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 opened the tour in Weirton this morning with a stop at the Mary H. Weir Public Library.
ART WORK ON DISPLAY — Michael Albert, a pop artist from New York, stands with prints of some of his work on display at Weirton’s Summit Gallery during a special exhibit Sunday. The Hancock County Arts Council hosted a meet-and-greet with Albert, who will present a program today at the Mary H. Weir Public Library as part of a three-week tour of West Virginia libraries and youth programs. --- Craig Howell
"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 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 verses 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 to be 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 will have presentations in Benwood, McMechen and Moundsville this afternoon before heading into the southern portions of the state as well as making one stop in Ohio and visiting several events in Lexington, Ky.
His tour will conclude with a visit to Pittsburgh.