“Temptations” struck a note, that built to a chord, that became a complete piece, that opened a dialogue played by a full orchestra with sophisticated dynamism, and varying degrees of effected/affected phrasing; it was quite the ride, and a few months directly in the making, but built on a bedrock that extended virtually immeasurably.
As a process curator, and albeit not a super tight, yet rather, an organic curator, this show turned out to be extensively draining, and as such, I was drawn more towards working the next project in an airy, take-space-to-breath kind of fashion.
The Whitney Center for the Arts, at turns, works with various organizations to show work on its walls and pedestals, as opposed to having one curator pull together all of its shows. And thankfully, as it worked out, because I wasn’t the chief protagonist in pulling together either of the two fabulous dovetailing shows for May, a good opportunity to regroup and gather my thoughts presented itself, which I did my level best to work to its best advantage.
The working theme for June is again broad, and indeed much broader than “Temptations”, but my goal here isn’t to be too incisive or ultimately limiting; generally, we’ll be showing a select collection of landscape work, but with a huge emphasis on painterly approaches to communicate structure, mood, and color relationships.
The artists we are working with represent a very nice cross section of regional painters, and are folks I’ve either known directly for some time, or have crossed paths with now and again peripherally, admired their work, and wanted to work with more closely when a project that fit well presented itself; “Scapes”, the working title, is now the right time and place to work with these wonderful artists.
And so another round of studio visits commenced. The first of which was to the second floor of the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts for an interview with Peg Dotchin. Dotchin and I have been art world connected for quite some time now through our work with the Berkshire Art Association; Dotchin is a long time Board Member, while I’m the designer of the website. I’ve also worked with Dotchin at other times on her own website, adding structure and updates as needed.
Dotchin paints in a style that is beautifully economical. Her use of color brings out a strong sense of vibrant immediacy in a scene, while also maintaining a calming serenity. She spends a great deal of time outdoors visiting favorite places, sketching and photographing for reference, to build a personal impression of a locale. From her artist statement, “A painting is more about what you feel in the process of working, so I find it important to take just enough information from a photo, but leave some distance to transform my own sense of reality.”
After a recent trip to Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, Dotchin began a series of work after observing the gorgeous limestone pillars that rise out of Halong Bay. “Scapes” will include some of this work, as well as highlights from her poignant series based on dog walks to Bash Bish Falls.
A few days following my visit with Dotchin, I turned my wheels northward to Williamstown for a visit with oil painter Ghetta Hirsch. Hirsch has a very lovely home studio in a tranquil neighborhood perfectly suited for her work.
Like Dotchin, Hirsch also prefers to visit favorite locales, often many times, to build a personal, yet characteristically zeitgeist-like impression of a subject. Her process is reflectively linked en plein air to a scene and is augmented by visual cues she culls from discerning photographs. From initial impressions, she’ll determine her direction with multiple visits, meditating and mediating on different atmospheres and light; the painting begins with blocks of colors and progresses as she ponders and observes further.
Depending on the overall mood she is working on capturing for a piece, she will work either primarily with a pallete knife or in smooth layers of brushwork, intuitively blending, simplifying, and accentuating key tonal and compositional elements.
And as her artwork, so was our visit, leisurely conversing over tea, and choosing amongst a superb collection hung salon style in her beautifully appointed home.
After a short hiatus, I had the pleasure of meeting with a artist whose work I’ve been following develop over a long period of time. Some time back during one of the early Storefront Artists Project‘s 12×12 events, which morphed into the Berkshire Art Association‘s 10×10 event, I was lucky enough to be able to make one of Mark Mellinger‘s landscape pieces mine. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and admired the piece ever since.
Mellinger has a really unique approach to walking the fine line between abstraction and impressionism. He has a real exciting way of intuitively melding approaches into a technique which lays down a result that causes a viewer to be glad to have the opportunity to earnestly extrapolate beyond the mark making that is present on his surfaces; I fall squarely in that audience, and always enjoy where his work takes me, as I believe you will as well.
A couple days later, on another one of those abundantly sunny spring days we’ve been lucky to have this year, I made my way to Hinsdale to visit with Andrea Feldman. Feldman has a wonderfully appointed little home studio space where she enjoys experimenting and building her artistic process. She works fascinatingly in an intuitive manner that is both firmly grounded organically, and derives directly from life experience.
In 2012, while recovering from her fourth battle with cancer, Feldman began her journey as an artist as a therapeutic way to work through the extreme challenges of the day to day work she had to do. Told by her doctor that she was in short supply of white blood cells, she began drawing them, and willfully envisioning her body to produce more. As she began to recover and regain her strength, the cancer went into remission, and her artwork thrived as well; Feldman built on the original impressionistic depictions of cells, and her work evolved as she herself evolved. The Whit is proud to include some of Feldman’s recent evolutions as an important emerging area artist.
The following day, I travelled south on yet another beautiful sunny day to meet with Margaret Buchte at the Blue Door Cafe’ in Sheffield. Buchte currently has an extended showing in the eclectic route 7 market and eatery, with many of her recent paintings adding locally inspired ambience to the walls for visitors’ pleasure.
Since Buchte focuses on en plein air as the essential vehicle to deliver her ouvre, it seemed only natural to connect with her at a locale where she would be working; and the front lawn of the Blue Door Cafe’ was her studio this day.
