“DownStreet Art”, “First Fridays Artswalk”

Halloween week was one helluva week for the arts in Berkshire County.  Not just one, but two major multiple opening events were celebratory reasons to venture out into the seasonally creepy dim and enjoy an evening out both DownStreet and Upstreet.

Halloween itself was special occasion for the 2013 season ending edition of DownStreet Art in north county steeple city North Adams.  “Fright Night” proceedings were in full swing when I pulled to the curb at the north end of Main Street and sat for a time absorbing the atmospherics of drizzle, hats, umbrellas, hoodies, and adapted guise for felicitous nocturnal shamblings.

The Mohawk Theater marquee alight and in good sympatico stead with DSA promotional aura is a sure chance for a winsome photo op and as such, I felt amicably inclined to oblige.  Nice also that the portico provided an opportunistically ideal lens cloth drizzle removal area.  Though it was to be that kind of night, it seemed right and appropriate.

Mohawk Theater

Next, a duck into nearby Gallery 107 to begin exhibit viewing proper and to rendezvous with photographer colleague Susan Sabino.  Gallery 107 is currently featuring, during an extension period, select work from regional artists participating in North Adams Open Studios.  Artists showing work include:  William Bettie, Ghetta Hirsch, Carol Kiendl, Rosemary KressBen MancinoDan Morgan, Chris Mullen, and Mary Weissbrodt.

Gallery 107

 

Gallery 107

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

Holden Street is traditionally closed off and a hub of outdoor activity for DownStreet.  And this evening continued in suit with festive decorations, the Great Community Pumpkin Carve, Day of the Dead Face Painting, a haunted photo booth, and fire dancers.

Holden Street

Holden Street

After retracing back to Main and turning right and west towards Gallery 51 and PRESS, timing was such that the Haunted Trolley was passing by on its nocturnal wanderings bringing corporeal and non-corporeal presences to their desired destinations.

Haunted Trolley

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

This time of year the separation between worlds is particularly ambiguous and unclearly defined and Gallery 51 itself celebrates this distinctless and DownStreet Art season’s end with “Rewilderment:  Passing Through the Veil Between Worlds”, a group show highlighting the collaborative and solo work of Ryder Cooley, Sarah Falkner, and Shannon Taggart.

Gallery 51

The press handout uses the term “wunderkammers” and no other is more precise to describe this mixed-media exhibit of selected works of photography, video, altars, and artifacts the three have installed in the downtown MCLA gallery space.  Cooley, Gallery 51’s gallery manager, is showing her drawings and curios, Falkner, healing-power objects, and Taggart, selections from her Spirit Photography series.  Cooley was very kind to extend press clearance for my colleague and I to attend a performance later on in the evening featuring her audio/visual group the Dust Bowl Faeries as well as opener Shana Falana.

Shannon Taggart

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

 

Ryder Cooley

Next door in PRESS, “Datum Chronicle” features the work of book artist Tara O’Brien. A study of contemporary record keeping, the exhibit asks the viewer, “Which is more beautiful, the documentation of the event or the event itself?”  O’Brien takes images and text beyond an appearance in a printed publication or blog and in conjunction, pulls esoteric narrative forward for examination beneath bright, gallery lights.  No stranger to the medium, I felt a special affinity with the shelved row of coffee cups.

PRESS

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

 

Tara O'Brien

Tara O'Brien

Backtracking east on Main, the next stop was a visit with Transcript Chief Photographer and Adjunct Professor at MCLA, Gillian Jones.  Jones has assembled a retrospective selection of her work focusing on the steeples of North Adams churches. The exhibit, culled from her work with the Transcript as well as from personal time, spans all the seasons over a period of years and presents a timely and endearing look at one of the city’s most prominent architectural landscape features.

Gillian Jones

Jones works primarily from a purist viewpoint and nearly eschews the use of digital applications to enhance her work, relying on her technical expertise with her cameras and an inherent sense of what makes for a good photograph.  She also extends this purist aesthetic into some collage work she has been recently doing, preferring to hand cut printed work as opposed to doing digital assemblages.

Gillian Jones

The finale for this special edition All Hallows Eve DownStreet Art was the highly anticipated concert at the Branch Gallery on Holden Street.  As previously mentioned, Sabino and I were given arts indie press clearance and we made good use of the generous opportunity, securing front row seating on an oversized cushion for prime photographic documentation.

