And a strange winter this 2015–16 one has been. The April show at the Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield will be the first one since Fall that hasn’t had hooks in the wall during the “baddest” season. “Temptations” comes after a period of reflection and contemplation; a time rife with holding back and subduing impulses while on a course towards enlightened self-awareness.
But the path is all too often very difficult to find, and not as clear, concise, and comforting as one feels it needs to be; quite often, maybe too often, it is the contrary. “Temptations” will take a look at some itchy spots that pop up along the way, as the continuum winds and wends its way, however it may.
As with “Tangled heART” and “Third Annual Whimsy”, I’ve had a fun/busy time of driving around the area, and meeting with the artists I’ve asked to be a part of the show. And perhaps more so than previous curations, I’ve reached out and gone beyond an immediate sphere/aura of artists, and tapped some shoulders I haven’t tapped before for a show. I’m super grateful that the shoulders responded in the affirmative to be a part of this.
For the most part, schedules made it advantageous to cluster studio/workspace visits on only a few days, rather than spread out over a longer period of time. The first such cluster happened on a sparklingly jubilant day in late February. I chunked up a few selections from my CD archives to play in the truck, and happily set the wheels in motion for a “Magical Mystery Tour” kind of day.
The first leg took me from New Ashford over the hill, and down the old dairy run on route 22 to pick up 66 into Hudson, NY. My objective was a first visit/meeting in the 46 Green Street Studios with Tom McGill.
I first came upon McGill’s work back during Hillsdale, NY‘s one-day artswalk-type event last September, and decidedly made a mental note to include him, if he would, in some future show that I’d be putting together. I felt honored when he agreed.
McGill is a recent transplant to the Hudson area from Frenchtown, NJ. With his business partners, he owns and manages the vibrant creative community within a community that the studios/gallery space at 46 Green Street is.
His work is both viscerally hands on, as well as adeptly a wranglment head and shoulders into wry socio-political commentary. An intense worker in all facets of his practice, as artist, entrepreneur, and arts plenipotentiary, McGill gladly spends copious amounts of time engaged in all these activities.
As an artist, he’s had a super successful run in a relatively short period of time, building his process from early, simpler forays into more elaborate projects as he goes. His surfaces are populated by handcut stencil work combined, via various methods, with backgrounds that further the narrative, and certainly not in the most obvious ways. McGill pointedly pointed out that he likes to leave generous amounts of space for viewer interpretation; he “enjoys the dance of ambiguity.”
Like McGill, Grey has also developed as an artist beyond the art school academia path, and honed his skills by way of a self-directed approach; Grey has spent vastly extensive sessions of time in photography forums perfecting a personal artistic skill set, and problem solving to produce exactly the type of image envisioned.
And hours and hours and hours of hours are spent in sessions that stretch days on end with sleep that happens only fleetingly in small amounts barely sufficient to recharge somewhat. Grey informed me that he will continue a project, and stop only when further progress is no longer possible due to the creative well running dry; stopping is not an option until the project is done. Grey used the phrase “emotional dry socket” to describe this.
A thorough technician engrossed in process, Grey regaled me with a fascinatingly detailed behind the scenes story of how a hummingbird series came to be, including the names given each bird that participated, and why they came to be…based on their training; Grey trained the hummingbirds to get the exact image that was being sought.
For “Temptations”, Grey will be publicly debuting a few curator choices from an unshown pet project that the Whit is excited to have at the Center.
After a day of rest…well, a day from not visiting artists…a rainy ‘Shire day found me hanging out in downtown Pittsfield for a series of three studio/workspace visits. The first was to a familiar and oft featured locale in the arts indie blog.
Teaching Artist/Arts Therapist Marney Schorr is a star on the rise in her chosen fields. Her studio at NuArts is a community-focused oasis for folks seeking the transformative and healing aspects of hands on artistic expression.
Schorr brings 20 plus years of painting experience and a thoroughly committed energy to everything she does. And she does an enormous amount of work. By way of a grant from the Pittsfield Cultural Council, Schorr recently began the Family Art Therapy Project at the Christian Center. Through OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), she’s taught three art therapy related courses, including the recent Women and the Creative Self. In addition to the Family Art Therapy Project, she also has two other themed studio groups, Transforming Depression with Art and Art Therapy for Personal Enrichment.
With nary beyond a few blinks of the eye, the next visit of this busy day brought me into a portion of a building in Pittsfield that I’d never been to before, the third floor of 255 North Street where one will find the studio of Paul Graubard.
I have to admit I was a bit in awe and somewhat starstruck during the visit, but a sit down conversation over tea went along pretty well, and I found myself relaxing and enjoying the stunning vibrancy and palpable excitement of Graubard’s work; the surfaces literarily dance and celebrate life even when just resting on the floor propped against a wall.
