As that Counting Crows song goes, it was indeed “A Long December.” And I’m certainly hoping a good chunk of this year will be better than the worst of the last; there’s a lot in that now pop standard that seems to be playing out for me in recent days, but I’ve also done a great deal of self work in the relatively short period of time since the last blog entry. “Third Annual Whimsy” was about to open at the Whitney Center for the Arts on the “First Fridays Artswalk” of December 4, and as a pre-game kind of thing, studio visits were done to highlight, bring notice to, and bookmark what was happening with the participating artists.
Now, after what has seemed like quite a journey, “Whimsy” is drawing to a close and the pre-game activities are well under way for the next show at the Whit. But before the final curtain makes it way down from the rafters, and the walls, pedestals, and art-bedecked surfaces lose their adornments, one final exhibit-related event awaits those who prefer an art show to have substance and tang; on Thursday, January 28, beginning at 6PM, the Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield will be hosting an interactive discussion with a very fine group of artists.
Image by Tammara Leminen.
The select panel will include printmaker/bookbinder/artist/arts educator and activist Michael Vincent Bushy, artist/illustrator Linda Graves, Berkshire Community College Arts Department Chair Lisa Griffith, and artist/illustrator Gary Lippincott. As Curator, I will moderate.
Hope you have time in your schedule to attend!
The following evening, the Center continues its timely and socially conscious programming with another very special evening dedicated as a tribute and homage to an artist that has been one of the leading arts culture influencers for the past fifty-odd years.
On January 29, the Whitney Center for the Arts opens its doors at 6PM with musical selections from the gloriously vast and legendary chameleonic discography of David Bowie. While it is only optional and purely an individual discretion, it is hoped that attendees will choose to properly attire to make a grand entrance.
For those that are interested, we’re also pleased to announce that face and body painting will be available for the more adventurous. Artist/photographer/arts advocacist Barbara Arpante will be on hand to provide superb final touches to compliment your ensemble.
Image courtesy of Barbara Arpante.
And, when the “red carpet” portion of the evening is complete, 6:30ish, the focus will turn to a screening of the landmark final performance of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at the illustrious Hammersmith Odeon. This historic event, documented by filmmaker Donn Alan Pennebaker, will mark as the centerpiece of the program.
Dancing to more choices from the Bowie discography and avant garde socializing will follow. The event is free to attend. Beer, wine, and tapas will be available for purchase throughout.
Hope you can visit and make a night of it! (It will be, after all, a Friday night…)
So, looking beyond these two, super cool events into the following week, on Friday, February 5, 5-8PM, the Whitney Center for the Arts will continue its 2016 “First Fridays Artswalk” participation with an opening reception for…“Tangled heART.”
From the Press Release:
“Appropriately, given the month and a variety of attending circumstances, the show ventures heroically into the myriad facets of the earth, sky, and waters of the love emotion; it brings together a carefully selected supergroup of regional artists to delight and propel the viewer through the exhibit, in a simultaneously harmonal and discordant choral interpretation of the theme.”
For this show, as Curator, I have the honor and privilege to work with these amazing artists: Ken Bastard, Michael Vincent Bushy, Lucie Castaldo, Grier Horner, Tammara Leminen, Kas Maroney, Lisa Merullo, Scott Taylor, and Rosemary Starace. I will also be participating with a large oil painting from my archives.
And, as with “Third Annual Whimsy”, part of the pre-game has included visiting the artists in their studios and workspaces. In a manner of fashion, much like a circus sideshow performer, I’ve been juggling in these visits over the course of the end of December and for the month of January.
The first visit was to the Howard Street, Pittsfield space of Rosemary Starace. Starace’s studio is truly a hidden jewel in the south central portion of town. And her home has beautiful treasures in every corner, and a calming aura that exudes peace at every turn. Minnie Pearl has wonderful turf for him to patrol.
Starace, in addition to her work as an extensively shown visual artist, is also a prolific writer, and has been published widely. Her process frequently involves exploring the similarites and differences of the two disciplines, and may result in projects that become hybrid forms. The work we’ve chosen for “Tangled heART” was created in the ’80’s, ’90’s, and 2015, and shows how Starace often profoundly develops a series over a long period of time.
