Since Monsoon opened its doors in May of 2003,
it has amassed quite a collection of articles, photos, editorials,
interviews and appearances.
The Morning Call
Lehigh Valley Magazine
The New York Times
2007 Slideshow 1
(click on the thumbnails to read the articles)
Read the full articles by scrolling below!
Monsoon Gallery Articles and Editorials 2007
The Monsoon Gallery Archives for 2007
We've gone through all the media surrounding the gallery and
created an archival collection of articles and editorials about the gallery,
its artists, and its employees.
If there's something in particular that you were looking for
and you don't see it here, then please don't hesitate to give
us a call or send us an email and let us know.
Paper: The Express Times - Easton, Pennsylvania
Date: January 19, 2007
Artist: Ranjeet Pawar, Rori Franges
“Dynamic force behind Monsoon”
In June, the Monsoon hits in India. Without it, the subcontinent would experience
a heavy drought that could lay waste to acres of crops, animals and human
life. While the monsoon rains bring flooding and difficulty, they are also
a convergence of forces vital to the region’s survival.
In his own way, Ranjeet Pawar, 32, has brought a symbolic force of nature
– and nature’s namesake Monsoon – to the Bethlehem art
scene with his art, sculpture and frame gallery located at 11 E. Third St.
“I wanted the name to tie to my heritage, but also I wanted what we
were doing to be a dynamic force here,” Pawar explains. And so it
In its four years, Monsoon has evolved into a driving art presence, hosting
regular art shows featuring a mix of local and world-class talent, as well
as being a prime destination for Bethlehem’s monthly popular First
Friday events. Pawar says about 90 percent of the artists represented in
the gallery are of international distinction. At First Friday evenings,
visitors to the gallery can number from 500 to 900 or more, Pawar says.
“The traffic through the gallery at these events is tremendous,”
Pawar, raised on Bethlehem’s North Side, attended Moravian Academy.
He says he spotted the energy converging in Bethlehem’s South Side
and wanted to be part of its growing diversity. “I was looking for
an up-and-coming community to locate when I began the business. I wanted
a place with an edge,” he explains.
Pawar says he expected the city’s revitalization efforts to happen
more quickly, but he is content with growth the area is experiencing. One-of-a-kind
pieces, as well as art available for corporate rentals, are among the hallmarks
of Monsoon. “We’re getting calls from Fortune 500 companies
across the country. We’re the only gallery offering art for lease
or rent in the area. Companies are seeking us out because of the artists
we represent and the work we source,” Pawar says.
He credits business associate Rori Franges, whom he considers “both
his right and left hands,” with keeping gallery happenings on track.
“Rori pushes the work forward. She does all the day-to-day things
so critical to succeeding,” Pawar says. “We’re constantly
looking for new opportunities, new partnerships and connections, and for
new ways to expose people to the arts,” Pawar says.
He adds the gallery’s close proximity to the Banana Factory and its
artists on West Third Street has created a dynamic of cross-fertilization.
“We have some studio artists represented here, and I share the resources
we’re discovering. Our relationship is truly a collaboration,”
Paper: Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal - Eastern Pennsylvania
Date: January 29, 2007
Artist: Ranjeet Pawar, Chris Carter, Peter Krobath, Salma Arastu
“Owner of Monsoon Gallery launches artistic agency”
Monsoon Gallery owner Ranjeet Pawar has launched a collective way to market
a small core group of artists represented at his South Side Bethlehem gallery
across the United States. The Monsoon Art Group includes Bethlehem locals
Gini Illick, of the Banana Factory in Bethlehe; Chris Carter and Peter Stolvoort;
and New York artist Peter Krobath. It may soon find their worth soaring
among collectors in Miami, Carmel, Manhattan and Boston.
goal is to bring these artists the national respect and corresponding value
to their work they so deserve,” Pawar said. Pawar said he believes
his initiative, which is on the verge of placing art in locations outside
of the Bethlehem gallery, is the first such marketing venture of its kind
in the region. “I don’t know of any other gallery taking this
approach to build an artist branding on a national level,” Pawar said.
Pawar believes being part of the group has distinct advantages over going
it alone. “I can bring four portfolios of diverse work, and a broad
variety of price points to a prospective gallery owner in another city or
state, rather than taking a one-at-a-time approach to marketing the artists,”
Art pricing starts at $400 for a small abstract acrylic and tops at $3,500
for watercolor figure paintings.