Shana Falana

Shana Falana

Dream-pop duo Shana Falana opened the concert with a dreamily adept segue from the realities of tuning and coordinating technics into an AVscape of evolving synth pads, tastefully fuzzed Gibson SG, stolid, earthy drumming, and a backdrop that would have been equally at home and ensconced during a period of productive REM sleep.

Shana Falana

Shana Falana

Organically cleansing space, echoness, echo-winding, echoing organic corridors.  For a peacock of eyes winding, winding on a yellow brick road, broken down and rebirthed through the zeroes and ones canal.  A gesture towards Mazzy Star and a drift of free verse seemed like a decent and repurposeful interject here.

Shana Falana

Shana Falana

Shana Falana

 

Shana Falana

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

With the assembled properly metaphorically pillow-fluffed and moreover receptive, after a short interlude of prep-work, the Dust Bowl Faeries, Sara Ayers and Karen Cole, and Mark Mulherrin sitting in on bass, wafted a fitting audio accompaniment for the entrance and emanation of Ryder Cooley and compatriot Hazel.

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

What followed was an interdisciplinary presentation that was as much a séance as it was an audio/video performance.  Escapism was not only understood, it was de rigueur and a launching point for an adventure through, beyond, and back through the now thinnest of gauzy veils between the worlds.  With matter of fact Hitchcock-like delivery fragrantly laced with Cyndi Lauperesque kitschiness, Cooley, DBF, et al inhabited the light string defined stage area with a presence that guided visitation bittersweetly amongst the distinctly extinct.

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

Ryder Cooley

And so, with the same, if not greater, degree of bittersweet, the 2013 season of DownStreet Art openings pulled its own illustriously successful veil back across again and until next Spring’s return and time to get down once again during the season of new growth and fresh dewy grass, it was time to bid fond adieu.

Ryder Cooley

From time to time, arts indie blog pieces and segments will be written by very talented special guest writers.  November 1 marked such an occasion for guest content creation with the latest edition of the “First Fridays Artswalk” in Pittsfield.  On hand to report and provide sterling coverage was prodigiously talented artist, new arts indie website client, and extraordinary writer Carl Bowlby.  Here’s Bowlby’s account of the evening with integrated photography provided by Susan Sabino and myself:

Berkshire Medical Center

“The evening started early at around 4PM when I arrived at Berkshire Medical Center’s cozy main lobby.  Holding court there was Joe Simonetta, in mid-stride, explaining his work to an interested ‘Artswalk’ attendee.  Simonetta, with his shock of white hair and youthful demeanor, gestured to each of his pieces, including paintings and leather pieces he made from scratch.  Simonetta’s story goes back to the 1950’s when he first took up painting when he was around 14-15 years-old at the then named Pittsfield Boy’s Club. This ‘Pal Joey,’ as Simonetta signs his paintings, has his hands in just about everything tactile, from fashioning leather handbags for women, and the leather vest he was wearing, to building kit-cars in his garage at home.

Berkshire Medical Center

Berkshire Medical Center

Next up I took my car to Wild Sage at 333 North Street where proprietor Jeff Winslow was also in mid-stride assisting a customer.  Lorraine Lauzon, now deceased approximately 4-5 years ago, has her art hanging in a tiny room chock-full of art from past ‘Artswalks’; the ‘Berkshire Artist Gallery.’  Lauzon, a very active Pittsfielder, worked at the Berkshire Museum and also taught art.  She was known for her collages and there was one such piece hanging on the wall.  I asked Winslow if I could take it down and peruse it more closely, as I noticed there seemed to be some script written on the piece. Lauzon’s collage was an homage to Auguste Renoir and she had used postcards of the famous painter’s work bought, no doubt, from the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. Once I had the piece in hand, I immediately recognized the script as a poem Lauzon had written entitled ‘Renoir – His Ghost.’  In totum it reads:  ‘The ghost of Renoir lingers here/Calmly drifting by each treasure/Where vivid hues reign side by side/He ponders now as if its measure/Each small stroke.  His touch is magic/Rendered like a spirit breath/How we love this earthly brilliance/His presence felt – despite his death.’  And despite Lauzon’s death her presence was equally felt.

