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Worth the Weight

Artwork is so sturdy that spectators can step inside it.


Charmaine Spencer doesn't mind if you paw over her mud-and-pulp artwork in her latest exhibit, A Place to Dwell. The Cleveland Institute of Art grad even invites you to stand inside the pieces at tonight's opening of the next installment of the Window to Sculpture Emerging Artist Series. "They have to be strong for people," says Spencer. "The delicate materials I use become something that can withstand the weight of human beings."The collection mirrors family and community ties. To Spencer, the strength of invisible bonding isn't apparent until somebody puts it to the test. When spectators get their grubby mitts on her works, they can feel the muscle in each piece, especially if the materials come from the salvage yard. "I've built from recyclable objects, not with the objective of suggesting we should recycle — after all, we're trying to live green the best we can in Cleveland — but to understand there are abundant resources for us to use," says Spencer. To get a clearer picture of the process through which Spencer assembles her organically inspired social commentaries, inquisitive minds can tour her open studio in the old American Greetings building on West 80th Street. She's all about breaking down barriers, so don't hold back on your questions about her art. "(Cleveland) is a place where mainstream and underground cultures exist together. Hence, people don't have as many assumptions," says Spencer. "Artists live and work with different methods — giving people ideas to make it all easier by coming out with a viewpoint no one else thinks about." The exhibit is on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays, through Saturday, May 31, at the Sculpture Center, 1834 East 123rd Street. Admission is free. Call 216-229-6527 or visit
Wednesdays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturdays, 12-4 p.m. Starts: May 2. Continues through May 31, 2008

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