“The artists in this group,
while working in very different mediums and in different styles, complement
or balance one another. That’s another piece of presenting a group
such as this as a whole, rather than individuals,” Pawar said.
Far from a take-one, take-all format, Pawar said he expects some of the
artists will score in different markets, and he said that’s fine.
“It’s about getting the foot in the door. After that, we move
forward from there,” Pawar said. Pawar said the Monsoon Art Group
would function much like a publishing company or artist agency. “Art
and art transactions represent billions of dollars spent per year. There
is an enormous exchange of money on a daily basis in this industry, people
often don’t see it in terms of the business side,” Pawar said.
Paper: The Morning Call - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: February 22, 2007
Artist: Nancy Plass, Gene Mater
“Watercolor tour guides”
Monsoon is presenting watercolors by Gene Mater and Nancy Plass, a pair
of Bethelhemites who are memorable, even indelible, tour guides.
An illustrator for The Herb Quarterly and other publications, Plass is especially
attentive to plants. She makes a Stargazer Lily as juicy as watermelon;
she makes leaves dance as if they’re tickled by starry groundcover.
Plass’ portrait of a Fringed Gentian is a miniature amusement park.
A blurry background of pulsing yellow-green turns the flower into a pinwheel;
subtle illumination turns the flower’s pocket into a scrim of outlined
trees. Her view of a snow drift is more magnetic and magical. Diaphanously
lit and propulsively shadowed, it resembles a paper iceberg, an icy lantern.
Best known as a cartoonist, Mater has been an ardent watercolorist since
the early 1990s. Inspired by early 19th century painters in and around Norwich,
England, he mists French and Irish landscapes with tender mauves, gracious
greens, and earthy ethereality. Especially engaging is a delicate depiction
of dusk – arguably the toughest time of day to nail – on a French
river with a spreading creamy reflection of a silvery sky seeded by yellow.
Mater uncovers the country in the city, too. Thanks to a slight glow and
a slightly quirky angle, the ruined Dye House in Bethlehem’s Colonial
Industrial Quarter is appealingly still and animated. Thanks to a middle-ground
view, terracotta tinting and easing pacing, row homes and a church in downtown
Allentown are a pleasantly huddled congregation.
Paper: The Morning Call - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: May 24, 2007
Artist: John Sherman, Jerry Rhodes
“Artists deliver a cracking good show”
Monsoon Gallery is presenting splendidly cracked wonderlands by two artists
who live in Colorado Springs, a splendidly cracked wonderland.
John Sherman gets his cracks by layering acrylic crackling paste with acrylic
gel and rice and tissue papers. The veins lend a parchment quality, an antique
mysticism, to his foggy, ruddy, marmalade-tinged portraits, still lifes
and landscapes. Sherman’s trees are particularly hypnotic. In “Apophenia”
he turns them into a sort of ceremonial procession drenched in burlapped
moonlight. Suggesting an opera set in nature, he makes a connection where
there isn’t any, sneakily illustrating the meaning of his title. “Yeats
Grove” is a bit more operatic. At the right side is a kind of paint-submerged
tablet buzzing with barely legible lines from the poets “I Have Spread
My Dreams Under Your Feet.” The tablet is near, and part of, a line
of lollipop trees that form a waxy, cloudy, bursting canopy. The shadings
in the leaves are terrific. So is the tequila-sunrise sunset.
Sherman’s still lifes with fruit and musical notes are relatively
static. His portraits, however, are gently dynamic. One features a nude
woman holding a rose, tucked in a corner under a window, lost in a gelatinous,
mutinous dream. In the window is the love pirate of her dream: a faintly
rendered soldier, trapped in glass like an insect in amber.
Jerry Rhodes gets his cracks more naturally, by raku firing his vessels.
Actually, vessels is a completely inadequate word for these spinning, sailing,
flying tabletop Taj Mahals. Rhodes is an architect who juggles. His jars
and vases are seductively shaped. His surfaces are full of delights, including
a circular Gregorian musical staff, seemingly borrowed from an illuminated
medieval manuscript. His glazes have all sorts of magnetic illusions: an
oily rainbow in copper; poured slate.
