Photography, glass in the spotlight at Parkersburg Art Center
PARKERSBURG — The two men behind two new exhibits at the Parkersburg Art Center want people to see the beauty of what is around them.
“Praxis — A Fine Art Approach: Photography by Garen DiBartolomeo” and “Blenko — Vivid Glass from the Collection of Barry Wade” opened Sunday at the art center with a reception. Both exhibits will be on display through May 10.
“Some of the photographs are from places in West Virginia, like the Greenbrier,” said Jessie Siefert, managing director of the Parkersburg Art Center. “This is a collection of photographs he has done over quite a span of time.
“He has done the interior of factories, houses, hotels and more. He does things that are industrial and carnival-like. There are a variety of things. Blenko glass is made right here in West Virginia. It is nice how the colors of the glass complement the photographs and warm up the show. It is a really great pairing.”
DiBartolomeo, a Weirton native and professional photographer, has more than 50 images in the exhibit.
“It is a collection from over many decades of work,” he said.
The work shows scenes of industrial sites in Weirton, non-traditional travel photos from around the world and more. He took one class at West Virginia University for photojournalism and is mostly self-taught. He has done a variety of photojournalistic and commercial work over a 40-year career.
“The photos are all generally colorful,” DiBartolomeo said of the exhibit. “I started out in black-and-white (of which there were some examples of his work).”
DiBartolomeo said he has had one or two photos in past shows at the Parkersburg Art Center and was really honored to be asked to do a full exhibit of his work at a facility known for its quality exhibits.
“It is a great organization and everyone should be proud of it here,” he said.
DiBartolomeo has around 60 pieces in the exhibit. He wants people to make their own interpretations about his work.
“I don’t generally have a lot to say about the photos I take,” he said. “I do feel they tell their own stories and tell a different story for almost everybody.
“That is what I really like. I don’t want it to be straight-forward. It should have a little mystery and it should have a little story for each individual, depending on how they look at it.”
Wade, a Parkersburg resident, has been collecting glass for years and there are around 96 pieces in the exhibit.
“This represents about half of my collection,” Wade said. “I find a lot of it at yard sales and flea markets.
“I don’t go for the perfect pieces.”
All of the pieces are works from the Blenko Glass Factory of Milton, W.Va., which has been in business for 126 years and is among the last survivors of West Virginia’s many art glass companies. Blenko is still operated by members of the Blenko family and is known for its modern designs in brilliant colors.
“I have collected different types of glass for many different years from different companies,” Wade said. “A couple of years ago I decided to start identifying the different types of glass pieces that I have and I realized the mainstay of my collection was Blenko.
“I started concentrating on collecting Blenko. I have some really unique pieces in my collection.”
He identifies the pieces in his collection, which includes pieces ranging from the mid-1950s to 2018.
It was the colors that got him interested in collecting the glass. His favorite color is Paw Paw, an orangish color.
“I love seeing them in the windows with the sunlight shining through them,” Wade said. “Even on a cloudy day, you can still see the beautiful colors through the windows.
“You can overlap them to get a different effect. It is a beautiful thing.”
A platter, made by well-known glassmaker Wayne Husted, is his favorite piece. The company does stained glass pieces, lighting fixtures and more.
Wade hopes the people who see the exhibit are able to appreciate the beauty and the fact Blenko is still in business and “still manufacturing beauty.”
“It is a lost art,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of companies that still do this.”
“They are a fantastic company,” he continued. “A lot of their stuff is out there to find at yard sales and flea markets. The stuff is beautiful.”