By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
Two new exhibits are on display at Bottle Works Arts on Third Avenue in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood.
“Rug Hooking Today” by Jan Henger is on display in the Bottle Works building, while “Connections” by Brian Dumm and Ramon Riley is on display in the neighboring Art Works building.
Henger’s rug hooking exhibit features 28 wool rugs, most of which are available for purchase.
The art form known as rug hooking involves the artist pulling yarn or other fabrics through a stiff woven base. The term “hooking” comes from the crochet-type hook used. Rug hooking originated in the mid-1800s in America and Canada; materials used were primitive in nature, but nowadays, rug hookers enjoy more variety when it comes to fabrics.
Henger’s exhibit highlights her efforts to restore the art form in a unique, contemporary way. She is a 13-year member of The Heart of Dixie Rug Bees, a group of 17 women who share their love of and dedication to the art form.
The Alabama-based artist, who is originally from Johnstown, learned how to hook from her sister.
“Whenever you design a rug, part of the process is choosing colors, and I even dye my own wool,” she said. “It’s like watercolor or any painting. If you don’t use the right colors, the result won’t be what you hope.”
In addition to teaching art, Henger has also experimented with other mediums, including calligraphy and stained glass.
Fellow artists Dumm and Riley have also taught art. The two met while each was pursuing a master’s at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Dumm is a professional illustrator whose work has been featured in more than 100 publications around the world.
When he’s not creating art, the active member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators and the Allied Artists of Johnstown enjoys playing music.
Dumm’s latest creations focus on addressing underlying themes in pop cultural tendencies and sociopolitical issues, both historical and contemporary. He is inspired by life experiences from a rural American middle-class perspective, and uses these experiences to note correlations and contrasts between the past, present and future.
Riley’s work, meanwhile, utilizes poured paint foundations to integrate the representational with abstract expression. His background as an art teacher at Pine-Richland High School has encouraged him to become a proponent of art education in public schools.
In 2014, he spearheaded the “Where I Am From” project, which allowed his Pine-Richland High School students to work with Woodland Hills High School (Riley’s alma mater) students in a communal studio environment.
Riley’s and Dumm’s exhibit, “Connections,” highlights connections to artists’ origins and where they are going, both physically and conceptually.
“More than ever, I value shared experiences,” Riley said. “When we can make a connection with others, art is present long before any art works have been created. Being able to create with my friend and show the work gives me the opportunity to share my cherished moments with an audience.”
These artists are also planning to participate in “Art Bites,” Bottle Work’s series of artist talks. Dates and times will be made available to Our Town readers when they become available.
Both exhibits will remain on display through Aug. 6. For more information, visit www.bottleworks.org or call a staff member at 814-535-2020 or 814-536-5399.
Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.