Rhodes’ lids are real jaw-droppers. Imagine a beach castle. Or a bonsai
clump over a seeping pool of cobalt glass. Or stony, singed wings stuck
with porcupine quills to become a miniature Viking ship or a regular-sized
Viking funeral urn.
“Best Independent Art Gallery (Buy & View) Monsoon”
The type of art an individual prefers is unique to his or her own taste.
And with so many artists on showcase: oil painters, glass blowers, bronze
sculptors, wood turners and ceramicists, every art collector or viewer is
satisfied with a trip to this gallery. With over 100 artists in their inventory
and over 2,000 pieces of art available, Monsoon carries the largest selection
of fine art in the Valley. Custom framing and art installation make your
purchase move smoothly. And a monthly reception held for the gallery’s
featured artist allows patrons to familiarize themselves with the works.
Ranjeet Pawar ’98 manages two art galleries in Bethlehem, Pa.: Monsoon,
which opened he opened in May 2003, and Rain, which he opened in December
2005. Pawar was working in Boulder, Colo., until the dot.com bust; he moved
east to his hometown in 2000. “I fell back on photography and started
to sell my pictures around the country,” he says. “When I attended
gallery shows and met other artists, I realized that this was something
I could do.”
After Pawar decided not to buy an existing gallery, he raised his own funding
and opened Monsoon, which features fine art from around the world. He says,
“The risk is manageable. The inventory was a good investment; it could
be sold if necessary. The only true loss would have been rent.” However,
the gallery went so well that he opened Rain, a venue for local Lehigh Valley
“Starting the gallery was difficult because I had
no track record,” explains Pawar. “In the beginning, I needed
to invest in inventory. Now I can carry a great deal of art on consignment,
which is a huge shift. It’s a matter of building trust with the artists.”
Pawar is now developing the Monsoon Art Group, which he says is more on
an agent/wholesale level than the retail situation in his galleries. “I
will sell the fine art to galleries around the country, giving the artists
more recognition. This is a new direction for me – one which will
open our market to a national level.”
Magazine: Lehigh Valley Magazine - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: September/October 2007
Artist: Lara Bly (Lara Allaik), Kirk Kozero, Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths,
“Monsoon Showcases Artful Elegance”
On the first Fridays of November and December of this year, Monsoon Art
Gallery will travel into the world of fashion, jewelry, and metalsmith design
with two back-to-back wearable art exhibits that promise to place the south
Bethlehem gallery on the fashion A-list.
Artfully Elegant: Jewelry and Fashion is the title of the tandem exhibits,
and the fashion and jewelry shows will be punctuated by a charity gala on
Saturday, December 8 to benefit the Baum School of Art in Allentown. The
celebration of wearable art begins Friday, November 2 with a juried exhibit
of 20 of the most talented American jewelry designers representing the Pennsylvania
Society of Goldsmiths (PSG). Among the handcrafted jewelry icons on display
in November will be Chris Darway, Marne Ryan, Judy Hoch, Julie Jerman-Melka,
Harold O’Connor and Ann Lalik.
“Very seldom does such
talent appear in one single show,” says Kirk Kozero, director of development
for PSG. On the evening of Saturday, December 8, the fascination for the
art of fashion continues as guests are invited to enjoy Artfully Elegant,
a benefit gala featuring fine food, fun, and another round of high-end fashion
and jewelry design, all to benefit the Baum School.
Monsoon Gallery and the Baum School of Art are both important entities in
the Lehigh Valley fine art community,” says Ranjeet Pawar, owner and
art director of Monsoon, and the force behind the fashion and jewelry exhibits
and benefit gala. “By bringing a strong for-profit and non-profit
together in Artfully Elegant, we aim to build upon that community by helping
to foster the growth of both art appreciation and art education,”
For the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry, the Monsoon exhibit is a must.
Price points will range from the affordable, starting at around $75, to
the luxurious, due to the $4,000 to $5,000 price tag commanded by Coloradoan
Todd Reed. Reed is known for crafting raw diamonds onto sleek organic shaped
gold and metals.
Another heavy weight at Monsoon will be metalsmither, author and inventor
Charles Lewton-Brain. Born in England, Lewton-Brain grew up in Tasmania,
studied in Germany and the U.S. and now lives in Canada. He is recognized
as one of the most knowledgeable, most celebrated and most accessible metalsmiths
in North America. One of his most significant contributions to metalsmithing
is the invention of fold-forming, a process he teaches to other metalsmiths
around the world and will display at Monsoon.
