Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Artist on Quest to Map Strip through Its Voices

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Artist on Quest to Map Strip through Its Voices

Article excerpt

For the past several weeks, this summer's artist-in-residence at the Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip District has been interviewing merchants, workers and people on the street on a quest to find out, as he puts it, "who this place is."

Christian Morris, a senior at California State University-Channel Islands, already knew about the Strip. He spent much of his youth in and around Pittsburgh. His mother lives in Leetsdale.

Everyone whose life has ever been linked with Pittsburgh knows the Strip. But that's a trap.

We know a place. We know it like the back of our hand. We can do it with our eyes closed. It's reliably the same. You can count on it not to change.

Of course, it's different all the time, it changes constantly and we only know about a place what we choose to know.

The distinction Christian makes - "who this place is" - is even more fluid.

His ultimate goal during his residency is to create a map of conversations using ceramic items as symbols. His theme is "Practices of Listening." The public will be able to see and hear it at the end of his residency, which runs through Aug. 27. He has an open gallery at the Society for Contemporary Craft for the public to come to him.

One recent day, I traipsed with him around the neighborhood, which I have learned like the back of my hand over more than two decades and met people I have never seen, visited places I have never been to and came away with the idea that the best tour guide anywhere might be a 24-year-old artist for whom no one is a stranger.

"I'm trying to broaden art's meaning to include the aesthetics of conversation," he said. "That is an artistic process."

The thread that runs through the idea for his exhibit, a map, signifies the journey, any journey, even the journey the Strip District has taken since the days when it was crazy busy wholesale with an onslaught of languages and trains, trains, trains. It was always changing then, too, always in flux in its own time.

"I usually paint houses with my brother in the summer," Christian told Jake, a young local who also went to college in California and came back. …

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