advance the craft or skill of writers. Even classifying writers as poets, fiction writers, or creative nonfiction writers is more about separating classes and degree tracts than it is about the work or the people producing it.

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Photo: Tameka Cage Conley

The way these aspects of the higher education system affect writing will only become obvious with a modern equivalent as comparison. And while there are as many paths to becoming a writer as there are writers in the world, there are few organizations that provide support, cross-promotion, and validation to self-proclaimed writers, and there are fewer still that have been around long enough to build a camp of writing. The Cyberpunk Apocalypse exists in part as an example of one possibility and a call for other individuals to imagine an environment and path in which great writers, and by extension quality thought, can be produced.

Learn more at thecyberpunkapocalypse.tumblr.com and danielmccloskey.com

Daniel McCloskey, Founder, Cyberpunk Apocalypse

Cassatt & Degas: An Unlikely Friendship


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Mary Cassatt, Young Women Picking Fruit, 1891, oil on canvas; Patrons Art Fund, 22.8. This work is currently on view in the Scaife Galleries.

…It may interest you to know what Degas said when he saw the picture you have just bought for your Museum. It was painted in 1891 in the summer, & Degas came to see me after he had seen it at Durand-Ruel’s. He was chary of praise but he spoke of the drawing of the woman’s arm picking the fruit & made a familiar gesture indicating the line & said no woman has a right to draw like that.

This excerpt from a letter written by Mary Cassatt, late in her life in 1922, to Carnegie Museum of Art director Homer Saint-Gaudens upon the museum’s acquisition of her painting Young Women Picking Fruit, includes a tantalizing reference to her old friend Edgar Degas (who had passed away in 1917). She also references an inside joke that had existed between the two artists going back decades. Here she remembers Degas’s observation of the S-curve lines formed by the arms of the figures in her large painting. This particular aspect of composition—the S-curve—became a recurring theme in the art of both artists beginning around the time of the final Impressionist exhibition in 1886, and can be seen again, for example, in Degas’s later pastel Dancers, c. 1897 (Detroit Institute of Arts). Join us on September 19 for the next Lunch & Learn program, where we’ll explore the full context of how and why compositional devices such as the S-curve became an important component of the exchanges between these great artists.

The artistic relationship between Cassatt and Degas is a subject that I had been working on for years before I arrived at Carnegie Museum of Art. It was the subject of my dissertation and has been integrated into many different curatorial projects over the years. Next week’s Lunch & Learn program will focus on the 40-year friendship and working interactions between these two major artists in the collection. We’ll discuss aspects of biography, their professional support for one another, and anecdotes surrounding their social interactions in the Impressionist milieu, including Cassatt’s occasional willingness to pose as a model for Degas. But primarily we’ll juxtapose examples of their art side-by-side to see how their artworks seem to be locked in a visual dialogue. My interest in these two artists together has always focused on how their works seem to be in conversation in terms of art production, subject matter, and composition.

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Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Paintings Gallery, 1879–1880, etching, soft ground, aquatint, and drypoint on wove paper; Bequest of Charles J. Rosenbloom, by exchange, 76.57.1

It is well-understood that these two fiercely opinionated, independent, and sometimes difficult artists were close friends in Impressionist circles. In fact, it was through Degas’s invitation to Cassatt in 1877 that she joined the Impressionist exhibiting group in Paris. Cassatt was an expatriate from the United States (born in Allegheny City—now part of Pittsburgh!) and was the only American and one of only three women to ever exhibit with the French Impressionists. Though they were close friends, one of the difficulties in studying their interaction is that their correspondence between one another has been lost. Some of the most direct traces of their communication that remains manifests in their artwork—where they seem to respond to each other in a range of different ways. Interpreting these visual, aesthetic forms of communication, of course, leaves room for a great deal of ambiguity and subjective understanding. Their relationship was enveloped in the challenges of nineteenth-century gender politics and social conventions. Factors of age, nationality, and gender differences undoubtedly complicate the interpretation of their art and professional interactions.