The work of Bruce Metcalf will also be on exhibit. Noted for his whimsical
sense of mixed media, Metcalf will give a broach or breast pin a humorous,
sculptural bend using the most precious of materials.
artisans are known to work in all metals and materials including gold, silver,
steel, titanium, plastics, found objects and wood – a vast range of
materials – and frequently integrate precious and semi-precious stones
into their pieces,” says Kozero. He notes that PSG is one of the oldest
organizations in the country devoted to advancing, promoting and fostering
the art of metalsmithing, with memberships reaching nationwide. Residency
in the Keystone State is not a necessity.
The PSG show is linked with the December 7 debut of Lara Bly’s high-end
apparel designs, fashion illustrations and paintings. Bly graduated from
Pen Argyl High School and studies fashion design and illustration in London.
She garnered her first industry job in the British fashion capital, working
private label for both small and large retailers and eventually catering
to high-end clients with made-to-measure and luxury tailoring. Bly worked
in nearly every sector of the industry, from the trendy junior market to
haute couture, in places like Los Angeles and Beirut.
show represents the clothing that I truly want to make now, high-end, very
pretty evening silhouettes, but in very wearable, comfortable daywear fabrics
like cottons and linens,” says Bly.
Bly’s exhibit will display beautifully draped feminine dresses. Each
dress design will be teamed with a fashion sketch and one of her paintings.
In her paintings, 33-year-old Bly captures the mood of pop innocence of
the late 60s, a time she only knows from books, film and music. Her work
is elegant and fresh, and her paintings are equally idealistic. All are
acrylic on canvas and often display additional features like Swarovski diamante
(cut crystals from Europe) and other fashion elements to add texture. Created
on a fairly large scale, Bly’s paintings are often four by three feet,
as if to emulate the scale of a petite woman.
Paper: The Morning Call - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: October 18, 2007
Artist: Salma Arastu
“Salma Arastu back with deeply textured approach to life, color”
Salma Arastu is painting, and living, a time tapestry. She’s back
in Bethlehem, her home from 1987 to 2006, with an exhibition of mixed-media
acrylics at Monsoon, site of her 2005 farewell-to-the-Valley show. Inspired
by her old life in India and her new life in Oakland, Calif., she’s
making pictures that are brighter, rougher, and stranger.
Arastu has been changed by more than a sunnier climate in the Bay Area,
where she lives with her husband, Alamdar, an architect for the U.S. Dept.
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Stunned by the large number of homeless
in San Francisco, she began painting street people for the first time. Eventually,
she realized she was depicting her own struggle to adjust to a big city
on the West Coast. Her rootlessness was intensified by the absence of a
studio at home and by missing her studio at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem.
Arastu found a temporary studio in the spring of 2006 through www.craigslist.org.
The Internet shopping mart led her to another part-time studio in Oakland
and a permanent studio in a former factory in Berkeley. Excited by abundant
light and space, and by the Bay Area’s vibrant colors, she began creating
more dynamic settings for her oval-headed, gyroscoping, fish-like musicians,
dancers and Sufic trancers.
Arastu’s recent works on canvas are particularly provocative. Colors
are foamier, lines whip harder, textures claw deeper. Fringe attached to
the bottom turns the paintings into quasi-textiles; heavily reliefed areas
turn them into tribal sculptures.
Two of Arastu’s West Coast series extend her East Coast series. Charged
by California’s brilliant skies and flowers, she has returned to making
peopleless landscapes. The Monsoon show includes a magnolia tree ribboned
with a whirling-dervish aura. “I just couldn’t hold myself back,”
says Arastu. “I’m always inspired by spring, and California
is full of exotic flowers.”
After learning she would be moving to San Francisco, Arastu began painting
nostalgic scenes of her six houses, each accompanied by one of her poems.
She compares the vignettes to her current paintings of the Bay Area’s
small Spanish houses covered in splashy blues and pinks and surrounded by
The biggest change appears in Arastu’s paintings of Krishna, the Hindu
deity. Arastu, who was raised Hindu, grew up on stories of the cow herder
who became a divine prince, warrior and husband of 16,108 wives. After converting
to Islam, her husband’s religion, she painted Krishna without distinct
features, out of respect to the Islamic belief in a shapeless, colorless
god. In San Francisco, she feels free to paint Krishna closer to her childhood
vision of him: a plump flute player with skin colored blue by clouds, in
the middle of a pell-mell of pied-piper worshippers.
know how and why, but it happened,” says Arastu of creating “The
Blue God” series. “I was brought up with these stories of Krishna.
