From audio to visual: MCG JAZZ presents THE JAZZ SERIES exhibit


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September 24, 2014 (PITTSBURGH)… MCG Jazz announces The Jazz Series, a visual art exhibit by acclaimed artist Elena Hiatt Houlihan. Houlihan has a long relationship with Bill Strickland, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, and has previously presented this series of work at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in 1988 as well as a different collection at the MCG Downtown Gallery in 1990. The pieces in The Jazz Series have a personal Pittsburgh connection also; one in particular entitled “Lighting Drummer” was inspired by a performance of Pittsburgh jazz legend Roger Humphries.

From the artist’s statement: “The Jazz Series was inspired by a passage in Margaret Mead’s autobiography, Blackberry Winter.  She described studying a tribal people who possessed synesthesia: an amazing transference of the senses in which hearing a sound causes one to see color.  Are we so civilized that we have lost that ability, I wondered?  Or do only certain people have it?  Are we born with it and then lose it as we mature?”

Houlihan continues, “I decided to perform an artistic experiment.  Could I develop the ability to see colors when I heard sounds? When I went out to listen to jazz, I would close my eyes and absorb the music in a near meditative state.  A quick sketch on a napkin in a jazz cafe in San Francisco became a brilliant red painting, “Rhythm Sweet and Hot.”  The plaintive notes of a haunting sax solo in “Good Night, Sweetheart” inspired “Night Wailin’.”  Each large painting began as a thumbnail sketch, and each remains remarkably true to the concept of the miniature.”

Houlihan’s medium includes acrylic paint on canvas or enamel on steel with collaged elements of handmade Japanese paper. Panels are suspended from angled bars hung from the ceiling to create what she calls “mixed-media paintings.” A Japanese sensibility underlies the composition, providing layers of meaning.

All nine large scale pieces in the collection are for sale and 30% of each sale supports MCG Jazz’ programs.  The collection is available to view now through December 15, 2014, Monday through Friday from 9 am until 5 pm plus evenings and weekends of scheduled MCG Jazz concerts. For additional info or to view or purchase the work in the MCG Jazz online store, please visit


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