Denis A. Yanashot grew up hearing many a tale about the region’s coal mining past.
That legacy served as the primary inspiration for the Riverside Junior-Senior High School art teacher’s new exhibition, “Anthra-Sight: A Sculptural Narrative of the Anthracite Industry of Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
Currently on display at the University of Scranton’s Hope Horn Gallery, the exhibit features 26 mixed-media sculptures through which Yanashot aims to create an aesthetic history of NEPA’s coal industry. Yanashot created the sculptures using anthracite coal silt, burnt culm ash, metal, industrial tools and other relics.
The exhibit will remain on display until Friday, Oct. 6, when a closing reception will be held in conjunction with that month’s First Friday art walk in downtown Scranton. The event will feature refreshments and live entertainment by the Coal Town Rounders.
For more information on the exhibit, visit Yanashot’s website, sculptureyanashot.net, or his Facebook page, facebook.com/Yanashotsculpture.
A north Scranton native, Yanashot was well steeped in mining lore from an early age, whether he was listening to anecdotes from family members or playing with his friends on the remains of the old Marvine Colliery.
The subject never left him as he grew up and evolved as an artist, eventually shifting his focus from airbrush painting to sculpture, both stone and mixed media.
“Every time I went by those (mining) areas, I thought, ‘There has to be something artistic I can do with this,’” said Yanashot, now a resident of Scranton’s Green Ridge section.
He started the project in 2015 and continued working on it through most of last year. Along the way, he did extensive historical research on anthracite mining in NEPA.
“I never did that many pieces in one year,” he said of the sculptures, which were all created in his 30-by-35-foot home studio, aka his “little sanctuary.”
One piece led to another. The show’s biggest sculpture, “December 9, 1914,” depicts an elevator malfunction at the old Diamond Mine in Scranton that claimed the lives of 13 miners. Another piece, titled “Nip Goin’ Home,” shows a dead miner’s corpse on a cart headed to the man’s home.
For “Marvine Sunset,” one of the show’s most colorful pieces, Yanashot used the red, orange, lavender and yellow oxide hues from burnt culm ash to achieve a mosaic effect. The culm ash, along with some metal used in the sculpture, came directly from the Marvine site.
“I sort of look at it from the perspective of, I’m taking something that already had life and reincarnating it as art. You can make it useful for an art medium,” he said.
Beyond its artistic merits, Yanashot hopes the exhibit gives people a better appreciation for the sacrifices the miners made – and the monumental impact they had not only on this region, but on the nation as a whole.
“Because they were the reason most communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania came into existence and prospered; but also because deep-mined anthracite coal fueled the Industrial Revolution of America,” he said. “I think it’s important to carry on the history of this industry. Miners who worked in the mines, they were the heart of it all. They deserve some kind of credit.”
If you go
What: “Anthra-Sight: A Sculptural Narrative of the Anthracite Industry of northeastern Pennsylvania,” featuring sculptures by Denis A. Yanashot.
Where: Hope Horn Gallery, located inside the University of Scranton’s Hyland Hall, downtown Scranton
When: On display through Friday,
Details: For gallery hours of operation, call 570-941-4214. For more on the exhibit, visit Yanashot’s website, sculptureyanashot.net, or his Facebook page, facebook.com/Yanashotsculpture.