They are in my mind and I can’t deny them.”
This Krishna performs between Lucite sheets on handmade paper purchased
at a San Francisco store that sells nearly 5,000 types of paper. For Arastu,
it’s one of the many attractions of the Bay Area, along with loads
of galleries, an excellent transit system and close proximity to her daughter,
a doctoral candidate in biochemistry at Stanford University. It’s
all part of a life deeply textured and textiled.
Magazine: Lehigh Valley Magazine - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: Novemer/December 2007
Artist: Ranjeet Pawar, Ann Lalik, Todd Reed, Thomas Mann, PSG, Lara Bly
“A Passion for the Creative Process and Community Fuels Wearable Art
Amid the rush of a high-speed digital world, the importance of handcrafted
one-of-a-kind designs to wear and collect is the focus of the two-month-long
exhibit, Artfully Elegant: Jewelry and Fashion, at Bethlehem’s Monsoon
Gallery from November 2 to December 5 and December 7 to December 31.
Artfully Elegant pairs local and national artists with international accolades,
plus up-and-coming designers and members of the Pennsylvania Society of
Goldsmiths (PSG). Founded in 1979, the PSG is a “non-profit organization,
created by metalsmiths to aid and support other metalsmiths through meetings,
publicity, workshops and exhibitions,” whose members work in all metals.
From fantasy to firmly entrenched in the organic, each intricate or boldly
designed bracelet, brooch, dress, necklace, pin or ring on display represents
a vibrant community of designers hooked into their art and the community
that surrounds the creative process.
“The importance of art,
whether in the form of dance, music, painting, fashion or jewelry design,
is the emotional connection between the viewer and the artist’s personal
expression,” says the 33-year-old Ranjeet Pawar, owner and founder
of Monsoon. Pawar, who studied entrepreneurship and marketing at Babson
College in Massachusetts, launched Monsoon in 2003. Now the gallery is a
mainstay on Third Street in Southside Bethlehem’s creative retail
“Monsoon tries to bring culture and unique works
to Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley,” says Pawar. “Nothing we
do is small; we’re always trying to do something different.”
Among the line up of jewelry designers is Ann Lalik, executive director
of the Baum School of Art and founder of the school’s now-bustling
jewelry program. Lalik taught her first metalsmithing class in 1984, fresh
from earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the
Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Since then, Lalik has unwittingly inspired
generations of new designers and fans of the art of metalsmithing, a term
coined in the 1970s to describe the art and process of working with metals.
Ironically, Pawar and Lalik first met when he enrolled in one of Lalik’s
classes several years ago.
The Baum School is an extremely important entity in the Lehigh Valley, and
it is fitting that ticket sales for the Artfully Elegant Gala, slated for
Saturday, December 8, and the proceeds from the silent auction will benefit
the school, one of he oldest of its kind in the United States, says Pawar.
“One of the goals is to help Baum, specifically with their metalsmithing
and fashion programs,” says Pawar. “Baum is a non-profit that
is predominantly here for the community and the children; it’s important
to be able to help the organization whenever possible.”
As Monsoon’s recognition has grown, Pawar has worked to develop a
relationship between the gallery, the community and its arts enthusiasts.
“I feel that it’s the responsibility of all organizations that
are able to help do so in one way or another,” he says. “It’s
good to try and give back in whatever way you can.”
From the affordable (circa the one-hundred dollar mark) to the decadent
(with six-thousand-dollar and up price tags for Todd Reed’s work),
Artfully Elegant is a must for jewelry and fashion aficionados and even
for a significant other looking for a holiday gift. One celebrity artist
is the often witty and adventurous Thomas Mann of Thomas Mann Designs and
Gallery, based in New Orleans. A native of Allentown, Mann is known for
incorporating found objects into his TechnoRomantic style. He teaches workshops
worldwide, yet maintains close tabs on his hometown, offering frequent classes
at the Baum School.
Also not to be missed is Reed, a designer from Boulder, Colorado, noted
for mixing raw and industrial diamonds with traditionally polished gems.