Most folks in the region connected with the arts are familiar with Graubard and his work; a storied life and a storied resume’ to match are an understatement. An autonomous soul by nature, he’s worked as both a professor and a psychologist. Venues he’s shown at include the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore, Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, and the prestigious traveling Outsider Fair, to name a few.
Esteemed was the adjective I used to describe Graubard in the in-the-moment Instagram post that I circulated at the time. And, by far and certainly, Graubard is. It is a great honor for the Whit to have an artist of this level of gravitas.
Normally I’m someone who chooses coffee when offered beverage choices, but the rainyness of the day, combined with the overall artistic aura, seemed to decree that tea was the beverage of choice here; my third and last visit of the day included a second cup with Joan Mietz Rooks.
Rooks is another artist I haven’t worked with yet and I’m really happy that “Temptations” will be characterized by a general broadening of horizons, reaching out, and bringing a wider community of artists, supporters, and viewpoints together.
For her debut at the Whit, Rooks will be showing an intriguing selection of her ceramics work, as well as a couple of fun interactive offerings.
The ceramics will showcase virtuoso technique in a couple of approaches. Soda firing is a gas fired process that incorporates soda ash to create a gritty, characteristically organic texture. While her smoke fired work, also with an organic sensibility, utilizes wood chips to achieve its look.
The interactive pieces will include a mixed-media display that will evolve and change at random times throughout the opening. And a puzzle, composed of linoleum tiles, will be laid out on a table. Viewers will have the option to assemble it any way they choose; there are no wrong solutions…
The following day, I was excited to be able to have the opportunity to visit a popular commercial photography studio in downtown Pittsfield. The Photo Op, located in historic #7 North Street is studio home to Adam Larson, Samantha Morse, Martha Pope, Karen Schiltz, Barbara Schmick, Dave Sondrini, Kassy Vorce, and Mark Wrzesinski.
Karen Schiltz will be joining the exhibit with a pair of haunting images that speak volumes in both subtle and overt tones. Grounded in commercial portraiture, the work leaps exponentially into momentous fine art, as the narrative circumstances behind each photo shoot reaches its zenith, and all artistic components fire at once, intersect, and create work one will not soon forget…if ever.
The first image, a profoundly stark black and white, I first encountered some time ago, and knew instantly that it needed to be reprised for this particular show. The second, a color portrait of Schiltz’s son’s former girlfriend, is quickly reaching that same unforgettable status.
The age of Internet communications, to greatly understate, is such a wonderful way for folks in the art world to maintain connections through all manner of time and separation. To include Nayana Glazier in this exhibit is a beautiful testament of how well the modern era can bring an idea and concept to fruition.
The Whitney Center for the Arts is excited to be including a beautiful and intensely thought provoking piece by Glazier. Glazier, the Whit’s first Curator, has had an extremely hard road to travel in recent months, and we’re thrilled to announce that we will be hanging one of her works on the wall here.
Glazier, in addition to her work as an artist and curator, is also a seasoned arts journalist and contributing correspondent. She currently spends her creative time working from her gorgeous home in Athol, MA.
“Temptations” marks the second time Sara Farrell Okamura has been invited to bring her exquisite mark making work to the Whit. Fans of the arts indie blog may remember her participation in the “Art + Industry” Gallery W show back in June of 2014. Our studio visit back then was delightfully signposted with muffins and coffee, a rest stop on the arts road we hope to return to again soon.
For this show, the Whit is honored to be debuting a pair of newly completed pieces that further yet again Okamura’s compelling talent to create work that has an innate sense of captivating motion; her work is not only three dimensional on a 2D surface, it also vibrates sympathetically with the theme Okamura is expounding upon.
As a curator, I try, as often as I have space to show freely, to work on themes that are directly and central to thoughts and issues that are current and central to where I predominantly am during the time of the exhibition. So, “Temptations” is another show akin to how a smartphone may seem as if it were an appendage, only this appendage reaches towards a viewer from the walls of a gallery as opposed to syncing with life via taps on a glass screen…
Hope you’ve enjoyed this preview, and with greatest sincerity, hope you can make it to the Whitney Center for the Arts for the opening reception on April Fools Day, 5-8PM during the “First Fridays Artswalk.” It will indeed be a night to remember, with not only a fantastic arts star-studded opening, but also a conclusion that will rock your eardrum pleasure zone. Sifer will be in the house with special guests. Band members Aimee Gelinas, Dan Cohen, and Harold Crews will fill the air with vibrantly up close and personal versions of their original songs, plus some selective covers. Not. To. Be. Missed. Plus Juan Sanchez, of Trio Candela fame, will be joining as a very special guest on traditional Latin music material. Not. To. Be. Missed!
See you soon!