Delving into the nuances of their artistic production and their occasionally fraught friendship helps produce greater understanding of Impressionist artistic circles—yet, looking at their art side-by-side and comparing the circumstances of their careers complicates our understanding of both of them as artists. Why would the cantankerous Degas, known for his occasionally difficult attitudes towards women, be drawn to the younger feminist/suffragist Cassatt, and vice versa? A mutual understanding as well as the sense that they could challenge each other and stand up to each other’s forceful personalities laid the groundwork for their enduring friendship and undoubtedly helped make each of them stronger artists.

Amanda Zehnder, Associate Curator of Fine Arts

Treasures from the Archives


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Two years ago, the Archives of American Art posted a photo on their website captioned “Where Art Comes Alive.” This struck such a chord with me that I posted it on the door to the CMOA Archives. There are so many treasures in our archives! No matter what question I’m researching, I invariably run across something fascinating—a letter, photo, book, or sometimes something a little more unusual, like this box of flags, which used to hang in the Music Hall during the Founders–Patrons dinner, in honor of all the countries represented in the Carnegie InternationalThe black tie dinner always coincided with the opening of the International. Finding these actual flags really brings the photo below to life. It makes me wonder about all of the materials from this year’s International, and which ones will resurface 100 years from now.

1928-dinnerThe 1928 Founders–Patrons dinner, with flags

Be sure to stop in the small room in Scaife gallery 16 to see more treasures from the CMOA Archives, in a special installation highlighting the history of the Carnegie International. Or learn more on the digital archive for the exhibition.

And stay tuned for more treasures from the archives!

Elizabeth Tufts Brown, Associate Registrar

New Hire: Kurt Christian


kurtredWhat is your official title, and what are some of your general responsibilities?  
My title is chief preparator, and I oversee the new department of Art Preparation and Installation (A.P.I.). This department deals with all aspects of art handling, installation, as well as collection care. The planning and coordination of these activities is a key component of my job function here.

What were you doing before joining us at CMOA?   
I was the head preparator at the Saint Louis Art Museum for seven years, where I oversaw installation, de-installation, packing and crating, object handling, and collection care, etc. Prior to my departure, and during my last four years at SLAM, a tremendous amount of my time was dedicated to the museum’s expansion and all of the activity that entailed (a huge amount of object movement as you would expect). Before Saint Louis I was the associate preparator at the Whitney Museum of American Art for eight years.

What’s your favorite exhibition that you saw this past year (at any museum/event)? 
Actually a group exhibition in Philadelphia of three painters comes to mind. The exhibition was at Larry Becker Gallery and included the work of Joseph Marioni, Peter Tollens, and Michael Toenges.

If you could steal one artwork from our collection, what would it be? 
I wouldn’t do that, nor even talk about it :)

Describe Pittsburgh in five words or less. 
Hmmm, I’m not sure I have a great sense of it just yet. “Just as I’d hoped for,” is accurate, and I mean that in a very positive way.

Favorite hobbies? Timewasters? Links?
Painting and reading are legitimate ones but I am also a huge fan of the nap if you can consider that an activity.

Indeed we do, Kurt.

Thanks, TeeRex


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Last Friday, we took advantage of the cool summer night and gathered at TeeRex Syndicate for our first Carnegie International /pittsburgh event. Live screen printing took place on the second level, where the crowd gathered to create their very own custom-made, limited edition 2013 Carnegie International swag. The Travelling Pittsburgh Craft-O-Tron Machine showed up to delight the crowd with a sampling of what local crafters are making, and Scott Connor of Evil Grin FX’s creepy creations brought enjoyment to all. And if you’ve been to the 2013 Carnegie International website recently, then you surely recognized curators Dan Byers, Daniel Baumann and Tina Kukielski joining in the festivities. East End Brewery beer flowed freely, alongside delectable eats from Brasero Grill and Cake Eaters Sweet Shoppe, and we made merry with a few hundred of our closest friends and neighbors. Thanks to everyone who joined us, and be sure to join us at Artists Image Resource for our next event on Friday, September 20!