His work is both architectural and organic, and Reed, who is one of the
hottest jewelers in the country, is also known, like Mann, for his inspiring
manner and encouragement to neophytes in the field.
important to note that this is the first time that some of these jewelry
artisans have shown their work together. Each can command a one-person show
in any gallery around the country. It says a great deal about their support
for PSG and the Baum School to exhibit at Artfully Elegant,” says
Pawar. Metalsmith designers Judy Hoch, Julie Jerman-Melka, Bruce Metcalf,
Harold O’Connor, Marne Ryan and relative newcomers Judith Renstrom
and Kirk Kozero, both residents of Springtown, PA also join the exhibition.
Internationally trained fashion designer Lara Bly, a returning resident
to Lehigh Valley, pulled out all the stops to create 12 couture dresses,
each paired with a painting and a companion illustration.
work is not simply a well-designed dress,” says Pawar. “This
is an exhibit of fashion; it’s not a show. Lara will illustrate how
she comes to think of a design and how she visualizes it after it’s
Price between $1,500 and $2,000, Bly’s dresses are entirely handmade
(all the way down to the bows), one-of-a-kind pieces. Inspired by her world
travels and experiences, Bly’s fabric choices allow each dress “to
be positioned as gown or a sundress, allowing the wearer to get more use
of each dress because of the type of fabric,” says Pawar.
Says Bly, who had her first child this fall, “I love working with
the idea of a muse, someone to inspire the way a dress is worn. How the
person moves in the clothes, how they wear it…I must gave watched
Xanadu too many times growing up.”
Ironically, many Artfully Elegant designers admit they serendipitously stumbled
upon their art, and speak readily about how their lives today would not
be the same without feeding the passion to create through metalsmithing
and design. For instance, Renstrom, a former women’s wear designer
of New York’s Seventh Avenue, says she finds the support and networking
of metalsmiths highly appealing. Coming from the cutthroat world of the
fashion industry, it’s been eye opening and inspiring to learn that
“the big name designers of metalsmithing are encouraging and supportive,”
she says. It was on a fluke that Renstrom enrolled in a beginning class
at the Baum School, where Lalik was her instructor. She immediately bonded
to metalsmithing and particularly liked Lalik’s experimental, unexpected
and conceptual approach to teaching.
“I have always approached
jewelry design as an experimental process. I like to encourage students,
whether a beginner or a professional, to utilize a range of processes, from
modern to traditional, primitive or experimental, allowing them to create,
and to understand and celebrate jewelry as decorative and symbolic objects,”
Coincidentally, Lalik found a passion and subsequently, notoriety, for jewelry
design quite by fate as well. The daughter of Rose and Rudy Ackerman, longtime
directors of the Baum School, Lalik, in a bit of co-ed rebellion, thought
she wanted nothing to do with art, and sped off to upstate New York on a
liberal arts tract. Realizing her mistake almost immediately, Lalik was
desperate to study art, and enrolled at the Tyler School, where at the time,
jewelry design was the only department not filled to capacity. Thus began
her two-decade journey in metalsmithing, inspiring a generation of new designers,
and growing the jewelry department at Baum School from one fledgling class
to presently six classes per week, for all ages and abilities.
Yet another creative coincidence between the exhibit and Monsoon are the
artisan handcrafted African mahogany jewelry display cases being used. They
were designed and built by Skip Franges, father of Rori Franges, the gallery
manager at Monsoon. Skip operated the Bethlehem Woodworks in the 1990s and
is a former machinist for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. He welcomed the
invitation to design the cases for the gallery, calling upon his background
in design and woodworking, which included historic restoration work at Lehigh
University. The case design has various levels, providing a stage and a
focus for each metalsmith artisan exhibited.
Of the work and philosophy of Artfully Elegant, Pawar says, “Diversity
is expressed through cultural traditions. At the heart of these cultures
rests the fine art of language, music, and art. Fine art is a language,
regardless of its form. The designs of jewelry and fashion are art forms
that affect us each and every day.”
Paper: The Morning Call - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: December 6, 2007
Artist: Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths
“11 Master metalsmiths show their mettle”
Monsoon Gallery is presenting a four-ring showcase of jewelry as wearable,
and non-wearable, sculpture made of everything from petrified turtle shell
to stained glass saved from a burned down church. The exhibition features
works by 27 members of the Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths, founded in
1979 to offer workshops, exhibits and networks. It spotlights 11 master
metalsmiths who are exhibiting together for the first time.