Wild Sage

 

Wild Sage

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

In this spirit I made my way to Alchemy Initiative’s pop-up gallery located a mere stone’s throw from Wild Sage.  Upon entering the gallery I made immediate eye contact with Diane Firtell, one of five co-founders of Alchemy.  She informed me that this night’s pop-up was the 2nd of its kind for the Initiative.  The primary purpose for Alchemy’s pop-up this night was to promote its upcoming “5th annual Handmade Holiday Festival”, December 7 and 8 from 10AM-5PM at the Masonic Lodge in Pittsfield.  Firtell, referring to Alchemy’s North Street presence as a pop-up, said it’s a ‘good way to see what’s [being] offered’ at the upcoming holiday festival.  The festival promises to be a rich cornucopia of 30 juried artisans selling everything from digitally inspired collages to glass, ceramic, and silkscreen art, not to mention clothing and fiber arts, (Don’t forget the chocolate!) intended for both children and adults alike.

Eliza Ryan

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

Alchemy Initiative

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

I then walked to the Brothership Building at 141 North Street where acrylic paintings by Robert Logsdon were on display.  The windows were well-lit and the shimmering qualities of the work was immediately evident.  According to Cultural Pittsfield’s e-mail blast, ‘Logsdon is an expert in Lazure painting, inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner.’ A visit to Logsdon’s website (lazurebylogsdon.com) reveals, ‘Lazure can act as a powerful healing influence amid the stress and tension of modern life…  A room color may be created through layers of various hues, or transitions of color moved from one to another in a vertical, horizontal or curved format.’  And while a room can be painted in Lazure style, also, a canvas can be painted in much the same way.  The best I can appropriately describe the visceral effect of Logsdon’s work is to think of multi-colored tissue paper delicately arranged on any surface to form an abstract image or representational one, with the finished result exhibiting a layered and translucent effect. Definitely worth a look-see on your way about downtown.

Robert Logsdon

Robert Logsdon

Next I checked in on the Crawford Square Building and, specifically, John Townes’ landscape art at Kinderhook Real Estate.  I spoke briefly with John about his process of art making and he told me that he first draws a pencil sketch of a landscape on paper, then scans the image on a computer, and then, utilizing computer software, he digitally paints over the image.  He also made a firm point to me that his works are not photographs and self-describes his work as ‘old-fashioned art with new technology.’  Among the beautifully framed landscapes on the wall, a table held some fine limited edition and custom prints for sale.  Additionally, John is a self-taught artist who also works as a writer, writing for, among others, Berkshire Trade and Commerce and the Pittsfield Gazette. This is John’s first ‘Artswalk.’

John Townes

I then crossed the hall and visited Karen Schiltz, photographer, at Unusual Wedding Rings and More to peruse her portrait and art photography.  I immediately fell into conversation with her.  Schiltz earned her degree in photography at Sullivan County Community College in the Catskills and originally hails from NYC.  She’s been living for ten years in the Berkshires and ‘loves it!’  This is her 3rd ‘Artswalk’ and her 1st solo show ‘ever!’  Karen is affable, friendly, and a keen wit that truly understands her clients and subject matter.  Talking with her is a breezy affair and one can tell that working with her must be as equally fluid and professional.  She calls her exhibit ‘To Everything, There is a Season’ and thoughtfully writes in her promotional materials:  ‘There are moments, big and small, that help to define the seasons of our lives.  Through encounters with others, as well as experiences with culture, religion and education, we are always changing and evolving…  For me there is nothing more rewarding than growing together, embracing the changing seasons, and sharing the moments that change and shape us.’

Karen Schiltz

So far, it had been a whirlwind night of sights and conversations.  What next?  Cross the street and over to the Lichtenstein’s ‘They Dance For Rain:  The Exhibit’, a compendium of photographs taken in Nairobi, Kenya by Monika Pizzichemi as part of a ‘dance-making project that works with arts-for-social-change organizations…’ along with ‘action-based dance artist’ Stefanie Weber, who taught these Kenyans, both children and adults, how to tap dance.  Additionally, Weber brought with her ‘hoops to dance with… [to teach] others the skills of making long-lasting dance hoops.  [Weber and Pizzichemi] bring visibility to an otherwise unrepresented population of slum and ghetto dancers and dwellers through photography and film.’  The photographs themselves are portraits of ghetto life, with subjects who naturally smile for the camera, in spite of their potentially dim existence.  One photograph in particular shockingly demonstrates how bad the conditions are:  A woman is seen washing clothes from a litter-strewn drainage ditch, seemingly unconscious of the lens capturing her.  What is evident here in this exhibit is no matter how bad slum life is for these Kenyans, there is still heart and soul enough for the joy of dance.

