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Art and About in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts

Every year Anne and I look forward with great anticipation to the Pittsfield Art Show held during the third weekend of July for the past 6 years (www.pittsfieldartshow.org). This juried show takes place in tents on the promenade in front of the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts. Megan Whilden, Director of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield, oversees the art center and the many other cultural events that have helped transform the city into a hot bed of cultural activity (www.pittsfield-ma.org). The PAS is where we first met prolific local fine artist Scott Taylor while manning his booth. He gladly got us up to speed on the local art scene and soon after he was headlining his own one man show at the Lichtenstein featuring the façades of many of the local landmark buildings.

He recently showed his work at "Art in the Loft" as part of the 2010 Millbrook Vineyard and Winery label contest co-sponsored by the Duchess County Arts Council. We went to the vineyard one beautiful Saturday this past fall and while enjoying their two varieties of Cabernet Franc we looked at the show and cast our votes for Scott’s label. Now low and behold we have found out that he has won the contest with his label of a wonderful painting of trees that Scott had told me were the very same trees we have seen in "the bark" at the Pittsfield State Forest. You can drive to the peak there and get a spectacular unimpeded western view and see the highest elevated body of water in Massachusetts, Berry Pond.

Scott was also recently in a three-local-artist show entitled "Wheels of Time" at the Intermodal Transportation Center Art Gallery which is run by Berkshire Community College and features work by BCC artists. The show featured the photographs of Jeff Gardner of rusted old junk heaps or "Junkers" and paintings by Scott and Marguerite "Marge" Bride of Jeff's instant nostalgia-inducing photos as well as other paintings of their own that evoke a similar old fashioned feeling of time and rust. Marguerite Bride is also a bit of a local legend, painting landscapes in lush vibrant watercolors with many credits to her name including various magazine covers and appearances in regional art shows. Scott paints in many different styles from realistic to abstract to portraits to landscapes and he had a very unique painting in this show of a repeated image of a tricycle which reminded me of Giacomo Balla’s futurist painting "Girl Running on a Balcony" (1912). This show can be seen again this February 2011 at the Old Chatham Country Store.

This past summer at the Pittsfield Art Show we met another wonderful artist and gallery owner Jaye Fox and learned a lot about the North Adams art and dining scene from her. We became fast and fabulous friends. Her gallery "studio21south" (182 Beaver St. 413.652.4815 www.studio21south.blogspot.com ) conveniently located at the Beaver Mill on rt. 8 north features the paintings of partner Thor Wickstrom (an accomplished professional illustrator) as well as many other well known artists from New York City, elsewhere around the globe, and Jaye’s exquisite oil portraits www.jfoxstudio.com.

On the way to their excellent recent group show "The Model is Posing" we drove just a short distance past the mill and stopped by the Natural Bridge State Park up the road on Rt. 8 north. We took in all the wonders of nature’s power of erosion, the rippling of the water down the lovely manmade waterfall and all of the so easily accessible beauty that awaits those out for an exciting stroll in the fresh air without trying too hard to get away from it all.

Jaye Fox
Thor Wickstrom
Twenty minutes later we were at the art gallery mid-opening reception and viewing the fine art of Sam Goodsell, Eric March, Joel Rudnick, Katy Schneider (Smith College), Jerry Weiss (Old Lyme), Yuka Imata, Eric Michelson and Julia Morgan-Leamon. The show highlighted the time-honored practice of painting from real life and that it is still a thriving practice. Thor’s triptych was a clever glimpse into the backstage of posing and Jaye’s huge naked lady portrait is devastatingly gorgeous and monumental. Katy Schneider was selected for the promotional card and with good reason as her work is tricky, in that the miniatures look precise from a distance until you go see it up close and realize the almost abstractness of the painting itself. The Jerry Weiss paintings simply come outward at you, creating an unusually deep perspective that also draws you in at the same time. Sam Goodsell’s lovely pastels are featured in popular art magazines with his simultaneously soft and stark realism. All the artists in this show were of a certain high level of skill and talent and that was the key to the overall success.

at "The Model is Posing" opening reception
Afterwards we headed back down rt. 8 and stopped by the Eclipse Mill where I spent time with Brill Gallery (Studio 109) owner and curator Ralph Brill. His summer show "Mixed Media" was just coming down featuring photos with something extra. The promotional flyer features the work of Roy Volkmann and Ralph was nice enough to show me the work of the many great photographers working within the mixed media concept. Anne was meanwhile down the hall at the Eclipse Mill Gallery chatting with Charles Giuliano, an outgoing and very informative fellow, who also runs the popular art website www.berkshirefinearts.com He along with co-curator Astrid Hiemer, an artist in the show, put together the very interesting "Illustrious". This show was an art exhibit exploring the theme of narrative art and publications featuring the work of artists such as Howard Cruse, Robert Rendo, Shepherd Fairey (of the Obama "Hope" poster fame here with the iconic "Obey" Andre the Giant poster), Susan Baker, Thor Wickstrom of the aforementioned studio21south and other notable artist working in the genre.

Speaking of Howard Cruse he was recently featured in an exhibit at MCLA Gallery 51 which closed November 28th called "When Comics Went Underground" along with yet another artist friend of ours, the illustrious illustrator (You, Staying Young) and notable Air Pirate, Gary Hallgren, who was also a discussion panel speaker at the opening with co-curators Cruse and Denis Kitchen (Kitchen Sink Press).

Finally to wrap up this blog, there was yet another new show in Pittsfield at the Storefront Artists Project on Fenn Street; an interesting Christmas-themed photography exhibit called "12.25.2009". The concept here conceived by co-curators Barbara Gentile and Monika Sosnowski was to show different perspectives of the holiday by photographers taking photos from around the world on the same very meaningful day. The show also closed November 28th.

Last year while walking around Lenox, we met Sienna Patti, who runs the Sienna Gallery which specializes in "exhibiting and promoting exceptional work by artists both emerging and established working in the realm of the object and image both functional and not". We saw an exhibit by well-known artist and illustrator Barbara Nessim entitled The Model Project, which featured very interesting collages depicting women's extreme efforts in making themselves beautiful. And indeed these collages were beautiful.

There is so much art in the Berkshires I can only touch on the surface. In addition to all the mentions here there are galleries all up and down the cultural corridor, from Sanford Smith in Great Barrington to the great galleries and art scene in Housatonic (Kate Knapp, Front Street Gallery et al.), of course the many galleries in Lenox which are highlighted on Memorial Day week-end with the Lenox Art Walk, on up to Ferrin Gallery featuring modern ceramics and sculptures in Pittsfield which always participates at the yearly SOFA convention, then on up to Williamstown and the venerable Harrison Gallery, and finally North Adams which has become the heart and soul of the scene with its affordable artist loft spaces that are the bedrock of the future art community here.

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