One is Allentown native Thomas Mann, a New Orleans resident fabled for his
funky assemblages with tintypes and Hurricane Katrina wreckage. Mann, who
is represented here by a pulley necklace and a bent-nail walking stick pin,
occasionally leads workshops in creative metalsmithing at the Baum School
of Art, the beneficiary of an auction Saturday of objects in the show.
The show-within-a-show is the brainchild of Kirk Kozero, the society’s
director of development who seven years ago began studying metalsmithing
with Ann Lalik, now the Baum School’s executive director. He studied
with eight of the 11 masters, including Charles Lewton-Brain, a celebrity
in the field for inventing form-folding, a pounding-and-layering process
that transforms metal into steely origami. Kozero, a marketing consultant
who lives in Springfield Township, practices alchemy too, hammering copper
cuffs until they resemble lizard skin.
Kozero and company promote jewelry as conversation pieces and mobile shrines.
Lalik uses found, resin-imbedded pictures of women in her treasure chests
of female archetypes. Lewton-Brain specializes in bracelets and necklaces
that are roller-coaster chambers Chris Darway industrializes matte-finished
metal with rubber gaskets and aircraft tubes.
Some techniques seem imported from outer space. Donna Leibensperger, who
lives in Zionsville, fires Precious Metal Clay until it becomes fine silver.
Allentown resident Shelbi R. Gourniak creates pendants – a pod, a
narrow triangular nail – from molds made from the carved bones of
the cuttlefish, a squid-like mollusk.
There are many links in the chain and no one has more than Lexi Erickson,
a Center Valley resident, Baum School jewelry teacher and president of the
society. She taught two of the society members represented in the show and
studied with three of the guest masters. Three of her pieces are “conversations”
with a former teacher, Harold O’Connor, whose works are owned by the
Smithsonian Institution and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The third dialogue
is a sterling and copper pendant, a sort of ruptured egg-flower form strung
with raw rubies. It hangs near O’Connor’s roof top ring and
three-legged table pin.
The show’s valedictorian could be Bruce Metcalf, a society instructor
and 1996 PEW Charitable Trusts fellow who contributes a ring with a large,
screwable heart. “I make tiny secular passion plays,” he’s
said, that “tour the world when they are worn.” Or when they’re
used as a Cupid corkscrew.
Paper: The Morning Call - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Date: December 23, 2007
Artist: Lara Bly (Lara Allaik)
“Hues true to form”
Fashion designer Lara Bly will do that little black dress for you, if you
really insist – but black, as well as gray and brown, are not popular
parts of her palette unless it’s combined with a splash of color.
Bly’s elegant designs wed the classic with the comfortable, making
them go anywhere pieces with as much versatility as that proverbial little
black number, and she’s showing some examples of her work in the exhibit
“Artfully Elegant – Fashion” at Monsoon Gallery in Bethlehem.
Pairing 12 handmade dresses with a fashion sketch and one of her paintings,
the show dazzles in variety as much as color, with a spectrum of hues from
aqua and green to bronze and gold, and styles ranging from a classic Grecian
gown to a funky polka dot print. But Bly’s designs are not mere runway
wonders. All of the outfits, mostly in linen and cotton, are eminently wearable
“I like silhouettes that very feminine, with
beautiful color combinations – the things that make a woman look better,
not worse,” says Bly. “This is why I don’t follow trends
all the time. They sometimes can look fabulous on the runway but ridiculous
when worn. I try to make things that can look good on any woman, any age.”
Bly, who was born in Phoenixville and lives in Bethlehem, says her interest
in fashion goes back as far as she can remember. “After all, what
10-year-old girl doesn’t want to be a fashion designer?” she
reflects. “I always liked pretty clothes, and my grandfather was an
artist and my mother was creative in so many ways, so I had an artistic
side to me.” After graduating from high school in Pen Argyl, Bly moved
to London, where her mother was living at the time, and earned a B.A. in
fashion design and marketing in 1995 from the American Intercontinental
University. She spent five years in London working as an assistant designer
for an upscale tailoring company then moved back to the East Coast after
spending two years as a freelance designer and illustrator in Los Angeles.