"They Dance for Rain"

"They Dance for Rain"

"They Dance for Rain"

Onward!  Next stop, The Marketplace Cafe’, where Anne Roland’s brightly colored-pencil on Bristol board works hang in startling contrast to the social realism of the Lichtenstein’s exhibit.  The mood of these drawings is airy and light, influenced by early Italian Renaissance painting, Asian art, and the quiet confines of the garden.  I sat down (Finally!) with Roland and her husband, Morris Bennett, in the window seat of the cafe, and had an equally airy and light conversation about life, art, and the business of attracting art buyers.  Reflecting on her exhibit, Roland simply states her art ‘[should] speak for itself.’ Her work spans 10-15 years and each drawing takes her, approximately, 30-40 hours. Roland also told me that she draws her pictures starting from dark to light with a softer pencil for the shading and blending of colors. The end result is simply breathtaking.

Anne Roland

After some grapes and conversation with Roland and Morris, I then made my way over to Fenn Street to view Chip Schnackenberg’s café art at Relish, the increasingly popular (with WiFi!) eatery that is making waves with chef Mark Ferdyn’s culinary inventiveness. And yes, there was fondue!  Schnackenberg is a Pittsfield native and graduate of PHS in 1988.  After high school, he attended the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia and graduated with an Art History degree.  But given the realities of the art world and the necessity of making a living with a growing family, Schnackenberg has been working the past nine years at BoydTech in South Lee as Director of Information Technology.  Nevertheless, Schnackenberg has been active in the Pittsfield art scene. He was part of the Lichtenstein’s ‘Artists Under 40’ exhibit, and had, up until now, a studio on upper North Street.  He currently works at his home in the basement where he treats the art-making process ‘like therapy.’  Schnackenberg also is owner of a website, plainnuts.com where he blogs whenever the mood strikes him.  Schnackenberg is a great conversationalist, but time being what it is, it was soon flying out the door to my final stop at Gallery W at the Whitney Center for the Arts on Wendell Avenue.

Chip Schnackenberg

It was a little past 8 o’clock and the much anticipated and first ever after-hours ‘Artswalk’ party was already underway when I arrived.  The opening reception for the FIBROUS group show had just finished and Gallery W was packed with artists, art-lovers and those just eager for more fun at the after party put on by the Whitney Center for the Arts and arts indie.  But before it was time for Hot Tomatoes’ pizza and refreshments, there was all this fiber art hanging everywhere!  The gallery was lit up like a roman candle and the art radiated in color and extremely vibrant detail.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I was having an ocular hallucination!

"Fibrous"

 

"Fibrous"

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

Unfortunately, words can’t do justice to all the splendidly profound and expert craftsmanship the gathered exhibitors presented.  I found it best to grab a seat and talk with curator Nayana Glazier about the show.  She likened curating to making art and being partly a fiber artist herself, she was casting her net wide and far searching for a ‘group of quality artists,’ who hail everywhere from Italy to Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, and the Berkshires.  Glazier went on to say that the artists presenting represented a ‘broad picture of fiber arts.’  She also added that ‘people don’t think of fiber art as an art form’, but in spite of that statement she wished she ‘could put more [art] up.’  It followed that my next question was, where did you find all these fantastic fiber artists?  Glazier explained that two artists submitted to an open call, some were part of the Berkshire Arts Festival, and that she poured through roughly five-hundred pieces as a result of an internet search on the subject.  Both Whitney Center Executive Director Ghazi Kazmi and Glazier, not to mention the artists themselves, should be given a well-earned round of applause for their exhaustive research, expertise.

"Fibrous"

"Fibrous"

At my eventual departure, sadly, I said to Kazmi that coming to Gallery W at the Whit is like coming to a favorite uncle’s house, warm and welcoming.  I highly recommend to those who didn’t make the ‘Artswalk’, to visit, not only the other establishments, but to Gallery W to experience the vividness and colorful work of the fiber artists hanging there proudly on display.”

"Fibrous"

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

First Fridays Artswalk After Party @ Gallery W

Photograph (c)Susan Sabino.

 

First Fridays Artswalk After Party @ Gallery W

And so it was, two glorious successive evenings chock full of art openings in our beautiful Berkshires.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the accounts and, as always, if you’ve missed the excitement of the openings or just are looking for a quiet and reflective sojourn with the art, the exhibits, generally, will be up on the walls for some time, so please, by all means, support the artists, their work, and the venues that show it by visiting and/or returning…often.

And, as a final note, if you or someone you know, has a passion for art, is a writer, enjoys writing about art, and is interested in sharing insight now and again with a broader audience, please, by all means, feel free at anytime to contact arts indie to open up a dialog to discuss how to become a contributor to the blog. Take care and hope to see you soon at something!