I first became aware of Buchte’s work when I managed the monthly shows that the then Sheffield Art League, now the Housatonic Valley Art League, hangs in the TD BankNorth in Great Barrington. Buchte’s use of color and superlatively effective talent for capturing the purest essence of a scene without cluttery embellishment left a lasting impression, and I was so glad that she agreed to be in this show when I asked her.
And while talking with Buchte, I learned that she also has quite the plate load of activities that she’s involved with; in addition to the time she spends painting, she also divides and juggles in teaching art, as well as working as a CNA.
A couple of days later, I again travelled to south county, but only a little less south. This time the jaunt was to Great Barrington and Pat Hogan‘s home studio on a quiet and peaceful road just north of the center of town. Tea has definitely become a part of my curation process, and this day fit in well with that, with spirited art colleague conversation, and an in depth look at Hogan’s vastly impressive portfolio.
Hogan is another artist that I’ve known mostly peripherally for some time, and have really grown to build a deep appreciation of her work. Thoroughly well versed across a wide spectrum of mediums, Hogan’s style and grace has the appearance of an effortless flow that shows deep proficiency throughout her portfolio. And as an arts educator, her ability to translate her skills into accessible learning by her students is of the highest caliber.
The work we chose is spot on amazing and we excitedly look forward to you seeing it.
The last studio visit is one that is more of a virtual one. John Townes has steadily become the region’s leading light in the genre of digital painting. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him about his process in the Whit‘s Colt Gallery.
Townes begins with a rough sketch loosely hand drawn on paper and based on a reference photo. The sketch is scanned and imported into his computer. Using Corel Painter, and occasionally Photoshop, though Townes prefers Corel because the brushes are more painterly, he paints on another layer using a touch sensitive Wacom tablet.
The end result is stunning work as fluid in appearance as if the image were set organically to canvas with “analog” brushes and paints.
And so, a brief look into the studios/places of work of a superbly talented group of artists that soon will have fascinatingly scrumptious examples of their art gracing the walls of the Whitney Center for the Arts.
The opening reception for “Scapes” will be here before you know it; quite soon actually from this post’s publishing. The show opens during the city’s First Fridays Artswalk, June 3, 5-8PM. An After Party follows from 8-10PM.
“Scapes” will be on view through the month of June. Beyond the opening reception, the show may be viewed on Saturdays, 12-4PM, during the extensive event schedule at the Whitney Center for the Arts, and by contacting curator Leo Mazzeo at 413-281-6665 to set up an appointment.
In addition to pulling together “Scapes”, I’m also hanging a show of my own at Unusual Wedding Rings and More. While I’m not putting a great deal of new work in this show, I believe you will enjoy this selection of favorites, plus a couple of new surprises you might find interesting, particularly if you understand the autobiographical reference material…
Here’s the Press Release:
“Unusual Wedding Rings and More, 137 North Street, Pittsfield, MA will host a special selection of oils on canvas by Leo Mazzeo for the month of June. An opening reception will be held on June 3 during First Fridays Artswalk, 5-8PM.
The work, part of a series begun in 2011, consists of large canvases painted in vibrant oils with expressive brushwork on chunky, textured surfaces. A special meal with a loved one, a gift of reconciliation, a punch bowl during an opening reception, and day lilies at a new home; all signpost inspirations from an artist that paints from the heart.
“Grazin’ Fondly”, oil on canvas, 60″x48″. (c)Leo Mazzeo.
In addition to this work from the artist’s archives, Mazzeo will also debut a new series of narrative rich paintings illustrating current events in his life. These small canvases draw influences from graphic novels, Hieronymus Bosch, and Keith Haring.
Mazzeo is a familiar and active name in the regional arts community. One of his current positions is Gallery Manager/Curator at the Whitney Center for the Arts, and, as such, he is also curating the June exhibit @ the Whit. Mazzeo will divide appearance responsibilities between the two shows during the Artswalk.
“I Love You, I Was Wrong”, oil on canvas, 36″x60″. (c)Leo Mazzeo.
The Unusual Wedding Rings and More show will continue throughout June and may be seen during regular store hours.”
And one final item that I wanted to draw attention to before closing this post. The Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center will holding its annual spring fundraiser on May 21st at the Mount Greylock Visitor’s Center. This yearly event is the must attend list. From the Facebook event:
“Celebrate spring, the full moon and the beloved spring wildflowers of the Berkshires in an interactive arts and music event at the Mount Greylock Visitor’s Center in Lanesborough, MA while supporting the Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center, a 501c3 tax exempt non-profit dedicated to land conservation and “inspiring environmental and cultural awareness, appreciation and stewardship”. Event will include interactive wildflower art with Elizabeth Kick, live music with Gaia Roots World Music & Dance Ensemble and the Berkshire Rhythm Keepers, full moon hike, yummy food, silent auction, Hoopla Hoola Hooping, campfire jam led by drummer Chris Hairston and more! “Tickets” to the event can be made in the form of a donation on our website (scroll down to the donate page and click on the donate button via PayPal) for $10-20+ or a donation can be made at the door. (Please note your donation on the website is for the wildflower event.) We are currently seeking donations to our silent auction. Please email Director Aimee Gelinas at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Thanks to support from the Berkshire Taconic Environmental Endowment Fund, a Mass Cultural Council Festivals Grant, and the Northern Berkshire Cultural Council!”
OK. That’s it for now. Hope to see you soon!