She was working at the Bond 07 boutique in New York when a friend asked
her to help her establish a women’s wear fashion company in Beirut,
Lebanon. It was in Beirut, one of the major fashion capitals of the world,
where Bly really found her stride, as well as a husband – fellow Monsoon
artist Khalil Allaik. Her planned four-month visit to Lebanon became a four-year
“Many people don’t realize how important
Beirut is as a fashion center…If you watch TV on Oscar Night, you’d
be amazed how many Lebanese designers are designing for the biggest stars
in the world. They do incredible work, and absolutely beautiful hand embroidery
and beadwork,” she adds. “I definitely plan to start my own
boutique [in Bethlehem] in the very near future, but I’d still do
a lot of production out of Beirut.”
The Monsoon show is part of Bly’s spring/summer collection for the
coming year. Four color groups are represented: greens, blues, pinks/turquoise,
and fall colors. About half are one-piece dresses; the other half are separates.
At the show’s Dec. 7 opening, live models demonstrated the easy wearability
and comfort of the dresses. And the outfits in the show range in price from
about $1,200 to $2,000.
“They’re fairly expensive,
because of all the work involved – some take three solid days to make,”
admits Bly. “But I think if you’re going to spend a lot of money
on something, you’d better be able to wear it more than once.”
The unique element of Bly’s designs is their versatility. “I’ve
taken evening wear silhouettes and done them in daywear fabrics. It’s
a really different spin on design,” she says. “My designs are
very wearable, especially in the Lehigh Valley, where there are not that
many places you can wear an incredibly beautiful dress. You’ll want
to wear these dresses in more places than just a wedding.” Everything
in the show can be dressed up or dressed down, including one of Bly’s
favorites, the elegant and romantic “Goddess” dress in white
linen with its long, flowing lines embellished with blue and gold beads
just below the bustline. “You can wear it with a pair of beautiful
heels and carry a wonderful clutch for a special occasion, or put on the
same outfit with a pair of sandals or flip flops and go out to a luncheon
or a night out with friends,” she says.
The two-piece dresses are even more versatile. “Simply Chic”
is a sexy, golden cocktail dress of sheer chiffon with a blouse that can
be worn separately with a pair of jeans for a less formal look. “Femininity”
is another two-piece outfit with a cotton/Lycra bodice, a single shoulder
strap, and a touch of beading. Accents such as beading and embroidery are
common in many haute couture Lebanese designs, and appear frequently in
Interestingly, Bly’s inspiration comes from the fabric itself. She
might visit 20 or more different fabric stores, buy fabric swatches, put
them together and choose color combinations. Then she’ll sit down
and brainstorm sketches. She was even inspired once by a sequined pattern
she found in a New York shop. “Sequins can be very tacky, but I just
had to have this one pattern – it was very expensive and they had
just one yard left,” she says.
Bly used two panels of that salmon-pink/aqua sequined pattern in “Modern
Glam,” a long, one-piece dress with an aqua skirt in 100 percent silk
with a simple halter and a white bodice. Another sequined design is “Flirtatious
Elegance,” which sports an embroidered silk bust and short and sex
gathered skirt that glitters with shimmering bronze sequins with hints of
copper and gold.
Bly had always loved fashion illustration, but as a designer had not always
had the time to fully explore it. With her husband’s encouragement
she began painting life-size fashion images, and had a solo exhibition in
Beirut in 2003. At the Monsoon show, each dress is paired with a painting
depicting a lithe and sexy figure modeling the outfit. “It’s
just another aspect of a fashion show you don’t get to see a lot,”
Bly says. “But in the business itself, the illustrations are pretty
irrelevant – it’s the sketches that are important, which show
the design lines and proportions. They show the patternmaker exactly how
to cut the patterns.”
Bly and her husband moved to Bethlehem in 2004 to be closer to her family
and for the area’s central location to Philadelphia and New York.
Says Bly, “I’ve lived in a lot of cities, but now I’m
kind of over the whole city thing. I just wanted to buy a house and live
a quieter life.” But not too quiet – the couple now has a seven-week-old
Gallery, 11 East 3rd Street Bethlehem, PA 18015
Located in Southside Bethlehem's Arts District, via 378
Art Director: Ranjeet Pawar
Gallery Manager: Rori Prushinski