My next visit was to the popular North Street multi-artist venue collectively known as NuArts Gallery + Studios. Longtime studio stalwart Lisa Merullo joins the show with a mixed-media piece whose premise began humbly from a gum wrapper; 5 Gum, a sugar-less gum produced by Wrigley since 2007, and it’s now ubiquitously fun “Truth or Dare” game.
Merullo is well know in the area for her found objects work. “Truth or Dare” takes her process to another level by incorporating Velcro and making the work interactive, a facet that is certainly welcome at the Whit.
Shortly after I arrived, her protégé and close friend Kas Maroney arrived and showed me her work. Maroney’s piece, also created with mixed-media, is her very first piece of art and “Tangled heART” will be her very first art show.
Something I really enjoying doing as a curator is finding new artists with richly narrative work and bringing attention to what they are doing. My thinking here is not to reveal too much concerning what Maroney has created, but rather that folks come to the show and speak with Maroney in person, and be supportive of a wonderful newly emerging artist with a deeply insightful message to share.
The following day found my Tacoma heading to The Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Avenue in Dalton for an afternoon visit with Scott Taylor. One of the Berkshires‘, and beyond, perennial favorites, Taylor will be contributing two large abstract acrylics on canvas.
Taylor’s studio is always a great pleasure to visit; such a fantastic space with vibrant color that bursts from all directions. And with the word “vibrant”, one would normally think in terms of color, but in Taylor’s case, ” vibrant” certainly applies to the brushwork that he uses to bring his good-spirited messages to canvas.
In addition to his career as a professional working artist, Taylor also puts in countless hours as a leading light of regional arts advocacy. He so often acts as a linchpin holding together a myriad of area projects, including his work as a Board Member of the Berkshire Art Association.
A few days later, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with one of the area’s most highly-respected elder statesman of the arts. But only because of the length of his career does the word “elder” come into play. Grier Horner is one the coolest and most youthfully engaging artists I’ve ever met, for any age.
His deft painting style incorporates a broad range of influences, while also relying heavily on intuition and personal experience. The result is a superbly nuanced final work with layers of call and response built up as adeptly as that of the finest of blues bands.
Horner works generally on larger pieces and has quite an amazing body of work that could be exhibited in any large gallery. The Whit is pleased to be featuring three as of yet unseen canvases in Gallery W.
And then a couple days more later, I had the honor and pleasure to visit with Ken Bastard. I’ve known Bastard for some time now, but only barely in passing, so this was the first time I really sat down and talked with him for any length of time. Mulder kept attentive watch over the conversation.
Ken Bastard is a highly regarded celebrity in his field of graphic novels and comic books illustration. Rather than use the self-taught moniker, which I personally think is a myth and an illusion, let’s just say that Bastard definitely marches to a beat of his own creation. As influences, though, he lists a myriad of sources that he draws from, including a broad range from Michelangelo to Jack Kirby, and Stanley Kubrick to Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Then just before this piece was published, for my last visit, I stopped in for a quick visit with Lucie Castaldo. Castaldo, Associate Program Director, Learning Through Arts Coordinator, and Faculty Artist at IS183, will be participating in her first exhibit at the Whitney Center for the Arts with a very exciting site-specific installation in the Colt Gallery.
Her piece will be an enveloping sort of experience and a visual involvement the viewer will carry in memory for quite some time. Having seen previous exhibits of her work in various other spaces, I knew she would be a perfect fit for this show, as I’m sure you’ll agree when you walk in the Colt. Her cats, Matilda and Mercurtio, are very proud of their Mom.
The final three artists are Michael Vincent Bushy, Tammara Leminen, and myself. Both Bushy and Leminen were featured in the previous blog for “Third Annual Whimsy.” Bushy returns this time with an exquisite set of Valentine‘s cards. While Leminen, now enrolled in the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design in the Computer Animation Department, and always an arts indie inspiration, will be represented by the title piece, “Tangled heART.” The piece I’ll be hanging is from my archives, a large tonal oil on canvas that is a statement of a time-honored tradition of smoothing the waters.
So, all for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed. And, so sorry about the lengthy hiatus between posts. Though, with an amazing load of projects lining up in the background, the next hiatus may be even longer. But you never know. Be that as it may, I hope you’ve enjoyed this effort, and we all hope to see you soon at something! Be well, friends!
Article by Leo Mazzeo. All photographs and images by Leo Mazzeo except where indicated.