Edited by Rachel Jones
The work of these three local artists is unique and beautiful, but the impact they each make on the community is even more so.
Award-winning assemblage artist Gerry Florida refers to herself as a “Master of Imperfection.” Her creations deliver underlying messages of rebirth, recovery, and reclamation through an array of salvaged, recycled, and contemporary materials that she employs in her work. Her intrigue with the “beauty of imperfection” has led her to work on behalf of at-risk populations locally and nationally through Florida Recycled works with the support of The National Partnership for Juvenile Services and The Juvenile Detention Centers and Alternative Programs. She fosters the belief that integrating failures, accepting imperfections, and embracing differences is the path to living in harmony with the imperfections surrounding us. Her work with the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center was honored with The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s “Best Practices” Award in 2015 for the Jewelry Arts Program she introduced to incarcerated youth, a first of its kind nationwide. In 2016, she received a Community Citation of Recognition from the Executive Office of Allegheny County. floridarecycled.com.
A local artist active in the area for many years, Robert Qualters has had his work showcased everywhere from the Carnegie Museum of Art, to The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, and even in private galleries. He received the honor of Artist of the Year for Pittsburgh in 1985. In 2014, he received the Governor’s Award as Artist of the Year for the State of Pennsylvania and had his work serve as the subject of the University of Pittsburgh Press’ book, “Robert Qualters, Autobiographical Mythologies,” written by Vicky Clark. Qualters was also featured in Duane Michael’s book, “ABC Duane,” where the author writes, “Although he studied with Diebenkorn and taught in New York, Mr. Qualters had come full circle to find that the city he left behind was his destiny…Pittsburgh is his muse.” qualtersart.com.
Using found historical objects, sculpted metal, fused glass, narrative, and traditional medias, Pittsburgh-based multi-media artist Daria Sandburg creates pieces unlike anything else. Sandburg gives form to time and memory by visually creating a quiet glimpse into a worn, personal history. The Illinois native was the co-founder of Bohemia Gallery in Tucson, Ariz., where she curated exhibitions while making her own artwork. In 2012, she moved to Pittsburgh for her residency exhibition, In Her Own Words, at Borelli-Edwards Galleries. Her latest creation is a self-initiated social practice project, Baggage Claim, which serves as an artist community experience of sharing stories, burning up the drek, letting go, and using hope to fuel new possibilities. BoxHeart Gallery exhibited Baggage Claim this past December, and it is currently exhibited at the Superfine Art Fair during Frieze Week in New York City. boxheartgallery.com/one-thin-dime-designs.