Joyous New Year: Goggleworks

(painting by Matthew Mazurckiewicz)

(painting by Rich Houck)

Back for the Anno Domini 2006. Over Christmas break, several people from my family went to visit a great new arts center in downtown Reading, PA; the Goggleworks.

Indeed, it was for all its life, from the late 19th century up until about three years ago, a factory for making goggles and other safety equipment. (There's a small history on the website, if you're interested). I have always had a certain affection for local manufacturing and business, so there's always a bit of sadness and ennui that hovers around these kind of buildings whose original purpose is defunct, but maybe this is mostly me.)

The facilities, largely funded by local businesspeople such as the Boscov family, are superb in most ways, and are on the way in all others. There is a great glassworks studio, equipped with stadium-style viewing areas for visitors; large parts of one floor is equipped for dance studios; there are large classroom areas for art and crafts classes; and a (strangely clean, but gargantuan) wood-working shop.

However, while the facilities are great, the resident artists, whose work ranged from assemblage and dolls, to traditional painting and glass-blowing, mostly are little better than amateur. A few of them are really on to some great work, but many are still grappling with mediocrity.

As we wandered through the building among the warrens of various-sized studios, there were a few (three or four) artists whose work really caught my eye. One of them was Rich Houck, who has a website, and lo and behold, studied at U of Arts, under Warren Rohrer. His work has a pleasing and unsettling play between recognizable patterns and flat abstracted shapes, and raises immediate questions about space and depth. Looking at them, I was reminded of looking into a puddle underneath a large tree, and reveling in the initial confusion of where the reflection began, and the puddle stopped, and vice-versa.

Another was Matthew Mazurkiewicz, a native of Reading, whose work is obviously influenced by Philip Guston, Susan Rothenberg, and maybe even Mondrian's messier work. He was trained at the School of the Visual Arts in NYC; has a good horse sense for color:

In addition to the resident artists, et al, there are local cultural and civic organizations using the space as well. These centers have worked so well for other area cities, dealing with a languishing post-industrial identity, and rapidly changing demographics. It will be interesting to keep up with the Goggleworks, and see what changes it (hopefully) catalyzes in Reading, and the area.

benvolta  – (Tuesday, 03 January, 2006)  

Hi Tim... since you took a hiatus from posting it feels like I have not talked or seen you forever... hope you had a great holiday!

I like this post because we can compare googleworks to what we are trying to do at the church studios. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of what we do not want to be. I am excited about the new year. I think much much is going to happen around here....

GIERSCHICK  – (Wednesday, 04 January, 2006)  

Yea, man; haven't seen you for ages. Vicki and I were away for a week of holiday. Unfortunately, for my studio time anyway, we will be down in Louisiana all next week with MDS (Mennonite Disaster Service) helping with some relief work. Hopefully, I will be in the studio some tomorrow and Friday AM.

jonathan  – (Wednesday, 04 January, 2006)  

Tim, thanks for the Goggleworks reminder. I meant to stop by over Christmas, but it slipped my mind. I hope this contributes to Reading making something of a comeback. I was talking recently with someone who grew up there in the 40's and 50's and found it hard to imagine the vitality he was describing. Hopefully more artists will come out of the woodwork and help make Goggleworks a lively place!

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