alter/altar exhibit kicks off Doane art shows

The Allegheny Art Galleries opened the first show of the year in the Doane Hall of Art, inviting three artists to show their work in the latest exhibition, alter/altar

The event began at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, with a presentation and panel discussion with the three artists:  Ashley Pastore, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Doug Luman and Amber Eve Anderson. The artists each talked about the pieces that they had in the show and also the greater ideas and interests behind their art.

Pastore said that she is “obsessed with obsession and collection.” She manifests this focus in her art by taking the evidence of various obsessions from the places and people around her and incorporating them — if not outright transforming them — into her pieces. For example, Pastore stitched together hundreds of her grandfather’s old lottery tickets into one canvas dozens of feet long. For the artist, this is a sort of exploration of the dichotomy between hope and despair; so many tickets and not one winner. Pastore found them in garbage bags in her family home, waiting to be thrown out but never actually making it to the trash. 

Pastore said that her process usually begins with a material that she finds interesting, like the lottery tickets. These nonstandard materials are used by the artist as a sort of framework or points of reference for the audience since, according to Pastore, she is  interested in creating environments, spaces and experiences that allow people to create their own narratives.“We all know what a lottery ticket is,” Pastore said. “But I’m not necessarily telling you the story of where these lottery tickets came from. Why there are so many of them? I kind of want you to look at it and wonder because I think that whenever people are able to feel like they’ve come to their own conclusions about things it’s more likely that they’ll have a real experience.”

Like with Pastore’s work, a level of audience participation is involved with all of the pieces in the gallery. For Luman, one of his pieces was an entire room in the gallery. The viewer would step into this room, say their intentions into a microphone that is provided and then be given a “power word” by the computer.

“Language is a sacred intention that makes things real,.” Luman said during the panel.

Luman created his own coding language — which is constructed entirely of verbs — and wrote a program that would take in human speech and then output a word from this language. 

“The language that I came up with is largely in response to research that I’ve been doing about spiritualism and the ways in which the prerogative of leading a spiritual life is committing to doing things,” Luman said.

Luman’s work combines computer science, informatics, art and bookmaking, but all of it circles around the focal point of language, what it is, what it can do and its constantly evolving place in our society.

Some of Anderson’s work also deals with language. She has several pieces that are modeled after online reviews of household objects — á la Amazon. While they may start out rather mundane, they explode into poetics. Anderson has 11 pieces in the show, and they all deal in one way or another with the questions like:“Why do we keep the things we have in our house? Why do we buy the things we buy?”

“The show is about the associations we all have with certain objects, and the sculptures I have in the show are exactly about that,” Anderson said. “I was thinking a lot about consumerism and all the things we buy and what we do with those things; the things we save, the things we inherit. (Also) sort of like the lineage of those objects, the associations that we have with those things.”

According to Assistant Professor of Art History and Director of Allegheny Art Galleries Paula Burleigh, this was the first artist panel that the galleries were able to put on in a while due to complications of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the panel, those in attendance were encouraged to walk around and view the art, talk and enjoy the complimentary food and drink. 

“I think that every art show that comes up there’s more and more people that come and I really like that,” Avveet Desai, ’23, said. “All the time I see different people and that’s great.”

The exhibition will be open until Nov. 12, in the Doane Hall of Art. More of the artists and their works can be found at and @ashypastore on Instagram; and around Allegheny’s campus; and and @amber_ander on Instagram respectively.