Art museum event brings together international artists, local outreach


Photo by Mary Anne Doggett

Artist Ian Cheng answers questions about his new exhibit, “Emissary Sunsets the Self,” at Carnegie Museum of Art.

Written By Mick Stinelli, Co-A&E Editor

The Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) showcased internationally recognized art and community interaction on Thursday, Sept. 21.

Los Angeles artist Ian Cheng presented the opening of his new piece, “Emissary Sunsets the Self,” while the Boom Concepts art collective hosted the museum’s Third Thursday gathering.

Cheng’s “Emissary Sunsets the Self” is the third in his “Emissaries” trilogy. It uses LED screens to display a world filled with what Cheng described to a crowd during a Q&A session as “meerkat-like creatures in competition and conflict with an organic plant.” The digital simulation sits at 17 feet tall and features gallery lighting that changes with the time of day featured in the simulation.

The simulation takes place on a volcanic landscape, with fire playing a big role.

“I thought one of the ways the other characters could disturb [the plant] would be giving it access to fire,” Cheng said in an interview at CMOA Thursday. “And when it would set this character on fire, it would turn this portrait into almost a 21st century fireplace, in a really basic way.”

Cheng said fire was important because of how it connects with people.

“Emotionally, it makes you feel so many things,” Cheng said. “It makes you think about destruction, but it also makes you think about warmth. It makes you think about a community, but it also makes you think of the apocalypse.”

The meerkat creatures in the simulation are almost constantly trying to attack a mobile vegetation, which looks like a combination of a cactus and tumbleweed.

“Sometimes when they go into full fight mode, they’ll all kinda mob the monster, but the only fighting ability they really have is a slap, like this,” Cheng said as he swung his arm forward. “And they end up slapping each other down.”

The simulation runs constantly and will be featured in the museum through Jan. 28, 2018.

Later in the night, Boom Concepts hosted the Third Thursday event at CMOA. Founded in 2014 by D.S. Kinsel and Thomas Agnew, Boom Concepts is a gallery and creative workspace located in Garfield.

Agnew says he opened the space up as a place to run his own Jenesis Magazine, as well as Kinsel’s art practices.

“It came out to be a creative space for a lot of people,” Agnew said. “It was a big need that was in the Garfield area. We worked with a lot of artists, with a lot of creatives. It became a safe space for a lot people. You know, a lot of black, white, queer, trans people.”

The exhibition at CMOA on Thursday included several tables for local businesses and practices.

“Today we brought a bunch of materials with us, since this is a Boomiverse event, the idea we had was creating a portal to another universe,” said Melissa Mason of Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. “They’re all donated materials. We accept donations right in the shop. People can bring one bag or a box per day to donate.”

This September’s Third Thursday served as a reminder of CMOA’s ability to bring in widely renowned artists, while also being an active member in the Pittsburgh community.

“It’s a great relationship for us,” Agnew said regarding Boom Concepts and CMOA. “Because, you know, we’re the smaller organization, and for them, they’re the larger organization. They wanted to get more activities, and when we’re here, we get to do more programming outside and get our name more known.”