N.Y. artist kicks off tour in Weirton

WEIRTON – Art can come in many shapes and sizes, and can be created from just about anything.

New York City-based pop artist Michael Albert is providing many examples of this as he embarks on a two-week, 33 event tour to showcase his work and hold collage workshops at libraries and museums throughout West Virginia.

He is kicking off the tour in Weirton today with a stop at the Mary H. Weir Public Library from 10 a.m. to noon.

“This is the first stop on the tour,” Albert said during a special meet-and-greet held at Summit Gallery in Weirton Sunday.

Much of Albert’s work is derived from empty cereal boxes, candy wrappers and other product labels. While they may seem like simply visual presentations, many of Albert’s pieces also include messages or reflect on topics from current events to history to math and literature.

Three pieces on display Sunday, for example, were connected to Abraham Lincoln – a rearranged $5 bill, a tribute to the Gettysburg Address, and a commentary on the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – while others were focused on works of Shakespeare, Bible versus or even geography.

Albert said he likes to use product packaging and other recycled materials for his work because he feels it is simple and something anyone can have access to. Art doesn’t have to be complex, or even be done by a well-known artist, he said.

“There shouldn’t be a financial barrier,” he said. “It’s the people who decide whether art is great.”

While Albert’s workshops may appear aimed at youth, he said he often sees families coming together to learn and enjoy the experience.

“To me, pure art is when you create something because you enjoy it,” Albert said.

Among the prints of his work being showcased is a piece focused on the Freedom Industries chemical spill near Charleston. The artwork includes the names of the counties affected by the January spill, as well as various messages.

Albert said he wanted to do the piece as a way to remind people of the spill and how it affected so many people.

“The news stops, but the situation keeps going,” he said.

Albert also has provided several of his large prints for display at Summit Gallery. Those prints will be available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting the Hancock County Arts Council.

Following today’s workshop in Weirton, Albert also will have presentations in Benwood, McMechen and Moundsville this afternoon before heading into the southern portions of the state as well as one stop in Ohio and several events in Lexington, Ky.

His tour will conclude with a visit to Pittsburgh.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)