Featured Artist: Ford City's Cindy Strosser
By Anita Bowser
Throughout March and April, the art of Ford City’s Cindy Strosser will be on display at the Kittanning Public Library. I recently sat down with Cindy to talk about her work and her upcoming exhibit.
AB: I understand you migrated to Armstrong County some time ago. As an artist, what sort of work did you do before you became part of this community?
CS: Years ago, I had an art studio in upstate New York. At that time, I specialized in portraits of modern-day Indian powwow dancers, and I sold and displayed my work in galleries and exhibits across the northeast and at national powwows in the Midwest. One of my paintings is part of the Iroquois Indian Museum, near Albany.
AB: You’ve been in this area for about 25 years. How has your art career evolved in that time?
CS: After moving here, I started working as a product designer for a local giftware company, and as a book illustrator for publishers in Pittsburgh. I’m a professional member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators and the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. Some of my illustrations were accepted into a show at the Heinz History Center. That was a real honor and a career highlight for me.
AB: You’ve said you retired several years ago from your career in illustration and design, but you still are an active artist – exhibiting and selling your work. Can you share how that’s going?
CS: I’m having a wonderful time as a painter. I’ve had my work exhibited in shows in Pittsburgh, including the Wings & Wildlife Art Show at the National Aviary, where my work qualified and was accepted for exhibit for four consecutive years. Working with the aviary was a lot of fun for me. Though my art is inspired by everything, I love to paint what I call “things with wings,” such as birds, dragons, and even flying pigs.
AB: I’ve seen a lot of wings, and nature in general, in your work. But, you always manage to keep things fresh. How are you expanding your artistic repertoire?
CS: Lately, I’ve been trying different techniques to add a three-dimensional look to my work. I’ve used a layered reverse-glass technique that works really well, but it’s expensive to frame.
I’m trying something new these days by adding texture under the painted layer, such as sculpted feathers on wings. I love being able to combine my sculpting skills with my painting skills.
These are some of the pieces that will be featured at the library. I chose not to put glass on the textured pieces in the exhibit. I think part of the joy of these works is in the feel of the sculpted surface. People are going to want to touch them.
AB: You’ve had your work exhibited at metropolitan galleries and small, rural venues. How do different locations and exhibits compare?
CS: I really appreciate the opportunity local libraries are giving artists to display their work in Armstrong County. I was a featured artist at the Ford City Public Library a couple of years ago, and am excited about showing my work at Kittanning Library this spring. There aren’t many places to do this sort of thing at a local level.
I’ve had Pittsburgh galleries charge me up to 35 percent of the selling price for showing my work. In my opinion, that's a lot to charge, and you don't generally find those high fees when you get away from the city.
It’s so nice to have a place in our community for artists to share their work. There is so much talent in this area, as indicated by the wonderful art at the Covenant Center Art Show*.
*The Covenant Center Art Show is held annually at the First United Methodist Church Covenant Center on Water Street in Kittanning. The event is typically held in conjunction with the Ford Armstrong Folk Festival and is open to local artists.
It would be really nice to see other venues open a wall to display local artists. I’ve seen that sort of pop-up gallery at restaurants, banks, and hospitals.
AB: You’ve also done some outdoor and mural art in Ford City. How did that come about?
CS: I had done some mural work in the past, but this was my first experience with outdoor art, which has its own challenges. As with other mural work, you have to plan for the scale of the project. But, with outdoor art, you also have to plan for the elements and how weather, and people, will impact the art over time. Also, the space and its immediate terrain can be challenging.
The first mural I did in Ford City was to commemorate the town’s industrial heritage. I used old photographs of laborers for inspiration and modeled the image from actual workers at Ford City plants.
At one time, factory workers traveled between their work places on the far side of town to their residential neighborhoods by accessing a tunnel under the railroad tracks. The tunnel is closed off now, but the stairs and tunnel entrance remain. The mural depicts various types of workers coming through the tunnel after a hard day's work.
The second mural I did is on the walking trail above the tunnel. The Ford City Garden Club asked me to do a garden scene at that spot to enhance the flower garden they've created there.
AB: Those murals can be found near the intersection of Third Avenue and Ninth Street in Ford City. Where else can readers find your work?
I will also have a couple of paintings in the Pittsburgh Society of Artists 2020 New Members Exhibition at the Gilberti Fine Art Studio and Gallery, 1030 5th Ave,. Coraopolis from April 3-24.
And, of course, in March and April some of my work will be on exhibit at Kittanning Library, 280 N Jefferson St., Kittanning.
Anita Bowser is a writer and blogger from Butler County. She’s a volunteer at Kittanning Library and has worked as a reporter, copy editor, content writer and a library director. Her favorite past times include reading, writing and avoiding arithmetic. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out more at www.anitabowser.com.