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Torpedo Factory Art Exhibition A Direct Hit

Marsha Staiger and Alison Sigethy win "Artist of the Year" Award.

Featuring collaborative pieces of art that can be described as "vibrant and muted," "delicate and strong" and "active and motionless", the exhibit, "Art in Balance: Rhythm and Repetition" has garnered an "Artist of the Year" award for Marsha Staiger and Alison Sigethy.

On July 8, The Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center presented the award to Staiger and Sigethy. Known simply as, "The Friends," the group is a not-for-profit member organization dedicated to presenting a variety of arts-related programs and events in collaboration with the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Staiger and Sigethy received a $1,000 cash prize and the honor of having their exhibition featured in the Torpedo Factory Art Center Target Gallery until Aug. 15.

For the first time in its history, The Friends accepted proposals for collaborative exhibitions. Mark Pretzat, president of the Friends, described the reasoning behind this decision. "[Collaborative works] would allow [the artists] to express another side of their work. When you’re working alone, you don’t have to make compromises … but here the artists have to find a common point of view and it creates something that is probably completely new," said Pretzat. He went on to say that the collaboration has "given them another opportunity to find their expressive voice."

Amy Cavanaugh Royce, director of the Honfleur Gallery in Washington, D.C., was the juror for The Friends’ Artist of the Year competition. From the start, she was interested in "seeing what was going to happen between paintings, the media, and glass and how they were going to tie in." After reading through 15 proposals and conducting site visits for each of them, Royce judged Staiger and Sigethy’s as the strongest both in writing and in execution.

The exhibit consists of a combination of two dimensional and three dimensional works covering 660 square feet that can simply be described as eye catching. For the show, Staiger created 30 brightly painted 76 inch by 4 inch by 3 inch rectangles for the left side of the room. Each piece is original and covered with various designs and themes with titles such as, "Summer Night," "Chameleon" and "mmmmmmm." The designs are dominated by varying horizontal bands she created with acrylic paint. While some pieces are mounted to the wall vertically or horizontally, others lean against the wall and can be interacted with by the public. Staiger said, "The sides are different from the front and both sides are different. When you look at it from an angle, you’re going to get a different perception of what the art is."

Bettina Aten, a student in Staiger’s abstract painting class, said the pieces look like "toys or something to eat. You just want to touch them. They’re beautiful colors." Charles Farmer, a member of the Art League added, "It’s interactive. You can lean it, make it horizontal, make it vertical. I love art that makes the viewer a participant."

For the right side of the gallery, Staiger created seven, layered paintings on canvas made from a combination of acrylic and graphite. These canvas paintings are vibrant and reflect many of the themes that can be found in the rectangle pieces.

Underneath the canvases are 11 glass pieces created by Sigethy. She typically creates glass sculptures, "sea creatures, crawly things, mushrooms, plants, and woodlands." She enjoys "the challenge of taking a cold, hard, sterile material and giving it new life a beautiful organic form. She explained that, following a trip to participate in the Greenland National Kayak Championship, she made a conscious decision to use salvaged building glass. "I was making environmentally themed pieces that weren’t environmentally friendly and that didn’t really sit right." Now, she even purchases carbon offsets to negate the impact of the kiln she uses.

In the "Art in Balance" exhibit, Sigethy combined melted, raw glass and concrete to create delicate, but stable, lacy structures mounted on tubes of bubbling water, which she describes as "calm and peaceful and wonderful." The pieces reflect her love of nature and kayaking. She describes the delicate appearance as a visual element as well as a "metaphor for the tenuous nature of balance."

In the back of the gallery are a number of pieces created by Sigethy that reflect her love of nature but not in a way typically found in her art. The back panel is 8 feet by 15 feet and is composed of panels made from glass, white oak, paper. She uses an electric fan to make the paper move behind the glass and appear like a wall of water.

In front of the wall of "water" are five glass columns framed with steel. Inside are five foam balls of the same color which float up and down with the help of an electric fan. The foam balls are blue, orange, yellow, green, and pink. Sigethy describes the pillars as "great, big jars of fireflies."

Although some aspects of her work in the "Art in Balance" exhibit are reminiscent of her earlier pieces, she describes the project overall as "a big time stretch" and a "collaboration from the very beginning." She had originally planned to use muted colors, but after seeing some of Staiger’s colorful work, she realized she needed something to bridge the gap between their works, which she found in her firefly columns.

Reflecting on the award she received, Staiger said, "I’m delighted because I know all the artists in the Torpedo Factory and respect their work so it’s a real honor to be considered one of the artists of the year. Sigethy added, "It’s a great honor. I love being here at the Torpedo Factory. I haven’t been here that long — only for three years or so. To get something like this makes me feel like I should be here."